Other Woodwind Instruments


Because they are large and heavy, bassoon and contrabassoon are often picked up later by woodwind players who started by playing flute or clarinet. Since playing them requires larger hands and wider reach, players usually don’t pick them up until age 12 or older. Both use a double reed. The bassoon has a deep, dark, rich, low tone. It is large, consisting of eight feet of wooden tubing that has been bent around to make it playable. The player holds it to one side. The contrabassoon, which is made from 16 feet of wooden tubing, uses the same fingering.


The oboe is used as the tuning instrument in orchestras because it has a stable pitch and stands out above the rest. While the oboe is a very important orchestral instrument, it is not often chosen by beginning musicians because it is harder to play than most of the other woodwinds. The oboe uses a double reed, which requires a different embouchure (position of the lips) and strong control. The player presses his or her lips together and turns them inward over the teeth before blowing in the reed. Oboe reeds are very delicate and many players make their own reeds. Oboists often start by playing clarinet first.


The recorder is also a popular first instrument, because it is small, light, simple and usually inexpensive. There are four sizes of recorders: Soprano, Alto, Tenor and Bass. Most beginners play the smallest one, the soprano recorder, which also has the highest sound. While good quality recorders are made from wood, most beginners start on very inexpensive plastic ones that cost $10-20. The player blows directly into the mouthpiece without a reed and covers the holes with different configurations of fingering to produce different pitches. Recorders are often used in group lessons. Most music written for recorder is early or Baroque music by composers such as Monteverdi, Lully, Charpentier, Purcell, Handel and Bach, however beginners often play folk tunes and other simple tunes that have been transcribed to be played on the recorder.