Choosing a Musical Instrument On your Child – A Parents’ Self-help guide to Woodwinds

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Many people find themselves thrown to the world of musical instruments they know nothing about when their children first begin music in school. Knowing the basics of proper instrument construction, materials, picking a good store where you can rent or buy these instruments is extremely important. What exactly process should a dad or mom follow to make the best selections for their child?

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Clearly the initial step is to choose a guitar. Let your child get their choice. Kids don’t make very many big decisions regarding their life, and this is a big one that can be very empowering. I can also say from personal experience that children have a natural intuition in what is good for them. Ultimately, my strongest advice is always to put a child into a room to try at most 3-5 different choices, and let them make their choice based on the sound they like best.

This information is intended to broaden your horizons, to never create a preference, or to put you in a position to nit-pick in the store! Most instruments can be extremely well made these days, deciding on a respected retailer will allow you to trust recommendations. Ask your school and/or private music teacher where you should shop.

Woodwind instruments are manufactured all over the world, but primarily in the united states, Germany, France, and China. Once we talk about Woodwind instruments, we are referring to members of the Flute, Clarinet, Saxophone, Oboe, and Bassoon families.


All Woodwinds involve a reasonably complex, interconnected mechanism that has to be regulated so that the keys all move and seal the holes from the instrument when they are supposed to. Your trusted local retailer will probably be sure to get you an instrument that is ‘set up’, although many new instruments come ready to go out of the box. When you are handling a brand new instrument, you ought to bring it back to a store for a check-up after about 3 months, or sooner should there be any issues. Because every one of the materials are new and tight, they could come out of regulation as the instrument is broken in. This really is normal. You should count on this kind of regulation every 12-18 months, or sooner if the instrument is played a whole lot.

Woodwinds also have pads. Pads would be the part of the instrument that seal within the holes in the body of the instrument (toneholes). A perfect seal is necessary to produce the correct note. Tuning and audio quality are affected by a correctly ‘seated’ pad. These also occasionally break, as part of your regular maintenance, although very rarely all at once. When all pads have to be replaced (once every 8-10 years), this is accomplished as part of a comprehensive ‘overhaul’ from the instrument which includes taking all this apart, cleaning it, refitting and tightening loose parts, and replacing springs and corks as necessary. This is the rare procedure, and generally reserved for professionals. Taking care repair is the most common one for parents.

Because of the many rods and key-cups (these support the pads), there are a lot of very sensitive, simple to bend parts of these instruments. Knowing how to assemble them properly is very important to avoiding unwanted repairs. Be sure to ask your local retailer to the proper way to assemble your instrument. This is the cause of the most common repairs, as well as bumping into things.


Interestingly, don’t assume all woodwinds are made from wood. Flutes and saxophones are created primarily of metals; Nickel-silver and silver for Flutes, and often Brass for Saxophones. We’ll follow these materials because of these instruments for simplicity’s sake, because there are increasingly more choices available.

Throughout the Woodwind instruments, wood is actually employed for the main construction from the instruments.

Flutes & Saxophones

Student Flutes are produced from Nickel-Silver, then plated in silver. Nickel-Silver can be a combination of brass with Nickel, with a similar look to Silver when polished, hence its name. One among its primary advantages is it is stronger than brass or silver on their own. As you progress to higher instruments more Silver is utilized, starting with the headjoint (which is most important factor in a quality of sound). On headjoints later.

Saxophones are generally made out of brass. Try to find a device that has ‘ribbing’ on the body; extra plates of brass that supply structural support over an area where multiple posts put on the body. This provides strength for that occasional and unavoidable bumps that your particular young students are bound to have. Some student Saxes have keywork created from Nickel-Silver, which is a good technique for strength in a vulnerable area.

Clarinets and Oboes

Clarinet and Oboe our body is typically made of ABS plastic for student instruments. This is a great strategy for bumps, but in addition against the maintenance habits and climate changes that students face. Intermediate and professional instruments are constructed with Grenadilla wood (which is changing as Grenadilla edges on the endangered list). Because they’re made of wood they must be protected against cracking. If the student doesn’t swab their instrument out after playing, the moisture may cause the wood to expand and crack. Likewise, bringing your instrument university on a cold day and playing it without letting it to come to room temperature may cause it to crack, or perhaps rupture. This is caused a pressure differential out of your warm air column on the inside of the instrument, in comparison to the cold temperature outside of the instrument. If you choose to get a wood instrument, be sure your student is in a position and able to look after it properly.

Keys on Clarinets and Oboes are likely to be made from Nickel-Silver, but can be produced with Silver plating, or other materials.


Student Bassoons are made of ABS plastic, but there are many new makers available in the market that offer Hard Rubber, as well as Maple (used in professional instruments). A downside for Hard Rubber Bassoons is because are quite heavy. If you possibly could get a good wood Bassoon for any reasonable price, then choose that one. Wood offers the best acoustics for Bassoon, and will make the difference between an ordinary sound, and one that is certainly rich and interesting.

Keywork on Bassoons is every bit made from Nickel-Silver, often silver plated.


