Wind Instruments

A wind instrument is defined in the Noah Webster's 1828 dictionary as an instrument of music, played by wind, chiefly by the breath. Sound is produced in one of two ways using a player’s breath;

  1. Tone is produced by vibration of the lips as the player blows into the instrument

  2. Tone is produced when air is blown against an edge of, or opening in an instrument causing the air to vibrate inside

These instruments have two primary parts; a long tube containing a column of air and a mouth piece. Air is set into vibration by the player blowing into or over a mouth piece. The pitch is determined by the length of the tube. Both methods of producing sound occurs by wind, however the vibration of that wind occurs in two separate areas of the instrument, either before the air enters the column or after. This type of sound production is used to assist in classification of the different types of wind instruments.

Two Types of wind instruments

Brass Instruments

Instruments that produce sound using the player’s lips to vibrate the air are categorized in the brass instrument family. Historically brass instruments were grouped together because the material used to make them was brass; however classification has come to more accurately be made by how the sound is produced. Common brass instruments include:

  • Valved – trumpet, horn, tuba

  • Slide – trombone and bazooka

  • Natural – bugle, trumpet and horn

  • Keyed or fingered – cornet, serpent and keyed trumpet

  • Cylindrical bore – tenor trombone

  • Conical bore – tenor horn, French horn and baritone

Woodwind Instruments

Instruments that produce sound by vibrating air inside the instrument are categorized in the woodwind family. As with brass instruments; woodwind instruments were historically grouped by the material used to make the instrument until a more accurate classification by sound production was developed. Woodwind instruments have a thin piece of wood called a reed that the player blows against to produce the air vibration leading to its sound. Common woodwind instruments include:

  • Single-reed – clarinet and saxophone

  • Double-reed (exposed) – oboe and bassoon

  • Double-reed (capped) – bagpipes and crumhorn

  • Open flute – transverse and end-blown flutes

  • Closed flute – fipple based flutes

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