Choosing a Musical Instrument For the Child - A Parents' Self-help guide to Woodwinds

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Many people find themselves thrown into the world of musical instruments they understand nothing about when their young children first begin music in school. Knowing the basics of proper instrument construction, materials, and choosing a good store to rent or get yourself a dvd instruments is extremely important. What exactly process should a dad or mom follow to make the best ways for their child?

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Clearly the first task is to choose a musical instrument. Let your child their very own choice. Kids don't make the greatest big decisions regarding their life, and this is a big one that can be very empowering. I'm also able to say from personal experience that youngsters have a natural intuition in what is good for them. Ultimately, my strongest advice would be to put a child right into a room to try at most 3-5 different choices, and allow them make their choice in line with the sound they like best.

These details are intended to broaden your horizons, to not create a preference, or put you in a position to nit-pick from the store! Most instruments are really well made these days, picking a respected retailer will help you to trust recommendations. Ask your school and/or private music teacher where to shop.

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


All Woodwinds involve a relatively complex, interconnected mechanism that you will find regulated so that the keys all move and seal the holes with the instrument when they are meant to. Your trusted local retailer will likely be sure to get you a guitar that is 'set up', although many new instruments come all set out of the box. When you are dealing with a brand new instrument, you should bring it back to a shop for a check-up after about 3 months, or sooner if there are any issues. Because every one of the materials are new and tight, they could come out of regulation because instrument is broken in. This really is normal. You should depend on this kind of regulation every 12-18 months, or sooner when the instrument is played a whole lot.

Woodwinds also have pads. Pads will be the part of the instrument that seal in the holes in the body in the instrument (toneholes). A perfect seal is needed 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 almost never all at once. When all pads must be replaced (once every 8-10 years), this can be done as part of a comprehensive 'overhaul' with the instrument which includes taking all of it apart, cleaning it, refitting and tightening loose parts, and replacing springs and corks as necessary. This is a rare procedure, and customarily reserved for professionals. The constant maintenance repair is the most common one for moms and dads.

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. Understanding how to assemble them properly is important to avoiding unwanted repair costs. Be sure to ask your local retailer for your proper way to assemble your instrument. This could be the cause of the most common repairs, as well as bumping into things.


Interestingly, not all woodwinds are made from wood. Flutes and saxophones are produced primarily of metals; Nickel-silver and silver for Flutes, and usually Brass for Saxophones. We'll follow these materials for these instruments for simplicity's sake, as there are increasingly more choices available.

For the rest of the Woodwind instruments, wood is indeed employed for the main construction from the instruments.

Flutes & Saxophones

Student Flutes are made of Nickel-Silver, then plated in silver. Nickel-Silver is really a combination of brass with Nickel, that features a similar look to Silver when polished, hence its name. Certainly one of its primary advantages would it be is stronger than brass or silver by themselves. As you progress to improve instruments more Silver is employed, starting with the headjoint (which is the most important factor in a quality of sound). Read more about headjoints later.

Saxophones are generally created from brass. Try to find a musical instrument that has 'ribbing' on the body; extra plates of brass that offer structural support over a place where multiple posts put on the body. This provides strength for that occasional and unavoidable bumps that your young students are bound to have. Some student Saxes have keywork manufactured from Nickel-Silver, which is a good way of strength in a vulnerable area.

Clarinets and Oboes

Clarinet and Oboe our body is typically made of Fibreglass for student instruments. This is a good strategy for bumps, but additionally against the maintenance habits and climate changes that students face. Intermediate and professional instruments are constructed of Grenadilla wood (which is changing as Grenadilla edges on the endangered list). Since they're made of wood they ought to be protected against cracking. If a student doesn't swab their instrument out after playing, the moisture might cause the wood to flourish and crack. Likewise, bringing your instrument university on a cold day and playing it without letting it come to room temperature may cause it to crack, or even rupture. This is caused a pressure differential out of your warm air column on the medial side the instrument, versus the cold temperature outside of the instrument. If you want to get a wood instrument, make certain your student is prepared and able to look after it properly.

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


Student Bassoons are produced from ABS plastic, but there are some new makers out there that offer Hard Rubber, and in addition Maple (used in professional instruments). A downside for Hard Rubber Bassoons is that they are quite heavy. If you possibly could get a good wood Bassoon to get a reasonable price, then choose this place. Wood offers the best acoustics for Bassoon, and may make the difference between a plain sound, and one that is certainly rich and interesting.

