Peter and the Wolf

Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf is an orchestral piece of music. 

The orchestra has many different instruments that work together to create music. Prokofiev thought about each of these instruments' timbres while composing his musical story. 

Timbre: The unique characteristics of an instrument

Get to know different instruments in Peter and the Wolf

Stringed Instruments

Stringed instruments like violins, cellos, and violas have – you guessed it – strings! They create sound when their strings vibrate, which is usually done by dragging a bow along the strings. Stringed instruments can create all kinds of sounds! Their ability to create beautiful vibrato often gives them a rich, warm, and emotional timbre. 

Vibrato: The shaking of a musical note to make it more expressive

This performance by Itzhak Perlman shows how vibrato can create a beautiful, singing sound! Every time his hand rotates side-to-side, he is using vibrato. 

The Violin 

The violin can play the highest notes of any stringed instrument. They often sound playful and light – perfect for capturing the spirit of an adventurous boy! This violin theme represents Peter: 

Other Stringed Instruments 

The violas, the cellos, and the double basses in the orchestra form an ensemble that supports the violin. While they don't have their own musical character, they help create a full and expressive sound. 

Ensemble: A group of musicians playing together


Woodwind Instruments 

Woodwind instruments are made of wood or metal. They make sound when air is blown into them. Certain woodwind instruments, like clarinets, bassoons, and oboes, have small pieces of wood called reeds. Reeds vibrate, giving the instrument a unique buzzing sound. 

The Flute
Listen to the bird's theme. Isn't the flute a perfect instrument for mimicking a bird's high-pitched chirping? Flutes don't use reeds, so they can create a clear, bright, whistling sound. 
The Oboe 

The oboe has a double reed, meaning it uses two reeds to create its vibrating, nasal sound. The oboe is often described as sounding similar to a duck. What do you think? Does this theme make you think of a quacking duck?

The Clarinet  

Clarinets have the biggest range of all woodwind instruments. This means they can play both high and low notes. Prokofiev uses the clarinet to capture the sneaky, playful side of cats! 

 The Bassoon 

The bassoon is another double reed instrument known for its low-pitched sound. Bassoons are often described like the singing voice of a baritone, making it the perfect instrument to mimic a bossy grandfather. 

Brass Instruments

Brass instruments in the orchestra include French horns, trumpets, trombones, and tubas. They are made of different types of metal which give each instrument a unique timbre. Brass instruments make sound when air is blown into them, but they don't use reeds.  

The Trumpet 

In classical music, hunting is often represented by trumpets. Throughout history, trumpets were used to announce big events like battles and hunts. Their piercing, bold sound can be heard across far distances. 

The French Horn  

You can recognize a French horn because of its twisted shape and large bell. This unique structure allows horn players to create a variety of interesting sounds. The French horn captures the mysterious, dark character of the wolf. 


Now let's listen to Peter and the Wolf