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

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Many people find themselves thrown in to 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 selecting a good store in which to rent or purchase a copy instruments is extremely important. Precisely what process should a parent or gaurdian follow to make the best ways for their child?

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Clearly step one is to choose an instrument. Let your child have their own choice. Kids don't make developed solid relationships . big decisions regarding life, and this is a major one that can be very empowering. I can also say from personal experience that youngsters have a natural intuition about what is good for them. Ultimately, my strongest advice is always to put a child in to a room to try a maximum of 3-5 different choices, and permit them to make their choice based on the sound they like best.

This information is intended to broaden your horizons, never to create a preference, or to put you in a position to nit-pick in 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 best places to shop.

Woodwind instruments are produced all over the world, but primarily in the USA, 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 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 is going to be sure to get you a musical instrument 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 need to bring it back to the shop for a check-up after about A few months, or sooner in case there are any issues. Because all of the materials are new and tight, they might come out of regulation because instrument is broken in. This is normal. You should trust this kind of regulation every 12-18 months, or sooner if your instrument is played a whole lot.

Woodwinds also have pads. Pads include the part of the instrument that seal within the holes in the body of the instrument (toneholes). A perfect seal is necessary to 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 need to be replaced (once every 8-10 years), this is accomplished as part of a comprehensive 'overhaul' of the instrument which includes taking all this apart, cleaning it, refitting and tightening loose parts, and replacing springs and corks as necessary. This can be a rare procedure, and customarily reserved for professionals. The upkeep 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, an easy task to bend parts of these instruments. Focusing on how to assemble them properly is very 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, 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 usually Brass for Saxophones. We'll stay with these materials of those instruments for simplicity's sake, because there are increasingly more choices available.

Throughout the Woodwind instruments, wood is actually employed for the main construction in 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, which has a similar look to Silver when polished, hence its name. Certainly one of its primary advantages is that it is stronger than brass or silver automatically. As you progress to higher instruments more Silver is utilized, starting with the headjoint (which is most important factor in a top quality of sound). More on headjoints later.

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

Clarinets and Oboes

Clarinet and Oboe bodies are typically made of Abs plastic, fiberglass for student instruments. This is 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 must be protected against cracking. In case a student doesn't swab their instrument out after playing, the moisture might cause the wood to flourish and crack. Likewise, bringing your instrument to school on a cold day and playing it without allowing it to come to room temperature will cause it to crack, or perhaps rupture. This is caused a pressure differential out of your warm air column on the medial side the instrument, compared to the cold temperature outside of the instrument. If you choose to get a wood instrument, make certain your student is ready and able to look after it properly.

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


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

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


With all 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 (which has a single reed)
Oboe: Double reed (two reeds tied along with a hole in between)
Bassoon: Double reed (two reeds tied along with a hole in between)

Regardless of instrument, this is the the main whole that makes the best impact on the quality of the sound, along with the player's personal physical attributes. Students generally use what they get from their teacher, but below are some tips about how to get the most from your equipment. Receiving a good mouthpiece can precede, and also postpone the purchase of a new Clarinet or Sax, so great is the difference with hard rubber.
(For Flute, make sure your headjoint cork is properly aligned, instead of dried out. Your local retailer will disclose how to do this. If there are problems, have them fixed straight away, or choose a different flute. For 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 at first, but the sound quality improvement will be worth making the leap. Silver sounds much better than Nickel-Silver, producing a better tone quality, with an increase of room for changing the high quality according to the player's needs. You can purchase headjoints separately, but it can be very expensive, and I advise using this until you reach an experienced 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 for themselves, a time-consuming, skill-heavy task. It will take many years to learn to make reeds for yourself, that work well. Fortunately, you'll find ready-made reeds that generally meet the needs of the student player. One primary factor you should test is to assure that the reed 'crows' perfectly with the pitch 'C'. Crowing a reed is blowing through it if it's not attached to the instrument. Test the crow using a tuner.

Clarinets and Saxophones make use of a single reed (small part of very well shaped and profiled cane) stuck just using a mouthpiece (by a ring called a 'ligature') that vibrates when air is passed between the two. The combination of these parts is essential to a good sound. Most students get a plastic mouthpiece to start out. Good plastic mouthpieces are manufactured by Yamaha for both Clarinet and Saxophone, with all the designation of '4C'. I recommend a '5C' if it is available. It will be a little harder to play at first, but a great way to get a bigger make sense off the bat. If you'd like to get a better quality of sound with more room for good loud and soft playing while maintaining and introducing a refreshing tone, then look at a Hard Rubber Mouthpiece. Hard rubber provides improvement over plastic acoustically, and must be hand finished, unlike the plastic variety, which is spit out of a mold and polished/tumbled for shine. They are noticeably more expensive, nevertheless, you should expect to spend from the $100-150 range for a decent Hard Rubber mouthpiece. Good names include: Selmer, Vandoren, Otto Link, Meyer, Yamaha, and Leblanc. The local retailer should stock at least two of these brands for you to try - and you need to try them! Because these are usually hand finished, they are usually subtly different.

What about sizes?

Clarinet and Saxophone mouthpieces have a diverse range of different sizing areas, as well as the sake of simplicity, the key is the 'tip opening'. Tip opening refers to the distance between the tip with the reed and the tip in the mouthpiece. Sadly, there's no standardized system for measuring tip openings, although they are commonly measured in millimetres, or by using a numbering system (usually beginning at number 5, trainees sizing), or even letters. The metric method usually includes two to three numbers; a job opening 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 in general; C, C*, D, D*, etc.

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


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

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

Avoid cheap instruments. With instruments you get what you pay for. There are a lot of instruments via India and China now. The majority are excellent, while many others should not even have been made. Your neighborhood, respected dealer really should have those that are reliable, and may stand behind them. Your big-box Costco, Wal-Mart, Biggest score, and e-Bay has no comprehension of these matters, and functions for bottom line only. Avoid these places. They can not possibly offer you the continuing assistance, service, or repair which a developing and interested student need. If you choose this route, obtain American, European, or Japanese-made instruments. This will be a major separator of good from bad. People that make in these places are often very well trained and portion of a history of excellent wind instrument making. The local, trusted retailer will assist you to guide you in the choices available, and don't forget that just because it says USA, or Paris onto it, does not mean it was manufactured in these places. Functions sometimes making these products part of the 'name' of the instrument.((The amount should I spend?

This is the big question. Bear in mind that popular instruments, like Flute and Clarinet, are less expensive because they are made in greater quantities. Some instruments, like Oboe and Bassoon, are challenging and time-consuming to produce, making them more expensive. Here is a list of acceptable and approximate pricing (at that time that this is being written) for first time student instruments that works for both American and Canadian currency.

Last updated 568 days ago by waletypebeat4