Have more time? Explore these SHORT AT-HOME ACTIVITIES with your child before coming to Symphony Center!

2-minute activity: Instrument Families

Guide your child through a discussion about instrument families.

  • Ask your child, “What makes up a family?” Explore the ideas of families in terms of similar looks/traits, common interests or hobbies and connections to one another.
  • Let you child know that musical instruments also belong to families. In the orchestra, similar instruments are grouped together based on various shared characteristics.
  • Ask your child if they know the names of any of the instrument families.
  • Identify the families of instruments in the orchestra using this link.

7-minute activity: Listening for Conflict and Harmony

  • Show your child a picture of the String family. Ask your child to identify characteristics that make these instruments similar (shape, color, etc.) and different (size, sound, etc.).
  • Discuss with your child the similarities and differences of the String family.
  • Repeat the same process with the Woodwind, Brass and Percussion families. You may need to explain that percussion instruments are struck or shook and may not have a similar look to one another.
  • Have your child look at the instrument family photos and play excerpts from Grieg’s Suite No. 1 from Peer Gynt. Ask your child to point to the correct instrument family photo they hear in the following section of each movement of the piece:

10-minute+ activity: Theme and Variation

  • Give your child four different colored crayons: Blue, Red, Yellow and Green
  • Have your child listen to Benjamin Britten’s The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra
  • As your child listens to the piece, have your child identify the instrument family and freely draw to the music he/she hears using the colored crayon assigned to each instrument family:
    • Blue = Strings
    • Red = Percussion
    • Yellow = Brass
    • Green = Woodwinds
  • Use the following listening map to reference the main musical theme:
  • Explain that each instrument family played something similar, but not exactly the same, and that this is called a variation. You can use a simple example and ask your child for input on what makes something a theme vs. variation (i.e.: all cheese sandwiches have cheese and bread (theme) but some have cheddar, Swiss, muenster or pepper jack (variation), yet they are all still cheese sandwiches.)
  • Have your child listen to the pieces in the listening map again. Together, play a game where you generate as many adjectives as possible, describing each of the different variations:
    • Soft
    • Loud
    • Sweet
    • Rough
    • Angry
    • Happy
    • Cheerful
    • Sad
    • Exciting
    • Peaceful
    • Surprised