The woodwinds all create sound by cutting the air or making pieces of cane vibrate to force a column of air to vibrate along a tube. They all have a series of holes or keys in which the lowest possible note is played when all holes are covered. The simplest woodwind is the recorder but it is still a woodwind, and if you can play the recorder, you have learnt all the basic notes used by all the woodwinds. A lot of work over the last two centuries has gone into developing these instruments as can be seen by the complicated keywork all the orchestral woodwinds have. It must be remembered however a general rule is the more complicated the keywork, the easier the instrument is to play.
The flute needs long arms. The student must be able to stand upright with the neck straight and hold the flute horizontal with the left arm stretched across the chest . He should then be able to move the fingers independently without looking at them. The top lip must make a straight line when the player smiles.Some lips that are very thin, have an indentation or a “teardrop” will never be able to form a small enough hole to successfully play the flute. The golden rule is, don’t start flute unless the player can make an easy sound.
The amount of air that it takes a beginner to play flute, can make them dizzy or feel sick. Some beginners also have problems because the left hand is held far across on the right hand side of the body.This means they are not fully aware of what that hand is doing and as they can’t watch their fingers and play at the same time, they find it difficult. It takes a fair amount of determination to start, although once the beginning stages have been passed, it gets much easier. Here is a twelve year old performing on the flute.
The problem with needing long arms has been solved in part by producing a curved head which fits into a normal flute body. This is replaced by the normal head when the players’ arms have grown. Here is a little girl playing a bent head flute to a backing recording. These recorded accompaniments have given an added enthusiasm to learning an instrument.
The smallest instrument in the flute family is the piccolo. The piccolo is usually played by the first flute in a band.
Single Reed Instruments
The next series of woodwinds all have a single reed to get the air column vibrating. This reed is usually made of cane but can also be made of synthetic materials This is the clarinet family
Double Reed Instruments
Double reed instruments have two pieces of cane that are shaped and tied together. These pieces of cane are held between the lips and air is forced through them to get the vibrations needed to make the instrument sound.
The main double reed instruments are the oboe and the bassoon.
Even the big bassoon comes in different sizes so little people can begin. Here is a group of 7 year olds who have had a few lessons on little bassoons called tenoroons.