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I want to be able to identify instruments when played. For example, if I'm listening to some symphony, I want to be able to identify the oboe from the bassoon, the viola from the violin, etc. I have searched software for learning instrument recognition, but I haven't found anything yet. Do you know any method for learning this ? (software or not).

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Just listen to them. Try Peter and the Wolf for a great lesson in instrument identification. I don't think this is a good question for this site though. – Dr Mayhem Apr 25 '13 at 17:43
Might I also suggest following along in the score. has many public domain music scores. Find one and listen along. – Reina Abolofia Apr 25 '13 at 17:50
I think this is a fine question. – slim Apr 26 '13 at 8:52
youtube: Bing Crosby and Louis Armstrong That's Jazz. – luser droog Apr 26 '13 at 21:53
As for viola vs. violin, that's easy... – leftaroundabout May 1 '13 at 19:45
up vote 6 down vote accepted

I suggest you find a recording of Benjamin Britten's "The Young Person's Guide To The Orchestra". There are versions on YouTube, iTunes etc. and any classical music shop will stock it on CD or DVD.

It was composed specifically to demonstrate the various sections and instruments of the orchestra in turn.

It is sometimes recorded with a narration, and sometimes without.

Your options:

  • use a narrated version, and just listen
  • use a non-narrated version, and follow a score, or a written copy of the narration script
  • watch a video or live performance, so you can see what instrument is making which sound
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I think that the best way to do this is to listen to music at concerts with a score so that you can see which instrument is playing which sound.

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Obviously this requires, that the instruments are visually recognized reliably. So the first step would be to click through orchestral instruments in wikipedia first (string, woodwinds and brass for the beginning), where the sound clips may give a first idea. – guidot Apr 26 '13 at 13:11

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