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Lecture 4


In music, instruments perform the function of the colors employed in painting.

—Honoré de Balzac

The Elements of Music, part 4
Timbre, the human voice, the symphony orchestra
Over a five-lecture sequence, we are exploring the elements of music - music broken down into its individual component parts : Rhythm, Melody, Harmony, Texture, Timbre and Form. 
This lecture (Lecture 4) examines timbre (tone color)


Topics covered:

  • what is timbre?
  • the human voice
  • orchestra instruments



  • listening closely to each musical instrument (voice included)
  • distinguishing one timbre from another



  • watch lecture 4 (in multiple parts for quicker download)
  • review previous chapters, as necessary
  • read textbook, Chapter 5
  • As you are reading your textbook, go through the Listening Exercises in textbook sequence, listening to the examples provided.
  • regarding developing listening skills: you should be in the habit of developing your listening skills early in the game - the assignments will get more complex through the semester and you may find yourself unable to keep up. As simple as these early assignments may seem to some of you, they will help to keep you on the right track, and help you develop the skills required for a greater appreciation in listening to music, including the music that you listen to for your own enjoyment. Of course, those objectives are in total sync with the success you hope to have in this class. Remember that your ability to recognize the music on your CDs will be tested and will, of course, impact your grade. 

Audio / Video lecture

  • click lecture segments below in sequence
  • presented in several segments to reduce download time
  • total lecture time: approx. one hour 15 minutes (all segments included)
  • can be downloaded for portable media players by right clicking each segment link and choosing save option. (note: older Macs and Mac notebooks with single-button mice: control-click) 


Lecture 4.1 
Timbre and the human voice



Lecture 4.2 
Instruments of the orchestra



Lecture 4.3 
Andrew Davis on orchestral instruments



Lecture 4.4 
Benjamin Britten's Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra





Some helpful guidelines for listening recognition

Listening Guidelines.pdf