English Lessons


Pop Music Instruments in English

A few lessons ago, we discussed the names of classical music instruments in English. Let's take a look today at the English names of some of the most common musical instruments used in pop music.


We already discussed the piano in the classical instruments lesson, but there are also a number of other kinds of keyboard instruments that are used in pop music. As a general term, they are simply called keyboards. A person who plays keyboards is a keyboardist.


I spoke with Andrew, who plays keyboards in INXS.

Caption 26, INXS: Pat Monahan about recording Beautiful Girl

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The Hammond organ is a popular vintage organ that is still much-loved in pop and jazz music. Other popular electronic organs from the 1960s, which were produced cheaply by companies such as Farfisa in Italy and Vox in the UK, are often referred to as electronic organs.


Scott Ellaway, who is now a successful conductor, loves to come here and play the organ.

Captions 19-20, Euromaxx city: A Visit to Oxford, England

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Another popular keyboard instrument that began to be widely used in the 1970s is the synthesizer. It's often referred to casually as a synth.


Because the synth especially really grounds it into a modern sound.

Captions 54-55, Making Tracks: Stu Cullen and Samuel Blair's Musical Journey

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Probably the most important instrument in rock music, especially in heavy metal and punk rock music, is the electric guitar. Generally, a person who plays guitar is called a guitar player or a guitarist. In some bands, there is a rhythm guitarist, who mainly just plays chords, and a lead guitarist, who usually plays the guitar solos.


In the film, we see Queen's lead guitarist, Brian May.

Caption 29, Bohemian Rhapsody: Six Facts about the True Story

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On the bottom end of the harmonic spectrum, we find the bass guitar or electric bass, and the acoustic upright bass, also called a contrabass. A person who plays bass is called a bass player or a bassist.


My main instrument is bass guitar.

Caption 11, Bee and Flower; Interview

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Let's look now at the beat, an important element in most forms of pop music, with the drums at the forefront. A person who plays the drums is a drummer or a percussionist.


My dad's an incredible percussionist.

Caption 10, Bruno Mars: Electronic Press Kit

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I bet Garth Brooks would take you as a drummer next time he tours.

Caption 68, Ask Jimmy Carter; Interview with Phil Collins

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Of course, brass instruments have always played a role in pop music, but the most common horn in pop music is probably the saxophone. A person who plays the saxophone is a saxophone player or saxophonist. The trumpet is also a popular horn instrument, and it's played by a trumpet player.


Trumpets were all screaming, saxophones were blaring.

Captions 17-18, The Rolling Stones: Living In A Ghost Town

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Let's not neglect a major aspect of pop music that makes it possible to play so loudly: the amplifier. There are amplifiers made especially for specific instruments, such as a guitar amplifier, a bass amplifier, and a keyboard amplifier. Vocals, horns, and other acoustic instruments are usually amplified through a microphone, or just "mic" (pronounce like the name "Mike") for short. All of these instruments are usually amplified on larger stages through a PA system. This term is an abbreviation of "public address system," as they were originally developed for speaking to large crowds.


Try turning a quarter of an inch closer to the microphone, please.

Caption 5, Ask Jimmy Carter: Interview with Angelina Jolie

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Further Learning
Go to Yabla English 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 English using these musical instrument words, then compare what you both came up with.

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