Brass instruments have a part in many Western music ensembles with standard homes in everything from orchestral music to concert bands to jazz. When they're not playing as a part of larger, multi-instrument family ensembles, many brass players spend time as part of an all-brass band. While the precise instrumentation of brass bands can vary from one piece of music to another, the basic components instrumental components are largely consistent and feature every standard member of the brass family.
The trumpet is the highest pitched of the instruments and typically takes a leading role in brass band music. The melodies are shared among all instruments in most arrangements, but the trumpets have the most piercing and generally most prominent voice. Trumpets are a conical instrument, meaning that the quick taper in the shape of their bells give them their cutting sound. Most brass choir arrangements feature between three and five trumpet parts, though as with all instruments in a brass choir, individual choirs will generally double some parts to account for their membership.
The French horn generally occupies the alto range of the brass choir but can comfortably play in an unusually wide pitch range. Unlike the trumpet, this horn is a cylindrical bell instrument, giving its tone a more wafting, ambient sound that creates a mellow effect. Brass choirs usually have between three and six French horn parts.
The slide trombone largely occupies the tenor and baritone range of a brass choir's sound, playing with a cutting, edgy sound similar to the trumpet, but lower-pitched. The parts written for a trombone in a brass band often cross over to share the range of the trumpet, but they typically also spend some time sharing the lowest notes of music with the tuba. Typical arrangements feature between two and four distinct trombone parts, with the lowest of these often played by a bass trombone (a trombone specially designed for low playing).
The euphonium plays in the same pitch range as the trombone, but as a cylindrical brass instrument it plays with a different tone. In both appearance and timbre, the euphonium is like a miniature, higher-pitched tuba.
The tuba is the lowest pitched instrument family in a brass band and acts as the musical backbone of the ensemble, providing most of the low chord tones. Tubas are cylindrical in construction and have an ambient, but powerful sound. A typical brass choir arrangement contains one or two tuba parts.
- "The Modern Brass Band: From The 1930s To The New Millennium"; Roy Newsome; 2006
Lauren Vork has been a writer for 20 years, writing both fiction and nonfiction. Her work has appeared in "The Lovelorn" online magazine and thecvstore.net. Vork holds a bachelor's degree in music performance from St. Olaf College.