The Woodwind section of an orchestra includes the Clarinets, Oboes, Recorders and Flutes. Many young children will be familiar with this group as the recorder
is often bought as a cheap instrument to start to learn to play on. They consist
of a tube with holes, which are either covered by your fingers or valves to
play different notes and are usually made from plastic, metal or wood. Woodwind
instruments either use reeds to make the sound or narrow airstreams vibrating
over a sharp edge.
Reed instruments use small rectangular pieces of reed plants in their mouthpieces.
The reed vibrates very quickly creating a sound. In a single-reed instrument
the reed vibrates against the mouthpiece. In a double-reed instrument two pieces
of reed vibrate against each other.
The Recorder is a non-reeded instrument usually made of wood or plastic. It
has a mouthpiece you blow into and eight holes in the tube
including one thumbhole on the back which are
covered by your fingers and thumb to make the sound. They come in various sizes
of which the more common ones are:
- Descant which is about 30cm long and is
most suitable for children.
- Treble which is about 45cm long and is
the normal one for adults.
- Tenor which is about 60cm long and has metal keys to reach the lowest hole.
- Bass which is about 90cm long.
Popular makes are the Yamaha Descant Recorder which
can be purchased from the Music Room online shop for £5.99 and
is good value for that price and the highly regarded Autos which is
a little more expensive at £12.95
from the same shop. Details of the website are in our Useful
The Clarinet is a single-reed instrument normally made from plastic and
is cylindrical in shape with a bell end. They are played by blowing into the
mouthpiece and reed, and pressing different combinations of the valves to make
different sounds. Clarinets come in three main types - the Bass, The Alto (B
Flat)and the E Flat. The B Flat is the most popular student version.
The Flute is another non-reed instrument usually made of metal. It is cylindrical
in shape and played by blowing across the mouthpiece which creates vibrations
to produce the sound. Different notes can be obtained by pressing down varying
combinations of the valves. It can a difficult instrument for a young person
to get a good sound out of as it requires mastering the technique of blowing
across the hole rather than into a mouthpiece. The Piccolo is similar to the
flute but is smaller in size and has a higher range of notes.
The Oboe is a double-reed instrument usually made of plastic. It is played
by blowing into the reeds to create the vibration necessary to make the sound.
A combination of valves are then pressed to obtain the desired notes.
The Bassoon is another but rather large double-reed instrument. It is a
heavy bass instrument and is therefore not ideal for younger children to learn
to play on.
The Saxophone is unlike the other members of the woodwind section which tend
to be straight, in that it is made from a conical tube which then bends round
and opens up into a bell end. It is a single-reed instrument which comes
in a number of versions. These are mainly the soprano, alto, sopranino, tenor,
baritone, bass, and contrabass. The alto is probably the best one for a beginner
to learn on. The saxophone is usually made from brass and is now well established
as a jazz instrument.
To find out more about learning how to play these instruments visit the Starting to Learn section of our site.
Information on maintenance or repairs is available in the Maintenance and Tuning section of our site.