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Brass Instruments


The use of the lips as a sort of diaphragm for vibration at one end of the tube ... Tightening the lips produces a higher buzz, which presents a higher frequency of ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Brass Instruments

Brass Instruments
  • The majestic brasses in all their glory
  • All Hail The Brasses

  • If you see a seashell on the beach, and notice
    that the wind makes a sound when it hits the
    shell, you are watching the power of air in a
    confined space. If you watch wind blow over a
    glass bottle and moan, that is a wind instrument
    in action. Early human tribes used shells and
    horns to call each other.
  • As a wind instrument is modified on the outside,
    its sound modifies as well. The earliest drawing
    of trumpets were found in two places the tomb of
    King Tut and on the wall of a South American
    tribal spot in Peru. The notations in King Tut's
    tomb were crude but accurate, depicting a long
    instrument with a flared neck. Valves were a long
    time in coming after this introduction, so
    trumpets limited to the notes of the Harmonic
    Series of a particular key. For this reason, they
    were used by the Egyptians simply as indicators,
    or as battle signals.
  • Greece, China, Rome, and many other ancient
    peoples had their own idea of what the trumpet
    was to look and sound like. It existed in many
    different ways throughout all of these cultures,
    and many others. Tibetians have a long, sloped
    tube of almost 15 feet long, while certain
    regions of the Andes have funnels of one inch
    that create noise. Clearly, wind instruments have
    many different ways to make sound. At a very
    early point in our history, trumpets also became
    associated with Biblical lore, especially that of
    Christianity. The sound of trumpets is meant to
    represent angels, war, and the end of the World.

The Buzzor embouchure
  • Sound is simply small changes in air pressure
    that usually occur at a fairly constant rate.
    Retaining this rate for a more extended period of
    time at a specific frequency produces what we
    call a tone. Brass instruments produce tones by
    exciting the vibration of a column of air within
    a tube. The use of the lips as a sort of
    diaphragm for vibration at one end of the tube is
    what excites the column of air. Tightening the
    lips produces a higher buzz, which presents a
    higher frequency of sound, or a higher pitched
  • Most tubes that could be "buzzed" into exhibit a
    natural preference for a certain frequency of
    sound waves. The buzzing of the lips will often
    be dragged into one of these fundamental
    frequencies or its "overtones." The natural
    frequency of the tube relies somewhat on what it
    is made of but more so on the length of the tube.
    A longer tube enables the vibrating column of
    air within to be longer causing a slower
    frequency and thus a lower note. The lowest tone
    that can be locked onto and produced cleanly by
    the lips on a certain length of tube is called
    the "fundamental" tone. The fundamental tone
    determines the "key" of the instrument.
  • It is this production of tone that distinguishes
    brass instruments, not the construction material.
    Throughout history, these types of instruments
    have been made using various materials. It is
    very likely that the original "horns" of this
    type were made of bone. Probably being actual
    animal horns that were buzzed on the smaller end
    producing a fairly distinct and menacing sound.
    This sound was all that was necessary, as the
    only requirement would have been for it to be
    loud, as it was more often than not used as a war
    horn, a signal device, or to frighten away would
    be predators.

Ancient Brass Instruments
  • The cornett is a hybrid instrument inasmuch as it
    has characteristics associated with both woodwind
    and brass instruments. The use of finger holes
    allies it to the woodwind family whereas the
    cupped mouthpiece relates it to brass
    instruments. The cornett was once a very
    important and much revered instrument. At the
    height of its popularity, cornett players were
    the most highly paid of all instrumentalists.

