Grade Levels: K-3

This page provides information to support educators and families in teaching K-3 students about musical instruments. It is designed to complement the Musical Instruments topic page on BrainPOP Jr.

Exploring different instruments is a great way to introduce music to your children. It also provides a perfect opportunity to make cross-curricular connections to science and social studies. We encourage using the Sound movie for review or to extend the topic. This movie will introduce musical instruments, including those that originated from different parts of the world. We recommend pausing throughout the movie and inviting your children to brainstorm other instruments they have seen, heard, or even played.

A musical instrument is any object or tool that can be used to make music. Brainstorm different instruments together. Then have your children sort them into different groups. There are many ways to sort instruments; encourage them to be creative! Some instruments have strings, while others are hit. Some instruments are blown through to play different notes. What are other ways musical instruments are played?

Banjos, guitars, cellos, violins, and harps are all stringed instruments. Review with children that when you pluck a string, you pull on it quickly. When you strum, you brush your fingers over the strings. Remind children that when something vibrates, it moves back and forth quickly. When a string is plucked, it vibrates to make a sound. On instruments like a guitar or a banjo, the strings on the neck are pressed down with one hand, while the other hand plucks or strums the strings on the body. The pitch of the note is affected by where the strings are pressed down on the neck. Pitch describes how high or low a sound is. If possible, show a guitar to children and explore it together. Many children do not know that a piano is a stringed instrument. When a key is pressed, a small hammer strikes a string to play a note. There are many different stringed instruments played all around the world. We encourage going on the Internet to learn about different stringed instruments. How are they alike? How are they different?

A percussion instrument is hit, shaken, rubbed, or scraped to make sounds. Maracas, tambourines, the xylophone, and drums are all percussion instruments. Many children have played with drums or have even made them on their own. Some drums have a special material that is stretched over a frame. When the drum is hit, the material vibrates to make a sound. Some drums are hit with hands, such as the bongos or the djembe. Other drums are hit with mallets or sticks.

Teach children that some instruments are played by blowing air through them. Flutes, recorders, clarinets, saxophones, tubas, and trumpets all fall in this category. Many of these instruments have holes, keys, or valves. When holes are covered or keys are pressed, they change notes. On a trombone, the slide is moved up and down in order to change notes. If possible, examine different instruments together and discuss how notes can be played. Some children may have learned about woodwinds and brass instruments. Many woodwind instruments, such as the flute, are not made of wood. Likewise, brass instruments today are made from various kinds of metals, not just brass.

Encourage children to listen to music and think about the instruments used to play the songs. What instrument is making the low notes? What instrument is making the high notes? Invite them to create musical instruments of their own. Almost everything can become a musical instrument!