What is Wind Band Music?
Wind band music is written specifically for wind and percussion instruments, e.g. no strings. Musicians play wind instruments using their breath, also called wind, to vibrate a wooden reed, an air column, or their own lips.
Wind instruments are commonly classified in two families: woodwinds and brass. A woodwind instrument is a musical device in which sound is produced by blowing against an edge vibrating with air, such as a thin piece of wood known as a reed. These include the flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, and saxophone. Most of these instruments were originally made of wood, but some such as the saxophone and some flutes are now made of other materials such as metal or plastic resin.
A brass instrument is a musical device whose tone is produced by vibration of the lips as the player blows into a tubular resonator. These include the trumpet, horn, trombone, and tuba. They are also called labrosones, literally meaning "lip-vibrated instruments" (Baines, 1993).
One important difference between woodwind and brass instruments is that woodwind instruments are non-directional. This means that the sound produced propagates in all directions with approximately equal volume. Brass instruments, on the other hand, are highly directional, with most of the sound produced traveling straight outward from the bell. It also plays a major role in some performance situations, such as in marching bands. In the latter case, brass instruments will be the dominant sound in the ensemble as they are able to project their sound into the stands, while the woodwind sound will be retained primarily to the field.
Exceptions to the "no strings" rule are observed when a harp or string base is utilized for certain pieces and some would argue that the piano is also a string instrument. These three musical instruments are occasionally used in wind band music scores.
Your First Concert
Q: I've never been to an orchestra concert before. What should I expect?
Expect to enjoy yourself! This is the time to let go of any preconceptions you may have about classical music or the concert experience. If you feel a little nervous, that's OK. Some things about the concert may seem strange because they're new to you, but if you just focus on the music, you'll have a great time.
Open yourself up to the music. Let it trigger your emotions - maybe even your memories. Feel the rhythms; follow the tunes. Watch the musicians and the conductor, and see how they interact with each other. Notice how the music ebbs and flows - surging and powerful at some times, delicate and ephemeral at others, and everything in between.
Q: What if I don't know anything about classical music? Do I need to study beforehand?
There's no need to study. The music will speak for itself. Just come and enjoy!
Over time, many frequent concert goers also find their enjoyment is deeper if they prepare for a concert. This can be simple, like reading the program notes beforehand; or it can be more involved, like listening to recordings of the music to be performed in the days before they attend a concert.
Q: Will I recognize any of the music?
You might. Classical music is all around us: in commercials, movie soundtracks, television themes, cartoons, retail shops, and even some elevators! Popular music often quotes classical melodies, too. While you're listening in the concert to a piece you think you've never heard before, a tune you've heard a hundred times may jump out at you.
Q: What should I wear?
There is no dress code! Anything that makes you feel comfortable is fine. Most people will be wearing business clothes or slightly dressy casual clothes, but you'll see everything from khakis to fancy dresses. Some people enjoy dressing up and making a special night of it, and you can, too. Still, evening gowns and tuxedos are pretty rare unless you've bought tickets for a fancy gala - and if you have, you'll know!
Q: Should I arrive early?
Absolutely! Plan to arrive 20 minutes before concert time, so you can find your seat, turn off your cell phone, take a look at your surroundings, absorb the atmosphere, and have time to glance through the program book, too.
There's another good reason to come early: Most concerts start on time. If you're late, you may end up listening from the lobby? If that happens, the usher will allow you inside during a suitable pause in the program, so your arrival won't disturb other concert goers.
Q: How long will the concert be?
It varies, but most orchestra concerts are about 60 minutes to 90 minutes long, with an intermission at the halfway point. Very often there will be several pieces on the concert; but sometimes there is one single work played straight through. It's a good idea to take a look at the program before the concert to get an idea of what to expect.
Q: Why is there an intermission, and what should I do during it?
It's a short rest period for the musicians and conductor - once you see how much activity goes into a performance, you'll understand why they need a break!
Listening to music is also an intense activity (even if considerably less physical), and a break in the middle helps the audience concentrate better in the second half. Some concerts, though, have no intermission because it would interrupt the flow of a long work. Check the program before the concert so you know what's coming.
Most intermissions are fifteen to twenty minutes long, which gives you time to socialize with you companions, get a drink or a snack in the lobby, visit the facilities, or simply sit in your seat and read the program notes. Do whatever puts you in a good frame of mind to hear the second half of the concert.