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From jazz music to ska to the fanfare in a symphony, brass instruments deliver a grand and expansive yet warm sound across multiple music genres.

About Brass Instruments

In terms of sheer volume, the brass family has all other orchestral instruments beat. Ancient versions used wood or shell to make a similar noise, but today, instruments from trumpets to trombones are fully made out of brass alloy.

Beyond the material, brass instruments have several specific characteristics:

  • All utilize a long, often wound, pipe that flares out into a bell shape.
  • Because the amount of pipe is fairly extensive, it's curved and curled on itself to make the brass instrument easier to hold, be it in the hand like a trumpet or trombone or the lap, like a French horn or tuba. Generally, the deeper the pitch, the lengthier the tubing.
  • To make a sound, the player doesn't just blow. Instead, a mouthpiece exists at one end of the pipe, and the player vibrates their lips within its cup shape. To create a consistent tone, brass players often develop circular breathing techniques. This is in contrast to woodwind instruments, in which a reed assists with producing a sound.
  • To generate pitch and cover all notes of the chromatic scale, brass instruments feature valves, which look like buttons or keys. A trombone, however, primarily does this with a slide.

Types of Brass Instruments

Trumpet

It's said that the Egyptians developed the first trumpet. However, early versions like the buisine, or angel trumpet, had no valves, and beyond music were used for military signals.

Valves appeared in the 19th century. Today, the trumpet family - which includes the piccolo trumpet, the coronet and the flugelhorn - covers the high end of the brass spectrum. As such, trumpets are the smallest brass instruments, having just six feet of tubing on average and three valves.

Trombone

Trombones didn't appear in orchestral arrangements until the 19th century, and compared to the trumpet, this brass instrument's history is comparatively shorter. It dates back to the 15th century, although it's likely based on an earlier instrument called a "sackbut." Today, alto, tenor and bass trombone instruments all use a slide for reaching various pitches.

French Horn

The modern-day French horn is based on a hunting instrument used in the 17th century. Although it fits in a player's lap, it consists of 18 feet of tubing, as well as multiple key-shaped valves. Compared to other brass instruments, it falls within the midrange - higher than the trombone but lower in pitch than the trumpet - and has a mellow tone. Players may alter the timbre by placing their hand into the bell.

Tuba

The tuba is the largest and lowest-pitched brass instrument and has 16 feet of tubing on average. Unlike a French horn, the pipe is considerably wider, and the bell points upward. Within brass ensembles, concert band and marching band, the tuba nearly always delivers the bass part.

Find a Full Range of Brass Instruments

Whether you've always wanted to play jazz trumpet or need a better trombone, take your search to Alamo Music Center. Covering the full spectrum of orchestral and band instruments, we offer multiple financing and layaway options, including 12- to 48-month, no-interest options at times, plus trial lessons and an extended warranty.

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