The year 2022 looks promising for the wind band scene in Singapore. There is a gradual lightening of the Safe Management Measures (SMM) as we prepare the band program this year.

It is a good year to join band and consider which instrument to play. Perhaps you wonder: Do instruments have personality preferences? Does one instrument sound better on a player of a particular personality type?

The short answer is no.

Unlike what common folklore dictates, you can play any instrument, and there is no dysfunctional personality and instrument pairing. However, in a band setting, there are often some personality traits that will go well with the instruments. In fact, you may even assume these personalities if you play your instrument long enough in a band.

Below is a fun guide that I prepared for the job class of each instrument.

Disclaimer: This article is merely one man’s construct, so take it with a pinch of salt. Have fun reading!

Flute and Piccolo – Flexible and fruity

Flute and Piccolo play in the highest registers in a band. One who plays the instrument would do well not to shy away from people, for they are often seating in first row and heard. Because of their registers, they need to be reactive and quick to fix pitch and sound issues. A stubborn player who insists on his or her pitch will not be popular in the flute section.

Oboe – Independent and deep

It is unwise to have more than 3 oboes in a band. These nasal tones do not go well in packs. Hence oboists find themselves often working by themselves, finding solutions to their own reed problems. They are also often deep human beings, since they have to make sense of their playing in their limited 2 octave range.

Clarinets – Communal and consistent 

Whenever I think of clarinets, I think of ants, which are communal creatures. Though having an immense range, their mellow sound makes it possible to have 18 clarinets in a band and still sound heart-warming. The most beautiful moments in band are when clarinets play like a singular instrument, producing a warm, charming glow.

Bassoon – Funny and inventive 

I cannot remember meeting a bassoonist that is serious. One reason perhaps is their sound. A good bassoon usually sounds characterful and croaky, which disturbs the pure sounding tuba line. The second reason is their complex string of fingerings combinations when they play the scales. One has to be funny and inventive to play the bassoon.

Saxophone – Confident and self-absorbed 

Though the instrument is not hard to make a sound, it is hard to make a friend by playing it. It’s the loudest of all the woodwinds, and not easy for a reserved personality to enjoy playing it. In addition, band music requires often the saxophone to play sleazy slides in the style of Careless Whisper. Sleazy playing requires self-absorption.

French Horn – Daring and calculative 

The French horn has the largest transposition intervals, one of the largest range spanning more than 3 octaves with the double horn having F and Bb fingerings for every note, and has about 8 valves to tune and empty water from! (Did you get lost in the amount of details within it?)  In addition, the high and low partials are hard to pitch, its bell reflection makes it always sound late, so it takes courage and mathematical prowess for the beautiful sound it has to offer.

Trumpet – Secure and relaxed

Everybody knows the trumpet. It is loud for both good and bad reasons. However, it is actually not easy to get a fine loud trumpet sound in school bands, because it sounds ugly to the player and to the other players around it. In addition, trumpets usually cannot hear anyone else when they play. A secure and relaxed player will do well – at least they won’t get upset or angry when people laugh at them.

Trombone – Versatile and co-operative 

Trombones are the gel of the brass section. A good trombone section makes the low and high brass friends sound good. They can sound as brassy as their friends above and as mellow as their friends below. However, they don’t have valves to press. When brass players move fingers to change notes, they have to move their arms.

Euphonium – Expressive and energetic

Don’t be fooled by Hibike! Euphonium – it is not easy to make the euphonium sound good. Upon playing, the sound feels warm and charming; but to the listener, it is easy to sound dull and colourless. Lots of singing and energy is required to make the Euphonium sound come alive.

Tuba – Supportive and thoughtful 

If band is a role playing game, the tuba is a healer. Tubists play a support role in the band 99% of the time. The band forgets about the tuba’s presence when it is there, but it cannot perform without it. In addition, a thoughtful tuba sound enriches the band sound to no end.

Double bass– Independent and supportive 

Like the oboe, the double bass is often left to their own since they do not use air to make a sound. They need to manage their tuning pegs, bow, rosin and make it work by themselves. Like the tuba, they play bass support 99% of the time and add new colours to the tuba bass line, such as a pizzicato.

Percussion – Reliable and imaginative 

It’s not incorrect to say percussionists have the most number of instruments to play. In fact, there are so many parts to the percussion instruments, that they may forgotten about their mallets and left them somewhere else. The percussion craft requires incredible amount of reliability, such as hitting two identical triangles or creating a consistent tempo every single time for the band to work. Perhaps for this same reason, they need to be imaginative enough to count 64 bars of rests.

The Right Fit 

At the end of the day, there is no perfect right fit or character prerequisites. The important question is: Do you love the sound of the instrument you choose? After all, passion and hardwork outweighs character dispositions.

I wish you the very best in your instrumental selection.