What makes an instrument part of the brass family?
The main difference between brass instruments and other instruments is how the vibration to create the sound and notes is made. With a brass instrument the vibration is created by the lips of the musician. By pressing the lips up against the mouthpiece and blowing, a vibration is created. The rest of the horn helps to amplify the noise and create different notes. This is different from the woodwind family where air blowing across an edge or reed causes the vibrations.
Types of Music
Brass instruments are used in all sorts of music. Some of the most popular type of brass music is played in big bands, classical orchestras, and jazz. One of the main places we see brass instruments played today is in marching bands. This is because brass instruments can be played loudly without electrical amplification. Plus they can be played and carried while marching.
Smaller groups of brass instruments may be used in rock music, mariachi bands, and smaller ensembles. These generally use instruments like the trumpet, trombone, and saxophone (which is really a woodwind).
The Trombone is a popular brass instrument
Fun Facts about Brass Instruments
- Horns have been used throughout history for various signals and fanfares due to their loud noise.
- The first horns were not made of brass, but used natural elements such as conch shells and animal horns.
- Trumpets were used as long ago as Ancient Egypt, however, it was in 1820 that the valve was invented and added to the trumpet design we know today. This allows the player to change the length of the tube that the air travels through and enables him to play more notes.
- Mutes are used to soften and lower the sound from a brass instrument. Mutes are put into the flared end at the bell. Different shapes of mutes can create different sounds.
- Most of the sound comes out the end of a brass instrument making the sound very directional. This is unlike many other instruments including woodwinds.
- There are two main types of trombones, the tenor trombone and the bass trombone. The bass trombone plays lower notes. The tenor trombone is what most people are talking about when they just say trombone.
- The tuba generally plays the lowest notes in the brass section.
- Some large bass tubas that are used in marching bands, called sousaphones, are partially made from fiberglass to make them lighter and easier to carry and march with.
- Curving the tubes of the brass instrument make them easier to hold and play. Even a small trumpet would be over 6 feet long if stretched out!
More on Brass Instruments:
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