A wind instrument consists of a tube containing a column of air which is set into vibration by the player blowing into (or over) a mouthpiece set into the end of the tube. The pitch is determined by the length of the tube and hence the length of the vibrating column of air.
A range of notes is obtained by:
- adjusting the effective length of the tube by one of
- opening holes in the side of the tube, or
- valves adding extra lengths of tubing in the middle, or
- lengthening the tube by a sliding mechanism
- getting the column of air to vibrate at different harmonics (see harmonic series).
- Brass instruments
- Woodwind instruments
A more accurate way to determine whether an instrument is brass or woodwind is to examine how the player produces sound. In brass instruments, the player's lips vibrate, and that causes the air enclosed within the instrument to vibrate. In woodwind instruments, however, the player either causes a reed to vibrate which then agitates the column of air (as in a clarinet or oboe), blows against an edge (as in a recorder), or blows across an open hole (as in a flute).
See also: Alpenhorn