Single-reed instrument

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The reeds of alto (left) and tenor saxophones. They are of comparable dimensions to alto and bass clarinet reeds, respectively. Saxophone reeds-alto, tenor.jpeg
The reeds of alto (left) and tenor saxophones. They are of comparable dimensions to alto and bass clarinet reeds, respectively.

A single-reed instrument is a woodwind instrument that uses only one reed to produce sound. The very earliest single-reed instruments were documented in ancient Egypt, as well as the Middle East, Greece, and the Roman Empire. [1] [ page needed ] The earliest types of single-reed instruments used idioglottal reeds, where the vibrating reed is a tongue cut and shaped on the tube of cane. Much later, single-reed instruments started using heteroglottal reeds, where a reed is cut and separated from the tube of cane and attached to a mouthpiece of some sort. By contrast, in a double reed instrument (such as the oboe and bassoon), there is no mouthpiece; the two parts of the reed vibrate against one another. Reeds are traditionally made of cane and produce sound when air is blown across or through them. The type of instruments that use a single reed are clarinets and saxophone. The timbre of a single and double reed instrument is related to the harmonic series caused by the shape of the corpus. E.g. the clarinet is only including the odd harmonics due to air column modes canceling out the even harmonics. [2] This may be compared to the timbre of a square wave. [3]

Contents

Most single-reed instruments are descended from single-reed idioglot instruments called 'memet', found in Egypt as early as 2700 BCE. [4] [ page needed ] Due to their fragility, no instruments from antiquity were preserved but iconographic evidence is prevalent. During the Old Kingdom in Egypt (2778–2723 BCE), memets were depicted on the reliefs of seven tombs at Saqqarra, six tombs at Giza, and the pyramids of Queen Khentkaus. [5] [ page needed ] Most memets were double-clarinets, where two reed tubes were tied or glued together to form one instrument. Multiple pipes were used to reinforce sound or generate a strong beat-tone with slight variations in tuning among the pipes. [6] [ page needed ] One of the tubes usually functioned as a drone, but the design of these simple instruments varied endlessly. [7] [ page needed ] The entire reed entered the mouth, meaning that the player could not easily articulate so melodies were defined by quick movement of the fingers on the tone holes. [1] [ page needed ] These types of double-clarinets are still prevalent today, but also developed into simplified single-clarinets and hornpipes. Modern-day idioglots found in Egypt include the arghul and the zummara. [1] [ page needed ]

Examples include clarinets, saxophones, and some bagpipes. See links to other examples below.

Classification

The ligature, mouthpiece, and reed of a clarinet. These three components are present in many modern European Classical single-reed instruments and tend to be aesthetically and mechanically similar. Selmer-clarinet-mouthpiece-reed-and-vandoren-ligature.jpg
The ligature, mouthpiece, and reed of a clarinet. These three components are present in many modern European Classical single-reed instruments and tend to be aesthetically and mechanically similar.

Single reed instruments fall under three Hornbostel–Sachs classes:

Comparing clarinets and saxophones

The following is a list of clarinets and saxophones, relative to their range and key of transposition from the opposite family:

Range Clarinet Saxophone
B Soprano Soprano Soprano
E Alto Alto Alto
B Tenor Bass Tenor
E Baritone Contra-alto Baritone
B Bass Contrabass Bass

Note that if one was to compare clarinets to their saxophone counterparts while considering their approximate lowest (concert) pitch†, the order would shift:

Lowest Pitch Clarinet Saxophone
~A3 E Soprano B Soprano
~D3 B Soprano E Alto
~A2 E Alto B Tenor
~B1 B Bass E Baritone
~A1 E Contra-alto B Bass
~B0 B Contrabass E Contrabass
†The lowest possible pitch of each clarinet and saxophone is dependent on its manufacturer and model (the pitches used are typical of professional instruments).

List of single-reed instruments

Modern

Historical

Chalumeau JAP 3 Klappen Chalumeau.jpg
Chalumeau

Traditional

Traditional
Birbyne front back.jpg
Treble/soprano birbynė
Sipsi.jpg
Bamboo sipsi
Mijwiz.jpg
Egyptian mijwiz
European
Middle Eastern
Southeast Asian

Playing a single reed instrument

Although the clarinet and saxophone both have a single reed attached to their mouthpiece, the playing technique or embouchure is distinct from each other.

