Woodwind instruments used to be made of wood but today they’re made of wood, metal, plastic or some combination. They are all basically narrow cylinders or pipes, with holes, an opening at the bottom end and a mouthpiece at the top. You play them by blowing air through the mouthpiece and opening or closing the holes with your fingers to change the pitch. The mouthpieces for some woodwinds, including the clarinet, oboe and bassoon, use a thin piece of wood called a reed, which vibrates when you blow across it.
You will find a wide range of woodwind instruments in orchestras and in woodwind ensembles, mostly playing classical music. Otherwise, they appear only selectively, notably the clarinet in pre-war jazz and the flute occasionally in pop and folk music.
These are the most common woodwind instruments along with their ranges:
|How this is scored:||How this sounds:|
|Piccolo||Treble clef||D4-C7||Up one octave, i.e .D5-C8|
|Flute||Treble clef||C4-D7||As written|
|Oboe||Treble clef||Bb3-A6||As written|
|Clarinet||Treble clef||E3-C7||Bb clarinet: down two semi-tones|
|A clarinet: down three semi-tones|
|Eb clarinet: up three semi-tones|
|Bassoon||Bass clef||Bb1-Eb5||As written|
I have had a go at composing for a woodwind ensemble. I have taken an existing song, which has the feel of a traditional show tune, and re-arranged this for a quartet of flute, oboe, clarinet and bassoon. To produce this, I used the Symphony Series – Woodwind Solo samples from Native Instruments.
What am I going to do?
Here’s a video of the same piece, showing the score:
And here is the score in PDF format:
In due course, I’ll create some more woodwind examples in other genres.