Basic Wind Instrument Tube Types
The tubes discussed in the previous section were all simple cylinder-shaped tubes. Just as on a string, the actual wave inside the instrument is a complex wave that includes all of those possible harmonics. A cylinder makes a good musical instrument because all the waves in the tube happen to have simple, harmonic-series-type relationships. This becomes very useful when the player over blows in order to get more notes. As mentioned above, woodwind players get different notes out of their instruments by opening and closing finger holes, making the standing wave tube longer or shorter. Once the player has used all the holes, higher notes are played by over blowing, which causes the next higher harmonic of the tube to sound. (Brass players can get many different harmonics from their instruments, and so do not need as many fingerings. Please see harmonic series and Wind Instruments ・Some Basics for more on this.)For most possible tube shapes, a new set of holes would be needed to get notes that are in tune with the lower set of notes. But a couple of shapes, including the cylinder, give higher notes that are basically in tune with the lower notes using the same finger holes (or valves). (Even so, some extra finger holes or an extra slide or valve may be necessary.) Another possible shape is basically not used because it would be difficult to build precisely and unwieldy to play. (Basically, it has to flare rapidly, and flare at a very specific rate.
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