Modern Instruments – Woodwinds

Flute

Piccolo

Flute

Piccolo

In 1847, Theobald Boehm designed the modern flute. This flute is capable of playing with more volume than older flutes. The keys Boehm added also allowed the instrument to play a full chromatic scale, and help it to play better in tune. The flute is typically made with Nickel, Silver, or Gold. It is a narrow-bored instrument, held horizontally just under the mouth, and activated by blowing air across an aperture at one end of the instrument. The modern flute family also includes the piccolo, the alto flute, and the bass flute.

OboeThe oboe is a narrow-bored wooden instrument descended from the Medieval shawm, held vertically, and activated by means of placing the end-positioned double-reed in the mouth, and blowing under high-pressure so as to force air between the two bound reeds, causing them to vibrate. Frenchman Jean Hotterre is credited with inventing the oboe in 1660. In the 19th century, instrument makers created an oboe fingering system modeled after the flute designed by Boehm.

BassoonsAs the name would suggest, the bassoon is a bass member of the woodwind family, and by far the largest, especially its lower-pitched relation, the extremely bulky double or contra-bassoon. Like the oboe, it is a double-reed instrument, although to facilitate the playing action (the instrument is normally held across and in front of the body) it is connected to the bassoon via a silver-plated, curved crook. Carl Almenrader is the most significant contributor to the design of the modern bassoon. He improved the sound and note capabilities of the instrument and published a paper about his innovations.

Clarinet FamilyThe clarinet was invented in 1690 by the German instrument maker Johann Denner. By the 1840s, two French instrument makers named Klose and Buffet had created a clarinet fingering system modeled after the flute key system designed by Boehm. The clarinet consists of a closed cylindrical air column with a bell-shaped opening at one end. Its mouthpiece holds a single reed, in contrast to the double reed of the oboe family. It is typically constructed of wood. The traditional wood is ebony from Africa, Asia or South America commonly referred to as granadilla wood. The clarinet family includes the B clarinet, the A clarinet, the B bass clarinet, the E soprano and alto clarinets, the E contrabass clarinet, and the B contrabass clarinet.

Saxophone FamilyThe saxophone was created in the 1840s by the instrument maker, Adolphe Sax. Initially, the saxophone was not a very popular instrument among orchestra musicians as it has a rough, edgy sound that does not blend well with the other instruments. It was not until Jazz grew in popularity that the saxophone family came into prominence. The saxophone family includes the B soprano, E alto, B tenor, E baritone, and the B bass saxophone. Like the other woodwind instruments, the fingering pattern for this instrument is based on the flute system created by Boehm.