What Is the Difference between Wind and Brass Instruments?

In a musical orchestra, groups are divided the type of instrument they play, as well as the sound and voice they produce. Woodwind and brass instruments are two distinct groups of wind instruments that are similar in some ways but widely recognized for their differences. For example, woodwind instruments are made of wood and are played with a wooden reed and metal keys. Brass instruments, on the other hand, are entirely made of metal or brass, with no wood or reed. Both types of instruments rely on air pressure to produce sound, but they employ very different methods to accomplish the same goal.

The primary distinction between woodwind and brass instruments is the type of material used to construct them. Wood and metal are used to make most woodwind instruments, such as clarinets, saxophones, and flutes. Brass instruments, on the other hand, are made entirely of brass or metal and have a different type of air-blowing mouthpiece. With the exception of the flute, most woodwind instruments require a wooden reed in the mouthpiece. Brass instruments do not require reeds because the sound is primarily produced the vibrations of the mouth against the mouthpiece.

Wind and brass instruments both rely on the user to provide enough air for the instrument to make a sound, but the technique used to play a note differs between the two instrument groups. Woodwind instruments produce a note blowing air into the resonator within the instrument. Brass instruments use air as well, but the sound they produce is primarily based on changing the flow of air and lip tension. To make a note, valves are used instead of keys.

Valves are used in brass instruments to help direct air into and out of the instrument, resulting in different pitches. To create different notes, woodwind instruments require the use of keys alongside the body of the instrument. Even this distinction appears to connect wind and brass instruments, as both valves and keys use the player’s air to produce sound. When comparing brass instruments to wind instruments, one notable difference is that many tuba and trombone instruments require more air to fill than a smaller wind instrument.