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November 14 2015

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Choosing a Musical Instrument For the Child - A Parents' Guide to Woodwinds

Many people find themselves thrown in the world of musical instruments they are fully aware nothing about when their kids first begin music at school. Knowing the basics of proper instrument construction, materials, deciding on a good store in which to rent or get yourself a dvd instruments is extremely important. Precisely what process should a parent or gaurdian follow to make the best choices for their child? - DJ Battlecat type beat 2015

Clearly the first task is to choose an instrument. Let your child have their own choice. Kids don't make very many big decisions with regards to their life, and this is a big one that can be very empowering. I'm also able to say from personal experience that youngsters have a natural intuition about what is good for them. Ultimately, my strongest advice would be to put a child in a room to try no more than 3-5 different choices, and let them make their choice in line with the sound they like best.

These details are intended to broaden your horizons, to never create a preference, or to put you in a position to nit-pick within the store! Most instruments are extremely well made these days, picking a respected retailer will allow you to trust recommendations. Ask your school and/or private music teacher where to shop.

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


All Woodwinds involve a relatively complex, interconnected mechanism which needs to be regulated so that the keys all move and seal the holes in the instrument when they are likely to. Your trusted local retailer will likely be sure to get you a guitar that is 'set up', although many new instruments come good to go out of the box. When you are dealing with a brand new instrument, you should bring it back to a shop for a check-up after about Three months, or sooner in case there are any issues. Because each of the materials are new and tight, they will often come out of regulation as the instrument is broken in. This can be normal. You should count on this kind of regulation every 12-18 months, or sooner if your instrument is played a good deal.

Woodwinds also have pads. Pads would be the part of the instrument that seal over the holes in the body with the instrument (toneholes). A perfect seal is required to produce the correct note. Tuning and audio quality are affected by a correctly 'seated' pad. These also occasionally give up, as part of your regular maintenance, although very rarely all at once. When all pads should 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 is the rare procedure, and often reserved for professionals. The upkeep repair is the most common one for mothers and fathers. - DJ Battlecat type beat 2015

Because of the many rods and key-cups (these contain the pads), there are a lot of very sensitive, very easy to bend parts of these instruments. Knowing 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 could be the cause of the most common repairs, as well as bumping into things.


Interestingly, not every woodwinds are made from wood. Flutes and saxophones are made primarily of metals; Nickel-silver and silver for Flutes, and generally Brass for Saxophones. We'll stay with these materials of these instruments for simplicity's sake, as there are increasingly more choices available.

Through out the Woodwind instruments, wood is definitely employed for the main construction in the instruments.

Flutes & Saxophones

Student Flutes are manufactured from Nickel-Silver, then plated in silver. Nickel-Silver is often a combination of brass with Nickel, that includes a similar look to Silver when polished, hence its name. Among its primary advantages is that it is stronger than brass or silver independently. As you progress to better instruments more Silver is used, starting with the headjoint (which is most important factor in a quality of sound). More about headjoints later.

Saxophones are generally made from brass. Try to find a musical instrument that has 'ribbing' on the body; extra plates of brass offering structural support over a location 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 made from Nickel-Silver, which is a good technique of strength in a vulnerable area.

Clarinets and Oboes

Clarinet and Oboe bodies are typically made of ABS plastic for student instruments. A great strategy for bumps, and also against the maintenance habits and climate changes that students face. Intermediate and professional instruments are constructed with 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 might cause the wood to be expanded and crack. Likewise, bringing your instrument to high school on a cold day and playing it without letting it to come to room temperature will cause it to crack, or perhaps rupture. This is caused a pressure differential from your warm air column on the inside of the instrument, in comparison to the cold temperature outside of the instrument. If you choose to get a wood instrument, be sure your student ready and able to look after it properly.

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


Student Bassoons are made from ABS plastic, but there are many new makers in the market that offer Hard Rubber, as well as Maple (used in professional instruments). A downside for Hard Rubber Bassoons is they are quite heavy. When you can get a good wood Bassoon for a reasonable price, then choose this. Wood offers the best acoustics for Bassoon, and will make the difference between a noticeable sound, and one that is certainly rich and interesting.

