Getting the Sound Started
In most wind instruments, the air is blown into the instrument at or near one end of the tube and exits at the other end. The place where the air is blown in is the mouthpiece. It is often detachable from the instrument, allowing the player to use the same mouthpiece on different instruments, or different mouthpieces on the same instrument, as needed. The sound vibration usually begins at the mouthpiece, and mouthpiece types classify wind instruments.Reed instruments use small, rectangular pieces of reed plants (the pieces are called simply reeds) in their mouthpieces. The reed vibrates very quickly, opening and closing the end of the instrument like an incredibly fast valve. When the rapid puffs of air coming through this "valve" cause a sympathetic vibration of the air in the body of the instrument, the result is a woodwind sound. When they don't, the result is a squeak familiar to all reed players. In a single-reed instrument, the reed vibrates against the mouthpiece. In a double-reed instrument, two pieces of reed vibrate against each other.In flute-type instruments, a narrow airstreams vibrates quickly over and under a sharp edge. (Please see Flutes for more about how this type of mouthpiece works.)In brass instruments, the player's lips vibrate against each other and against the rim of a cup mouthpiece. Note that an instrument is classified as brass not because it is made of metal, but because it has this type of mouthpiece, which relies on vibrating lips.In all of these cases, the mouthpiece vibration is the original vibration that the rest of the instrument picks up, magnifies, and turns into a pretty sound.
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