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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!

Wann, wenn, ob, and falls

In a previous newsletter, we outlined the difference between wann, wenn, and als. This week, we'll take a look at wann and wenn in the context of the words listed above, which tend to be a bit confusing for beginners. 

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Wann is a question word, like was or wie. It is concerned with at what point in time something will happen, but not if it will happen. 

 

Wann werden Sie diesen Flughafen eröffnen können?

When will you be able to open this airport?

Caption 28, Berlins regierender Bürgermeister - Pläne für 2014

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Genau, ja, wir schauen grad, wann der perfekte Zeitpunkt ist.

Exactly, yes, we are looking right now when the perfect time would be.

Caption 40, Wincent Weiss & Benni Freibott - Musik sein

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The word wenn can be confusing, because it can be translated as “if,” but also as “when” or “whenever.” 

 

Wenn man die Augen schließt und an Berlin denkt, was sieht man da?

If you close your eyes and think about Berlin, what do you see there?

Caption 1, Berlin - Hotel Adlon feiert 15 Jahre Neueröffnung

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Wenn schon so starker Schneefall ist, dann muss man die Zeit eigentlich optimal nutzen.

When there is such heavy snowfall, then you actually have to use your time optimally.

Caption 30, 48 h in Innsbruck - Sehenswürdigkeiten & Tipps

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The word ob means "whether," but is also translated as "if." It is generally used in sentences that involve two options or a question that could be answered with "no" just as easily as "yes."

 

Ich bin mir aber nicht sicher, ob das Eurem Vater gefällt.

But I'm not sure if your father will like that.

Caption 12, Das Märchen von der Prinzessin - die unbedingt in einem Märchen vorkommen wollte

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Ich möchte schauen, ob ihr die Regeln verstanden habt.

I want to see whether you have understood the rules.

Caption 63, Deutschkurs in Tübingen - Trennbare Verben und Wortstellung

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Falls also means "if," but, unlike wenn, can only be used with the conditional type I and not conditional type II or III. It is also often translated as "in case." 

 

Ähm, falls Ihre Schwester trockene Haut hat, wär' des [das] ganz toll. -OK, super.

Um, if your sister has dry skin, that would be totally great. -OK, super.

Captions 35-36, Rhein-Main-TV - Eva Padberg beim Weihnachtseinkauf

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Natürlich auch einen warmen Pulli, falls es kalt wird.

Of course, also a warm pullover, in case it gets cold.

Caption 9, Christiane - fährt in den Urlaub

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Further Learning
To review the types of conditional sentences in English (mentioned above), take a look at this website. A newsletter on creating conditional sentences in German is forthcoming, so it's a good way to prepare! When you watch videos on Yabla German, note how wenn, ob, and falls are translated. Consider whether the word used could be swapped out for one of the others, and why or why not. 

Better and better

In last week's newsletter, we looked at the various ways of expressing the adverb "even" in German. We shouldn't forget that adverbs not only describe verbs, but adjectives as well. In this case, "even" is expressed with "noch":

 

Und mit ein bisschen Unterstützung der Teamkollegen klappt's vielleicht noch besser.

And with a little support from the team members it might work out even better.

Caption 11, Fußball - Torwandschießen - Part 2

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In English we say something is "even better" or that it is getting "better and better." The latter exists in German as well and is often constructed with the verb werden, the word immer, and a comparative adjective. 

 

Man wird ja immer besser durch die Übung.

One does get even [always] better through practice.

Caption 26, Singer-Songwriter - Sebastian Niklaus

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As you can see, this construction can be used with most adjectives: 

 

Sie wird im Spiegel immer kleiner

It gets smaller and smaller in the mirror

Caption 85, Wincent Weiss & Benni Freibott - Musik sein

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Und deshalb wird es auch immer wichtiger werden, dieses auch in Zukunft, äh, zu verstärken.

And therefore it is going to become more and more important to, uh, also emphasize this in the future.

Captions 35-36, Angela Merkel - beim Nachhaltigkeitsrat - Part 2

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Sie ist, äh, durch die Erweiterung des Flughafens natürlich immer komplexer geworden...

It has, uh, through the expansion of the airport, become more and more complex, of course...

Captions 35-36, Berlins regierender Bürgermeister - Pläne für 2014

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However, make sure to take context of the sentence and the presence or absence of werden into account. The sentence below shows that immer can be combined with an adjective and still just mean "always."

 

Wenn man gemeinsam reist, ist es immer besser.

It's always better if you travel together.

Caption 20, Traumberuf - Windsurfer

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Further Learning
Based on the tips above, how would you translate the phrase immer wieder? Do a search on Yabla German!

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