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Nic Nac ViolinThe Brass Section

The Brass Section has the most resounding instruments in the orchestra. They are metallic loops of tubing, in different lengths, with a mouthpiece at one end and a bell shape at the other. The longer the length of tubing, the lower the sound.

Brass players' lips act as reeds.
Sound is produced by buzzing with the lips while blowing in the mouthpiece. The lips buzz higher and air moves faster to play high notes and buzz lower and the air moves slower to play low notes.

To play louder, the air is moved faster and to play softer, the air is moved more slowly. Most have valves that are pressed and released to change and produce different tones. The trombone has a slide that when moved changes the length of tubing, and therefore the pitch. All brass instruments have mutes that are placed in the bell to soften the tone or change the tone colour.

Trumpet

  • Has valves that change the length of tubing, in combination with air speed and lip buzzing, to produce different pitches
  • Sounds can be softened or changed by using a mute that is placed in the bell
 

Horn

  • The horn is the most difficult brass instrument because it is placed highest in the harmonic series. The horn is a valved instrument pitched in F and B-flat.
  • There are many examples of orchestral music that demonstrate the beautiful, mellow sound of the horn, including the Andante Cantabile movement of Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 5.
  • Horn players traditionally put their right hand in the bell to modify tone colour and pitch.
 

Trombone

  • Made of brass
  • Was introduced into the modern orchestra in Beethoven's 5th Symphony!
  • The alto, tenor and bass trombone are the most common
  • Has a slide instead of valves and may additionally have one or two valves to lower the sound of the instrument by 5 notes
  • The slide is made of a small tube inside a larger one. There are 7 places along the slide to get the different notes
  • Uses a mute to change the sound colour
 

Tuba

  • A large funnel-shaped instrument with a long neck (coiled up or it wouldn't fit in the orchestra)
  • Made of brass and sometimes silver or gold lacquer
  • Buzzing the mouthpiece creates a sound that is amplified and coloured by the instrument
  • Has 3 to 5 valves. Fingering the valves makes different notes
  • Biggest and lowest sounding member of the Brass family
  • Has a mute that can be placed in the bell to soften the sound
  • A "good ear" (and a great sense of humour!) is needed to play the right notes on this instrument
 

Meet NAC Orchestra brass musicians!

Check out the NAC Orchestra and Friends Brass Interviews.