18 Different Types of Wind Instruments – What Are They?

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Last updatedLast updated: April 07, 2021
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Getting into wind instruments is a little challenging for most newbies compared to the other three types of musical instruments. After all, they take up two of the five major types of musical instruments, and just because you learn to play one doesn’t mean you can play all the others. However, for anyone thinking of getting into them, we advise you first learn about the different types of wind instruments as it might help you pick the option to start with. Consequently, below is a list of 18 options allowing you to compare and contrast them.

However, before that, let’s get into the two types, namely the woodwind and brass options. The names typically refer to the construction and are pretty self-explanatory in that woodwind options are made of wood or metal. In brass instruments, you won’t find wood or reeds. However, you may find brass or metals in their construction.

Recorder

18 Different Types of Wind Instruments - What Are They?

The recorder is one of the simplest-looking woodwind instruments with roots in classical Europe. It was also one of the most common instruments played in Europe between the 14th and 18th centuries. This was both during the renaissance and the Baroque eras when music and art were at the forefront of people’s minds.

Although they can be played as independent instruments, they can also be played as ‘consorts’ where all the varying types of recorders are incorporated. These include soprano, sopranino, tenor, alto, and bass recorders.

The recorder also falls under a music instrument category known as internal duct flutes. These are flutes that feature a whistle mouthpiece. However, the difference between the recorder and other internal duct flute options is the number of holes. The recorder always has eight holes.

Flute

18 Different Types of Wind Instruments - What Are They?

The flute’s ancient origins are hard to place. However, for the modern version of the instrument, it can be traced back to the 1800s. Notably, the options you encounter in the market today are played in one of two ways: one is the side-blown, while the alternative is the end-blown.

Despite all the original flutes being made of wood, modern options may have metal construction. Also, reeds are entirely exempt from the construction of flutes even though they are woodwind instruments.

If you’re a slow learner the flute may not be the best option to start with. It’s so nuanced and complex that it might take you forever to get familiar with it. However, if you’re confident in your musical ability, the device can bring out a lot of your potential.

An example of a top-tier student flute is the Mendini by Cecilio, which has gold keys and a premium grade nickel-plated body. It should also have 16 keys and good quality double bladder pads.

Piccolo

18 Different Types of Wind Instruments - What Are They?

If you see a flute that’s half the size of standard flutes, then it’s probably not the same instrument despite having a similar outlook. It is instead a Picollo. In fact, the name of the instrument is directly translated to mean half-size in Italian.

It makes its presence known in orchestras and marching bands when played and features the highest notes compared to other woodwinds. However, if you already know how to play the flute, conquering this instrument should be a piece of cake.

Harmonica

18 Different Types of Wind Instruments - What Are They?

The harmonica is one of those portable woodwind instruments that fits easily into your pocket, even with its case. Also, in today’s music scene, you will find a lot of its influence in blues and folk music. As for the origins, it’s difficult to pinpoint where exactly the musical instrument was invented or made. However, what you can do is enjoy the free-reed instrument as it is.

Oboe

18 Different Types of Wind Instruments - What Are They?

Another orchestra favorite is the oboe with a body made of wood, plastic, resin, or hybrid composites. Oboes also tend to have metal keys lining the body. The baroque, classical, vienesse, and modern oboes all have varying tonality and range. However, for the modern option, it often comes standardized. That said, professional oboists often have versions of the instrument with more trill keys. This allows them to be more expressive musically and to take on more challenging pieces.

English horn

18 Different Types of Wind Instruments - What Are They?

The English horn is an oboe-like musical instrument only that it is longer, has a wider tube, and is characterized by a rounded bell shape at the bottom. This is one reason for the warmer and fuller sound produced by the instrument. Also, an investigation of the English horn’s interior parts reveals that it is a double-reed instrument.

Despite being so similar in structure, the English horn does have a larger pitch range than the oboe. Also, since the oboe and this English horn are so similar, it won’t take much effort to transition from one to the other.

Bagpipes

18 Different Types of Wind Instruments - What Are They?

If you’re confident in your lung power, the bagpipes may be for you. They consist of at least two note pipes, a cloth/animal skin bag, a blowpipe, and a chanter. The two-note pipes come in either single or double-reed variations. As for the chanter, the player uses this component to play the notes on the instrument.

The bag does need to be inflated, and players can either use their mouths to do so or opt to use bellows. Most top-tier players pick the mouth option, which is why lung power is essential. Additionally, bagpipes are pretty complex and will take a while for newbies to get used to.

French horn

18 Different Types of Wind Instruments - What Are They?

Despite the similarity in names, the English and French horns are nowhere near alike. The French horn’s design consists of a relatively large metal curved tube, although there may be additional tubing on the instrument as well. The main tube produces a conical sound, and the additional tubes may be used to control sound through a series of valves.

There are other ways for the player to control sound, including the mouth’s positioning, how they blow into the instrument, and even a hand over the horn’s flared-out bell.
Notably, in most professional circles, the French horn is only referred to as the horn.

According to reviews, one popular French horn for students is the Eastar Single French Horn which comes with all playing and maintenance accessories and has an impressive appearance to boot.

