Learn about wind instruments

Learn about wind instruments

Wind instruments have a long tradition and history. They are played by blowing air through them. Simultaneously the player controls the pitch by using fingers. Playing these instruments requires a lot of breath control. Lung capacity improves naturally through playing. Further down the line, effects such as vibrato can be applied by the experienced player. Wind instruments are very well suited for classical music. Other genres make good use of them too. The saxophone and the clarinet for example have a prominent role in jazz.


The clarinet

Typically made of wood, the clarinet can also be made of plastic, resin or rubber. During the second world war however, they were made of metal as this was the easy to get hold of. The clarinet is an instrument which appeals to audiences of classical and jazz music alike. Furthermore, the clarinet holds the biggest tonal register of the wind instruments. It's unique timbre is instantly recognisable. Think Gerhswin's 'Rhapsody in Blue'. The cat from Prokofiev's 'Peter and the Wolf'. Or, a swingin' solo from Benny Goodman to bring the natural, warm wood tones of the clarinet to mind.

The saxophone

The Belgian Adolphe Sax invented the saxophone in 1864. He built 4 different types to cover different pitches: Soprano, alto, tenor and baritone. Arguably one of the most important instruments of the 20th Century, the saxophone is certainly synonymous with jazz. The sax can boast World-famous American artists such as John Coltrane and Charlie Parker. They have woven the saxophone into the heart of American history. As jazz gained more popularity in Europe, so too did the saxophone.

The saxophone today

Today, the saxophone has gained a place in the ensembles of many disparate cultures. From European marching and concert bands, to Jamaican reggae outfits. Nigerian Afrobeat bands to jazz big bands. They all would not be the same without the sax! One of its big appeals is it's versatility. The skilled player is able to produce a broad and colorful palette of tone and timbre. This is coupled with a large dynamic range. This goes some way to explaining why the saxophone has grown quickly. Becoming one of the most recognisable and popular instruments in the world today.

The flute

The flute is a long silver tube which the flautist blows across to create sound. The origins of the flute are less well known. Similarly, just how widespread the instrument is across the globe is still a secret! The earliest flute dates back some 43,000 years ago. Archeologists have found early versions of flutes dating back to this time in Germany. Flutes are common in indigenous musical cultures. The haunting, breathlike sound of the flute is instantly recognisable.

The Flute in Western Music

In Western music, the flute shares the versatility of other wind instruments. The flute is equally at home in both classical and jazz / popular contexts. In classically, composers such as Mozart, Bac and Debussy all made good use of the flute. In particular, its ability to soar above the orchestra. Widely regarded as one of Mozart's masterpieces is his 'Concerto for Flute and Harp'. In jazz, Yusef Lateef, Joe Farrell and Roland Kirk relentlessly showcase the flute. Particularly, the instruments ability to create worlds of contrasting emotions and atmospheres. In one breath, tender and fragile. The next, using 'overblow' technique to create something violent and threatening. The flute is also often used in contemporary music.

How to find relevant music education

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