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Different Types of Woodwind Instruments in an Orchestra

Whether as a soloist or as a member of a band or an orchestra, woodwind instruments play a crucial role in today's music regardless of the genre. The woodwind family consists of instruments primarily played using a rush of air onto a modified set of tubes that produce sound. There are two main types of woodwind instruments depending on how they are played: flutes and reeds. Flutes are aerophones which produce sound from the flow of air across the instrument's openings while reeds use a thin strip of material that vibrate as air flows through it, creating sound.

In a modern day orchestra, two flutes, two oboes, two soprano clarinets, and two bassoons are used. However, there are more woodwind instruments used in an orchestra than you can imagine. Here are several types of woodwind instruments that can be used within an orchestra's woodwind section:

Piccolo

One of the smallest woodwind instruments in an orchestra, a piccolo is a half-sized flute which produces high octave notes.

Alto Flute

Characterized by its distinct mellow and midrange sound, the alto flute is thicker and longer than a C flute with either a bent or straight head.

Bass Flute

Producing rounder and bolder sound, the bass flute is one of the biggest in the flute family extending up to almost 1 and a half meter long. This instrument is pitched one octave below the concert flute.

Oboe D'Amore

Considered as a the meso-soprano of the oboe family, the Oboe D'Amore or "Oboe of Love" is a woodwind instrument of the Oboe family with two reeds instead of one.

English Horn

Otherwise known as the Cor Anglais, the English horn is another double-reed woodwind instrument of the oboe family. It is longer than a concert oboe and is considered as the tenor of the oboe family.

Bass Oboe

Also called a baritone oboe or a hecklehorn, the bass oboe produces even lower tones than an English horn. It is considered as the baritone of the oboe family.

E-flat Clarinet

The most popular type of clarinet for beginners and children, the e-flat clarinet is the soprano of the clarinet family. Aside from orchestras, this type of clarinet is also played in military and marching bands.

Basset Horn

Another member of the clarinet family, the basset horn is a single-reed woodwind instrument with a curved mouthpiece and produces the same timbre as a clarinet's but darker. While it is called a Basset horn, this woodwind instrument is not related to the true horns of the brasswind family.

Bass Clarinet

Looking almost similar to a sax, a bass clarinet is a flexible woodwind instrument that can be used in as much as four octaves. It is commonly played in marching bands or solo for contemporary music and jazz.

Double Bassoon

Also called a contrabassoon, this woodwind instrument produces a low register and is big - almost twice of a regular bassoon, and is wrapped around itself twice.

Soprano Saxophone

Mainly used as a solo and chamber instrument for classical music, the soprano sax is the third smallest of the saxophone family. Compared to the saxophone that we always see in jazz music, the soprano saxophone is completely straight.

Alto Saxophone

An instrument more for skilled musicians, the alto sax has a register which is quite difficult to control. Like the rest of its family, this instrument is most commonly found in jazz and blues genres.

Tenor Saxophone

Considered as one of the most commonly known instrument in the family along with the alto sax, the tenor sax has a lower register compared to the alto.

Baritone Saxophone

Otherwise known as the bari sax, this instrument is the largest and produces the lowest register in its family. It is a flexible instrument that can be used in orchestras, chamber music, marching bands, and even solos!

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