Article

Interactions between the player’s windway and the air column of a musical instrument1

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Abstract

The conversion of the energy of a wind-instrument player’s steadily flowing breath into oscillatory energy in musical wind instruments has been well understood for several years. It depends on the cooperative interaction of several resonances of the instrument’s air column with the flow-controlling reed. Recent work has demonstrated the importance of additional effects arising from the resonances of the player’s own windway. The player can learn to control these effects and normally uses them to stabilize and refine the tone and correct the tuning. He or she may also use them to disrupt the normal processes, replacing them by oscillatory regimes made up of inharmonic partials; musicians call these sounds “multiphonics.” This report outlines the way in which the instrument’s air column and the player’s windway jointly interact with the reed to produce these effects and presents examples of the associated phenomena. Certain medical implications are also described, in particular, chronic problems occurring in clarinet players who, because they do not exploit the resource of windway adjustability, try to improve their tone by using excessively stiff reeds and high blowing pressures.


 

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