This family of instruments produce sound by blowing into a tube, and are called woodwind because originally they were all made from wood. Today, they are made of wood, metal, plastic or some combination of both.

Woodwind instruments can be divided into three types – single-reed instruments, double-reed instruments, and flutes.

Like the brass family, sound is made by blowing air into the instrument. However instead of creating vibrations by buzzing their lips, woodwind instruments create sound by blowing air into the instrument that is then cut by a sharp edge; either the instrument itself, or a reed attached to the mouthpiece. You play them by blowing air through the mouthpiece and opening or closing the holes with your fingers to change the pitch. Metal caps called keys cover the holes of most woodwind instruments, but some instruments use fingers only, such as the recorder.

You can hear woodwind instruments featured in all types of music, from classical and orchestral pieces to jazz to blues to rock & roll and nearly everything in between.

The woodwind family of instruments includes the piccolo, flute, oboe, cor anglais, clarinet, bassoon and saxophone.

  • flautist performing in concert


    Thought to be the very first musical instrument, concert flutes are one of the most common instruments in an orchestra.
  • oboist performing in concert


    The oboe is the highest pitched double reed instrument; it is played by blowing through two precisely cut, small pieces of cane bound together at the base.
  • Clarinet


    The clarinet, a single-reed instrument played by blowing into a mouthpiece, comes in a number of different sizes, and the standard B-flat clarinet is just over 2 feet long.
  • Sax players from South Ulster Youth Band


    The saxophone is a relatively new instrument, having been invented just 150 years ago.
  • bassoonist performing in orchestra concert


    The bassoon is the largest member of the woodwind family, and the contrabassoon is more than twice as long as a regular bassoon.

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