Posted in General 2

Brief: Regarding the Woodwinds

As someone who has only played string and keyboard instruments, I was very excited to explore and learn more about the woodwinds.

Unlike some other instrument groups, the woodwind family is pretty diverse in many respects, with the instruments having a lot of differentiations in their registers, timbres and other qualities, resulting in very unique individual musical characteristics.

As Adler points out, interestingly, even the word woodwinds itself doesn’t serve as the real unifier, since it doesn’t accurately describe the family anymore. This is because, although the majority of woodwinds used to be made of wood, the construction material has since changed for the modern instruments – especially the flutes, that are now generally made of metal. Next to that, as a newer invention, saxophones weren’t created from the wood, but the brass instead. They are often classified as woodwinds because of the many properties and sounding mechanisms that they share with the other instruments from this group, however, there are older sources like Forsyth who have grouped them under the brass family. In fact, in many ways, the saxophone can be seen as a hybrid of the two. (McNeil, 331)

Again, because each woodwind instrument’s nature is so individualized, each offered me a new, almost completely unique musical personality to explore. While I could already do this with the indefinite-pitched percussion, which are perhaps the most diverse group of instruments, to experiment in such way with a melodic instrument was quite a novelty for me. Besides that, with some being among the oldest melodic instruments in the world, woodwinds also led me to the prehistoric times and the ancient civilizations.

As in the first part of the course, you can read about the individual instruments, including their history, in the sections assigned for the specific examples/exercises of the course, depending on which instruments I used in which example/exercise. Beside the general information about the woodwinds, this category will also include general information about the scales. If you are interested in the latter, you can start by reading its introductory brief here.


McNeil, W. K. (ed.) (2005) Encyclopedia of American Gospel Music. New York and London: Routledge Taylor & Francis Group

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