LEONARDO FUKS & HEINZ FADLE
In mouth-blown wind instruments, the energy provided by the respiratory system is converted directly into sound. In all cases a primary vibrating element, generically called reed, controls the airstream. The reed may be a piece of bamboo, the lips, a metallic tongue, or even the air jet (in flutes and recorders). Players control loudness, attack, intonation, and timbre by means of embouchure settings, blowing pressure, airflow, and length of the air column. The respiratory muscles perform complex and systematic movements, generating wide ranges of pressures, and coordinated oscillations that produce the vibrato effect. Intonation may be affected by the characteristics of the lung air. We address the associated sensory, physiological, and acoustical phenomena. Common controversial or misleading concepts among wind players are discussed and some simple experiments are proposed for pedagogical applications.
Mouth-blown wind instruments convert pneumatic energy, in the form of air pressure and velocity, into sound waves. They belong to the category that Sachs (1940) describes as aerophones. Other aerophones include the human voice, the pipe organ, and the accordion.
Wind players use their respiratory apparatus as an air compressor to supply energy to the instrument. At the mouth, air is delivered through a sophisticated interface with the instrument, which musicians refer to as their embouchure. Each subtle action from muscles of expiration and embouchure imprints the sound, forming part of the musical expression. The arms, hands, and fingers skillfully control a complex of tone holes, slides, rotating valves, levers, and other mechanisms. Inside the instrument, several phenomena take place, including reflection, diffraction, resonance, shock waves, damping, vortex generation, and chaotic oscillations. Body posture, respiratory techniques, and a psychological strategy to deal with stressful situations are additional key aspects of perfor-