Wind instruments make up a large portion of bands and orchestras. This large family of instruments is generally broken down into two large subsets known as brass instruments and woodwind instruments.
Brass instruments include instruments such as trumpets, tubas, and trombones. Woodwind instruments are comprised of instruments such as clarinets, saxophones, and flutes. Each family has a distinct look and sound. Each instrument has its own role to play in the overall band or orchestra.
Regardless of the instrument you play or wish to play, there are some key components that you don’t want to skimp on. These particular components are important to the overall quality of sound your instrument makes. Trying to save a few dollars on these components can sacrifice the overall sound your instrument makes.
One of the most important pieces of any wind instrument is the mouthpiece. This component of your wind instrument is essentially the gateway to let air into the main chambers.
You’ll find that mouthpieces differ quite drastically between instruments. Brass instruments have mouthpieces made from a single, metal piece formed into a circular shape. Wind instruments vary from instrument to instrument. For example, flutes don’t have so much of a mouthpiece as they do a blowhole. Saxophones and clarinets on the other hand have mouthpieces with very thin, long openings. These mouthpieces actually need two other pieces in order to be complete.
The reason you shouldn’t skimp on your mouthpiece is due to the fact that it is the first piece that comes into contact with the “wind” that produces sound. If the mouthpiece isn’t up to standards, the rest of the sound produced by your instrument won’t be up to standards.
You can almost think of you instrument as an assembly line, with perfect sound being the end product. If the first stage of the assembly line doesn’t create the correct part, you can’t expect the finished product to be correct.
The reed does not apply to all wind instruments but it is an extremely important piece to woodwind instruments such as saxophones and clarinets.
The reed is a thin wooden piece that is attached to the mouthpiece and secured on with a ligature. The combination of the reed and the player’s blown air is what produces the sound for a woodwind instrument. The reed vibrates due to the airflow, creating the sound that travels through the barrel and body.
Again, you can think of this as the beginning of an assembly line. Only this time there is a special component needed. If the reed is too wet, dry, large, or small it can affect the sound that the player produces.
If you look in the drawer or case of any woodwind instrument player, you’ll probably find a fairly large stash of reeds. The reason is that varying climate conditions can affect the reed. Reeds are very fickle components, so having a handful to try out in different situations allows the player to get the right tone and pitch.
The Barrel and Body
The barrel and body of instruments are the next component in a series of important components for wind instruments.
The barrel of woodwind instruments, such as a clarinet, helps to control the pitch. In fact, some clarinet players even have two different sized barrels to help control the pitch in varying situations. Purchasing a one-size-fits-all barrel could lead to tone disaster if you are playing in a group.
The reason bodies shouldn’t be skimped on is because they are another area that controls the sound of the instrument. You might notice that some brass players have dents or scratches on their bells. Generally, this won’t affect the quality of sound coming out. However, if there was dent or bend in the body, the proper sound might not be attainable.
For both brass and woodwind instruments, the keys control specific notes. If keys control the notes, consider poor quality keys. For example, the keys on your saxophone don’t line up with the correct tone holes, therefore leaving them exposed when pressing the keys. It is obvious you won’t produce the correct note.
Particular on woodwind instruments, the keys and tone holes need to line up exactly to specification. Any variance can throw off the entire sound of the instrument.
Alternatively, for a brass instrument such as the trumpet, the keys are pressed into key valves. If there are any issues with the keys, the valves, or the springs at the bottom, you can expect to have issues with the overall sound.
Finally, another important component of your wind instrument is the case in which you carry it. While this is not technically a component of the instrument itself, it is a component related to the instrument.
Your case not only holds your instrument but it also protects it. It protects it from the elements as well as other forces. If you decide to skimp on your instrument’s case, you are sacrificing the protection of your instrument. For example, if the case is not durable and a lot of equipment is stacked on top of it, there is no guarantee that the case will hold the weight of the added equipment. Your instrument can be crushed. Your instrument’s case is essentially an insurance policy to ensure that nothing happens to your instrument when it is not in use.
In general, many of the components of your instrument are vital to the overall quality of sound produced. It is not recommended to skimp on any component of it, especially the five listed above. If you are serious about the instrument you are playing, make the effort to invest in quality components.
Andrew Fujii is a marketing professional with expertise in digital/web and content marketing. He is also a copywriter for multiple agencies producing copy for blogs, articles, websites, product packaging, mobile apps, and more.