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Reeds

clarinetMusic has been produced by combining vibrating reeds with cylinders, and cones probably for 3 thousand years or more. Double reeds instruments probably came before single reeds. Now, reeds drive instruments such as the clarinet, oboe, bassoon, and saxophone. The mouthpiece on clarinets and saxophones hold the reed; vibrating air enters the instrument where pitches and timbres are determined by the shape of the bore and by an elaborate series of holes, opened and closed by key presses and releases.

Early flutes and reed instruments were modified by drilling holes in the cylinder or cone that were covered by fingers. The development of a chromatic instrument required both holes and a mechanism to cover or uncover sets of holes. Theobald Boehm invented a key system for the transverse flute that was adapted by Klosé and Buffet for the Clarinet. The modern key system consists of generally 6 rings, on the thumb, 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th and 6th holes, a register key just above the thumb hole. Above the 1st hole, there is a key that lifts two covers creating the note A in the low register. A key at the side of the instrument at the same height as the A key lifts only one of the two covers, producing G# a semitone lower. The A key can be used in conjunction solely with the register key to produce A#/Bb.

The saxophone combines elements of woodwind and brass instruments. It has a conical bore, made of brass, flared at the tip to form a bell; 20 to 23 pitch holes of varying size, are drilled in the metal, covered by leather pads, controlled by keys pressed by the fingers. The soprano saxophone is a straight cone. The larger saxes have a U-bend that points the bell upwards. The fingering for flute, clarinet and saxophones is sufficiently similar that players often can perform on all three instruments.