What is the Woodwind Family?

Beginning Music Guide: The Woodwind Family

What is the woodwind family of instruments? How does the woodwind family produce sound? Many of the instruments in the woodwind family today are no longer made of wood, but they form an important instrument family and encompass a range of sounds and tone colors.

The woodwind family includes many reed instruments, such as the clarinet, saxophone, oboe, and bassoon. These instruments rely on the vibration of a single or double reed (a piece of cut cane) to create a sound. The family also includes other non-reed instruments such as the flute.


Most beginning band students start out on the flute, clarinet, saxophone, and sometimes the oboe. Read below to learn about each woodwind instrument and to discover whether the woodwind family is right for you!

flute studentThe Flute

1.) The flute creates a high, clear, and melodious tone.


2.) The flute is not part of the reed family.


3.) Student flutes are nickel silver, while professional flutes are silver or silver-plated.

clarinet student The Clarinet


1.) Student model clarinets are usually made from plastic, while professional clarinets are wooden.


2.) The clarinet is a single reed instrument. The player attaches the reed to the mouthpiece with a wire piece called the ligature


3.) The clarinet is a versatile instrument which can be used in classical, as well as jazz music.






oboe player

The Oboe


1.) The oboe is a double reed woodwind, which means its reeds are made from two pieces of cane attached together.

2.) Student model oboes are made from plastic, while professional models are made from wood.


3.) Oboes look similar to clarinets, but the shape of the instruments produce very different tones. The sound of an oboe is much higher pitched than that of a clarinet.



The Bassoon 


1.) Like the oboe, the bassoon is a double reed instrument. 


2.) The bassoon is a unique instrument, since it has tone holes not only on the front and back, like the oboe and clarinet, but also on the sides.





After reading this overview of some of the most common woodwind instruments, listen to the sounds of each instrument to help you decide which instrument is right for you


Check out the rest of the beginning music guide for help in picking an instrument and starting your playing journey!



Other Beginning Music Guide Posts:


What is the Brass Family?

trumpet player

What is the brass family of instruments? The brass family encompasses a wide variety of sound, from the bright brassy tones of a trumpet to the more mellow sound of the French horn.


I Can’t Make a Sound on my Instrument! 

trombone players

“I can’t make a sound on my instrument!” What do you do when no matter how hard you try, you can’t play an instrument?