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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A woodwind instrument is a musical instrument which produces sound when the player blows air against a sharp edge or through a reed, causing the air within its resonator (usually a column of air) to vibrate. Most of these instruments are made of wood, but can be made of other materials, such as metals or plastics.


Types of woodwind instruments

Woodwind instruments can further be divided into 2 groups: flutes and reed instruments.



  • Flutes produce sound when air is blown across an edge. There are two sub-families:
    • Open flute family, where the player's lips form a stream of air which goes directly from the players lips to the edge, such as transverse flutes and end-blown flutes. Modern concert flutes are usually made of pure metal or a combination of metals including nickel, silver, and gold.
    • Closed flute family, where the instrument has a channel to form and direct the air stream over the edge. This family includes fipple based flutes like whistles and the recorder family.

Reed instruments

  • Single-reed instruments use a reed, which is a thin-cut piece of cane or plastic that is held against the aperture of a mouthpiece with a ligature. When air is forced between the reed and the mouthpiece, the reed vibrates, creating the sound. Single reed instruments include the clarinet and saxophone families, and others like the duduk and the chalumeau.
  • Double-reed instruments, use two precisely cut, small pieces of cane joined together at the base. The finished, bound reed is inserted into the top of the instrument and vibrates as air is forced between the two pieces. There are two sub-families:
    • Exposed double-reed instruments, where the reed goes between the player's lips. In this family include Western classical instruments the oboe, cor anglais (also called English horn) and bassoon, and many types of shawms throughout the world.
    • Capped double-reed instruments, where the player just blows through a hole in a cap that covers the reed. This family includes the crumhorn and the cornamuse.
A piper playing the bagpipes
  • Bagpipes can have single and/or double reeds. These are functionally the same as capped reed instruments as the reeds are not in contact with players lips.
  • Free reed aerophone instruments that has its sound produced as air flows past a vibrating reed in a frame. Air pressure is typically generated by breath or with a bellows.

Modern symphony orchestra woodwinds

The modern symphony orchestra's woodwinds section typically includes: 3 flutes, 1 piccolo, 3 oboes, 1 English horn, 3 clarinets, 1 bass clarinet, 3 bassoons, and 1 double bassoon. The section may also on occasion be expanded by the addition of a saxophone.[1]

Longest note

The world's longest sustained note on a clarinet is 1 minute and 16 seconds. Phil Palmer of Wolverhampton, England, broke the record on 27 November 2006 at Coppice High School, Ashmore Park, Wednesfield, Wolverhampton. Using a clarinet, he produced the note in a single breath, at an average volume of 66 decibels.[2]

See also


  1. ^ Apel, Willi, ed., Harvard Dictionary of Music, Second Edition, pp. 604-5. The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1969. SBN 674375017.
  2. ^

External links


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