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Wind instruments

A wind instrument is any instrument whose sound is produced by a column of air vibrating inside some sort of tube, or pipe.  But I’d like to clear up a common misconception: Wind players aren’t blowing away to try to fill up their instruments with air —the air inside a wind instrument is already there.

Picture a flute, for example, or a clarinet, or tuba… the instruments are open, not closed—open at both ends, in fact—so the air inside is always there. What wind players use their breath for is to produce vibrations.  And the vibrations that are produced, whether in a reed or in a mouthpiece, are what cause the column of air inside the instrument to vibrate. Flutists, for example, don’t blow into their mouthpieces, they blow across them, just the way you blow across a bottle top to make the air in the bottle vibrate.  And tuba players don’t have to fill a whole tuba with air, they just have to make a buzzing sound in their mouthpieces.  

A Minute with Miles is a production of South Carolina Public Radio, made possible by the J.M. Smith Corporation.

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Miles Hoffman is the founder and violist of the American Chamber Players, with whom he regularly tours the United States, and the Virginia I. Norman Distinguished Visiting Professor of Chamber Music at the Schwob School of Music, in Columbus, Georgia. He has appeared as viola soloist with orchestras across the country, and his solo performances on YouTube have received well over 700,000 views.