Clarinet

18 Different Types of Wind Instruments - What Are They?

The clarinet is yet another oboe-like type of wind instrument that you can learn to play. It is of the single reed variation, has a cylindrical tube design and a flared bell on the opposite end of the mouthpiece. Clarinets come in varying sizes. However, to play all of them, you blow through the mouthpiece and adjust the keys using your fingers.

Clarinets feature well in orchestras, and there can be up to four of them being played simultaneously. One example of a clarinet is the E-flat option which is about half the size of the standard clarinet. Besides that, kids can also use the Mendini MCT-E+SD+PB B-flat clarinet that reviewers have praised time and again as an excellent tool for beginners.

Trumpet

18 Different Types of Wind Instruments - What Are They?

Trumpets are a common feature in jazz bands and are members of the brass family of wind instruments. There are currently up to ten different types of trumpets available in the market, and you can pick one depending on the size, material construction, shape, and the quality of the sound.

Cornet

18 Different Types of Wind Instruments - What Are They?

If you’re new to wind instruments, you may not be able to tell the difference between a cornet and a trumpet. After all, they look slightly similar in their valve design. Also, the fact that they are both B-flat instruments may add to the confusion.

Differences appear where the cornet has a conical bore as opposed to the cylindrical one of the trumpet. Additionally, the flare in the cornet’s tubing allows for the production of a warmer, fuller sound.

We already mentioned that trumpets are a prominent feature in jazz bands. However, for the cornet, you’re much more likely to see it in a brass band instead.

Dulcian

18 Different Types of Wind Instruments - What Are They?

The dulcian wasn’t the easiest instrument to come across when it first appeared in the 16th century. It was too highly-priced to be available to ordinary musicians. However, that hasn’t changed to date as the replicas available are almost impossible to find. That said, they are the double-reed wind instruments that inspired the creation of the modern-day bassoon. As such, even if they weren’t played by many people, they contributed to modern music.

Saxophone

18 Different Types of Wind Instruments - What Are They?

If you’ve been to the orchestra, seen a jazz band live, or seen a marching band, then you’ve probably seen and heard a saxophone being played without knowing it. They feature brass construction and a lot of holes in the body of the instrument. You close these holes using the keys provided as you blow through the mouthpiece, and that will help you control sound and volume.

Saxophones might be slightly different in design depending on the type. The variations include: soprano, sopranino, alto, C-melody, tenor, baritone, bass, and finally, contrabass.
 Notably, experts and previous users of the Yamaha YAS-480 seem to agree that it is an excellent alto saxophone option for intermediate players. This is in part due to the professional-quality 62-style neck and excellent response.

Bassoon

18 Different Types of Wind Instruments - What Are They?

The bassoon’s design is a little unique. It consists of an elongated pipe about nine feet long, folded into two to make it easier to handle. The pipe is made of wood and is lined with holes and keys, just like the saxophone. Attached to the thinner end of the pipe is a curved metal mouthpiece with a double reed that you blow through when playing the instrument. Lastly, bassoons are well known for their low registers and harmonies in the orchestra.

Contrabassoon

18 Different Types of Wind Instruments - What Are They?

If you think the size of the bassoon is large, wait till you see the contrabassoon. While the bassoon is folded over once, the contrabassoon is folded over twice to allow for handling. This is because the length is more than the nine feet of its smaller brother. The pipe is also wider.

The instrument is quite demanding in terms of the lung power needed. Nonetheless, if you do manage to play it, you should notice it is pitched an octave lower than the bassoon. As such, it qualifies to play the lowest notes in the orchestra.

Shawn

18 Different Types of Wind Instruments - What Are They?

While you may find the Shawn being played in Islamic West Africa, you likely won’t see it in many other places in the world. Notably, the Shawn is only the second free-reed instrument mentioned after the harmonica on this list. As for the origins, you can find them in the period between the 13th and 17th centuries.

Trombone

18 Different Types of Wind Instruments - What Are They?

The trombone’s design has elements taken from the trumpet, such as the cylindrical bore and flared bell. However, you play it by blowing air through the instrument and sliding a part of the musical device back and forth to control the pitch. Also, the musical register on this instrument is quite low.

You should know that the trombone didn’t always have that name. When it was invested in the 1400s, users referred to it as the ‘sackbut.’ However, the name was changed in the 1700s.

Tuba

It’s not an exaggeration to mention that the tuba is the largest wind instrument in the brasswind family. That said, it doesn’t require as much lung power as compared to trumpet. While this is good news, the size does come with a disadvantage where the tuba is a heavy instrument.

Nevertheless, it’s still a prominent feature in marching bands. As such, if you see one in a marching band, it is probably made of fiberglass to make it lighter without compromising durability. However, tubas in the orchestra may be heavier than their marching band counterparts since the players are allowed to sit.

Final thoughts

Learning to play all the above-mentioned types of wind instruments is quite difficult. The learning curve is different for all of them, and you might need some time to get the hang of each. Also, buying all of them and getting classes is a tall order as some are unavailable while others are expensive. However, you can start with one wind instrument and master it to completion. After that, if you still want to, you can pick another wind instrument option and start the next challenge.

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