The Physics of Wind Instruments

Posted on March 22, 2013 at 11:00 AM

Students Andrina Brogden and Miranda Wilcox sporting woodwind instruments

A woodwind instrument is one that is played by blowing into and through a reed. The reed then converts the air into a series of puffs. The vibrations open or close a slit located in between the reed and the mouthpiece, which causes vibrations in an air column. The vibration frequency is determined by changes in the pressure of the vibrating air. The frequency of the note is affected by the frequency of the resonator, which changes as holes in the instrument are opened or closed. Usually, the smaller the hole, the lower the radiation of high frequency components. Covering the holes with fingers alters the pitch. The ratio of the volume of air inside a closed hole divided by the volume of the air in length between adjacent holes must be the same in all parts of the bore.

Michelle Strand, a science teacher at West Fargo High, had her physics class learning about these things. Her students crafted makeshift woodwind instruments and tested out how well they worked. The experiment was a success, as the students were able to use their homemade instruments to play coherent sounds.

-This blog Post was written by Charlie Riley (Service Learning Student Extraordinaire)

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