Friday, January 19, 2018
Secrets of the School Band Pt. 2 - Woodwind Section
The third in our series on School Music - the Woodwind Section.
This is where the magic happens. As I write this, I'm listening to a very enthusiastic saxophone solo that's come up on our Spotify playlist - and watching the boys in the shop dancing around imitating the enigmatic sax player, who no doubt has an audience full of screaming fans watching him play live.
Everyone who grew up with The Simpsons wants to play sax. But it's not the only fish in the Woodwind sea - there are many just as exciting options for the child (or adult!) who wants to make music without the hassle of lugging a guitar (or drum kit!) around.
One of the most popular instruments in the Woodwind section is the Flute. Today's school Flutes are made of silver or silver-plate, but back in the day - or even today in the really high end models - they were made of wood, hence the "woodwind" classification. They are played by blowing across the mouthpiece and holding out to the side, and make the sweetest sound - or you can jazz it up with some hip-hop tonging techniques a la Future.
The other most popular instrument in the School Band is the Bb (B Flat) Clarinet. Bands use Clarinets like Violins, so they have lots of them - they make up the bulk of the sound. The Clarinet is a reed instrument, which means it is played by blowing over a thin reed in the mouthpiece, which vibrates, creating sound. So reeds are something you will need to keep a good stock of. But the investment is worth it - Clarinets make gorgeous music and can be very versatile - who can forget the Beatles' smash hit When I'm Sixty Four. Plus, they pack up into tiny cases which make for easy carrying. What's not to love?
The Woodwind instrument that needs no introduction is the Saxophone. But did you know they come in different sizes? From the small, straight Soprano Sax, to the booming, massive Baritone Sax, this sexy beast has all music markets covered. But the two that are used in School Bands are the Alto (pictured) and the slightly larger Tenor. Made of brass, but classified as Woodwind due to the sound coming from the vibration of the reed, they are played in a very similar way to the Clarinet - in fact the Saxophone was invented by a man named Adolphe Sax, who wanted an instrument that was similar to the Clarinet, but easier to play. With the Clarinet, you need to learn different fingerings for each note, but on the Sax you can just hit an octave key and use the same fingering for say a high F# and a low F#. Another interesting point to note is that the famous saxophone used by Lisa Simpson is - for some reason - a Baritone. Bari Saxes are massive and not used very often in schools, due to simply being too big for most kids to handle. Interesting choice, Mr Groening.
Apart from the Flute, Clarinet, Alto Sax and Tenor Sax, the only other Woodwind instrument you are likely to find in a school band is the Bass Clarinet. It looks, and plays, just like the Bb Clarinet, but loooonger, and with a curved headjoint. This baby is usually given to the taller kids in the group, and there is usually only one per class. Beautiful, deep, soulful music comes out of these.
Here at The Music Spot, we stock all the popular school band instruments, and can order in the rarer items, like Bass Clarinet. We can even order Woodwinds that aren't played in school, like Oboes and Bassoons, in case you decide to take up something a little more.. extra ;)
As well as all the instruments, we also stock all the accessories you could ever need, as each instrument has it's own special requirements. Next week we will have a closer look at the way we make Back To School time easier for parents, with our pre-made Accessory Packs.
Until then, keep being awesome!