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Classical Music Instruments in German

A few lessons ago, we discussed the Performing Arts (die darstellende Kunst), one of which is music (die Musik). Let's take a look today at the German names of some of the most common musical instruments used in classical music.

 

The piano is one of the main instruments in Western culture, and many musicians who specialize in other instruments and singing are often required to learn some basic piano skills. This is because of the piano's large range, from deep bass to high treble, which allows it to cover all of the ranges used by orchestral instruments. The piano is also important for musical composition, and many works for orchestra have been composed using the piano. 

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In German, the piano may be called either das Klavier or das Piano, although the latter is more old-fashioned and sometimes used in jest. A person who plays the piano is called der Klavierspieler / die Klavierspielerin or der Pianist / die Pianistin. This reflects the English terms "piano player" and "pianist" respectively.

 

Piggeldy wollte wissen, wie man Klavier spielt.

Piggeldy wanted to know how to play the piano.

Caption 2, Piggeldy und Frederick: Das Klavier

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Er ist eigentlich klassischer Pianist.

He is actually a classical pianist.

Caption 54, Rockfabrik-Open-Air Love-Street: Interview

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The violin also has two common names in German: die Geige or die Violine. A person who plays the violin is called either der Geiger / die Geigerin or der Violinist / die Violinistin.

 

Die beiden Spezialisten, haben von klein auf klassischen Unterricht bekommen, das heißt, Violine und Klavier.

The two experts received classical instruction from an early age, that is, violin and piano.

Captions 26-27, Sons of Sounds Open: Air in Karlsruhe

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Star-Geiger David Garrett war für einen Kurzauftritt angereist

Star violinist David Garrett had traveled here for a brief appearance

Caption 52, rheinmain Szene: Live-Entertainment-Award in Frankfurt

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Of the remaining bowed string instruments, the viola is called die Bratsche and is played by der Bratschist / die Bratschistin. The cello, which is actually short for "violoncello," is called the same in German: das Cello. A person who plays the cello is der Cellist / die Cellistin. The double bass—also called the upright bass or acoustic bass—is the deepest of the string instruments. In German, it's called der Kontrabass and its players are called der Kontrabassist / die Kontrabassistin.

 

Der Mensch braucht eine Geige, ein Klavier und einen Kontrabass.

A human being needs a violin, a piano and a contrabass.

Caption 65, Deutschkurs in Tübingen: Was braucht der Mensch?

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The highest of the woodwind reed instruments are the clarinet and the oboe, called die Klarinette and die Oboe respectively. The clarinet is played by der Klarinettist / die Klarinettistin and the oboe by der Oboist / die Oboistin. The deepest is the bassoon, in German das Fagott, which is played by der Fagottist / die Fagottistin

 

There are also several non-reed woodwind instruments such as the flute and the recorder, respectively called die Flöte and die Blockflöte in German. A flautist is der Flötist / die Flötistin, and a recorder player is der Blockflötist / die Blockflötistin.

 

Der Rattenfänger ging auf die Hauptstraße und zückte seine Flöte.

The Pied Piper went out onto the main street and pulled out his flute.

Caption 37, Märchen: Sagenhaft Der Rattenfänger von Hameln

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Of the brass instruments, the most commonly used are the trumpet and the French horn, respectively die Trompete and das Horn in German. The players are der Trompetist / die Trompetistin and der Hornist / die Hornistin. In the lower registers there's also the tuba, die Tuba. It's played by der Tubist / die Tubistin, or alternately der Tubaspieler / die Tubaspielerin. 

 

Und mit dir Trompeten, Geigen und Chöre...

And with you, trumpets, violins and choirs...

Caption 69, Wincent Weiss & Benni Freibott: Musik sein

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Lastly, the main percussion instruments used are the marimba (die Marimba), the snare drum (die kleine Trommel), and the timpani (die Pauke). The snare drum has a variety of names in German, but it's often informally referred to simply by its English name, die Snare. The person in the orchestra playing these instruments is called der Perkussionist / die Perkussionistin

 

Dann Paukenschläge auf Trommelwirbel...

Then timpani strikes over a drum roll...

Caption 71, Wincent Weiss & Benni Freibott Musik sein

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Further Learning
Go to Yabla German and watch the videos above relating to musical instruments. You can also search for the names of the instruments and find other videos. Find a tandem partner in your class and make up some sentences in German using these musical instrument words, then compare what you both came up with. In an upcoming lesson, we'll talk about the different kinds of musical instruments used in pop music!

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