wind instrument, in music, any instrument whose tone is produced by a vibrating column of air. In the pipe organ the column of air is set into vibration by mechanical means. Other wind instruments are blown by the player and are divided into two groups, the woodwinds and the brass winds, or brasses. The woodwinds include the flute family, played without a reed, the clarinet family, having single-reed mouthpieces, and the oboe family, having double-reed mouthpieces (see reed instrument). The brass winds include the bugle, cornet, ophicleide, trombone, trumpet, and tuba, all having cup-shaped mouthpieces, and the French horn, having a funnel-shaped mouthpiece. In the brasses the lips of the player perform the function of reeds. The wind passage of a wind instrument is called the bore and may be conical or cylindrical; its flared edge is called the bell. Woodwind and brass instruments are now best distinguished according to their mouthpieces, since metal flutes and saxophones remain woodwinds regardless of the material used to make them.
See A. Baines, Woodwind Instruments and Their History (rev. ed. 1963); A. Carse, Musical Wind Instruments (2d ed. 1965); R. Donington, Instruments of Music (3d ed. 1970).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.