Woodwind instrument

woodwind instrument is the conventional name for wind instruments, with which the oscillation is produced by means of air sheet or tubing sheet. The player determines the pitch mainly by opening and reasoning of Tonlöchern (direct with the fingers or by means of flaps). ThoseInstruments do not consist always of wood; the first well-known flutes were made of bones, and many today's woodwind instruments are built from metal or plastics. On the other hand e.g. exists. that zinc from wood and has Tonlöcher, is however because of the kind itsTo rank generation of vibration among the sheet metal wind instruments.

The whistles of a Sackpfeife or an organ (at least the flue pipes) are after their function mode likewise woodwind instruments.

Table of contents

toner generation

the air column in the instrument becomes general by the player at the mouthpieceto oscillations lively. Here three kinds of the woodwind instruments are to be differentiated:

  • A flat formed air flow (“air sheet”) meets a blowing on edge (lat. labium, lip) and comes there into swinging,
  • or an individual tubing sheet swings against a firm opening,
  • or insymmetrical pair of tubing sheets swings against each other.

A certain length of the oscillationable air column is selected by operation of the Tonlöcher (sometimes with given situation of an additional wave knot in their process). The oscillation places itself then by resonance with the air column, thus to traininga standing wave, on the desired pitch. The deepest clay/tone results, if all Tonlöcher are closed, the air column thus the length of the entire instrument has.

As is the case for each music instrument the oscillation is not purely sinusoidal, containsthus not only the length of the air column appropriate basic clay/tone, but in addition overtones. These determine the tone quality. The portions of the different overtones hang off

  • of the kind of the vibration stimulation (air sheet, simple tubing sheet, double tube sheet),
  • of the blow pressure,
  • of the material of the instrument body(more exactly: the reflection and absorption characteristics of the inner wall for acoustic waves of the different frequencies),
  • of the form of the drilling of the instrument: conical with largest diameter at the Schallbecher (oboe, saxophone), conical with largest diameter at the mouthpiece (Blockflöte, Traversflöte), cylindrically (clarinet, Böhm Querflöte),
  • of irregularitiesand roughness of the inner wall. Among these also the Tonlöcher rank.Arthur Benade reported of an experiment to blow on a usual plastic pipe with a double tube sheet mouthpiece and describes the sound as dull and a little delightful. The same plastic pipe, with suitable drillings for Grifflöcherprovided, supplied against it a sound with näselndem, warm wood Timbre, which already reminded of an oboe.

Since itself at the beginning of each clay/tone the oscillation of the air column only up swings must (transient on engagement), reacts woodwind instruments more slowly than for instance a Schlagzeug or a pianoand must be played “with regard to the future”. To the good “speech” of an instrument as short a transient on engagement as possible belongs with all tones.

The physics of the clay/tone emergence in woodwind instruments is not yet in detail understood despite efforts of many years.

length and pitch

The practical experience and since that 19. Century also mathematical-physical considerations of scientists such as Hermann of Helmholtz and lord Rayleigh brought the realization that with a tubing sheet instrument with cylindrical drilling (like the clarinet) the wavelength of the basic clay/tone four times solargely like the length of the air column is only twice as large, with all other woodwind instruments against it. This explains for example, why a clarinet achieves many deeper tones with approximately same size than a flute or an oboe.

over blisters

is calledthe technology to play by increase of the air-flow pressure the instrument in a higher situation (sometimes “registers” mentioned) to thus energize instead of the dominant mode of the air column directly one of their overtones (and its further overtones). In practice woodwind instruments leave themselves only toto the third or fourth overtone over-blow.

air sheet instruments

the air sheet instruments or flutes can be divided in two groups with various in each case subspecies:

The article flute counts, with something different oneOrganization, still many special kinds of flutes up. Some of them are to be counted only in very broad sense to the group of music instruments discussed here.

instruments with simple tubing sheet

of instrumentswith double tube sheet


with Schalmeieninstrumenten holds the player the double tube sheet between the lips.

of instruments with double tube sheet in wind cap

basic scale

of woodwind instruments like other wind instruments for closer description a clay/tone name are often named: one says, the oboe “is an C-instrument” or “stands in C”, “the oboe is sometimes also somewhat misleading inC been correct “. Meant thereby not the tendency (see below) is, but the basic scale, thus that Durtonleiter, which is playable on the instrument at the easiest and best, as for example C major on the Sopran or F major on the old block flute. The morea kind of clay/tone of the basic scale deviates, all the more with difficulty is play technical it. Klarinettisten in the symphony orchestra use therefore not always the same instrument, but depending upon kind of clay/tone a clarinet in A or in B.

Sometimes is with “in C been correct” alsoonly meant that the notes for this instrument usually in the real pitch and does not transponiert are written (S.Transponierendes music instrument). Accordingly it means for example “in B been correct” with some instruments (clarinet) that the usual quotation around a complete clay/tone more highlyas the real sound takes place. For Blockflöten against it, which there are likewise with different basic scales, transponierte notes are not usual.


the tendency in the sense of the absolute height of a certain clay/tone - usual the A 1 -is given by the building of the instrument and leaves themselves, differently than with stringed instruments, only within very close borders (approx. change around a quarterly clay/tone). Modern instruments have e.g. A 1 = 440 or 442 cycles per second, baroque instruments (originals or copied)often between 395 and 415 cycles per second, Renaissance instruments also 466 cycles per second.


of woodwind instruments rank among the first music instruments at all. One of the oldest instruments discovered so far, a flute from giant ivory from a cave with Blaubeuren, becomes on inOlder of more than 30000 years estimated. From the Middle Ages to against 1800 the instruments developed themselves further only slowly. Since early 19. They changed century however substantially, particularly by the improved possibilities, also complicated flap mechanisms to build.


  • Arthur H. Benade: Woodwind instruments, in: The physics of the music instruments, (ISBN 3-922508-49-9), side 22ff.
  • Günter Dullat: Building of woodwind instruments, Celle (Moeck) 1990. ISBN 3-875490-32-0
  • Eugen Brixel, series of publications for young musician, number 1, the clarinet and the saxophone, Music publishing house Stefan Reischel, upper nine-churches, Austria, 1983

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