Glossary of Band Instrument Terms

The bell of an instrument is the flared end of the instrument from where the sound is emitted. The size, shape and material of the bell can have a dramatic effect on the sound of the instrument, particularly with brass instruments, as the sound of the instrument travels from the mouthpiece to the bell, with no sound escaping anywhere else on the instrument (assuming that there are no leaks, of course!)
Blued Steel Springs, sometimes referred to as simply Blue Steel Springs, are a type of needle point springs that are often used on woodwind instruments. They get their name from their color, which is actually the result of a tempering treatment to reduce corrosion. Blued steel springs can hold the same tension as a stainless steel spring that has a larger size, which is why they are often used in professional instruments.

See also: Springs

The bore of the instrument is the tubing between the mouthpiece receiver and the part of the instrument where the tubing flares to form the bell. The size of the bore will have a great affect on the sound of the instrument, the playability of the instrument, and the ease of playing and controlling the instrument.

An instrument with a small bore will tend to have lower resistance than that with a larger bore; less air would be required to fill the instrument, making it easier to play for a beginner. Larger bore instruments tend to have more projection and a larger sound presence.

Embouchure refers to the use and control of the facial muscles to create sound on a wind instrument. By manipulating the shape their lips and muscles, a player can affect the sound and pitch of the note being played. Like all muscles, exercising the embouchure will strengthen it and allow for greater control of the instrument.
The footjoint (sometimes simply referred as just the foot) is the end of the flute where most of the air and sound is emitted. Like the headjoint, it is removable from the main body. There are two common types of footjoints, the C footjoint and the B footjoint. A B footjoint is longer than the C footjoint, and features an additional tone hole and key, allowing the flute to play a Low B.
The headjoint of the flute is similar to the neck of a saxophone, with the main difference is that the tone of the flute is produced at the headjoint; no reeds or mouthpieces are involved. The shape, thickness and material of the headjoint will have a tremendous effect on the sound and response of the flute. Air is blown into the headjoint at the lip plate; its shape can effect the sound of the flute as well.
Monel is an alloy of nickel-copper and zinc, and is often used as the material for valves due to its resistance to corrosion and its hardness.
The neck of a saxophone, also known as the crook in some countries, is the part of the saxophone between the mouthpiece and the main body, and is usually removable. The shape and taper of the neck can have a tremendous affect on the sound and playability of the instrument. Intonation of the instrument can be affected if the neck is not properly designed, or is misshaped due to damage. Necks can sometimes be made of a different material than the body of the saxophone, which can affect the tonality of the instrument.
Pads are glued into the key cups of woodwind instruments and play a vital role in changing the pitch of the instrument. They are made of felt with a stiff cardboard backing, and are covered with either leather or fish skin so that they are airtight. When in use, pads form an airtight seal around a tone hole, which prevents the sound being produced by the mouthpiece (or headjoint) from escaping, with changes the pitch.

The quality of the pad will have a great effect on the instrument; low quality pads may tear or constantly move out of adjustments, which causes leaks. Can affect a single note, or the entire instrument.

Pistons are a type of valve where air is directed by the depressing a cylinder that can close the pathway of air from one set of tubes and redirect it to another. Brass players often refer to piston valves as simply valves.
Rotary valves are type of valve that redirect airflow within an instrument by psychically rotating a non-stationary piece of tubing from one path of tubing to another. They are often referred to as simply rotors.

See also: Valves

On woodwinds, depressing keys on the body will lower the key and pad and cover a tone hole, affecting the pitch of the instrument (pressing some keys will do the opposite and lift a pad away from a tone hole). Springs are used to return the key back to its original position, as the tension of the spring will move the key back. The size and shape of the spring will affect how quickly this will occur, and can have a great effect on the feel of the instrument. Springs with too much tension, or ones that are too large, will feel slow and sluggish.

See also: Blued Steel Springs

On woodwinds, the tone hole is a place on the body where air may escape. The pitch of a woodwind is the result of a sound wave, created by the vibrations of the mouthpiece or headjoint, traveling down the length of a tube. The sound wave can escape from a tone hole, which effectively changes the length of the tube. By opening or closing different tone holes, the player is able to play many notes on the chromatic scale.
With brass instruments, pitch is changed by one of two ways: embouchure, or by changing the length of the tubing. The sound wave will get lower in pitch the longer the length of the tube becomes. Brass instruments often use several different lengths of tubing which air can be directed towards (or away) via a system of valves. By using one or more valves at the same time, a brass player can play the instrument chromatically.

Note: Brass players often refer to piston valves as simply valves.

See also: Rotary Valves