Of the many instrument families, the woodwinds may be the most diverse, both in terms of the instruments included in this group and the versatile methods by which the instruments produce their unique tones.
A woodwind instrument is any type of wind-powered instrument that produces sound through the action of air vibrating against an edge or hole inside the instrument.
Instruments in the woodwind family include flutes, saxophones, clarinets, oboes and bassoons, but also folk instruments such as whistles, bagpipes and ocarinas.
Woodwinds get their name because they're commonly made of wood; however, modern woodwind instruments may also be made of metal or plastic.
Woodwinds such as clarinets and saxophones are "single reed" instruments that produce sound from a single vibrating reed, usually made of a thin section of bamboo.
"Double reed" woodwinds make their sound from two vibrating reed sections placed back-to-back. This group includes oboes, bassoons and bagpipes.
Flutes make their sounds when the air vibrates against a part of the instrument, such as the edge of a mouthpiece or a whistle hole. Flutes include classical flutes, recorders, and folk instruments like the Native American flute.
- "Woodwinds" in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians On-Line; accessed September 28th, 2009