A woodwind instrument is a musical instrument which produces sound when the player blows air against a sharp edge or through a reed, causing the air within its resonator (usually a column of air) to vibrate. Most of these instruments are made of wood but can be made of other materials, such as metals or plastics.

Types of woodwind instrumentsEdit

Main article: List of woodwind instruments

Woodwind instruments can further be divided into two groups: flutes and reed instruments.


Main article: Flute
  • Flutes produce sound when air is blown across an edge. There are two sub-families:
    • The open flute family, in which the player's lips form a stream of air which goes directly from the players lips to the edge, such as transverse flutes and end-blown flutes. Ancient flutes were made from tubular sections of plants such as grasses, reeds, and hollowed-out tree branches. Later, flutes were made of metals such as tin, copper, or bronze. Modern concert flutes are usually made of high-grade metal alloys, usually containing nickel, silver, copper, and/or gold.
    • The closed flute family, in which the musical instrument has a channel to form and direct the air stream over an edge. This family includes fipple-based devices such as whistles and the musical recorder family.

Reed instrumentsEdit

  • Single-reed instruments use a reed, which is a thin-cut piece of cane or plastic that is held against the aperture of a mouthpiece with a ligature. When air is forced between the reed and the mouthpiece, the reed vibrates, creating the sound. Single reed instruments include the clarinet and saxophone families, and others like the duduk and the chalumeau.
  • Double-reed instruments, use two precisely cut, small pieces of cane joined together at the base. The finished, bound reed is inserted into the top of the instrument and vibrates as air is forced between the two pieces. There are two sub-families:
    • Exposed double-reed instruments, where the reed goes between the player's lips. In this family include Western classical instruments the oboe, cor anglais (also called English horn) and bassoon, and many types of shawms throughout the world.
    • Capped double-reed instruments, where the player just blows through a hole in a cap that covers the reed. This family includes the crumhorn and the cornamuse.
  • Bagpipes can have single and/or double reeds. These are functionally the same as capped reed instruments as the reeds are not in contact with player's lips.
  • Free reed aerophone instruments that has its sound produced as air flows past a vibrating reed in a frame. Air pressure is typically generated by breath like a harmonica or with bellows such as an accordion.

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