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Wind Instrument Brief Introduction

Wind Instrument Brief Introduction

A wind instrument is a musical instrument that contains some type of resonator (usually a tube), in which a column of air is set into vibration by the player blowing into (or over) a mouthpiece set at the end of the resonator.

The pitch of the vibration is determined by the length of the tube and by manual modifications of the effective length of the vibrating column of air. In the case of some wind instruments, sound is produced by blowing through a reed; others require buzzing into a metal mouthpiece. Wind instruments are typically grouped into two families: brass instruments (horns, trumpets, trombones, euphoniums, and tubas) and woodwind instruments (recorders, flutes, oboes, clarinets, saxophones, and bassoons).

Although brass instruments were originally made of brass and woodwind instruments have traditionally been made of wood, the material used to make the body of the instrument is not always a reliable guide to its family type. A more accurate way to determine whether an instrument is brass or woodwind is to examine how the player produces sound. In brass instruments, the player's lips vibrate, causing the air within the instrument to vibrate. In woodwind instruments the player either causes a reed to vibrate, which agitates the column of air (as in a clarinet, oboe or duduk), blows against an edge or fipple (as in a recorder), or blows across the edge of an open hole (as in a flute).


The history of wind instruments dates back thousands of years ago when the first individuals to live began blowing into items and projecting musical notes. But over time the development of pipes, wood, bronze and metal came into view and were used to make legitimate wind instruments with a multiple note fingering system.

Over twenty thousand years ago, primitive man realized he could produce a musical note by blowing into a piece of hollow cane or dried fruit shell. While vocalists and percussion instruments were the first and second forms of music, respectively, wind instruments are strongly considered to be the third. Blowing through a dead bone or a cut plant and producing musical notes was considered magic to man at the time, and they used this process to communicate with spirits, cure disease and protect crops.

Primitive man initially used multiple one-note instruments to get multiple notes. However, he also figured out that blowing harder would produce other notes--and, if blown right, harmonics of the basic note. While South Americans developed pan pipes and Zulu shepherds worked on one-note wind instruments, ancient civilizations in Egypt, China and Samaria invented finger hole instruments. With the addition of one, two, three and even four holes, they created pentatonic melodies by using root notes with harmonics. A basic musical scale and progression soon followed after the invention.

As ancient nations continued to use different items as wind instruments, the discovery of pipes proved to be huge in the development of modern day wind instruments. Blowing into two pipes at the same time produced a melody and a harmony. The invention of bagpipes derived from the pipes after people added an airbag. Further instrumental developments of reed instruments were invented like the oboe, bassoon and clarinet.

It wasn't until the 16th century that the use of mechanics enhanced the fingering system on the instruments. While the clarinet first appeared in Islamic and Asian countries 700 years ago, the oboe was a French instrument that was first used in the court of Louis XIV. In the 18th century it became a popular solo instrument that was mainly used by famous composers such as Bach and Telemann. The saxophone was invented by Adolph Sax in 1841 after he had worked on perfecting the bass clarinet. The flute was developed more than 1,000 years ago in ancient Asia.