Woodwind (with a teacher)
This activity is for classroom use. Your teacher will have further material to use alongside the clips and information below.
SECTION 1: What is a woodwind instrument?
Woodwind instruments all need air to make a sound and there are different ways that this can be done. Can you work out how to create a sound with the objects below by using only air?
- A piece of paper
- An empty bottle
Woodwind instruments produce a sound in three similar ways.
- Open hold: the bottle experiment demonstrates the flute’s open hole: you blow across it.
- Single reed: the clarinet has a single reed that vibrates against a mouthpiece: like the paper vibrating when you blow with it between your thumbs.
- Double reed: the oboe and bassoon have a double reed: a mouthpiece of two reeds that vibrate against each other.
Look at the images below. Can you match each image to the correct words?
Courtesy of Vincent Bach (oboe), iStock (blowing across flute), Yamaha (clarinet reed)
SECTION 2: Meet the family
The three instruments in the image above are the flute, oboe and clarinet. The fourth instrument from this family is the bassoon. This is a bigger instrument and, like the oboe, it uses a double reed. Can you organize the woodwind family from the largest instrument to the smallest instrument?
Courtesy of Vincent Bach (flute and oboe), Yamaha (clarinet), Arthur Ka Wai Jenkins (bassoon)
Now we’re going to listen to the instruments in this order – what does the size have to do with how high or low the pitch is of the instrument?
Audio 1: Bassoon
Audio 2: Clarinet
Audio 3: Oboe
Audio 4: Flute
Some of these instruments also come in much bigger or smaller sizes. Listen to the tracks below and decide which one has a type of flute, and which has a type of clarinet.
The instrument that sounds like a flute is called a piccolo and the instrument that sounds like a clarinet is called a bass clarinet. Listen to the pieces of music again and decide which of these instruments is smaller. How can you tell?
SECTION 3: Woodwind ‘Puzzle Hunt’
With your knowledge of the flute, oboe, clarinet and bassoon, can you fit the right information to the right instrument? Your teacher will give you what you need for the puzzle hunt.
SECTION 4: Woodwind ensembles
The woodwind family can also be arranged in different combinations to form an ensemble (a group of musicians who play together). The most common form of woodwind ensemble is a wind quintet. This is a group made up of five musicians/instruments: flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon and a mystery guest from a different family!
Listen to the music below. Do you know what the mystery instrument is that completes the wind quintet?
Listen to the music again: which instrument do you think has the main melody?
Pitch: Whether a note is high or low
All media credits – titles, composers, artists, sources etc. – may be found in the Teacher Sheet, accessed from the Info box at the top of this page.