Reedcap, free-reed, and idioglottal-reed winds- from L-R:
Pungi, Gaita chanter, Tenor Crumhorn, Melodica,
Contrabass Harmonica, Mijwiz, and Argul

Reedcap instruments are woodwinds in which there is a protective cover, or reedcap, placed between the player's lips and the tone-generating (usually wood/cane) reed. The most common example of a reedcap instrument is a bagpipe practice chanter.

The North Indian "snakecharmer" or Pungi, is a double-clarinet in which the reeds (one for the melody, one for the drone) are placed inside a protective gourd, so the players lips never touches them.
The gaita is a Spanish bagpipe- here is the chanter (melody-pipe) without the bag or drone-pipes.
The curved crumhorn was a reedcap instrument of the Renaissance, usually played in matched sets of several different sizes. It sounds remarkably like a Commodore 64!

Harmonica, accordion, sheng/khaen (Asian mouth-organ), and melodica are all free-reed instruments, in which air is passed over vibrating reeds (usually made of metal) to generate tone, but no lip contact is made with the reeds. A major difference from the reedcap instruments is that the free-reeds usually have a full set of many reeds; a separate one for each note. The melodica (keyboard) pictured at top is directly mouth-blown, and can played with articulation and expression like any wind instrument. The contrabass harmonica has double sets of reeds tuned in octaves- the bottom reeds actually play lower than a bass saxophone!

At far right, the mijwiz and the larger argul are both Egyptian folk double-clarinets with idioglottal reeds. Insted of having a separate bamboo reed attatched to the mouthpiece, the reed is actually a vibrating tongue of cane made from a slit cut into the wall of the instrument itself.

The gaita chanter reed with the reedcap removed.


An alto kortholt and a soprano kortholt with the reedcap removed. A kortholt is basically a crumhorn that has been compressed into two parallel bores in a single piece of wood, connected by a U-turn at the bottom of the instrument, much like a bassoon.

mp3 demo snakecharmer 1.1MB

mp3 demo gaita chanter

mp3 demo tenor crumhorn

mp3 demo melodica 2.7MB

mp3 demo contrabass harmonica

mp3 demo argul 0.6MB


All material Jay Easton 2001-2006 unless otherwise noted