When talking about musical instruments, we often talk about them as being part of a family. That’s because some instruments share the same characteristics. They are often made of the same types of materials, usually look similar to one another, and/or produce sound in comparable ways.
The woodwind instruments family all used to be made of wood, which gives them their name. Today, they are made of wood, metal, plastic or some combination. You play them by blowing air through the mouthpiece and opening or closing holes with your fingers to change the pitch. The mouthpieces for some woodwinds, including the clarinet, oboe, saxophone, and bassoon, use a thin piece of wood called a reed, which vibrates when you blow across it.
The saxophone is one of the few instruments that was actually invented. Adolphe Sax, a musician and instrument manufacturer from Belgium invented the saxophone in 1842. The saxophone was patented in 1846 and originally heard in French military bands. The instrument gained popularity as it became used in small combo jazz groups. It later became a permanent member of the concert band.
The clarinet is a woodwind instrument that is commonly used in almost every type of music from classical to chamber, to jazz. The clarinet is made up of five parts, which are the mouthpiece, the barrel, the upper joint, the lower joint, and the bell. The reed is held over an opening in the mouthpiece with a ligature, and it vibrates when you blow into the small gap between the reed and the mouthpiece.
The oboe is double reed woodwind instrument with a plastic body (for beginners) or a grenadilla wood body (for intermediate/advanced players). The fingering of an oboe is very similar to that of a flute, recorder, or saxophone. The range of the modern oboe extends two and one half octaves upward from the B flat below middle C. The oboe player is commonly used to tune the band.
The bassoon is a double reed woodwind instrument like the oboe. The bassoon is known for its distinctive tone color, wide range, variety of character and agility.
The flute is one of the oldest instruments in our recorded history. Some of the early flutes were as simple as a piece of cane or bone that was blown into. The flute family consists of a Piccolo, C Flute, Eb Soprano Flute, Alto Flute, and Bass Flute.