Woodwind Musical Instruments - A Synopsis
By Nigel Arding
A woodwind musical instrument is a musical device that has a resonator. Using a mouthpiece, air is blown over the resonator which creates a sound. It is the both the length and direction that air takes through the instrument that determines the pitch of the vibration and therefore the sound made.
The shape of the woodwind instruments as well as the finger holes in its body can be fairly complex, both have an effect on the quality of sound produced. Common shapes of air columns include - conical, cylinder etc.
Woodwind musical instruments can be divided into 2 categories
- Brass Instruments - made primarily of metal
- Woodwind Instruments - made primarily from wood
The more well known and used woodwind musical instruments are as follows
Bassoon, Flute, Clarinet, Oboe, Saxophones
The bassoon, clarinet, oboe and saxophone use a mouthpiece whereas the flute uses what is called a headjoint as the method of introducing air to the instrument. Together with the musician's personal physical abilities, the mouthpiece/headjoint have the greatest impact on the quality of the sound.
Unlike the string instruments or some percussion instruments, most wind instruments don't require tuning. Only the more complex wind instruments may require adjustment of the keys.
Of the well known woodwind musical instruments, the flute and clarinet tend to cost the least because they are the most popular and are made in greater quantities
Of interest, the woodwind section of a band or orchestra usually consists of three flutes, one piccolo, three oboes, one English horn, three clarinets, one bass clarinet, three bassoons and one contrabassoon.
A bassoon can cost upwards of $3000 and is typically made from ABS plastic, however there are some new models made from hard rubber and professional models made from Maple. Wood offers the best acoustics and the rubber made bassoons can be quite heavy.
A flute typically costs $350 and is made from nickel-silver, then plated in silver. Nickel-silver is a combination of brass with nickel and is stronger than just brass or silver. A flute has a silver look when polished, hence its name.
A saxophone typically costs around $1000 and is generally made from brass. The better saxophones often have a 'ribbing' on the body. These extra plates of brass provide structural support for the multiple posts that are attached to the body.
A clarinet typically costs $350 whereas an oboe you can expect to pay about $1400. For the cheaper models of both clarinet and oboe, their bodies are usually made of ABS plastic, whereas the more expensive instruments are made of Grenadilla wood.
A smaller version of the flute is called the piccolo and is played in the same manner as a flute. The piccolo is so designed that it is pitched an octave above the standard flute and has a range of nearly three octaves, reaching the highest pitches of a modern orchestra. It is usually used for special effects in an orchestra.
If purchasing a new musical instrument, your local trusted retailer will help to guide you in making a good choice from available makes and models. Once purchased, always have the instrument serviced after a 3 month period, just to make sure it operates the way it should for long term use.
Nigel Arding is business owner of a private vocational college, CanAm College located at http://www.canamcollege.com.
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