Musically Montessori: The Sweetness of the Woodwinds and Little Children


Photo from Adobe Stock

Over the years, I have discovered that even very young children are fascinated with the sound of a woodwind instrument and even more fascinated with how the sound is created. 

A woodwind instrument has a reed as its mouthpiece. 
From Wikipedia: 
"A reed is a thin strip of material which vibrates to produce a sound on a musical instrument. The reeds of most woodwind instruments are made from Arundo donax ("Giant cane") or synthetic material..."

The Orchestral instruments that I introduce as the Woodwind Family are: 

  • Piccolo
  • Flute
  • Oboe
  • Clarinet
  • Bassoon

The Flute happens to be the best known of the Woodwind Family, even though it does not have a reed and it is not made of wood. However, the way the sound is created is by blowing across the mouthpiece so that the "wind" you create will "split" and cause the tube of the instrument to vibrate and make a sweet sound.


In my video below, you'll see that in my music lessons about the Woodwinds, the children  have often started by twirling a "sound tube" until they hear the whistling that happens from the air flowing through the tube... like wind.
You can learn more about the science of sound and "twirly tubes" at this really fun site: Steve Spangler

When it comes to exploring woodwind instruments, the children in  my groups can't really try out a flute, or recorder or even a piccolo or clarinet because these are instruments that are played by blowing into the reed or mouthpiece of the instrument. This simply does not work in a group experience of passing an instrument from child to child.

However, the twirly sound tubes can be a way to begin to explore how woodwind instruments make sound. 

My video below has a quick little progression of a child's possible exploration of woodwind instruments.

Next, you can offer each child their own blade of grass (or plant reed) to try blowing through it to make a whistling sound. This is challenging but lots of fun. Even more fun if everyone goes outside to gather the blades of grass! 

If you hold the blade of grass between the thumbs of both hands and then will hear a slight whispery sound, or even a whistling sound. This shows how the "reed" can split the vibrations and create sound. 

Photo from Adobe Stock

If you play a woodwind instrument, this is the time to bring it in to class and play it for the children. Another resource may be the families of the children in your group, or a woodwind player from your local symphony orchestra or high school band. Your group will certainly be lucky to hear the instrument live and then maybe even be able to see the reed inside the instrument.


Eventually, it will be time for the children to hear recordings of the woodwind instruments of the orchestra. 

This is still my favorite album of recordings for young children learning about the instrument families of the Orchestra. This album is only available as a cd, but it is well worth it. The music is made by authentic instruments rather than synthesized. It's available on Amazon at this link: Baby's First Introduction to the Instruments of the Orchestra.

If you haven't yet introduced the children to the Orchestra, then you can see the visuals I use for that introduction at my post HERE: "Musically Montessori: The Percussion Family"

Below is a photo of the Woodwinds Section of the Orchestra. 

Photo from Adobe Stock
When, we are listening to each instrument, I like to show the children a photo of a young musician playing that instrument.

Photo from Adobe Stock

The Piccolo is the smallest of the Woodwind Instruments, and the highest in pitch. It is in the flute family of instruments and so it is played the same way the flute is played.

You can listen to a piccolo at this link:  Sound of the Piccolo 

Photo from Adobe Stock

The Flute is usually familiar to the children and lovely for them to hear. 
You can listen to a flute at this link: Golden Flute Sound

Photo from Adobe Stock

The Oboe is fascinating to me because you can actually see the reed. It is also the instrument that all the other instruments of the Orchestra tune up to. 

You can listen to an oboe at this link: Oboe Sound at Amazon   

Photo from Adobe Stock

The Clarinet has a sweet and mellow sound that children usually like very much. It's appearance is very similar to the oboe; however, the reed is inside the mouthpiece rather than visible like it is in the oboe.

You can listen to a clarinet at this link: Clarinet sound at Amazon

Photo from Adobe Stock

Since the Bassoon is the largest member of the Woodwind Family, it has the lowest pitch. Before I play a recording of the bassoon for the children, I like to prepare them for it's very low sound. Also, this photo of a bassoon shows how large it is and how the mouthpiece (reed) extends out from the middle of the body of the instrument.

You can listen to a bassoon at this link: Bassoon sound

Mozart's Opera, "The Magic Flute"

Mozart's opera, "The Magic Flute", is often featured at local opera houses in communities all over the world. In my area, I've discovered that the performance schedules for this opera often include a Saturday matinee especially for children. These are fun for children and usually offer this mesmerizing story in an edited version that is more engaging for children. The prince in this story acquires a flute that has magic powers to tame wild animals, open a path through a raging river, and even give the prince protection from an enormous fire as he travels on his journey. So, this opera has lots of beautiful flute music to go along with your Montessori music lessons!

I like to introduce the music from this opera by presenting a children's picture book about the story. I will show the pages of the book and play snippets of recorded music from the opera as I read or tell the story to the children.

Here is the book I use, and it is available at Amazon at this link: Magic Flute at Amazon  

Children are often introduced to the Recorder in their lower elementary music classes, and this instrument is a woodwind instrument, but it is not usually played in orchestral performances.
Recorders date back to the Middle Ages, and are considered easier to play than a flute. From wikipedia: "The sound of the recorder is often described as clear and sweet, and has historically been associated with birds and shepherds. It is notable for its quick response and its corresponding ability to produce a wide variety of articulations."  

In my woodwinds video above, you will notice my little 4 yr old friend playing his own tune on the beautiful wooden recorder for his baby brother. Recorders are a wonderful family instrument to give authentic music experiences to even the youngest children. 

The second lesson in my upcoming Montessori Baby-Ed eCourse suggests playing the Recorder for your baby as part of the emphasis on woodwind music from that "Nido Basket" #2 for your baby's second month. Eventually, when Baby is old enough to try the Recorder on her own, she will have had lots of experience observing family members playing the Recorder throughout her babyhood!

Photo from Adobe Stock

In this article, I have presented some ideas for having fun with the Woodwind family of the Instruments of the Orchestra and I hope you've discovered some activities to offer your group. Thanks again for visiting my blog today!

Are you looking for a Montessori Music curriculum that emphasizes a sequential progression of hands-on activities for young children? 

At this very moment, I am developing my second 12-week eCourse, "Musically Montessori: Instruments of the Orchestra." You can learn more by clicking THIS LINK.  

My first eCourse, "Musically Montessori: First Twelve Weeks" is already available for enrollment. You can learn more by clicking THIS LINK. 

And, if you're interested in bringing Music and the Arts to your baby in a Montessori way, I am almost done creating my monthly eCourse, "Montessori Baby-Ed, Month-by-Month." You can learn more by clicking THIS LINK.

Lastly, if you haven't joined my email list, please feel free to do so by filling in the quick form on the side bar of this Blog. Along with my newsletter right to your in-box, you'll receive a complimentary copy of my eBook, "Musically Montessori, First Lessons" to get your Music Curriculum off to a good start. (retail value $12.99)


If you have enjoyed this post, you'll find lots more articles at the "Montessori Monday Link-up" where I am proud to be linking my article. Deb Chitwood, at Living Montessori Now, and Montessori educators from all over the world offer their expertise that you will want to be part of, I'm sure!

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