Calico Concert Compendium

What is Chamber Music?

  • Music played by an ensemble with players numbering between two and ten
  • Usually performed without a conductor
  • Each member of the group is the only person playing his/her part in the music
  • Without the aid of a conductor, the ensemble must master togetherness in tempo and rhythm
  • The players alternate between being accompanists and soloists within the flow of the music
  • The musical interpretation is a consensus of all the players’ ideas

At the highest level of artistry, a concert is the result of many hours of rehearsal preparation dedicated to working out these musical issues. It is for these characteristics that chamber music is special. No other art form so beautifully combines the intimacy of personal expression with the excitement of the ensemble dynamic.


The Story of the Wind Quintet

The Wind Quintet (also called Woodwind Quintet) is a standard chamber music ensemble:

1 flute

1 oboe

1 clarinet

1 bassoon

1 horn (French horn)

A “standard” ensemble means that many composers have written and continue to write works for a specific set of instruments.


The Woodwinds

  • Named “woodwinds” because at one time all these instruments were made of wood.
  • To change notes, a player covers or opens holes and keys along the tube with the fingers.
  • Covering the holes makes the tube longer and the pitch lower.
  • A smaller and/or larger version of the primary instrument (auxiliary) exists for each member of the woodwind family



  • High (soprano) range Modern instruments made of metal, usually silver or gold
  • Cylinder shaped tube, with open-hole mouthpiece (head joint)flute-02
  • Player blows across open hole, splitting the air column and causing it to vibrate
  • Instrument is held horizontally from the player’s lips, to the player’s right side
  • Common auxiliaries: piccolo (highest), alto flute (lower)



  • Double-reed: two pieces of cane (similar to bamboo) scraped to
  • paper thinness on one end, tied together and attached to a small pipe
  • English HornPlayer directs air between the two pieces of cane, vibrating them together to create sound
  • Reeds are usually hand-crafted by the player and last for a limited amount of time
  • Covers soprano range, though not as high as flute
  • Instrument body made of extremely dense wood such as grenadilla from Africa, or sometimes rosewood
  • Slender conical tube (small at one end, gradually expanding)
  • Main auxiliary: English horn (lower)




  • Single reed: flat piece of cane, shaved very thinly on one end, attached to a hollow mouthpiece
  • Player blows across reed into mouthpiece, vibrating the reed
  • Reeds are produced commercially and like double-reeds have limited life
  • Extreme range from high to mid-range (soprano, alto, tenor)
  • Cylindrical tube (uniform diameter) made of grenadilla wood
  • Auxiliaries: E-flat clarinet (higher), Bass clarinet (lower)




  • Double-reed like oboe, but larger size and wider proportions
  • Reed attached to foot-long metal tube at top of instrument (bocal)
  • Made from hardwood like rosewood or maple
  • Because of heaviness of instrument, seated player rests instrument on leather strap (seat strap) which is sat upon, relieving bulk of weight from player’s hands
  • Wide ranges from medium to low (alto to bass)
  • Conical tube, extremely long, bent back upon itself, so instrument resembles a double pipe
  • Auxiliary: Contra-bassoon (lower)

The Brass

  • All brass instruments are tubes of coiled metal with a bell on the end to project the sound
  • Sound is made by vibrating “buzzing” the lips together into the mouthpiece
  • The narrowness of the tube allows the player to play a series of notes just by changing the tightness of the lips
  • Tone color and dynamic of a brass instrument can be altered with the use of mutes, made of wood or metal, which fit into the bell



  • The mouthpiece is shaped like a funnel
  • Length of tubing can extend to 16 feet
  • The valves change the length of tubing, enabling the player to play all the notes of the scale
  • Alto to Tenor range
  • Mellow, smooth tone allows for blending with other families of instruments more easily than any other member of the brass family
  • Hand placed in bell not only holds up the horn but also aides in pitch adjustment and ton