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 are fully aware nothing about when their young children first begin music in school. Knowing the basics of good instrument construction, materials, and choosing a good store in order to rent or purchase these instruments is extremely important. What exactly process should a parent follow to make the best selections for their child?

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Clearly the initial step is to choose a device. Let your child get their choice. Kids don't make developed solid relationships . big decisions regarding their life, and this is a huge one that can be very empowering. I can also say from personal experience that children have a natural intuition by what is good for them. Ultimately, my strongest advice would be to put a child in to a room to try at most 3-5 different choices, and permit them to make their choice in line with the sound they like best.

These details are intended to broaden your horizons, never to create a preference, as well as to put you in a position to nit-pick within the store! Most instruments can be extremely well made these days, and choosing a respected retailer will help you 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 us, Germany, France, and China. If we talk about Woodwind instruments, we have been 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 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 shop for a check-up after about 3 months, or sooner in case there are any issues. Because each of the materials are new and tight, they might come out of regulation because the instrument is broken in. That is normal. You should trust this kind of regulation every 12-18 months, or sooner when 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 in the instrument (toneholes). A perfect seal must produce the correct note. Tuning and quality of sound are affected by a correctly 'seated' pad. These also occasionally give up, as part of your regular maintenance, although almost never all at once. When all pads have to be replaced (once every 8-10 years), this can be done as part of a comprehensive 'overhaul' with 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 usually reserved for professionals. The maintenance repair is the most common one for fogeys.

Because of the many rods and key-cups (these retain the pads), there are a lot of very sensitive, an easy task to bend parts of these instruments. Finding out how to assemble them properly is vital to avoiding unwanted repairs. Be sure to ask your local retailer for that proper way to assemble your instrument. This can be the cause of the most common repairs, accompanied by bumping into things.


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

For the remainder of the Woodwind instruments, wood is actually employed for the main construction with 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, with 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 on their own. As you progress to better instruments more Silver is utilized, starting with the headjoint (which is most important factor in a high quality of sound). More on headjoints later.

Saxophones are generally made out of brass. Try to find a guitar that has 'ribbing' on the body; extra plates of brass that supply structural support over a region where multiple posts put on the body. This provides strength for the occasional and unavoidable bumps that the 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, fiberglass 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 towards the endangered list). Because they're made of wood they have to be protected against cracking. If the student doesn't swab their instrument out after playing, the moisture could cause the wood to be expanded and crack. Likewise, bringing your instrument to school on a cold day and playing it without letting it to come to room temperature may cause it to crack, and even rupture. This is caused a pressure differential from a warm air column inside the instrument, as opposed to the cold temperature outside of the instrument. If you decide to get a wood instrument, make sure your student ready and able to look after it properly.

Keys on Clarinets and Oboes are usually made from Nickel-Silver, but can be generated with Silver plating, or another materials.


Student Bassoons are made of ABS plastic, but there are a few new makers in the market that offer Hard Rubber, and also Maple (used in professional instruments). A downside for Hard Rubber Bassoons is because they are quite heavy. If you're able to get a good wood Bassoon for a reasonable price, then choose that one. Wood offers the best acoustics for Bassoon, which enable it to make the difference between a plain sound, and one which is rich and interesting.

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


Using the word 'mouthpiece' for woodwinds might 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 with a hole in between)

Regardless of instrument, this is the area of the whole that makes the best 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 below are some tips about how to get the most from your equipment. Obtaining a good mouthpiece can precede, and even postpone the purchase of a brand new Clarinet or Sax, so great is 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. Should there be problems, have them fixed immediately, or choose a different flute. To get more intermediate flutes, select a headjoint that is not only made entirely of Silver, but is hand-cut. This won't always be easier to play in the beginning, but the sound quality improvement will be worth making the leap. Silver sounds much better than Nickel-Silver, producing a better tone quality, with increased room for changing the product quality according to the player's needs. You should buy headjoints separately, but it can be extremely expensive, and I advise out of this until you reach an experienced flute.

Oboe and Bassoon use two opposing, slightly curved reeds tied together that vibrate against one another when air passes bewteen barefoot and shoes. Advanced oboists/bassoonists make reeds by themselves, a time-consuming, skill-heavy task. It will take many years to learn to produce reeds for yourself, that work well. Fortunately, you'll 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 when it is not attached to the instrument. Test the crow using a tuner.

Clarinets and Saxophones use a single reed (small part of very well shaped and profiled cane) tied to a mouthpiece (with a 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 obtain a plastic mouthpiece to begin with. Good plastic mouthpieces are created by Yamaha for both Clarinet and Saxophone, with the designation of '4C'. I recommend a '5C' if it is available. It will be a little harder to learn at first, but a good way to get a bigger make sense off the bat. If you'd like to get a better quality of sound with increased room for good loud and soft playing and and introducing a refreshing 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 is spit out of a mold and polished/tumbled for shine. These are 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 so that you can try - and you will try them! Because these are generally hand finished, they are often subtly different.

What about sizes?

Clarinet and Saxophone mouthpieces have a wide range of different sizing areas, and also for the sake of simplicity, the main is the 'tip opening'. Tip opening means the distance between the tip from the reed and the tip of the mouthpiece. Sadly, there's no standardized system for measuring tip openings, even though they are commonly measured in millimetres, or employing a numbering system (usually beginning at number 5, a student sizing), or even letters. The metric method usually contains 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 might be listed as 5, 5*, 6, 6*, 7, etc. The 'star' numbers is highly recommended half-sizes. Letters work much the same way as numbers generally; C, C*, D, D*, etc.

To provide your student an advantage, aim for a '6', or 'D' sizing. This can be bigger than what they are used to, but will pay off using 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 while you adjust to the new mouthpiece and develop greater strength.

Other considerations

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

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

Avoid cheap instruments. With musical instruments you get what you buy. There are a lot of instruments coming from India and China now. Many are excellent, while many others shouldn't even have been made. Your local, respected dealer must have those that are reliable, and may stand behind them. Your big-box Costco, Wal-Mart, Greatest coupe, and e-Bay has no comprehension of these matters, and functions because of their bottom line only. Avoid these places. They can not possibly offer you the continuing assistance, service, or repair that a developing and interested student will need. If you choose this route, request American, European, or Japanese-made instruments. This is a major separator of good from bad. People who make in these places are usually very well trained and part of a history of excellent wind instrument making. Any local, trusted retailer will assist to guide you in the choices available, don't forget that just because it says USA, or Paris on it, does not mean it was stated in these places. Functions and features sometimes making this stuff part of the 'name' of the instrument.((How much should I spend?

This 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 make, making them more expensive. Here is 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.

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