Brass Family

Brass Family

This family needs no fanfare! Brass instruments can fit in anywhere: orchestras, brass bands, big bands, pop groups - you name it. These instruments are really made from brass, and can make the loudest of all the instruments in the orchestra.

The four main instruments that make up the brass family are the trumpet, trombone, French horn and tuba. To produce a sound the player has to purse their lips and blow into the instrument, so their lips will vibrate against the mouthpiece. This is called 'buzzing'. The pitch of the note is changed by using valves.

They are all made from long curled pieces of tubing. The trumpet alone has 2 metres of tubing, and the tuba has more than 5!

Tuba

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The tuba is the biggest instrument in the brass family and as a result produces a much louder and deeper sound. Only one tuba plays in an orchestra due to its sound being among the loudest of all the instruments. However, it is the principal bass instrument in military bands, and those ensembles generally have more of them. It is played by blowing into a large cupped mouthpiece, with the pitch being varied through the use of valves.

 

French Horn

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The French horn is easy to spot because of its circular shape, and it consists of a very long brass tube, which curls round and round. Originally made from hollowed-out animals' horns, the horn was used for signalling and during hunts. There are usually four French horns in an orchestra.

You play the French horn by holding it with the bell curving downward and buzzing into the mouthpiece. Your left hand plays the three valves and your right hand moves in and out of the bell to change the sound.

 

Trombone

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The trombone is a powerful and unique instrument. Its name derives from the Italian word 'tromba' (trumpet) and the suffix '-one' meaning large. Instead of having valves, the trombone uses its sliding shape to change sounds. It is great fun to watch and to play! The trombonist makes different notes by changing the shape of their lips, altering how hard they blow and by moving the slide - all at the same time!

A trombone is made of long slender metal tubes. Two U-shaped tubes are linked at opposite ends to form an "S." One tube slides into the other so the overall length of tube can be extended or shortened at will. If you add up all the tubing, the trombone is around 3 metres long.

There are usually three trombones in an orchestra and they often play together as a trio.

 

Trumpet

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The trumpet is the highest brass instrument and makes a very loud, strong sound that can be heard above the rest of the orchestra. It is essentially a long slender metal tube with three valves. It's bent into a paper clip shape, but if you stretched it out, it would be more than 2 metres long. There are between two and four trumpets in an orchestra.

It has been around for a very long time. People have been playing trumpet-like instruments made of conch-shell, horn, wood or metal, for thousands of years.

The trumpet is played by holding it horizontally, buzzing into the mouthpiece, and pressing the three valves in various combinations to block or divert air down the tubes.

 
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