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). The section might also on occasion be supplemented with saxophones. 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. 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.
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:
- Piccolo (often played by the second or third flute)
- Alto flute (often played by a flute player)
- Bass flute (often played by a flute player)
- Cor anglais (sometimes played by an oboist but commonly by a specialist cor anglais player)
- Basset horn (often played by a clarinet player)
- Bass clarinet (often played by a clarinet player)
- Contrabassoon (often played by a bassoon player)
- Soprano saxophone
- Alto saxophone
- Tenor saxophone
- Baritone saxophone
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:
- B♭ clarinets
- Bass clarinet(s)
- Alto saxophones
- Tenor saxophone(s)
- Baritone saxophone(s)
Other woodwinds that are used in the concert band, but not as frequently as the ones listed above:
- Cor anglais (usually played by an oboist)
- Contrabassoon (usually played by a bassoonist)
- E♭ clarinet (usually played by a B♭ clarinetist)
- Alto clarinet (usually played by a B♭ clarinetist)
- Contra-alto clarinet or contrabass clarinet (usually played by a bass clarinetist)
- Soprano saxophone (usually played by the principle alto saxophonist)
Woodwinds that are rarely used in the concert band:
- Apel, Willi, ed., Harvard Dictionary of Music, Second Edition, pp. 604-5. The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1969. SBN 674375017.