The standard embouchures for single reed woodwinds like the clarinet and saxophone are variants of the single lip embouchure, formed by resting the reed upon the bottom lip, which rests on the teeth and is supported by the chin muscles and the buccinator muscles on the sides of the mouth. The top teeth rest on top of the mouthpiece. The manner in which the lower lip rests against the teeth differs between clarinet and saxophone embouchures. In clarinet playing, the lower lip is rolled over the teeth and corners of the mouth are drawn back, which has the effect of drawing the upper lip around the mouthpiece to create a seal due to the angle at which the mouthpiece rests in the mouth. With the saxophone embouchure, the lower lip rests against, but not over, the teeth as in pronouncing the letter "V" and the corners of the lip are drawn in (similar to a drawstring bag). With the less common double-lip embouchure, the top lip is placed under (around) the top teeth. In both instances, the position of the tongue in the mouth plays a vital role in focusing and accelerating the air stream blown by the player. This results in a more mature and full sound, rich in overtones.

Related Research Articles

Clarinet type of woodwind instrument

The clarinet is a family of woodwind instruments. It has a single-reed mouthpiece, a straight, cylindrical tube with an almost cylindrical bore, and a flared bell. A person who plays a clarinet is called a clarinetist.

Embouchure

Embouchure or lipping is the use of the lips, facial muscles, tongue, and teeth in playing a wind instrument. This includes shaping the lips to the mouthpiece of a woodwind instrument or the mouthpiece of a brass instrument. The word is of French origin and is related to the root bouche, 'mouth'. Proper embouchure allows instrumentalists to play their instrument at its full range with a full, clear tone and without strain or damage to their muscles.

Woodwind instrument Family of musical wind instruments

Woodwind instruments are a family of musical instruments within the more general category of wind instruments. Common examples include flute, clarinet, oboe, bassoon, and saxophone. There are two main types of woodwind instruments: flutes and reed instruments. The main distinction between these instruments and other wind instruments is the way in which they produce sound. All woodwinds produce sound by splitting the air blown into them on a sharp edge, such as a reed or a fipple. Despite the name, a woodwind may be made of any material, not just wood. Common examples include brass, silver, cane, as well as other metals such as gold and platinum. The saxophone, for example, though made of brass, is considered a woodwind because it requires a reed to produce sound. Occasionally, woodwinds are made out of earthen materials, especially ocarinas.

Reed (mouthpiece)

A reed is a thin strip of material that vibrates to produce a sound on a musical instrument. Most woodwind instrument reeds are made from Arundo donax or synthetic material. Tuned reeds are made of metal or synthetics. Musical instruments are classified according to the type and number of reeds.

Hornbostel–Sachs or Sachs–Hornbostel is a system of musical instrument classification devised by Erich Moritz von Hornbostel and Curt Sachs, and first published in the Zeitschrift für Ethnologie in 1914. An English translation was published in the Galpin Society Journal in 1961. It is the most widely used system for classifying musical instruments by ethnomusicologists and organologists. The system was updated in 2011 as part of the work of the Musical Instrument Museums Online (MIMO) Project.

Chalumeau Woodwind instrument; predecessor of modern clarinet

The chalumeau is a single-reed woodwind instrument of the late baroque and early classical eras. The chalumeau is a folk instrument that is the predecessor to the modern-day clarinet. It has a cylindrical bore with eight tone holes and a broad mouthpiece with a single heteroglot reed made of cane. Similar to the clarinet, the chalumeau overblows a twelfth.

Overblowing is a technique used while playing a wind instrument that causes the sounded pitch to jump to a higher one primarily through the manipulation of the supplied air rather than by a fingering change or the operation of a slide. Depending on the instrument, and to a lesser extent the player, overblowing may involve a change in the air pressure, in the point at which the air is directed, or in the resonance characteristics of the chamber formed by the mouth and throat of the player. In some instruments, overblowing may also involve the direct manipulation of the vibrating reed(s), and/or the pushing of a register key while otherwise leaving fingering unaltered. With the exception of harmonica overblowing, the pitch jump is from one vibratory mode of the reed or air column, e.g., its fundamental, to an overtone. Overblowing can be done deliberately in order to get a higher pitch, or inadvertently, resulting in the production of a note other than that intended.

The arghul, also spelled argul, arghoul, arghool, argol, or yarghul, is a musical instrument in the reed family. It has been used since ancient Egyptian times and is still used as a traditional instrument in Egypt and Palestine.

Tenor saxophone Type of saxophone

The tenor saxophone is a medium-sized member of the saxophone family, a group of instruments invented by Adolphe Sax in the 1840s. The tenor and the alto are the two most commonly used saxophones. The tenor is pitched in the key of B (while the alto is pitched in the key of E), and written as a transposing instrument in the treble clef, sounding an octave and a major second lower than the written pitch. Modern tenor saxophones which have a high F key have a range from A2 to E5 (concert) and are therefore pitched one octave below the soprano saxophone. People who play the tenor saxophone are known as "tenor saxophonists", "tenor sax players", or "saxophonists".

Zhaleika

The zhaleika, also known as bryolka (брёлка), is the Slavic wind instrument, most used in Belarussian, Russian and sometimes Ukrainian ethnic music. Also known as a "folk clarinet" or hornpipe. The zhaleika was eventually incorporated into the balalaika band, the Hungarian tarogato, and may have contributed to the development of the chalumeau, a predecessor of the clarinet.

