Instruments throughout history have replicated and imitated animals. From Beethoven to Bernstein, composers have sought new and interesting uses for traditional orchestra instruments. The temptation to recreate nature through musical sounds comes in both literal and abstract ways. Learn about instruments and animal sounds they make so that next time you hear one, you will be able to identify what instrument is making the sound.
As its name suggests the lion's roar makes a sound very similar to a lion roaring. Taking a bass drum and puncturing a whole in the head of the drum accomplishes this. A rope extends and pulls through the drum creating a sound that is very similar to a lion roaring. This instrument is so accurate it is often used in film scores and to indicate the roar of a lion in orchestral scores.
The trombone is capable of imitating the sound of many animals. The glissando technique involves sliding between two pitches without clearly defining the intermediary pitches. Trombone players can effectively mimic the sound of an elephant trumpeting calls. It is also possible to create a low growling sound through a mix of flutter-tongue techniques and multi-phonics. Flutter-tongue is a technique that involves rolling the tongue while playing. Growling or speaking through the instrument can produce multi-phonics.
The trumpet can create the sound of a horse neighing. To do this, the trumpet must use half-valves and rise up and down through the pitch spectrum. This requires a bit of creativity on the part of the trumpet player and some practice to get the technique just right. This technique rarely occurs except for in film and television to create on-the-spot special-effect sounds. It is especially useful for trumpet players who wish to play in a comedy club that requires active participation from the music ensemble.
Piccolo and Flute
The piccolo is capable of creating birdsong and chirping effects. Messiaen is known for his use of birdsong in his compositions and he used the piccolo and flute to recreate bird calls in the orchestral fabric. The high-pitched nature of the piccolo lends itself particularly well to the creation of bird-calls. In Messiaen's opera "St. Francis," he makes extensive use of bird-calls to honour St. Francis' love of birds.
Peter and the Wolf
The most commonly used instrument to imitate the sound of a duck is the oboe. In "Peter and the Wolf" by Sergei Prokofiev, each instrument used represents a different character in the story. The duck is performed by the oboe. The bird is depicted by a flute. The cat is a clarinet and the French horn is the wolf.