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  • !!Woodwinds!!

    The woodwind family is a beautiful section of the orchestra, but sadly often overlooked. Todays epic music tend to focus on huge staccato strings, chanting choirs and heroic brass melodies. Therefore, their little brothers in the woodwinds section are often forgotten by the composers. However, knowing to write for woodwinds is important, and may give your compositions a whole new touch. Listen to Buckbeaks Flight by John Williams, and skip to 1.20. Notice how the woodwind runs in the background are giving a whole new life to the music. Woodwinds can also be used to present themes in solo instruments, doubling other instruments, or playing harmonic material.Ranges of the woodwind instruments:!

  • !!!Some basics:!!There are two kinds of woodwinds instruments: Flutes and reed instruments. The reed instruments are divided in two, the single reeds and double reeds. The clarinet is a single reed instrument, while the oboes and bassoons are double reed instruments. They provide quite different tone colors. The flutes and single reeds are more warm and round, while the double reeds are more nasal and bright. !!Woodwinds are able to play fast scales and runs: In contrast to brass instruments, woodwinds can easily play faster runs and arpeggiated chords. In fact, this is a very usual way to use the woodwinds, as in the Buckbeaks Flight example. !!They cannot play chords Woodwind instruments are only able to play one note at a time. However they can play arpeggios effectively, which is chords played quickly, one note at a time. !!Transposing Instruments!The Bb Clarinet and the English Horn are transposing instruments in the woodwind section. !!Woodwind players need to breathe too: As with the brass section, woodwind players need to breathe while playing. Therefore it is important to create small breaks for the players, both within a phrase, and between phrases. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • !!The Instruments !!Piccolo: The piccolo is the highest pithed instrument in the woodwind family, and in the entire orchestra. It has a very penetrating and shrill quality when played loud, yet a soft and sweet tone when played softly. Good for huge tutti statements, but should be used sparingly, as it is very tiresome to listen to for the ears. Good blends: Doubling other woodwinds in octaves!!!!Flute: The flute is an edge-tone instrument. It has a rich and full tone in its middle range, and a more brilliant and penetrating higher register. Can both be used effectively as a solo instrument, as well as for doubling other instruments of the orchestra. Good blends: Doubling violins (very common), oboe and clarinet. !!!!!Oboe: The oboe is a double reed woodwind instrument, with a nasal and bright tone color. The expressive middle register is often used both for sad, melancholic themes as well as joyful melodies. !It has a very characteristic quality, both good for solo melodies, as well as for doubling other orchestral instruments. Good blends: Flute for a more mellow sound, clarinets for a fuller quality, or bassoons for a more powerful and deep sound. Both oboe and bassoons are double reed instruments, and therefore cooperate together very well.!

  • !!!Clarinet:!The clarinet is a single reed instrument, and has a mellow, warm and expressive tone color. Very effective for playing smooth and expressive legato passages. The lower register is dark, warm and melancholic when played solo. The upper register is most commonly used, and sounds very compact and bright. It is quite similar to the human voice, and can effectively express both desperation, love, joy and mourning. Good blends: Woodwinds, horn, and cello. Adds depth and warmth to other instruments when combined. !!Bassoon:The bassoon is a tenor and bass instrument, with a double reed mouthpiece as the oboe. Though the two instruments are similar, the bassoon is not as penetrating and sharp as its little brother. The differences between the registers of the instruments are very clear and pronounced, one of the true characteristics of the bassoon. The lower register is often used as a bass foundation, and is quite thick and heavy. Usage of the middle register is very common, often playing mysterious, emotional and melancholic melodies. The upper register sounds very compressed, yet lyrical and soft. Good blends: Woodwinds, horn, low brass and low strings. Adds a more powerful and mellow touch to other instruments when doubled. Takes some of the metallic edge of the brass instruments. !!In a large orchestra, the brass section will usually look like this:

    Flutes: 2-4Oboes: 2-4 Clarinets: 2-4 Bassoons: 2-4


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