Using the word ‘mouthpiece’ for woodwinds may be confusing. Here are the instruments using the correct names for your corresponding part of the instrument that produces the sound:((Flute: Headjoint
Clarinet: Mouthpiece (having a single reed)
Saxophone: Mouthpiece (using a single reed)
Oboe: Double reed (two reeds tied together with a hole in between)
Bassoon: Double reed (two reeds tied along with a hole in between)

Regardless of instrument, this is the area of the whole that makes the highest impact on the quality of the sound, along with the player’s personal physical attributes. Students generally use whatever they get from their teacher, but several tips about how to get the most from your equipment. Receiving a good mouthpiece can precede, and also postpone the purchase of a fresh Clarinet or Sax, so great will be the difference with hard rubber.
(For Flute, ensure that your headjoint cork is properly aligned, rather than dried out. Your local retailer will highlight how to do this. In case there are problems, have them fixed straight away, or choose a different flute. To get more intermediate flutes, choose a headjoint that is not only made entirely of Silver, but is hand-cut. This won’t always be easier to play at first, but the sound quality improvement will be worth making the leap. Silver sounds superior to Nickel-Silver, producing a better tone quality, with increased room for changing the quality according to the player’s needs. You can purchase headjoints separately, but it can be very expensive, and I advise against this until you reach an expert flute.

Oboe and Bassoon use two opposing, slightly curved reeds tied together that vibrate against the other when air passes bewteen barefoot and shoes. Advanced oboists/bassoonists make reeds for their own reasons, a time-consuming, skill-heavy task. It takes many years to learn to create reeds for yourself, that work well. Fortunately, you will find ready-made reeds that generally meet the requirements of the student player. One primary factor you should test would be to assure that the reed ‘crows’ perfectly with the pitch ‘C’. Crowing a reed is blowing through it if it is not attached to the instrument. Test the crow with a tuner.

Clarinets and Saxophones work with a single reed (small bit of very well shaped and profiled cane) linked with a mouthpiece (by the ring called a ‘ligature’) that vibrates when air is passed forwards and backwards. The combination of these parts is key to a good sound. Most students be given a plastic mouthpiece to start out. Good plastic mouthpieces are produced by Yamaha for both Clarinet and Saxophone, together with the designation of ‘4C’. An excellent opportunity a ‘5C’ if it is available. It will likely be a little harder to play at first, but a easy way get a bigger sound correct off the bat. If you need to get a better quality of sound with additional room for good loud and soft playing while maintaining and introducing a rich tone, then look at a Hard Rubber Mouthpiece. Hard rubber surpasses plastic acoustically, and must be hand finished, unlike the plastic variety, that is spit out of a mold and polished/tumbled for shine. These are noticeably more expensive, but you should expect to spend in the $100-150 range for a decent Hard Rubber mouthpiece. Good names include: Selmer, Vandoren, Otto Link, Meyer, Yamaha, and Leblanc. The local retailer should stock a minimum of two of these brands that you should try – and you will try them! Because these are normally hand finished, they are often subtly different.

Why don’t you consider sizes?

Clarinet and Saxophone mouthpieces have a diverse range of different sizing areas, but for the sake of simplicity, the most important is the ‘tip opening’. Tip opening means the distance between the tip of the reed and the tip from the mouthpiece. Sadly, there is no standardized system for measuring tip openings, even though they are commonly measured in millimetres, or utilizing a numbering system (usually beginning at number 5, students sizing), or even letters. The metric method usually includes two to three numbers; an opening of 2.97mm might be listed as 297, or as 97, based on the maker. The numbering system can be listed as 5, 5*, 6, 6*, 7, etc. The ‘star’ numbers should be considered half-sizes. Letters work exactly the same as numbers generally; C, C*, D, D*, etc.

To present your student a leg up, aim for a ‘6’, or ‘D’ sizing. This is bigger than what they are employed to, but will pay off with a bigger sound right away. Some notes about the ends of your range, both high and low, will likely suffer, however this is only temporary when you adjust to the new mouthpiece and develop greater strength.

Other pursuits

Oil and Adjust. This process needs to be conducted on the student’s instrument annually, or maybe more frequently, if there is a lot of playing. The mechanics of the interconnected parts is delicate, and happens of alignment often.

Bore oiling. Yearly this will be required on Clarinets and Oboes to help you guard against cracking.

Avoid cheap instruments. With instruments you get what you purchase. There are a lot of instruments originating from India and China now. The majority are excellent, while many others should not even have been made. Your local, respected dealer really should have those that are reliable, and will stand behind them. Your big-box Costco, Wal-Mart, Greatest coupe, and e-Bay has no comprehension of these matters, and functions for their bottom line only. Avoid these places. They can’t possibly offer you the continued assistance, service, or repair that the developing and interested student will require. If you choose this route, obtain American, European, or Japanese-made instruments. This really is a major separator of good from bad. Those who make in these places are likely to be very well trained and part of a history of excellent wind instrument making. The local, trusted retailer will guide you in the choices available, and don’t forget that just because it says USA, or Paris onto it, does not mean it was manufactured in these places. Increase which mean sometimes making these products part of the ‘name’ of the instrument.((Just how much should I spend?

That is the big question. Remember that popular instruments, like Flute and Clarinet, are cheaper because they are made in greater quantities. Some instruments, like Oboe and Bassoon, are challenging and time-consuming to create, making them more expensive. Here’s a list of acceptable and approximate pricing (at the time that this is being written) for new student instruments that works well for both American and Canadian currency.


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