Despite its name, this family includes both wood and metal
instruments. Sometimes, the instrument's tube has a flexible reed
(e.g. clarinet), which vibrates when the instrument is played. The
air column vibrating within the instrument can be shortened or lengthened
by finger holes or keys. For example, by covering a hole through
which air escapes, the player can lengthen the air column and produce a
lower tone. Flutes and horns were among the eariest melodic instruments.
There are many types of woodwinds. The transverse
flute (usually called the flute), is held horizontally and is played with
a reed. This produces a high-pitched sound. The piccolo is
a smaller, higher-sounding flute. The oboe, is similar to a flute
in pitch range, but has a double-reed mouthpiece, to give a somewhat nasal,
piercing tone. Other double reed instruments which are all lower
in pitch are the English horn (a lower- voiced oboe), bassoon, and contrabassoon.
Single reed instruments include the clarinet (impressive for its variety
in timbre) and the saxophone.