Hardest Instrument to Play in an Orchestra

Which is the hardest instrument to play in an orchestra? This question has sparked interesting debates among both orchestra members and listeners alike. Of course, each and every member of an orchestra holds an important role in deciding the overall performance, and different people indeed specialize in different instruments. Since different instruments require different skills and even characters, we can’t really judge whether an instrument is hard or easy to play. Still, there are several instruments that are considered as more difficult than others.

1. Bagpipe
Bagpipes fall into the aerophones category of musical instruments which uses enclosed reeds. Since its invention, bagpipes have created sensational music throughout the Europe, Caucasus, Persian Gulf, and Northern Africa. A bagpipe has nine notes that need to be played with a constant pressure if you don’t want the chanter to fall out of tune. Although the exact origin of bagpipes is unknown, according to The Oxford History of Music, the earliest sculpture of bagpipes was found on a Hittite slab in the Middle East, dating back to the 1000 BC.

2. Oboe
Belonging to the woodwind family, the oboe is a soprano-ranged double reed instrument made of a wooden tube with a conical bore, metal keys, and a flared bell. An oboe typically has a length of about 65 cm. An oboe plays a distinctive tune which is described as “bright”, produced by blowing into the reed to vibrate a column of air. Among the various musical instruments in an orchestra, oboes are easily the most audible due to their clear, penetrating voice. So, if you make a mistake while playing an oboe, there is a good chance that the mistake is very noticeable. No wonder that the oboe is often considered as one of the most difficult instrument to play in an orchestra.

Oboes originated in the 17th century. They were developed from the shawms. Before receiving its present name, the instrument was called the hoboy, hautbois, and French hoboy. The Sprightly Companion instruction book describes the oboe as a majestic and stately instrument, not necessarily inferior to the trumpet.

3. Organ
Along with the clock, the organ is considered as one of the most complicated man-made mechanical products invented before the Industrial Revolution. The organ has been a core for the Western musical tradition since the era of Ctesibius of Alexandria who invented the hydraulis.

The organ is a keyboard instrument featuring one or more divisions. Every division possesses a different keyboard which is played with the hands or feet. The most unique feature of an organ is the ability to range the sound from the slightest to the most powerful, making its presence very adaptable. Unsurprisingly, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart himself called the organ as “the king of instruments”.

4. French Horn
When asked about the hardest instrument to play in an orchestra, there are many people who come up with the same answer: the French horn, also known as the corno or simply the horn. It is a brass instrument that is made up by more than 20 feet of tubing which is wrapped into a coil and a flared bell. Nevertheless, the mouthpiece of the French horn is the key to become an excellent player. By adjusting the lip tensions on the mouthpiece, you can control the pitch. The next thing that is also equally important is the operation of the valves which decide the routing of the air into the tubing. Usually, the valves are controlled by the left hand.

5. Violin
The fiddle a.k.a. the violin is also widely considered as one of the hardest instrument to play in the orchestra. It is the actually the smallest high-pitched string instrument, featuring four strings that are tuned in perfect fifths. The violinist draws a bow across the strings to make it sound. Although the violin is one of the ancient musical instruments, it has aided modern musicians as well in various music genres, ranging from classical to jazz to folk music to rock.