Home > Instruments > Woodwinds
So named because the instruments in this family were made of wood, their basic material has changed over the years to incorporate more modern materials such as plastic and metal. The modern orchestra usually makes use of the 'double wind' configuration, usually with 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets and 2 bassoons to which are added a piccolo, cor anglais, double bassoon and sometimes a bass clarinet.
The designs of these instruments are basically the same - a hollow tube along which there is a series of holes, covered by keys. A system of springs and levers allows the holes to be opened and closed. Sound is produced by the vibration of the air column within the instrument. This is achieved in three different ways :
(1) Edge-tone : Used only for the flute and piccolo, a stream of air is directed by the player edgewise across a hole, and this stream is divided by the tapered further edge, causing the air column within the instrument to vibrate. This produces anywhere from a breathy note to a clear, bell-like tone.
This section is placed in the center of the orchestral layout as the instruments are frequently given many solo parts to play. This, in turn, is due to the fact that woodwind instruments tend to stand out among their counterparts.