The world of woodwinds is a varied and exciting place filled with a wide range of instruments, both with and without reeds, which can produce very different sounds. Popular among students and classical players as well as jazz and even pop musicians, woodwind instruments are extremely versatile, yet each has different strengths and sounds. Single reed and double reed instruments both use cut reeds made from cane or synthetic materials that vibrate against the mouthpiece or each other to produce sound, while the reedless woodwinds use no moving parts, just air, to produce a much different tone.
The single reed instruments are perhaps the most popular woodwinds and can add a bright, woody dimension to a concert band, jazz ensemble and more. Both are available in multiple variations to achieve different ranges, but B-flat clarinets and the tenor and alto saxophone are the most popular. Clarinets offer an impressive pitch range, while the saxophone is generally used in a larger variety of musical styles.
Double reed instruments have a throatier timbre that was perhaps best described by American playwright Tony Kushner as what a duck would sound like if a duck were a songbird. The oboe and bassoon are the best-known examples and are available in starter models, professional models and everything in between, not to mention quality replacement bocals to enhance the response, resistance and tone.
If you're looking for the purest aerophone sound, a reedless instrument is the one class of woodwinds that uses only wind and no moving parts to produce its tone. From the accessible recorder, popular among students, to the more demanding Western concert flute and piccolo, reedless instruments offer a versatile, airy timbre and high range that's common in orchestras, concert bands, world music, jazz and even rock bands such as Jethro Tull, Genesis and The Beatles.