Woodwind Instruments

 

Below are the most common woodwind instruments used in a Brass & Reed Band or Concert Band like Da Buttera.

Piccolo in C

The Piccolo is a special kind of Flute that is pitched one octive higher.  The musicians who play Piccolo usually also play Flute. Most pieces call for only one Piccolo player, but there is rare music that calls for two Piccolos. The Piccolo is extremely difficult to play, and hard to keep in tune while playing...which explains so many jokes about piccolo players.

Flute in C

The Flute has a very clear and flowing sound to it.  Most music has 2 or 3 flute parts.  The Flute alone cannot produce very much volume, so a lot of players are required in the Flute section. A full-sized band will usually have 8-12 flute players.

 

Most Flutes are made of metal, usually silver; modern Flutes are only occasionally made of wood.  The flute is used in orchestras, wind bands, and jazz bands to give a bright, silvery sound.  It is played by blowing across the blowhole.  Apart from the Piccolo, the Flute is the only instrument in the orchestra that is played in this way. The pitch range is three octaves, it is keyed in concert-pitch, and it measures approximately 26 inches long and just under 1 inch in diameter.

Oboe in C

Double Reed

The Oboe has a piercing sound that cuts across the entire band and has many beautiful solos in many pieces.  The band usually has both a first and a second Oboe player.  The pitch of the Oboe is usually used to tune the band.

 

The Oboe consists of a conical keyed tube played with a double reed.  The piercing sound, characteristic of Oboe-type instruments, is particularly suitable for outdoor use. The Oboe is the smallest of the orchestral, double reed instruments. Its expressive sound is often used to play sad or emotional melodies.  Because air is forced at high pressure into the tiny reed, stale air can gather in the lungs, making you feel faint if the air is not expelled quickly. Because of this, it is often said to be a very difficult instrument to play.  The pitch range of the Oboe is two and a half octaves, and it is made of wood.  The oboe plays in concert-pitch.  The oboe is just under 24 inches long.

English Horn (Cor Anglais) in F

Double Reed

The English Horn is an incredibly strange and mysterious sounding instrument.  It has a very haunting and mellow tone, and sort of looks like a big Oboe with a pear-shaped bulb on the end.  The English Horn is pitched in F, which is lower than the Oboe. The English Horn is usually played by an Oboe player that happens to own and play both instruments.

Bassoon in C

Double Reed

The Bassoon plays an important part as one of the inner voices of the band. Falling in between the upper-woodwinds and the bass section, the bassoon usually has intricate harmony parts and the odd exposed section where the unique timbre of the Bassoon sound can be easily heard.  Most music has both a first and a second Bassoon part.

 

Bassoons are the largest commonly used double-reed instruments in bands. They have double reeds and consist of several sections or joints of wood. Playing the bassoon involves great effort to overcome its considerable weight, and agility to control its awkward keywork system.  The pitch range of the bassoon is three and a half octaves; it is usually made of maple or rosewood, with a metal bocal.  The bassoon plays in concert-pitch.  The size is 4 ft. 4 in. long; total length of unwound tube is 8 ft. 3 in

Clarinet in Eb

Single Reed

The Eb Clarinet is a funny little solo instrument sometimes used in band music.  The melody played by this instrument is usually a higher version of the main melody or a completely different counter-melody. It's high range gives the Clarinet section the full sound.  There is usually only ever one Eb Clarinet, if there is one at all, for a piece. Some older music will sometimes call for two Eb Clarinets. The Eb Clarinet has the same range as a regular Bb Clarinet but is pitched in the higher key of Eb.  Very few bands have an Eb Clarinet, and for good reason!  Eb Clarinets are very hard to play in tune - a bad Eb Clarinet player can make even the best band sound positively dreadful.  But played properly and in tune it is a gem!

Clarinet in Bb

Single Reed

 

The Bb clarinet is one of the mainstays of the Concert Band. Performing the same role that the String Section would in an Orchestra, Clarinets provide much of the body of sound in the band. There are usually at least three Bb Clarinet parts and a solo part spread amongst 10-15 Clarinetists. If there is no Oboe, the pitch of a clarinet will be used to tune the band.

 

The Clarinet consists of a cylindrical tube whose mouthpiece has a single, vibrating reed.  One of the best known is the Bb clarinet with French standard Boehm fingering system. (There are also a number of different key/fingering systems such as the Oehler, Albert, German and other variations but they are seldom, if ever, used). 

 

The Clarinet is one of the most versatile of all modern instruments.  It has a very wide range of notes (three and a half octaves), and you can hear its pure, clear sound in orchestras, military bands, and jazz groups. Construction is usually of African blackwood or moulded plastic, and it is just over 26 inches long. It has a breathy, almost hollow tone - popular with jazz saxophone players who often use it as a second instrument.

Alto Clarinet in Eb

Single Reed

The Alto Clarinet is an Eb Clarinet pitched between the regular Bb Clarinet and Bass Clarinet.  It bridges the tonal gap between the 3rd Clarinet and the Bass Clarinet.  The Alto Clarinet has the same range as regular clarinet except that plays in the key of Eb, and will often have an extra low Eb key. The Alto Clarinet is relatively rare in most Concert Bands: there are always parts for the instrument but Alto Clarinet players are generally hard to find.

Bass Clarinet in Bb

Single Reed

The Bass Clarinet has a dark sound that usually accompanies the Bass Section but often can be heard by itself with a counter melody.  The Bass Clarinet has the same range as regular Clarinet but plays in the key of Bb one octive lower. Bass Clarinets usually have an extra low Eb key.  Some Bass Clarinets will have their range extended down to a low C by way of extra keys and being much longer, however these instruments are extremely expensive and quite rare. Bands will usually have one or two bass clarinets.

Soprano Saxophone in Bb

Single Reed

The highest pitched of the conventional Saxophones.  It either has its own melody part or doubles the Tenor Sax part.  The Soprano Sax is pitched in Bb and has a regular range of approxmately two and a half octaves. Not a lot of Concert Band music uses one.

Alto Saxophone in Eb

Single Reed

The first and second Alto Saxophone parts carry the melody when the Saxophone Section is playing.  They are used extensively when the band is playing jazz, movie music and swing.  The Alto Sax is pitched in Eb and has a range of approximately two and a half octaves. There are usually two to four players on Alto Sax.

Tenor Saxophone in Bb

Single Reed

The Tenor Saxophone adds body to the sound of the Saxophone Section by filling in the inner voices.  It also plays many harmonies and melodies in more jazzy and showy tunes.  The Tenor is pitched lower than the Alto, in the key of Bb and has the same two and half octave range. There is usually just one Tenor part and it is is often doubled or tripled.

Baritone Saxophone in Eb

Single Reed

The Baritone Saxophone is usually the largest Saxophone that plays in the band.  It plays the bass line for the Saxophone Section and often gets a solo or two in jazz tunes.  The Baritone Sax is pitched in EEb, has a range two and a half octaves, and will sometimes have an extra key to allow it to play down to a low A instead of just a Bb.

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