The EWI (Electric Woodwind Instrument) is a musical instrument that acts like a keyboard synthesizer. Most of them are MIDI controllers that trigger a synthesizer that creates the sounds by use of wind. The earliest versions of the EWI were developed in the 1960s and introduced in the 1970s. However, it did not gain popularity until the past decade when it further developed into the modern version.
The EWI is a woodwind instrument which has keys with fingerings like that of most woodwinds, particularly in the finger placement on the recorder (an early version of all woodwinds). There is one extra button which is used in a similar fashion to the one used on the saxophone. Therefore, almost any woodwind player can pick up an EWI and play it. There are several models with different ranges. Rollers are placed in the back of the instrument to change the octaves. Smaller models have a range of 3 octaves, while more advanced models have up to 7 octaves. Given the specifications of these instruments, EWIs can play in every range of all woodwinds. One other feature of the EWI is the ability to blend notes with ether the note bending pad in the back or by slightly biting on the mouthpiece.
Some EWIs have their own internal sounds while others do not. Nevertheless, they all have the capacity to be attached to an external synthesizer for more sounds (either digitally or through a physical synthesizer). With this broad spectrum, the EWI can sound like any musical instrument, digital synth sound or sound effect. This makes the EWI a suitable and valuable instrument for an electric orchestra. The Andromeda Electric Orchestra has an EWI section (currently 2 players but planned expansion to 4 players). AEO has used this instrument for various purposes, including sounding like brass, woodwinds, or synth sounds. When AEO performed the Dr. Who theme, the instrument had a feature of a duet in the piece. Below are several videos that demonstrate the capabilities of the EWI, including a video featuring Soli Jones performing a piece by Dr. Alfred Surenyan.
AEO’s EWI section is made up of two outstanding woodwind players in the Los Angeles area: Soli Jones and Mark Day.