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 kids first begin music at school. Knowing the basics of good instrument construction, materials, and choosing a good store where you can rent or purchase 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 first step is to choose a guitar. Let your child have their own choice. Kids don't make developed solid relationships . big decisions regarding life, and this is a large one that can be very empowering. I'm also able to say from personal experience that children have a natural intuition as to what is good for them. Ultimately, my strongest advice is to put a child in to a room to try no more than 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 not create a preference, in order to put you in a position to nit-pick from the store! Most instruments can be extremely well made these days, picking a respected retailer will help you to trust recommendations. Ask your school and/or private music teacher where you can shop.

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


All Woodwinds involve a reasonably complex, interconnected mechanism which needs to be regulated so that the keys all move and seal the holes of the instrument when they are meant to. Your trusted local retailer will probably be sure to get you a guitar that is 'set up', although many new instruments come ready to go out of the box. When you are coping with brand new instrument, you ought to bring it back to the store for a check-up after about A couple of months, or sooner should there be any issues. Because all of the materials are new and tight, they may come out of regulation since the instrument is broken in. This really is normal. You should trust this kind of regulation every 12-18 months, or sooner in the event the instrument is played a good deal.

Woodwinds also have pads. Pads are the part of the instrument that seal within the holes in the body in 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 need replacing, as part of your regular maintenance, although rarely all at once. When all pads must be replaced (once every 8-10 years), this is done as part of a comprehensive 'overhaul' of the instrument which includes taking all of it apart, cleaning it, refitting and tightening loose parts, and replacing springs and corks as necessary. It is a rare procedure, and usually reserved for professionals. The constant maintenance repair is the most common one for parents.

Because of the many rods and key-cups (these retain the pads), there are a lot of very sensitive, very easy to bend parts of these instruments. Focusing on how to assemble them properly is important to avoiding unwanted repair costs. Be sure to ask your local retailer for the proper way to assemble your instrument. This can be the cause of the most common repairs, then bumping into things.


Interestingly, don't assume 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 adhere to these materials because of these instruments for simplicity's sake, with there being increasingly more choices available.

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

Flutes & Saxophones

Student Flutes are manufactured from Nickel-Silver, then plated in silver. Nickel-Silver is a combination of brass with Nickel, that features a similar look to Silver when polished, hence its name. Certainly one of its primary advantages is it is stronger than brass or silver automatically. As you progress to better instruments more Silver can be used, starting with the headjoint (the actual most important factor in a quality of sound). More on headjoints later.

Saxophones are generally produced from brass. Try to find a device that has 'ribbing' on the body; extra plates of brass offering structural support over a place where multiple posts attach to the body. This provides strength for the occasional and unavoidable bumps that your young students are bound to have. Some student Saxes have keywork created 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 ABS plastic for student instruments. A great strategy for bumps, but also 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 for the endangered list). Because they are made of wood they should be protected against cracking. If your student doesn't swab their instrument out after playing, the moisture can cause the wood to expand and crack. Likewise, bringing your instrument university on a cold day and playing it without allowing it to come to room temperature will 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, as opposed to the cold temperature outside of the instrument. If you opt to get a wood instrument, make certain your student is prepared and able to look after it properly.

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


Student Bassoons are made of ABS plastic, but there are some new makers available in the market that offer Hard Rubber, and also Maple (used in professional instruments). A downside for Hard Rubber Bassoons is because are quite heavy. When you can get a good wood Bassoon for any reasonable price, then choose that one. Wood offers the best acoustics for Bassoon, and may make the difference between a plain sound, and one which is rich and interesting.

