Facts About Woodwind Instruments Revealed For Kids That Adore Music

Shirin Biswas
Jan 24, 2024 By Shirin Biswas
Originally Published on Dec 22, 2021
Fact-checked by Sudeshna Nag
These facts about woodwind instruments will tell you all you need to know about the folk instruments as well as how they made it to band music!
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Age: 3-18
Read time: 5.0 Min

Whether they are reed instruments, members of the clarinet family, or flutes, all these instruments produce sound by the same principle!

These instruments are known as woodwinds simply because wood and wind are involved in the production of the musical sounds that escapes these instruments. Woodwinds, such as flutes, have existed in places, such as South America and Europe, since ancient times.

The sound produced through such instruments is pleasant, and they are not very hard to play.

They started using reeds for construction in order to see how the air would vibrate. From the use of a single reed to having instruments such as the oboe, which has a double reed, woodwinds have changed a lot.

From the lowest notes to the highest, there is nothing that woodwinds cannot achieve, and hence, you must read some facts about woodwind instruments before going to your next orchestra show! A group of five instrumentalists playing in an orchestra is called a quintet.

What are woodwind instruments?

Woodwind instruments, as the name suggests, are musical instruments that combine wood and wind or air. To explain further, in these instruments, wind is blown through them in order to create vibrations, which then turn into musical notes.

These instruments are ancient and were invented centuries ago. The first woodwind instruments to be constructed were the truest to the name since they did, in fact, use wood for construction. Wood and other natural materials were amply available, and since things like metal alloys and plastic hadn't been invented then, wood was a clear choice. Therefore, it was used in the instruments used for recreational music in ancient times!

Woodwinds primarily come in two types; there are flute-type woodwinds and reed-type woodwinds. In each of these cases, blowing air is involved. However, how the air inside the hollow instrument vibrates and creates sound is where the difference lies.

A flute is basically a hollow, narrow tube, which has holes through which the pitch of the sound can be decided and controlled. In an orchestra, you will be able to observe a flute made of metal alloy; however, the earliest models of flutes were made of wood instead. A flute is placed near a player's lips as they blow air into it.

The air then enters the hollow column and is let out through specific meta keys or holes in order to produce the intended sound. The main types of this musical instrument are the open flute and the closed flute. In the case of an open flute, the air gets split when it enters through the edge of the hole. Flutes have a sharp edge that splits the air entering them.

In the case of open flutes, this sharp edge is present at the beginning of the mouthpiece, where the player blows in the air. In the case of closed flutes, however, since the basal end is closed, the air gets split at the bottom and creates vibrations.

The reed-type woodwind instruments may use a single or double reed for the production of musical sounds. In the case of single-reed instruments, a reed is attached to a mouthpiece. As air is forced into the single reed, vibrations are produced, which then causes the entire air column to vibrate.

If you are interested in open flutes and would like some options to choose from, you can consider taking classes for playing the transverse flute, panpipe, or shakuhachi. Some examples of closed flutes include the recorder, ocarina, and organ pipes. Some of these instrument families are ancient and are played in shows and orchestras as well.

Single reeds like bass clarinet, saxophone, and chalumeau are very commonly played. Double reeds such as the oboe, cor anglais or English horn and bassoon also use the same principles.

the bassoon was made by Martin Hotteterre.

Features Of Woodwind Instruments

If you have been wondering what a woodwind instrument looks like, it is almost always a hollow tube with holes on the surface. Almost every woodwind instrument is played by controlling the tone and pitch of the sound produced through the holes.

The woodwind family of instruments was formerly only made of wood due to the availability of the material. However, over the years, these instruments have been made with many materials, such as plastic, brass, and metal alloys. The mouthpiece, too, can be made of plastic or alloys, depending on the kind of sounds that are needed from the instrument.

One of the interesting features of woodwinds is that the bigger they are, the lower their pitch is! For example, a piccolo makes one octave higher notes than regular flutes. This is because piccolos are the smallest woodwinds.

A saxophone cannot be considered a brass instrument in spite of the fact that it is made of brass since such instruments are supposed to have a cup-shaped mouthpiece. A saxophone is considered a part of the woodwinds since, like single-reed instruments, it has a reed close to the mouthpiece, which vibrates and creates sounds when the metal keys are used.

An oboe has the highest pitch among double reed instruments. On the other hand, even though a bassoon is similar in function, it has the lowest pitch among all double reed instruments. It is truly amazing how these instruments work!

The lower pitch bassoon is known as a contrabassoon.

The Jiahu bone flute was the first woodwind instrument.

Workings Of Woodwind Instruments

All members of the woodwind family follow a simple formula, whether it be folk instruments or orchestral music. Air is blown into the instrument by the musician, and at the same time, the keys or holes in the instrument are handled.

In order to play woodwinds, you must blow air into the hollow tube. When air is blown in, the sharp edge in the instrument causes it to split and vibrate, which then produces the pleasant sound that we hear in an orchestra.

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Written by Shirin Biswas

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English Language and Literature

Shirin Biswas picture

Shirin BiswasBachelor of Arts specializing in English Language and Literature

With a degree in English from Amity University, Noida, Shirin has won awards for oratory, acting, and creative writing. She has a wealth of experience as an English teacher, editor, and writer, having previously worked at Quizzy and Big Books Publishing. Her expertise lies in editing study guides for children and creating engaging content.

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