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The Brass Family

Trumpet - Horn - Trombone - Euphonium - Tuba

If you guessed the brass family received its name because the instruments are constructed of brass, you're right! This family of instruments can play louder than any other and can also be heard from far away (hello neighbors). Brass instruments are mostly very long pipes that widen at their ends into a bell shape. The pipes have been bent into different musical shapes to make them easier to hold and play.

 
 

Trumpet

Personality: Are you energetic, “brassy”, and love be the center of attention? Trumpeters are individualists (aka you stand out from the crowd) but you also get along well with others – providing you have had your time in the spotlight!

About the instrument: Throughout history, the trumpet has been used to sound alarms, gather people together, as a call to war, and to add luster to any parade. Like the violin, the trumpet is the smallest member of its family and plays the highest pitches with its bright and vibrant sound. Today's modern trumpet is a slender brass pipe with three attached valves, which is curved and bent into long loops. If you unwind the trumpet to its full length, it would be 6 ½ feet long! You play the trumpet by holding it horizontally, buzzing your lips into the mouthpiece, and pressing down the three valves in various combinations to change pitch.

Best age to start: 8 and up

 

Horn (aka French horn)

Personality: Are you ambitious, self-motivated, and do you love to sing in the shower or find yourself humming your favorite tune? If you can match pitches by humming or singing or you’ve participated choirs you may excel in your horn lessons. If you prefer to socialize in intimate groups, you may find playing in a wind quintet exceedingly fulfilling.

About the instrument: Surprise, the French horn does in actuality originate from France and is unquestionably a horn. It comes from the French hunting horn of the 1600s and produces a diverse sound ranging from very loud to very soft, and from harsh and blaring to mellow and smooth. The horn's 18 feet of tubing is rolled up into a circular shape, with a large bell at its end. To play the horn, hold it with the bell curving downward and buzz into the mouthpiece. Your left-hand plays the three valves, and you can change the tone of sound you make by the way you place your right hand in the bell. Some pieces require horn players to insert mutes into the bell of the instrument; plungers are often used as well!

Best age to start: 8 and up

 

Trombone

Personality: Express your creativity by playing in jazz bands or improvising! You will enjoy playing the melodic trombone, which is wonderfully emotive but also requires a good ear and imaginative mind because it's not marked with positions for each note. The trombone requires a bit of extra artistic prowess!

About the instrument: The trombone is the only instrument in the brass family that uses a slide instead of valves to change pitch. A standard trombone is made of long thin brass pipes. Two U-shaped pipes are linked at opposite ends to form an "S." You play the trombone by holding it horizontally, buzzing into the mouthpiece, and using your right hand to change pitch by pushing or pulling the slide to one of seven different positions. If you stretch the trombone out straight, it is about 9 feet long. The longer you stretch the slide, the lower and deeper the tone. The sounds of the trombone can evoke a jovial march, or convey the eeriness of the unknown.

Best age to start: 8 and up

 

Tuba/Euphonium

About the instrument: These are the grandfathers of the brass family. The tuba is the largest and lowest brass instrument and anchors the harmony not only of the brass family but the whole orchestra with its deep rich sound. Like the other brasses, the tuba and euphonium are made of a long metal tube, curved into an oblong shape, with a huge bell at the end. Tubas range in size from 9 to 18 feet; the longer they are, the lower they sound. Standard tubas have about 16 feet of tubing. You play the tuba and euphonium sitting down with the instrument on your lap and the bell facing up. You blow and buzz into a large mouthpiece and use your hand to press down on the valves which change the sound. It takes much breath to make sound with these instruments!

Best age to start: 9 to 12 and up