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Wind Instruments


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Wind Instruments information

Wind instruments form a section in most traditional orchestras and are essential for the timbre. Loud yet lightweight and easy to carry, this family of musical instruments can also often be heard at parades and marches, where musicians will generally use metal models since woodwind instruments aren't equipped to handle the elements. Metal or wood, wind instruments remain a popular instrument for beginners.

Brass Wind Instruments

When it comes to brass, it's easy to think that the finish of the instrument determines which category of wind instruments it belongs to. That said, looks can be deceiving since some brass instruments are actually silver-plated. And did you know that while they're made of brass, saxophones are technically woodwind instruments? What defines any wind instrument as a brass instrument is the mouthpiece; the rest of the construction - so any valves, pistons or sliding mechanisms - have only been fitted to amplify the sound or change the pitch. There are various brass instrument families, including trumpets, trombones, tubas and horns.

Woodwind Instruments

In general, there are two ways to produce sound with a woodwind instrument: you either blow air through a built-in air column (a kind of resonance chamber) or you vibrate a reed. Flutes like recorders and pan flutes have an air column, while clarinets, saxophones, oboes and bassoons are reed instruments. Woodwind instruments may be less loud than their brass counterparts, but they offer more variation in timbre which is why they're popular in symphony orchestras. Big-bands on the other hand are typically made up of trumpets, trombones and saxophones - a collection of instruments often referred to as the brass or horns section. While this implies that saxophones are brass instruments, they're actually woodwind instruments since, just like clarinets, saxophones are equipped with a wooden reed.

Bass-Focussed Brass and Woodwind Instruments

While wooden wind instruments aren't exactly designed to take care of the lower registers, that's not to say that there aren't any deep-diving wind instruments made of wood out there. In woodwind sections, there are bassoons, bass clarinets and baritone saxophones, and in the family of flutes, there are various high/low-pitched variants - though it must be said that the latter are more 'situational' instead of common ensemble instruments. Within the order of brass instruments, the tuba takes care of the bass in orchestras while the sousaphone usually does so in marching bands.

The Organ

Often found in churches, organs are wind instruments that cover various registers and feature a bellows mechanism that forces air through the organ pipes. While controlled by a piano-like keyboard, organs aren't played like most other wind instruments so we won't be going into this massive instrument any further here.

Electronic Wind Instruments and Wind Controllers

Electronic wind instruments - or wind controllers - are mainly used to control a host of virtual wind instruments in combination with computer software. It's also possible for this type of electronic wind instruments to have a built-in sound engine, which sets you up with various instruments in one. While you'll rarely find wind controllers in orchestras, it's a superb tool for both learning and experimenting. The fingering differs per model: some models feature a saxophone lay-out, while other models may feature adjustable finger positions and can be set to anything from recorder mode to bag-pipes mode.

Frequently Asked Questions About Wind Instruments

What’s the easiest wind instrument to play?

With many wind instruments, the challenge lies in lip tension and learning how the holes or valves work. Wind instruments that are simpler by design - like the pan flute, kazoo, melodica and harmonica - are the easiest to get to grips with. That said, the harmonica does come with a set of challenges of its own.

What wind instrument should I go for?

The musical instrument one plays is often a reflection of their personality. If you're more introverted and want to stay away from the spotlight, go for an ensemble instrument. Want to steal the show with captivating solos? Try a sax!

Which wind instruments have double reeds?

Woodwind instruments like oboes and bassoons are double-reed instruments. The two reeds are bound together to generate sound.

Which wind instruments have a single reed?

Woodwind instruments like clarinets and saxophones are single-reed instruments.

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