Woodwind instruments accessories, what are they and how to use them

There are a ton of accessories for woodwind instruments, but some of them don’t work with all the instruments, a lot of them have variants and some of them work in a very intuitive way, and only make sense until someone explains to you how they work.

We’ll explain to you the accessories, what do they do and where to get them. This guide is for beginners, meaning we don’t explain why they work, how they are made, how to modify them, or how to get a custom-made accessory.

List

  • Bags & Cases
  • Cleaning Kits
  • Ligatures & Caps
  • Mouthpieces
  • Reeds
  • Stands 
  • Straps

Bags & Cases

Woodwind instruments are fragile and might break easily. Due to its nature and what the instrument is made of, you need bags and cases as protection. Also, a woodwind instrument has plenty of holes in which dirt can enter. It is convenient to carry your instrument in a protective bag, as it saves space and hassle-free.

Bags can be anything, just check your instrument measurements and get a bag slightly bigger in every dimension, get a material for the bag that it’s resistant to the weight and in a color that doesn’t let people see that you’re carrying an instrument, just in case. 

Cases are the evolution to that idea, safer, made specifically for the instrument, but slightly heavier and more expensive. Some cases come with a handle or even wheels for easier transportation, so at the end it’s just a question of how much are you planning to travel with them.

Cleaning kits

You will not see a single professional musician played with a ragged, dirty musical instrument. It is not appealing in the eyes, and in the worst-case scenario, the dirt may affect the sound coming out of the woodwind instruments. 

We recommend that you clean woodwind instruments regularly because we use our mouth and air from the lungs to produce the sound in them. This will prevent the building up of harmful bacteria in your instrument.

  • Solution:  made out of warm water and white vinegar. It is used to soak the mouthpiece to remove germs, bacteria, and all kinds of dirt.
  • Cleaning brush: this is a soft bristle brush used to clean the inside of the mouthpiece while rinsing with water.
  • Microfiber swab: microfiber is recommended more than a regular cloth because the fiber leaves no lint or dust, plus it gives extra shininess to make it look new. It is used to clean the mouthpiece after rinsing with water.
  • Germicide:  this is used to spray the mouthpiece. The liquid content is made of non-irritating, non-poisonous sanitizer to clean all wind instruments without damaging metals, lacquer, wood, hard rubber, or plastic.
  • Microfibers polish cloth: used to clean around the body of the instrument that will keep its shine and dust-free.
  • Brush and metal rods: these are used to clean the inside of the instrument. You will need long thin brushes because woodwind instruments have tiny neck holes. Cleaning the inside prevents damaging the inside parts that reduce its durability.

For cleaning woodwind mouthpieces: 

For cleaning different woodwind instruments (clarinet, flute, & saxophone): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jek8pzNVnr4

Ligatures

The ligature holds the reed onto a mouthpiece. Do ligatures matter? Do ligatures affect the sound? The leather or synthetic ligatures produce a rounder sound, and the metal ligatures will help you produce higher volume and projection in the sound.

Caps

A cap is made to cover your mouthpiece and even your ligature when you’re not using it, the bigger your ligature, the bigger your cap should be, the bigger your instrument the bigger the cap should be.

Just to give you an idea on how many shapes and sizes you can find

Caps are not that necessary, especially if you clean your instrument constantly and don’t travel with it too much. The last thing, when you get a ligature, try getting a cap at the same time, sometimes you’ll find stores selling them in a bundle.

Mouthpieces

A mouthpiece is one of the key parts of all woodwind instruments, except for those exposed double-reed instruments and open flutes.

Does the mouthpiece play a significant role in producing the sound? Yes, the characteristic of the mouthpiece along with the reed plays a role in the sound of the woodwind instrument. While you may use one mouthpiece for all brass instruments, there are 3 types of mouthpieces for woodwind instruments.

  1. Mouthpiece for a single-reed instrument such as the clarinet. The mouthpiece is made of one piece of wood and a single reed.
  2. Mouthpiece for double reed instruments such as oboe and bassoon. The mouthpiece is made of two joined blocks of wood and double reeds.
  3. Embouchure refers to putting your mouth on the instrument to produce the sound. The flute family mouthpiece does not have the reed unlike the other family of woodwind instruments, so sometimes the mouthpiece is called the embouchure.

Reeds

A reed is a thin strip of material made of synthetic material or metal synthetics, which vibrate to produce a sound on a woodwind instrument. The woodwind instruments are classified by the use of a reed (please refer to the three types of mouthpieces).

Stand

Instrument stands are normally made of metal, plastic, and ethylene-vinyl acetate that will protect the instrument when not in use, especially on a practice or break time.

There are different stands for each instrument, but since most woodwind instruments are similar (a long tube with holes in them), you can use the same stand for multiple instruments.

Straps

Straps are necessary for all kinds of woodwind instruments as support. It prevents mishandling of the instrument that may cause it to break. The straps are made of artificial leather, fiber-reinforced plastic, aluminum, and a plastic hook to hold the instrument comfortably. 

You can freely adjust the strap in your preferred length or holding position. The materials used to design the strap help lessen the fatigue from holding the instrument with bare hands.

While the flute family, oboe, English horn, clarinet are handy, you may need an instrument strap for bigger in size woodwind instruments such as the bass clarinet, bassoon, and contrabassoon.

Which one do I get?

To save you some time here’s a resume:

  • How do I move my instrument around? Get a bag. 
  • But I want to move my instrument without damaging it. Get a case.
  • What’s the best way to clean my instrument? With a cleaning kit.
  • My mouthpiece and my reed are not held correctly. Get a ligature.
  • How do I protect my mouthpiece? With a Cap.
  • Where do I put my instrument when I’m not using it? A stand.
  • I get tired of holding my instrument for a long time. Get a strap

“Without craftsmanship, inspiration is a mere reed shaken in the wind.”

Johannes Brahms

2 Replies to “Woodwind instruments accessories, what are they and how to use them”

  1. A Venu for you

    […] are a lot of accessories, but you don’t really need much, a case or a bag, a cleaning brush and a stand (you can get a […]

  2. A Xiao for you

    […] are a lot of accessories, but you don’t really need much, a case or a bag, a cleaning brush and a stand (you can get a […]

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