The Woodwind Family

In the past instruments in this family used to be called woodwind instruments because they were made of wood. Today most of them are made of metal and plastic and only some are made with a combination of wood, metal and plastic, hence they are called wind instruments.


Basically all instruments in this family are narrow cylinders or pipes, with holes, an opening at the bottom end and mouthpiece at the top. The musician blows air through the mouthpiece at the top (this is the reason they are known as ‘wind’ instruments) and opens or closes the holes with his/her fingers to change the pitch. There are metal caps on most of the wind instruments, to cover the holes and they are called keys.


The clarinet, oboe and bassoon have thin pieces of wood their mouthpiece, which is called the reed. This mouthpiece or reed vibrates when the musician blows across it. There are single reed instruments and double reed instruments. The clarinet for instance has a single reed made of one piece of wood, while the oboe and bassoon use a double reed, which is made of two pieces joined together.


Similar to the instruments in the string family, here too the smaller instruments play the higher pitches, while the longer and larger ones player the lower pitches.


In order of pitch and size (highest and smallest to lowest and biggest) the wind instrument family includes the piccolo, flute, oboe, English horn, clarinet, E-flat clarinet, bass clarinet, bassoon and contrabassoon.


Sometimes the saxophone is also included in the wind instrument family as a member of the orchestra.