The piccolo, flute, oboe, English horn, bassoon, clarinet, and saxophone are all instruments of the woodwind family. Most of these instruments were once of made of wood, and because they are played by blowing with air or wind, they are called woodwind.
All woodwind instruments are made out of a tube, usually with holes in it. When all holes are covered, air goes all the way to the end of the tube and makes a low sound. When the holes are open, the air goes only a little way and make a high sound. The woodwind instrument with the shortest tubing and the highest sound is the piccolo. To further increase their range of notes, most of the woodwind instruments come in different sizes (eg. soprano saxophone, alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, etc.).
Woodwind instruments may make sounds in three different ways. Some, like the flute, make a sound by blowing air across a tone hole.Single reed instruments, like the clarinet and saxophone, use a single piece of cane, which vibrates, to produce a sound. The oboe, English horn, and bassoon used a double reed, or two pieces of cane vibrating against each other, to make a sound.
The trumpet, cornet, French horn, trombone, baritone or euphonium, tuba, and sousaphone are common members of the brass family. Generally, these instruments are all made of brass.
On a brass instrument, sound is produced by buzzing the lips. You can get an idea of buzzing by blowing up a balloon, then stretching the opening and letting the air out. The squealing noise is very similar to the buzz a French horn player makes. Try to buzz your own lips. Lick your lips, place them together as if saying "mmmm," and blow, keeping your lips together. This should make a buzz. The mouthpiece of brass instruments helps to control and to make the sound clearer. The rest of the brass instrument makes the sound louder.
Most of the brass instruments have a lot of tubing that is curled up. The instrument with the most tubing, the tuba, plays the lowest notes; the trumpet, with the least tubing, plays the highest notes. Valves are used to open up different lengths of tubing. When tubes are opened, the sound is lowered depending on the length of the tube. The trombone does not have any valves. The trombone changes pitch by pulling the slide in and out.
To play a brass instrument, you need a good ear for music as any fingering on the instrument can make many different pitches. The brass player must know what sound to make before the note is played.
A percussion instrument is one that is shaken or hit to make a sound. The drum set is only of many different percussion instruments. A good percussionist should be able to play them all and will need to have a good sense of rhythm. Experience playing keyboard instruments such as the piano will also certainly help when playing the pitched instruments.
Some percussion instruments can play melodies. These are called tuned percussion. The xylophone,glockenspiel, marimba, vibraphone, and timpani are all tuned percussion instruments. Other percussion instruments that do not produce a definite pitch are generally called unpitched percussion. These include most drums (snare drum, bass drum, drum set, etc.) and also other instruments used mostly for special effects. Some of these instruments which add colour to an ensemble are the triangle, gong, castanets, rattle, cowbell, woodblock, tambourine, maracas, claves and whistles.