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


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

No matter the instrument, this is the area of the whole that makes the best impact on the quality of the sound, in conjunction with the player's personal physical attributes. Students generally use whatever they get from their teacher, but several tips about how to get the most from your equipment. Receiving a good mouthpiece can precede, and even postpone the purchase of a new Clarinet or Sax, so great will be the difference with hard rubber.
(For Flute, be sure that your headjoint cork is properly aligned, and never dried out. Your local retailer will highlight how to do this. In case there are problems, have them fixed immediately, or choose a different flute. For more intermediate flutes, pick a headjoint that is not only made entirely of Silver, but is hand-cut. This won't always be easier to play to start with, but the sound quality improvement is definitely worth making the leap. Silver sounds better than Nickel-Silver, producing a better tone quality, with more room for changing the high quality according to the player's needs. You can buy headjoints separately, but it can be very 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 the other when air passes bewteen barefoot and shoes. Advanced oboists/bassoonists make reeds for their own reasons, a time-consuming, skill-heavy task. It requires many years to learn to create reeds for yourself, that work well. Fortunately, you will find ready-made reeds that generally meet the needs of the student player. One important element you should test is always 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 which has a tuner.

Clarinets and Saxophones work with a single reed (small bit of very well shaped and profiled cane) linked with a mouthpiece (with a ring called a 'ligature') that vibrates when air is passed between the two. The combination of these parts is the vital thing to a good sound. Most students obtain a plastic mouthpiece to begin with. Good plastic mouthpieces are produced by Yamaha for both Clarinet and Saxophone, together with the designation of '4C'. I recommend a '5C' if it is available. It's going to be a little harder to try out at first, but a fantastic way to get a bigger sound correct off the bat. If you need to get a better quality of sound with increased room for good loud and soft playing while keeping and introducing a rich tone, then consider 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. These are generally 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. The local retailer should stock a minimum of two of these brands that you can try - and you need to try them! Because these are usually hand finished, they are generally subtly different.

How about sizes?

Clarinet and Saxophone mouthpieces have a diverse range of different sizing areas, as well as the sake of simplicity, the most important is the 'tip opening'. Tip opening refers back 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, even though 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 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 may be listed as 5, 5*, 6, 6*, 7, etc. The 'star' numbers is highly recommended half-sizes. Letters work exactly the same as numbers generally speaking; C, C*, D, D*, etc.

To provide your student a leg up, aim for a '6', or 'D' sizing. This is bigger than what they are utilized to, but will pay off which has a bigger sound right away. Some notes on the ends of your range, both high and low, will likely suffer, however, this is only temporary because you adjust to the new mouthpiece and develop greater strength.

Other considerations

Oil and Adjust. This treatment needs to be conducted in your student's instrument annually, and up frequently, if there is plenty of playing. The mechanics with the interconnected parts is delicate, and arrives of alignment often.

Bore oiling. Once a year this will be required on Clarinets and Oboes to assist guard against cracking.

Avoid cheap instruments. With musical instruments you get what you buy. There are a lot of instruments originating from India and China now. Most are excellent, while many others shouldn't even have been made. Any local, respected dealer needs to have those that are reliable, and may stand behind them. Your big-box Costco, Wal-Mart, Best Buy, and e-Bay has no understanding 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 a developing and interested student will be needing. 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 often very well trained and section of a history of excellent wind instrument making. Your neighborhood, trusted retailer will help to guide you in the choices available, and don't forget that just because it says USA, or Paris into it, does not mean it was manufactured in these places. Increase which mean sometimes making these products part of the 'name' of the instrument.((The amount should I spend?

That's the big question. Know 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's a list of acceptable and approximate pricing (at that time that this is being written) for brand new student instruments that works for both American and Canadian currency.

When should I buy a better instrument, and Why?

60 years ago, there were no 'student' and 'intermediate' instruments. Manufacturers were just going to the realization that there was a growing, post-war market that was changing to compliment a more commercial model of instrument making. Today, instruments are engineered to get you to buy three times. First as a beginner, then as an advancing student, last but not least as a professional. Clearly, this can be a model that makes a lot of money for manufacturers.

For the right reasons, I often encourage parents first of all the better instrument, or possibly a good used intermediate or professional instrument. Starting on better equipment is like starting on that slightly larger mouthpiece; receiving a bigger, better sound is encouraging. The greater construction and materials mix of these better instruments may also leave more room to develop. So what are the right reasons? Listed here is a list that works not merely as guide in order to to choose the right instrument, but for what you should watch for to help you musical growth:

-Going with a school with a strong music program.
-Getting private lessons, or has requested some. (Check with private teacher for recommendations before selecting, this will help.)
-Practicing without parental encouragement
-Has at least 4 years of playing in advance of them.

These factors are great indicators of whether to buy, and whether or not to buy intermediate or professional. When the bulk of these are unclear, think about a rental for a year to find out if they get any clearer, and supplement with regular (weekly) private lessons.

Music is an investment that requires attention coming from a variety of angles, as well as the instrument itself is simply a small step. Being armed with the knowledge of how to get the instrument is just a part of a process that a parent can - and will - be actively associated with. Many parents don't know anything about this, but now you do! Ask the questions you should know, and you'll be just fine getting the new instrument.

Don't be the product, buy the product!