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


While using word 'mouthpiece' for woodwinds could be confusing. Here are the instruments using the correct names for the corresponding part of the instrument that creates the sound:((Flute: Headjoint
Clarinet: Mouthpiece (using a single reed)
Saxophone: Mouthpiece (with a single reed)
Oboe: Double reed (two reeds tied with a hole in between)
Bassoon: Double reed (two reeds tied with a hole in between)

Regardless of the instrument, this is the part of the whole that makes the highest impact on the quality of the sound, in conjunction with the player's personal physical attributes. Students generally use what they get from their teacher, but listed below are some tips about how to get the most from your equipment. Obtaining a good mouthpiece can precede, and also postpone the purchase of a whole new Clarinet or Sax, so great will be the difference with hard rubber.
(For Flute, make sure your headjoint cork is properly aligned, rather than dried out. Your local retailer will reveal how to do this. Should there be problems, have them fixed without delay, or choose a different flute. To get more intermediate flutes, go with a headjoint that is not only made entirely of Silver, but is hand-cut. This may not always be easier to play to start with, but the sound quality improvement is definitely worth making the leap. Silver sounds a lot better than Nickel-Silver, producing a better tone quality, with additional room for changing the quality according to the player's needs. You should buy headjoints separately, but it can be be extremely 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 one another when air passes together. Advanced oboists/bassoonists make reeds for themselves, a time-consuming, skill-heavy task. It will take many years to learn to produce reeds for yourself, that work well. Fortunately, you can find ready-made reeds that generally meet the needs of the student player. One primary factor you should test is usually 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 which has a tuner.

Clarinets and Saxophones use a single reed (small part of very well shaped and profiled cane) linked with a mouthpiece (by way of a 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 with. Good plastic mouthpieces are made by Yamaha for both Clarinet and Saxophone, with all the designation of '4C'. I would recommend a '5C' if it is available. It's going to be a little harder to play at first, but a good way to get a bigger sound right off the bat. If you'd like to get a better quality of sound with increased room for good loud and soft playing while maintaining and introducing a rich tone, then look at a Hard Rubber Mouthpiece. Hard rubber is superior to plastic acoustically, and must be hand finished, unlike the plastic variety, that's spit out of a mold and polished/tumbled for shine. These are noticeably more expensive, but 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 local retailer should stock no less than two of these brands for you to try - and you ought to try them! Because these are generally hand finished, they can be subtly different.

Why don't you consider sizes?

Clarinet and Saxophone mouthpieces have a variety of different sizing areas, and also for the sake of simplicity, the key is the 'tip opening'. Tip opening means the distance between the tip in the reed and the tip in the mouthpiece. Sadly, there is absolutely no standardized system for measuring tip openings, although 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; a gap of 2.97mm might be listed as 297, or as 97, depending on the maker. The numbering system can be listed as 5, 5*, 6, 6*, 7, etc. The 'star' numbers should be thought about half-sizes. Letters work exactly the same way as numbers generally; C, C*, D, D*, etc.

To present your student a leg up, aim for a '6', or 'D' sizing. That 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 low and high, will likely suffer, however is only temporary when you adjust to the new mouthpiece and develop greater strength.

Other considerations

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 from the interconnected parts is delicate, and happens of alignment often.

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

Avoid cheap instruments. With musical instruments you get what you purchase. There are a lot of instruments originating from India and China now. Most are excellent, while many others shouldn't even have been made. The local, respected dealer really should have those that are reliable, and will stand behind them. Your big-box Costco, Wal-Mart, Biggest score, and e-Bay has no knowledge of these matters, and functions for bottom line only. Avoid these places. They won't possibly offer you the continuing assistance, service, or repair a developing and interested student will need. If you choose this route, obtain American, European, or Japanese-made instruments. This is a major separator of good from bad. Individuals who make in these places are generally very well trained and portion of a history of excellent wind instrument making. Any local, trusted retailer will help to guide you in the choices available, please remember that just because it says USA, or Paris into it, does not mean it was produced in these places. Manufacturers are now sometimes making these items part of the 'name' of the instrument.((Just how much should I spend?

That is the big question. Be aware 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 generate, making them more expensive. Here's a list of acceptable and approximate pricing (at that time that this is being written) for new student instruments that works for both American and Canadian currency.