Lessons in Brass Instruments

Brass instruments, like the trumpet and trombone, have been used for thousands of years, and were originally used for military signals and religious processions. They essentially act like a megaphone for your lips, which play or “buzz” the note, and the sound produced is clear, bright, and probably most importantly,  quite loud! The instruments then worked their way into classical music, accompanying choirs, boosting the orchestra in symphonies, before becoming a staple instrument in jazz and dance music. The advent of the big band saw 4 trumpets and 4 trombones in each band, and the popularity of the instruments grew exponentially.

Before the invention of the rotary valve in the mid 19th century, the trumpet was limited with the notes they could produce, so signals and calls were relatively simple to play. The modern day trumpet has 3 piston valves, which allows the instrument to play every note within the players own range. It’s a popular instrument to get on board with, as it is light, only has 3 buttons to worry about and can be inexpensive to find a decent beginner model.

The trombone was one of the first brass instruments that was fully chromatic, meaning it could play every note. It’s also one of the few instruments with the ability to slide (or “glass”) between notes, an attribute that has been utilised by classical and jazz composers alike. Due to the potentially cumbersome nature of the instrument, it is sometimes regarded as a “next step” after learning a valved instrument, like the trumpet or euphonium; this is not always the case, and the trombone can be a great first choice!

Cornets are very similar to trumpets and work in exactly the same way. The sound produced is sweeter and more mellow due to the shape of the instrument, and is a common instrument found in brass band music. Brass bands are great for learning how to play in a large group of musicians, have a massive and varied repertoire of music from classical to modern day pop, and a typical band has 8 or 9 cornet positions, making the cornet a popular instrument to start learning on. Like the trumpet, they are quite light and easy to hold and it’s relatively inexpensive to find a decent beginner model to play on. Cornet players normally have very fast fingers, as a lot of the music they play is akin to the violin in a symphony orchestra - lots of flying about very quickly, as well as some awesome high notes!

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