Double reed Type of reed used to produce sound in various wind instruments

A double reed is a type of reed used to produce sound in various wind instruments. In contrast with a single reed instrument, where the instrument is played by channeling air against one piece of cane which vibrates against the mouthpiece and creates a sound, a double reed features two pieces of cane vibrating against each other. The term double reeds can also refer collectively to the class of instruments which use double reeds.

A multiphonic is an extended technique on a monophonic musical instrument in which several notes are produced at once. This includes wind, reed, and brass instruments, as well as the human voice. Multiphonic-like sounds on string instruments, both bowed and hammered, have also been called multiphonics, for lack of better terminology and scarcity of research.

Double clarinet

The term double clarinet refers to any of several woodwind instruments consisting of two parallel pipes made of cane, bird bone, or metal, played simultaneously, with a single reed for each. Commonly, there are five or six tone holes in each pipe, or holes in only one pipe while the other acts as a drone, and the reeds are either cut from the body of the instrument or created by inserting smaller, slit tubes into the ends of the pipes. The player typically uses circular breathing.

Mouthpiece (woodwind)

The mouthpiece of a woodwind instrument is that part of the instrument which is placed partly in the player's mouth. Single-reed instruments, capped double-reed instruments, and fipple flutes have mouthpieces while exposed double-reed instruments and open flutes do not. The characteristics of a mouthpiece and reed can play a significant role on the sound of the instrument.

Reed aerophones is one of the categories of musical instruments found in the Hornbostel-Sachs system of musical instrument classification. In order to produce sound with these Aerophones the player's breath is directed against a lamella or pair of lamellae which periodically interrupt the airflow and cause the air to be set in motion.

Wind instrument Class of musical instruments with air resonator

A wind instrument is a musical instrument that contains some type of resonator in which a column of air is set into vibration by the player blowing into a mouthpiece set at or near the end of the resonator. The pitch of the vibration is determined by the length of the tube and by manual modifications of the effective length of the vibrating column of air. In the case of some wind instruments, sound is produced by blowing through a reed; others require buzzing into a metal mouthpiece, while yet others require the player to blow into a hole at an edge, which splits the air column and creates the sound.

Saxophone technique

Saxophone technique refers to the physical means of playing the saxophone. It includes how to hold the instrument, how the embouchure is formed and the airstream produced, tone production, hands and fingering positions, and a number of other aspects. Instrumental technique and corresponding pedagogy is a topic of much interest to musicians and teachers and therefore has been subjected to personal opinions and differences in approach. Over the course of the saxophone’s performance history, notable saxophonists have contributed much to the literature on saxophone technique.

The mouthpiece of a wind instrument is that part of the instrument which is placed partly in the player's mouth or on the player's lips. The mouthpiece is a circular opening that is enclosed by a rim and that leads to the instrument via a semi-spherical or conical cavity called the cup. From the cup, a smaller opening leads into a tapered cylindrical passage called the backbore. The backbore is housed in a tapered shank, which is inserted into an opening called the receiver on the main body of the instrument. Single-reed instruments, capped double-reed instruments, and fipple flutes have mouthpieces while exposed double-reed instruments and open flutes do not. The characteristics of a mouthpiece and reed can play a significant role on the sound of the instrument. On all brass instruments, sound is produced when the player's vibrating lips (embouchure) cause the air column inside the instrument to vibrate. This is done by pressing the lips together and blowing air through them in order to produce a 'buzz.' The mouthpiece is where this lip vibration takes place. On most instruments, the mouthpiece can be detached from the main instrument in order to facilitate putting the instrument in its case, to use different mouthpieces with the same instrument, or to 'play' the mouthpiece by itself to exercise the player's embouchure.

References

  1. 1 2 3 Hoeprich, E (2008). The Clarinet. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
  2. Donald Murray Campbell, Arnold Myers; et. al. (2004). Musical Instruments: History, Technology, and Performance of Instruments of Western Music , p.53-5. Oxford. ISBN   9780198165040.
  3. Foster, Caxton C. and Soloway, Elliott (1981). Real Time Programming , p.165. Addison-Wesley. ISBN   9780201019377. "One will play a square wave and sound rather like a bagpipe or other double-reed instrument."
  4. Midgley, R, ed. (1976). Musical Instruments of the World. United States: Diagram Visual Information Ltd.
  5. Rice, A.R. (1992). The Baroque Clarinet. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
  6. Rendall, G.F. (1971). The Clarinet: Some notes upon its history and construction. New York, NY: W.W. Norton and Company.
  7. Kroll, O (1968). The Clarinet. New York, NY: Taplinger Publishing Company.