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


While using word 'mouthpiece' for woodwinds can be confusing. Here are the instruments using the correct names to the corresponding part of the instrument that makes the sound:((Flute: Headjoint
Clarinet: Mouthpiece (using 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 plus a hole in between)

No matter the instrument, this is the part of the whole that makes the greatest impact on the quality of the sound, in combination with the player's personal physical attributes. Students generally use what you get from their teacher, but several tips about how to get the most from your equipment. Obtaining a good mouthpiece can precede, as well as postpone the purchase of a fresh Clarinet or Sax, so great may be the difference with hard rubber.
(For Flute, ensure that your headjoint cork is properly aligned, and never dried out. Your local retailer will show you how to do this. Should there be problems, have them fixed straight away, or choose a different flute. To get more intermediate flutes, pick a headjoint that is not only made entirely of Silver, but is hand-cut. This won't always be easier to play initially, but the sound quality improvement will be worth making the leap. Silver sounds a lot better than Nickel-Silver, producing a better tone quality, with increased room for changing the standard according to the player's needs. You can purchase headjoints separately, but it can be very expensive, and I advise out of this until you reach a specialist flute.

Oboe and Bassoon use two opposing, slightly curved reeds tied together that vibrate against the other person when air passes with shod and non-shod. Advanced oboists/bassoonists make reeds by themselves, a time-consuming, skill-heavy task. It will require many years to learn to produce reeds for yourself, that work well. Fortunately, there are ready-made reeds that generally meet the needs of the student player. One key element you should test is to assure that the reed 'crows' perfectly on 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 piece of very well shaped and profiled cane) linked with a mouthpiece (by the ring called a 'ligature') that vibrates when air is passed backward and forward. The combination of these parts is essential to a good sound. Most students be given a plastic mouthpiece to begin. Good plastic mouthpieces are manufactured by Yamaha for both Clarinet and Saxophone, with all the designation of '4C'. I would recommend a '5C' if it is available. It will likely be a little harder to experience at first, but a easy way get a bigger sound correct off the bat. If you want to get a better quality of sound with more room for good loud and soft playing and and introducing a wealthy tone, then consider a Hard Rubber Mouthpiece. Hard rubber provides multiple advances over plastic acoustically, and must be hand finished, unlike the plastic variety, that is spit out of a mold and polished/tumbled for shine. They're noticeably more expensive, however, you should expect to spend inside the $100-150 range for a decent Hard Rubber mouthpiece. Good names include: Selmer, Vandoren, Otto Link, Meyer, Yamaha, and Leblanc. Your neighborhood retailer should stock at the very least two of these brands that you should try - and you need to try them! Because these are generally hand finished, they are generally subtly different.

What about sizes?

Clarinet and Saxophone mouthpieces have a variety of different sizing areas, but for the sake of simplicity, the main is the 'tip opening'. Tip opening refers to the distance between the tip in the reed and the tip with the mouthpiece. Sadly, there's no standardized system for measuring tip openings, although they are commonly measured in millimetres, or utilizing a numbering system (usually beginning at number 5, trainees sizing), or even letters. The metric method usually consists of two to three numbers; an opening of 2.97mm might be listed as 297, or as 97, with regards to the maker. The numbering system may be listed as 5, 5*, 6, 6*, 7, etc. The 'star' numbers should be thought about half-sizes. Letters work the same way as numbers in general; C, C*, D, D*, etc.

To present your student an advantage, aim for a '6', or 'D' sizing. This really is bigger than what they are used to, but will pay off having a bigger sound right away. Some notes on the ends of your range, both high and low, will likely suffer, however this is only temporary while you adjust to the new mouthpiece and develop greater strength.

Other things

Oil and Adjust. This procedure needs to be conducted in your student's instrument annually, or maybe more frequently, if there is lots of playing. The mechanics of the interconnected parts is delicate, and comes out of alignment often.

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

Avoid cheap instruments. With musical instruments you get what you spend on. There are a lot of instruments received from India and China now. Lots of people are excellent, while many others must not even have been made. Your local, respected dealer needs to have those that are reliable, and definately will stand behind them. Your big-box Costco, Wal-Mart, Best Buy, and e-Bay has no knowledge of these matters, and functions for bottom line only. Avoid these places. They can not possibly offer you the continuing assistance, service, or repair that a developing and interested student need. If you choose this route, ask for American, European, or Japanese-made instruments. This really is a major separator of good from bad. Those who make in these places are usually very well trained and part of a history of excellent wind instrument making. Your neighborhood, trusted retailer will assist to guide you in the choices available, don't forget that just because it says USA, or Paris about it, does not mean it was manufactured in these places. Manufacturers are now sometimes making these items part of the 'name' of the instrument.((Simply how much should I spend?

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

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