In this article, we’ll look at some of the most recognisable , including examples from the woodwind, and families.
Wind instruments use a mouthpiece to create a vibrating flow of air which is amplified through the he earliest examples thought to have originated from animal horns which were employed as warning bells in past civilisations.
Now, there are hundreds of varieties, with the most common being woodwinds and .
The difference between woodwind and is relatively self-explanatory:
If you’re considering picking up one of these instruments, we recommend you first get a basic understanding of the different available.
In this article, we’re going to take a look at 12 different options, from the to the bagpipes – and recommend some great jazz recordings to check them out on!
The recorder is a simple-looking that has origins in Europe and rose to prominence in early classical music, especially during the Baroque period. It first appeared in the 14th century before periodically vanishing in the mid-eighteenth century.
In recent times, the is mostly associated with early education, with many children picking up a plastic version of the in primary school music class.
Due to its incorporation into music education, it is one of the most widely used however few musicians take the further than primary school.
That said, check out New York-based Israeli musician Tali Rubinstein for some killer jazz recorder playing!
This German . was created in the 1700s and remains one of the most well-known
The mouthpiece features a single and has a cylindrical tube shape. It’s similar in many ways to an , though somewhat easier to play making it a great choice for beginners.
Since its origins in the late 1700s, the has experienced numerous alterations until the 1800s. From then on, its structure has remained relatively constant.
Aside from the standard B-flat the E-flat , which is almost half the scale of a regular and the which plays in the lower registers., there are several other variations like
Clarinets are frequently used in orchestras and concert bands, as well as jazz ensembles.
Sidney Bechet, Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw are just a few famous jazz musicians to have played the in its early 20th Century heyday.
Although the bodies of saxophones are usually made of , they are technically classed as due to the used in the mouthpiece and their familial link with instruments like the .
The single- and around 22 keys (depending on the model) which are opened and closed to alter the pitch. mouthpiece features a
It’s a popular amongst beginners due to its versatility and the fact that an intermediate level can be reached relatively quickly, compared to other choices.
Although it was originally used in classical music, since the 1920s it has been utilised in all kinds of modern genres, perhaps most notably jazz where it’s been a feature of almost every of the music from swing and bebop through to contemporary jazz.
You can discover this beautiful the best saxophonists of all time. in action in our round up of
The is one of the first instruments to have ever been created and has been fashioned out of a variety of materials over the centuries.
It has a long history of being built from wood and bone, but the modern is fashioned out of silver and other metals.
Most flutes are side-blown (hence it’s official description as a ‘‘), though some lesser-known variations of the are end-blown instead, giving the a similar appearance to a recorder or tin whistle.
Unlike some of the previous instruments on this list, the lacks a and relies on air movement across an opening to make a .
An orchestra may have up to fifteen flutes depending on the setup and it appears in many more modern styles of jazz.
In fact, if you listen to many of the great large ensemble recordings in jazz, you’ll hear the subtle but important colour the adds to the music.
Due to its similarity in fingering, many jazz players will also play the , using it as a secondary .
Although it has a similar appearance, the Piccolo is about half the size of traditional flutes.
In fact, the ‘s name translates precisely to “half-size” in Italian – as those of you who’ve ever ordered a piccolo coffee will know!
Sometimes known as the Flauto piccolo, the Piccolo has the highest register in the pitched woodwind family. If you can already play the , you should have no trouble mastering this .
In jazz, it is far less common, though musicians like Hubert Laws, Sun Ra’s Marshall Allena and Lloyd McNeill have used the on their recordings.
Bassoons were first seen in orchestras in the early 17th century and became increasingly common during the 18th century.
The design of the the Curtal, an early . is a little unusual, originating from
It’s made up of a nine-foot-long extended pipe that gradually increases in diameter and is folded in half so it can be held with two hands.
The pipe is composed of wood and relies on the opening and closing of holes on the to change the pitch of notes – similar to a and .
To play the , you blow through a double which is connected to a curved mouthpiece.
The has a relatively low pitch, though not as low as its big brother, the contrabassoon which is significantly larger.
Whilst such a distinctive has not made its way into the mainstream of jazz, there are a handful of musicians in this genre playing .
For an introduction, check out the great Michael Rabinowitz.
The is perhaps the most popular , with many beginner musicians starting out on it.
