The Brass section is more often recognized for the bright, rich color added to the orchestra, symphony or generally any piece of music, than for classifiable attributes. These instruments are heard with just as much vibrancy as the light that reflects from their metal encasing and produce sound through the reverberation of a player’s lips as they blow air into the instruments mouthpiece. Each instrument has its own history, sound and playing technique.
Trumpets have long been used to send messages over great distances, creating a clear, sharp tone. The instrument’s distinctive shape, consisting of a flared bell, narrow tub-shaped body and cupped mouthpiece produces its signature sound when a musician buzzes his or her lips against the mouthpiece and coordinates the fingering of the keys and three valves. Trumpet players can also produce different sounds, pitches and dynamics by altering the contact of his or her mouth to the mouthpiece.
After the trumpet, the French horn is the highest sounding instrument in the brass category, and like its higher pitched counterpart, also has its roots in relaying messages. This instrument has gained popularity in many genres including jazz, classical and rock. The horn is the only brass instrument to have a funnel-shaped mouthpiece; with a body consisting of tube over 20 feet long when uncoiled as well as several crooks and rotary valves. The French horn is often considered one of the most difficult within the brass family to play.
The trombone dates back over 600 years and has been altered a great deal over time before becoming the popular brass instrument that we know today. Modern symphony orchestras usually have two tenors and one bass trombone in their ensemble, all of which play in harmony. The trombone is constructed of long folded brass tubing, somewhat resembling a paperclip. The trombonist slides the tubing back and forth while blowing through a large cup-shaped mouthpiece to produce different sounds.
The tuba was created by legendary German composer, Richard Wagner, after which the amount of brass instruments included in orchestras greatly increased. The sound produced by the tuba is big and bold and lower than most instruments can go, making it a popular choice for dramatic passages or pieces of music. Tuba players change the mouthpiece to go with the music they are playing; some may have up to 40 different mouthpieces. Tubas come in five different sizes, each classified by the width of the tubing.
Janelle Leduc has been a professional writer in the music/entertainment industry since 2007. She is the writer and editor of a monthly newsletter titled "e-Source." She also provides Web content for ccma.org, and various marketing and promotional pieces for a national association within the music industry. Leduc is currently completing a Bachelor of Fine Arts in music at York University in Toronto, Ontario.