a normally silver-plated (or in more extravagant cases, gold), narrow-bored instrument, held horizontally just under the mouth, and activated by blowing air across an aperture at one end of the instrument. Its higher-pitched cousin, the piccolo, is often encountered, although the lower alto flute rather less so. Early forebears include the unkeyed fife. The most popular close relation is the recorder family, largely unkeyed and end-blown in the vertical position.
Watch a video of a professional musician here.
a narrow-bored wooden instrument descended from the medieval shawm, held vertically, and activated by means of placing the end-positioned double-reed in the mouth, and blowing under high-pressure so as to force air between the two bound reeds, causing them to vibrate. Other members of the oboe family include the lower pitched cor anglais (or English Horn), and (far more rarely) baritone oboe and heckelphone (bass oboe).
Watch a fun audition video of a talented musician here.
like the oboe usually wooden, played vertically and held in the mouth, but with a wider bore and consisting of a single reed which when activated vibrates against a detachable mouthpiece. The standard instrument can be pitched in B flat (usually) or A, and the family is unusually extensive including the higher-pitched E flat, the B flat bass, the rarely-used C, the alto (a modern relative of the basset horn), and the even more obscure double-bass or 'pedal' clarinet. Occasionally the clarinet's 'popular' cousin can be seen in the concert hall, the saxophone.
Watch a video of a very talented student musician here.
is a family of woodwind instruments. Saxophones are usually made of brass and played with a single-reed mouthpiece similar to that of the clarinet. The saxophone family was invented by the Belgian instrument maker Adolphe Sax in 1840. Adolphe Sax wanted to create a group or series of instruments that would be the most powerful and vocal of the woodwinds, and the most adaptive of the brass that would fill the vacant middle ground between the two sections. The series pitched in B♭ and E♭, designed for military bands, have proved extremely popular and most saxophones encountered today are from this series. The saxophone is used in classical music (such as concert bands, chamber music, and solo repertoire), military bands (such as military concert bands, marching bands, etc.), marching bands, and jazz (such as big bands, jazz combos, etc.).
Watch a video of a saxophone solo here
as the name would suggest, the bass member of the woodwind family, and by far the largest, especially its lower-pitched relation, the extremely bulky double or contra-bassoon. Like the oboe, it is a double-reed instrument, although to facilitate the playing action (the instrument is normally held across and in front of the body) it is connected to the bassoon via a silver-plated, curved crook. Its most notorious cousin is the Baroque serpent, shaped very much as its name would suggest.
Watch a video of a professional musician here.
one of the most ancient of all instruments. Played horizontally via a series of valves on the top of the instrument which are opened and closed in various combinations to create different pitches. Occasionally, the piccolo (higher) or bass (lower) trumpets are heard (and the trumpet's 'popular' cousin, the cornet), although more common nowadays in 'authentic' Baroque orchestras (which use instruments of the correct period or copies thereof), is the 'natural' or valveless trumpet. The more notationally limited bugle is rarely heard away from its traditional military context.
Watch a wonderful performance by Alison Balsom, trumpeter, here.
another ancient instrument, descended from the use of animals' horns (hence the name) in pre-historic times. The modern instrument is the most outwardly complex, consisting of a basic tube, rounded into a compact shape culminating in a conical bore or bell, into which a series of valves are centrally set. Before the valve system had been developed, the changing of basic pitch was facilitated by the insertion of a variety of crooks which altered the length of the basic tube, and the changing of certain notes by holding the hand in a variety of subtly differentiated positions within the bell. In a popular context the term 'horn' invariably refers to the saxophone, and for the cor anglais see 'oboe' under the woodwind section above. Traditionally, the French horn section is seated away from the rest of the brass family.
Watch a very informative video about the French horn here.
descended from the medieval sackbutt, it is the only popular orchestral wind instrument which operates without the use of a valve or key system. The trombone is easily recognisable by its extended elliptical shape culminating in a conical bore, and its distinctive use of a hand-operated slide held out in front, in order to change pitch. The slide can be moved to any one of seven main positions, each of which facilitate a different series of notes. The tenor and bass trombone are occasionally seen (especially the latter), although the alto and double-bass are extreme rarities.
Watch an informative (British) video about the trombone here.
is a conical-bore, baritone-voiced brass instrument. The euphonium derives its name from the Greek word euphonos, meaning "well-sounding" or "sweet-voiced". The euphonium is a valved instrument; nearly all current models are piston valved, though rotary valved models do exist. The euphonium is a non-transposing instrument known for its distinctive tone color, wide range, variety of character and agility.
Watch a very talented musician play "Let It Go" from Frozen on the euphonium here.
not unlike the French horn in basic construction, only more oval in shape and much bigger. The piston valve action is similar to the trumpet, only the valves themselves are situated in the middle of the instrument. A variety of types and sizes exist aside from the typical concert instrument in F (bass tuba), including the tenor tuba (higher), and double-bass tuba (lower), often referred to as a bombardon in a military or brass band context.
Watch an informative video about the tuba here.