|The brass section of the orchestra is
made up of the French horn, the tuba, the trumpet or cornet, the tenor horn, and the
trombone. The brass section of the orchestra gives it its bright and majestic sound. But
it can also give a mysterious sound when it plays quietly.
All brass instruments are made of long pieces of coiled tubes or brass or other metals. Their sound comes from the musician's lips as they make a buzzing noise. As air flows through the tubing it vibrates and makes a crisp, bright, vibrant sound. The sound coming out of a brass instrument can be changed when the player changes his lip tension.The greater he makes the tension the higher the sound for that instrument. All brass instruments have mouthpieces. The mouthpiece is shaped like a cone, a cup, or a funnel depending on the instrument.
French horns are the leaders of the brass section in the orchestra. They don't have valves. Instead they have keys which open and close the tubing to change the sound. French horns have a very rich sound which is not at all like what they sounded like when they first became part of the orchestra.
Trumpet, cornet, and trombone players change the sound of their instrument by putting a mute over or in the bell of their instrument. Mutes affect the volume of air and also change the sound. There are three different types of mutes. A straight mute, a cup mute, and a harmon mute. A straight mute makes a higher sound. A harmon mute produces the sound that you hear when you listen to jazz music. A cup mute softens the sound of the instrument.
Tubas are the largest brass instruments. They are usually considered the "big boomers" because they give off a low booming sound. The Prussian Army liked to have tubas in their band. The composer Richard Wagner like tubas. He even changed the wind section of the orchestra because he liked them so much. He added a lot more woodwinds and put the brass instruments into four separate groups - -three trumpets and a bass trumpet, three trombones and a bass tuba, four horns, and four tubas that he had designed himself.
You can try to make the buzzing sound that brass musicians make by placing your lips gently together and blowing. Be sure and keep your lips together until it sounds like when you let air out of a balloon after you pull the end together.
© Copyright 1999 ERCHA.