Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Kaytlin. Kaytlin Wonders, “How does the inside of a piano work?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Kaytlin!

Have you ever strummed the strings of a guitar? Do you often hum a tune or beat a rhythm? If so, you know what a joy it can be to make music. Music helps people express emotions, connect with others, and just have fun. Many even believe that making music improves brain function.

And there are so many instruments to choose from! They fall into groups that people call “families.” Instruments in a family are alike in certain ways, such as how they’re played or what they’re made from. Traditionally, there are four families of instruments. They are string, woodwind, brass, and percussion.

String instruments have, well, strings. They make music when their strings vibrate. Most members of the woodwind family can be made from wood and are played with wind. Brass instruments are also played using wind, but they’re made of brass. They also have valves that help change the sound that comes out. Percussion instruments make a sound when hit, whether with a stick or hand.

Often, it’s pretty obvious what family an instrument falls into. The saxophone is clearly a woodwind instrument. It’s played by blowing wind to vibrate a wooden reed. You play the tambourine by hitting it with your hand, so it’s part of the percussion family. But sometimes, it’s not so straightforward.

One of the most popular instruments of all—the piano—is hard to classify. How does a piano player make music? By pressing the piano’s keys. When keys are pressed, small hammers hit strings inside the piano. These strings vibrate, making music. 

So . . . is the piano a string instrument? Or is it percussion? The sound comes from vibrating strings. But those strings vibrate because they’re struck by a hammer. Would that make it a percussion instrument? Where does the piano fit?

The piano is both a percussion and a string instrument. That’s right! It can be put into either family. Today, many people even see them as part of a completely different family of instruments—the keyboards.

Any instrument that produces notes when keys are hit falls into the keyboard family. That includes the piano, harpsichord, organ, and many others. Keyboard instruments have a broad range of sound, making them some of the most versatile musical instruments. 

Have you ever played the piano? How about another instrument? Do you have a favorite instrument family? Whether you play the organ or the kazoo, the most important part of playing music is to enjoy it. Try writing your own music or learning a new technique. You never know what new musical trend you could stumble upon!

Standards: CCRA.R.4, CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.W.4, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.SL.2

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