Like the , it is incredibly versatile.
Its lively and brilliant can be heard across a variety of genres, from classical to pop and jazz.
Unlike the , though, it’s seriously old, with primitive versions of the are thought to have been used as signalling devices in Ancient cultures.
Whilst the Miles Davis and Louis Armstrong. is an essential part of the classical orchestra, it took on a new life in the 20th Century as a popular jazz played by the likes of
Miles Davis’s iconic album Kind of Blue is a great introduction to the ‘s in jazz.
The is the family’s largest ; the “grandfather” of the family if you like. As such, it’s also the lowest in terms of pitch.
The is mostly heard in orchestras and bands, but due to its bass register, it is sometimes used in jazz as a substitute for the double bass.
New Orleans style , which often perform outside, will use a band or sousaphone – a type of tube which is shaped to surround the player) for basslines due to its powerful and portability.
Whilst early examples of this date back to the early 20th Century, the forward-thinking styles of contemporary jazz. has seen somewhat of a renaissance in recent years, with players like Theon Cross popularising the use of the in more
You can read more about some of the most famous jazz tuba players of all time here.
A descendant of the , the has a similar mouthpiece and flared bell, but features a slide instead of valves for changing the pitch of notes.
It’s name actually comes from the Italian word for “large ” and the ‘s roots can be traced back to Europe when it was initially called a ‘sackbut’.
The slide gives the a fun and playful which lends itself well to jazz, but it’s also a powerful and important part of the classical orchestral and bands.
The ‘s musical register is relatively low but high enough to straddle the different musical clefs. Music is composed in the bass clef for wind bands, orchestras and big bands, while band trombonists will need to read music in treble clef.
Variations of the traditional jazz legend Bob Brookmeyer. include the alto, piccolo and bass as well as the valved which was famously used by
The euphonium is a that looks similar to a , only smaller.
Along with seven other (including the baritone and flugelhorn) are part of the ‘saxhorns’ family which, interestingly, was developed by – the inventor of the .
The euphonium itself was invented by Sommer of Weimar in 1843, combining the valved bugle (flügelhorn) and the cornet. It has a -like wide conical bore and is held vertically with the bell facing upwards, though in the US, the bell often faces forwards.
It has a powerful yet mellow tone and is a common feature in military marches and . bands due to its ability to blend with other
The euphonium is definitely less versatile than other such as the , and , but its is unique and beautifully soft.
Whilst it’s use in jazz is limited, there are some great examples out there, including this compilation.
Generally associated with Scotland, the bagpipes are an unusual that dates back to 100 BCE.
Variations of the can be found across Europe North Africa and the Persian Gulf and parts of Asia.
The consists of multiple pipes and a bag made from animal hide or fabric. The pipes produce a by the vibration of either a single or a double .
With most bagpipes, the bag – an airtight reservoir – is filled with air via a blowpipe and is directed through the pipes by applying pressure from the arms.
Most variations of the include at least one drone pipe which plays a constant note and at least one ‘chanter’ pipe which supplies the melody.
Bagpipes are quite complicated to play and rarely offered by schools and music services, so getting started with the isn’t particularly easy.
But, if you can source an and find a good tutor (and patient neighbours), it’s sure to be an interesting hobby!
The on the other hand is one of the most accessible to pick up and play.
Often used in blues and folk music, the is a simple often used to accompany singing. Bob Dylan, Stevie Wonder and Sonny Boy Williamson are just a few big names to have mastered the .
Also known as a mouth organ, the contains reeds that produce different notes depending on their length. They’re lightweight and usually inexpensive, but if you have the skill, it would more than hold up in a jam session.
One of the great examples of the in jazz is legendary European musician Toots Thielemans.
Thanks for reading this snapshot of the many and varied out there.
If you’re looking to learn a great jazz instruments for beginners., but not sure where to start, the or the are
Both are easy to come by, relatively inexpensive (if you choose a beginner option) and there are plenty of tutors out there who can show you the ropes.
Ready to research specific makes and models? Head over to our beginner’s guide to or our rundown of the best trombones for jazz .
The label ‘Discover Jazz’ is attached to articles which have been edited and published by Jazzfuel host Matt Fripp, but have been written in collaboration with various different jazz musicians and industry contributors. When appropriate, these musicians are quoted and name-checked inside the article itself!