The family of wind instruments: from the recorder to the horn

Jan 11 08:47 2011 Michele De Capitani Print This Article

The family of aerophones, or wind instruments, is made of many subgroups, which include both popular instruments and instruments that most people do not know.


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First of all, we can say that wind instruments are those instruments that can make sounds by means of a vibration of air, without using strings or vibrating membranes. Wind instruments are divided in two categories, depending on whether the vibrating air is contained in the instrument itself – as happens in flutes, reeds and brasses - or not. The family of flutes includes popular instruments like the recorder and the transverse flute, but also less popular instruments, like the piccolo and the ocarina. The term reeds stands for those instruments, like the clarinet, which have a thin plastic strip, which is called reed, at the end of the extremity, which vibrates with the pressure of the air. In addition to clarinets, this family also includes instruments like saxophones, oboes and bagpipes. The brass section includes instruments in which the reed is made of the lips of the person who plays, like trumpets and trombones.


An example of aerophones in which the air is not contained in the instrument are free reed instruments. This category includes instruments in which the vibration is caused by an elastic reed, like mouth-organs, accordions, harmoniums and  bandoneóns.


If you have a passion for musical instruments, most notably for wind instruments, there are museums that you must visit. Not many museums are mainly focused on this family, but the Musée des instruments à vent in La Couture-Boussey, in France, and the Museo Etnografico of Turin, in Italy, belong to the most important ones. The French Museum is set in a city that is well-known for the production of wind instruments since the 17th century, and preserves some rare pieces: English horns, oboes, clarinets, recorders and transverse flutes. The Quarna Museum, too, rises in a city where the production of wind instruments is notably relevant. The Museo Etnografico e dello Strumento of Quarno includes a section on handmade instruments, which can also help you learning something more about how these instruments are created, and a section on the history of the village. The musical instrument section includes over 300 pieces - some of them are rare - , like bassoons, clarinets, oboes, saxophones, wood flutes, trumpets, trombones and brass horns. The museum also offers interesting educational activities, music events, concerts and competitions.


Visiting these museums can certainly be useful to learn something more about the wide and diverse world of aerophones, which includes many different instruments that you might know or never heard about in your life.



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Michele De Capitani
Michele De Capitani

This article was written by Francesca Tessarollo with help from spartiti tastiera. For more information please visit spartiti violino or video didattici musica.

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