Thursday, September 16, 2010

Woodwind Family

Musical Instruments - Woodwinds


Piccolo      The piccolo is a type of transverse flute that is pitched an octave above the concert (or standard) flute. It has a range of nearly three octaves and reaches the highest pitches of a modern orchestra. It is usually used for special effects in orchestras but is more widely used in concert and marching bands. It is played in the same manner as a flute would be played.
History: The piccolo was originally made out of wood and was featured in man prominent composers' works. One of the earliest pieces to use the piccolo was Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. However, the most familiar use of the piccolo is in the end of John Philip Sousa's "The Stars and Stripes Forever."


Flute      The flute is the instrument that serves as the soprano voice in most bands, orchestras, and woodwind groups. Most flutes are made of metal and consist chiefly of a tube with a mouthpiece near one end. The musician holds the flute horizontally and blows across an oval shaped hole in the mouthpiece. At the same time, the musician presses levers on the flute, called keys. The keys, when depressed and released, open and close tone holes on the flute to produce different notes. The concert flute, which is tuned in the key of C, is the most popular flute and has a three octave range. Other members of the flute family include the piccolo, the alto flute, and the bass flute.
     The transverse flute, the flute that is most commonly used in Western music, was known to have existed in China about 900 BCE. The flute reached Europe during the 12th century where it became most used as a military instrument in German speaking areas. This led to its formal name, the German flute. The flute then evolved into a chamber music instrument during the 16th and 17th centuries. These early flutes were often made in one piece with six fingerholes. During the 1600s, however, the flute was redesigned and was built in three sections with joints which connected them together. Gradually, more keys were added to the flute, and it began to replace the recorder in orchestral pieces. By 1800, a four-keyed flute was most common, but during that century, an eight-keyed flute was also developed. Currently, the cylindrical Bohem flute is the most commonly used with thirteen or more tone holes controlled by a system of padded keys.

English Horn

English Horn      The English Horn is part of the oboe family. It is also called an alto oboe because it is tuned one-fifth lower in pitch than an oboe. Its shape is similar to that of an oboe and is often played by the third oboe player in an orchestra.
     Prototypes of the English Horn appeared before the end of the 17th century. These instruments were curved and leather covered with holes in the body. The holes were usually bored at an angle to accomodate the stretch of the fingers. It is believed that the oboe da caccia (hunting oboe) which was used by Johann Sebastian Bach was almost identical to the English Horn. Its distinctively dark and plaintive tone has been featured by such composers as Hector Berlioz, Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky, and Richard Wagner.


Oboe      The oboe is the smallest and highest pitched double reed instrument. It has a cylindrical wooden body with keys along the length of its body. The oboe has a range of about three octaves but is extremely difficult to play. The oboe requires alot of air to play, and the musician must learn proper breathing techniques.
     The oboe was invented in the 17th century by Jean Hotteterre and Michel Philidor, two French musicians. They modified the louder shawm into a new instrument, the hautbois. The hautbois had a narrower body than the shawm and was split into three sections. By the 18th century most orchestras had incoporated oboes into the ensemble. Throuhgout history, several copmosers have written solo pieces for the oboe. These composers include George Frideric Handel, Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Motzart, and Ludwig van Beethoven.


Clarinet      The clarinet, a member of the woodwind family, usually consists of a long tube with a mouthpiece at one end and a bell-shaped opening at the other end. Usually made of wood, the clarinet has tone holes that are covered by small metal levers. To create sound, the musician blows on a flat cane reed that is attatched to the mouthpiece. As the reed vibrates, a full, rich tone is produced. By pushing the keys to close and open the tone holes on the instrument, the pitches of the tone can be changed. Clarinets are manufactured in four keys; the most common band instrument is the B-flat clarinet. This clarinet has a range of about three-and-one-half octaves.
The clarinet was invented in the early 18th century by Johann Cristoph Denner, a German flute maker, as a modification of a folk reedipe, the chalumeau. By the 1840s two complex systems of keywork had been developed for the instrument. Clarinets became common in orchestras by about the 1780s. Early works featuring the clarinet include an overture written by George Frideric Handel for two clarinets and a horn and the clarinet concerto by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.


Bassoon     The bassoon is a double reed instrument. It is made up of about eight feet of cylidrical wood tubing. There are four joints in the bassoon: the bass joint, the tenor join, the double joint, and the bell joint. The bell joint is slightly flared and is attactched at the bottom to the bass joint. This is set in turn to the tenor joint which is then set into the double joint. The double reed mouthpiece is attached to a crook in the tenor joint. The bassoon usually has about ten key controlled holes on the body as well has eight finger holes. The musician plays the basson by putting his or her lips on the double reed, blowing through the instrument, and changing fingerings on the keys and holes to create different tones.
     The bassoon was most likely developed in 1650 from the curtal, a similar instrument which was made from a single block of wood. The modern French bassoon was developed in the mid-19th century by a French firm, Buffet-Crampon. The German bassoon was perfected by Wilhelm Heckel, a German manufacturer. Each type of bassoon was played in different parts of Europe.


Saxaphones    The saxophone is a member of the reed-sounded wind instruments. In its construction, it combines the single reed and mouthpiece of the clarinet, a metal body, and a widened version of the conical bore of the oboe. Most saxophones are curved at the bottom so they resemble the bass clarinet. A few, however, such as the soprano saxophone, are straight and look very similar to a clarinet. The saxophone body contains twenty openings that are covered by keys. These keys can be opened or closed in groups by the musician by depressing and releasing six studs, or finger plates. Two additional holes are located on the body of the instrument to produce notes an octave above or below the normal range of the instrument. The most common saxophones, the soprano, the alto, and the tenor, have a range of about two and a half octaves.
    The saxophone was invented around 1840 by a Belgian instrument maker named Adolph Sax. In 1844, saxophones first appeared in symphonic orchestras. However, pieces were only occasionally written to include saxophones. It wasn't until the 20th century in America when saxophones became popular because of their association with the development of jazz.

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