Woodwind section

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The woodwind sections of orchestras and concert bands consist of woodwind instruments, and is one of the main sections of both ensembles.

They contain instruments given Hornbostel-Sachs classifications of 421 (edge-blown aerophones, commonly known as flutes) and 422 (reed aerophones), but excludes 423 (brass instruments).


The woodwind section of the late 19th-century symphony orchestra (for instance, in compositions by Wagner, Brahms, Bruckner, Tchaikovsky, and Richard Strauss) typically includes: flutes (sometimes with one doubling piccolo)[vague], oboes[vague] (sometimes with one doubling cor anglais), clarinets[vague] (sometimes with one doubling bass clarinet), bassoons[vague] (sometimes with one doubling contrabassoon).[1] The section might also on occasion be supplemented with saxophones.[1] In the early part of the 20th century the woodwinds (as well as other sections) were often considerably expanded. For example, Mahler in his Symphony No. 8 (1910) employs 2 piccolos, 4 flutes, 4 oboes, cor anglais, 2 E-flat clarinets, 3 B-flat clarinets, bass clarinet, 4 bassoons, and contrabassoon.[1] After World War I, the number of instruments was often reduced, approaching the size of a chamber orchestra, with individual instrument combinations differing for each composition. The change can be illustrated by comparing two works by Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring (1911–1913) with a large woodwinds section similar to the above and his Histoire du soldat (1918), which only utilizes one clarinet and one bassoon.[1]

The woodwind section of the orchestra, at its most basic,[vague] commonly consists of:

For early classical music, the clarinets may be omitted. The principal oboist is traditionally the section leader.

The woodwind section of the orchestra may also include:

Concert band[edit]

The woodwind section of the concert band is generally much larger than the woodwind section of the orchestra. Also, the concert band generally has a larger variety of woodwind instruments than the orchestra.

The woodwind section of the concert band commonly contains:

Other woodwinds that are used in the concert band, but not as frequently as the ones listed above:

Woodwinds that are rarely used in the concert band:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Apel, Willi, ed., Harvard Dictionary of Music, Second Edition, pp. 604-5. The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1969. SBN 674375017.