Woodwind musical instruments

"It is difficult to offer a convincing definition for such a category of musical instruments known as  woodwinds. It is easier to tell which are corresponding to copper instruments ... "- wrote American composer Walter Piston. Indeed, in our time, many of the "woodwind" are made of metal and plastic. Since ancient times, there are known pottery, ceramic instruments that if to say properly should be attributed to the "wooden." Their general feature is that the sound originates due to vibrations of the air enclosed in a tube that can be compared to the vibrations of a string stretched between two points ... Not the least role in this process plays a performer, his breath. After all, for the birth of musical sound, the phrase is not enough just to blow strongly into the tool. It is not easy to reflect a breathing  in the notes... in each of the four families there is a woodwind instrument, which is regarded as the basic type. These are - flute, oboe, clarinet and bassoon. Other instruments in each group are species. The emergence of instruments is explained  first of all by the expansion of the range of pitch of the "family" to which they relate. Some of the instruments types certainly deserve our particular attention.



The European history of this small instrument is quite dramatic. Extremely popular in ancient times, flute fell into disuse in western Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire in the V century, and was newly reborn in five or six hundred years after.

In the era of Baroque Vivaldi, JS Bach, GF Handel and other smaller masters of the XVIII century had written a lot for the flute. At the dawn of classical music in the years 1777-78 the young Mozart creates several quartets for flute.

At the beginning of the XIX century the flute was made from boxwood, ebony, coconut palm or ivory. In the 30 years of XIX century German flute-player, master and jeweler Theobald Boehm (1794-1881) starts to improve the instruments and  creates  Boehm flute in 1847, that practically has no difference from today's instrument.  Wood goes away from the construction and is replaced by the original silver, sometimes gold. Flute becomes stronger and more homogeneous over the whole range; performance of chromatic notes and passages becomes much easier.

With the departure of wood, unfortunately, it partially lost the warm flute sound. What to do, not only art, but also the progress from time to time requires sacrifices.

The popularity of the flute increased with the emergence of a public concert life in the XIX century, which resulted in a flowering of amateur music-making. Flute, wherein the relative ease of sound production and rich technical and expressive possibilities, became fashionable among fans of high and middle strata of society.

In the XX century the delicate and coldish tone of the flute particularly attracted French composers; expansion of solo and chamber repertoire for this instrument was contributed by Claude Debussy, Arthur Honegger, Darius Milhaud.

Modern orchestral transverse flute, or the so-called big flute, has a straight cylindrical bore and is made of metal. The instrument length is about 66cm, diameter channel is - 2 cm. The flute is broken down into three compact parts: the head with a hole (mouth hole) for blowing air, located on the side of the closed end of the instrument, and moving the knee (for control system), and the two major tribes with sound holes and valves. Sound is blown by a jet of air tangentially to the mouth hole. Scale is chromatic, the range consistes of more than 3 octaves, the  lower tone – is C. The instrument has 13 main sound holes and several smaller holes through which the execution of trills and other technically sophisticated methods are facilitated. Efficient valve system allows us to achieve a virtuoso play.

The stream of blown air, and hence the nature of the sound is controlled by the flutist, so a correct statement of the embouchure - one of the key techniques of playing the flute.

Professional flutist has all kinds of flute family instruments: piccolo, as well as alto and bass flutes.

Alto Flute sounds a fourth lower than usual, but it’s available range is up to the top C. Mechanics is the same as of the main flute, except for minor changes due to the size. It occurs in very few scores, but in the works of Stravinsky, such as "Daphnis and Chloe" and "The Rite of Spring", acquires a certain weight and significance.

The bass flute has a  bent knee, by which it is possible to increase the length of the air column without substantially changing the size of the instrument. It sounds an octave lower than the main instrument, but requires significantly greater volume of air (breathing).



Piccolo flute (piccolo) - kinds of tools, which sounds an octave above the main flute, reaching up to the  last note piano keyboard.

This is one of the highest votes and one of the tiny instruments of the orchestra, its length is barely more than 30 centimeters (half the normal flute).

Orchestral piccolos are often made of wood, but there are also metal instruments.

"The interest of composers to the specific instruments provided them a position of importance almost equal to the basic types of each family. This was facilitated by advances in playing technique, but even more the realization that the alleged defects of these instruments are really worth exploring and benefits and recognition as a supplement to the main coloristic resources woodwind instrument group "- such a brilliant preamble was awarded the article about the piccolo, which was written by American composer Walter Piston.

Piccolo - unsurpassed expert in their ability to "cut" and "highlight" an orchestral tutti, supporting the upper overtones of harmony. Her lower tone is peculiarly empty and high notes are brilliant and shrill, easily audible at the maximum sonority of the whole orchestra.

Piccolo often sets off the musical exoticism, but its effectiveness is inversely proportional to the frequency of use. This tiny flute is capable of subtlety and can just a few artfully placed  sounds perform a lot.

English Horn

Английский рожок

The phrase "English horn" by itself in no way does not describe us one of the most popular types of instruments oboe family. First of all, it is not the horn, and the second is that it is not even English! Isn’t it reminiscent of the story of the guinea pig? It is also not a pig at all, and certainly - not sea pig. Nobody remembers who, when and why started to name the tenor oboe – the auxiliary instrument of oboe family -  the English horn.

Known in chamber music from the XVIII century, a permanent member of the orchestra English horn becomes in the middle of XIX century. Orchestral solo literature abounds with phrases written specifically for English horn.

The Horn brings to the melodious tunes a new paint, and in conjunction with other instruments such as brass and strings, reports a unique flavor sounding woodwind group and the whole orchestra.

Range English horn falls to the note of the small octave. Naturally, because the horn is different from the main instrument of it’s family - Oboe soprano – by the outstanding size: it is 20 centimeters long. After all, the length (not thickness!) of the air column is responsible for the pitch. The design of the instrument there has a more noticeable difference - bent metal tube, one side of which is inserted into the hole in the end of the instrument and the other is used to fix a few elongated double canes. But the main difference, which is immediately noticed and characterizes all kinds of instruments of this family - pear-shaped bell. English horn is heavier than oboe, so when played on it is  tacked on to the lace around the neck of the performer.

sq_bl Lev Zalesskiy.


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