Meet the woodwinds. A woodwind is an instrument that you blow into or over. The squad of the woodwinds is made up of flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, and saxophones. If you're wondering why they're called woodwinds, it's because they used to be made of wood, though saxophones are included because they have a reed. The highest is the smaller cousin of the flute, the piccolo, and the lowest is the contrabassoon. Today they can be made of wood, metal or plastic. Opening and closing holes in the body of the instrument controls the pitch of the tones.
The flute is the oldest of the woodwinds, originating around 5000 B.C. The
oboe and bassoon were invented in the Middle Ages, and admitted into the orchestra in the
1600's. Panpipes are an ancient form of flute, still used in some parts of the world
today. Panpipes are made up of a series of tubes, each representing a different note. Air
is blown across the top of the tubes to produce the sound. (You can learn how to make this
instrument in the Activities section of this web page.) Later
in the 1600's, a German company developed an instrument which began the clarinet. The
newest of the woodwinds, the saxophone, was invented by Adolphe Sax in the 1800's.
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