Brass

The Brass instrument family includes Cornet, Trumpet, Trombone, Baritone, Tuba and French Horn. The instruments in the Brass family are made of metal – often brass, but sometimes they are silver-plated or lacquered for easier care.

Brass players produce sound by blowing into their instruments while “buzzing” their lips to make the vibrations that create sound. Looser lips produce slower vibrations and, therefore, lower notes, while tighter lips produce quicker vibrations, and higher notes. Playing brass instruments requires good breath and lip control.

Brass instruments are comprised of different lengths of long tubing that are bent and twisted around so that they can be held and carried. On each instrument, the pitch is changed by holding down different combinations of valves or shortening or lengthening a “slide” to adjust the length of the tubing. The differences in sound between the brass instruments is caused by differences in the shape, size and depth of the mouthpiece, the body shapes, and the length of the tubing.

Brass instruments are used in orchestras, concert bands, marching bands, jazz bands and brass ensembles. Orchestras typically include 1-2 each of Trumpets, Trombones, Tubas and French Horns.

Brass instruments are transposing instruments. That is, music written out for these instruments is transposed – raised or lowered to a different “key”. Because of this, the note played sounds relatively higher or lower than the note written on the page. This practice allows players to use the same fingerings on different sizes of the same instrument.

Brass instruments often appeal to beginning musicians because they are loud and shiny! Because most involve manipulating only three valves, playing them requires less finger coordination than most other instruments. Care and maintenance is a little simpler than with woodwind or string instruments as well. Since the larger instruments require size and strength, beginners often pick up the trumpet, or even the smaller cornet, first. For those with long enough arms, trombone is also a popular first choice.

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