The Sackbut
  • Sackbuts are mentioned in the Bible but this was
    probably poetic license by the translators rather
    than proof of antique existence. The sackbut was
    widely known throughout Europe in the late
    fourteenth century and by 1495, Henry VII of
    England had amongst his instrumental resources,
    four shakbusshes.
  • In 1661, Matthew Locke composed Music for his
    Majesty's Sackbuts and Cornetts, giving an
    indication of one of the musical uses to which
    the sackbut was put. There were four sizes of
    sackbut alto, tenor, bass and great bass with
    the latter two having hinged handles attached to
    allow greater extension of the slide to achieve
    the required depths. The alto, tenor and bass
    were to emerge as the trombone family with the
    tenor being the most widely used. It is difficult
    to say when sackbuts became trombones because the
    transition was gradual and seemed to depend more
    on terminology than constructional difference.

  • The serpent was an addition to the cornett
    family. This relationship can be justified by the
    fact that both instruments combine woodwind
    finger holes with brass mouthpieces. To achieve
    the bass notes required, the serpent needed to be
    2.5 meters long (eight feet) so it would have
    been impossible to use in terms of bulk and
    finger hole placement. To overcome these
    difficulties, designers turned the long tube back
    upon itself. In the case of the serpent it was
    not to be the same solution devised by bassoon
    makers. They shaped the tube into curves that
    both shortened it and accommodated two sets of
    finger holes that were accessible to both hands
    of the player.

  • While the length of tubing enables higher and
    lower tones, the mouthpiece changes the size of
    the vibrating diaphragm. A shallower mouthpiece
    allows less surface area of the lips to vibrate.
    This produces a higher frequency capability. A
    deep cup in the mouthpiece allows the lips to
    vibrate at a lower frequency because of the
    bigger size and larger surface area.
  • Both changes in mouthpiece and air column length
    are used to produce maximum efficiency. The
    depth of the mouthpiece operates in terms of
    octaves and partials, which are large leaps. The
    length of the air column deals with semitones.

  • In the early 1800s, the increasing demand for
    the horn to play chromatically caused J.B. Dupont
    to invent crooks for all the various tunings of
    the horn. This large mass of different lengths of
    tubing was manipulated by the use of a slide that
    brought each new length into effect as it was
    aligned. This idea gained no real acceptance
    however because it was too heavy and very hard to
  • Blümel of Silesia and Stötzel of Berlin
    developed a valve mechanism in the early 1800s.
    The principle of the valve is basically that of
    the tuning slides inserted into the horn to
    change key. They enable the player to insert
    short pieces of tubing into the main line with a
    single touch. Valves require much less tubing
    than Duponts slide idea. This is due to the
    fact that the lengths of tubing are used in
    combination to produce even greater lengths.
    There are two practical types of valve, rotary
    and piston. Rotary valves are cylinders that
    turn to divert the air through the extra tubing
    this can in turn be diverted through another tube
    by means of a second valve effectively
    lengthening the entire instrument with the push
    of a button. The piston valve uses a plunger
    system to divert the air through the extra
    tubing. Pushing the piston down aligns two
    cavities within the plunger to align with two
    sections of the extra tubing. When released,
    only one part of the tubing is aligned whereby
    the extra tubing is not in use. The valveless
    horn still held the lead until after the 1830s
    due to some imperfections in the valve style and
    the warmer natural sound produced without extra
    tubing. Military bands did employ the valve horn
    where beauty and accuracy in tone were not as

The 4 main brass instruments
  • Trumpet

French Horn
The Trumpet
  • The first trumpets reputedly came from Egypt and
    were primarily used for military purposes
    (Joshua's shofar, blown at the battle of Jericho,
    would come from this tradition) like the bugle as
    we still know it, with different tunes
    corresponding to different instructions.
  • In medieval times, trumpet playing was a guarded
    craft, its instruction occurring only within
    highly selective guilds. The trumpet players were
    often among the most heavily guarded members of a
    troop, as they were relied upon to relay
    instructions to other sections of the army.
  • Eventually the trumpet's value for musical
    production was seen, particularly after the
    addition of valves (after about 1800), and its
    use and instruction became much more widespread.

The French Horn
  • The horn consists of tubing wrapped into a coiled
    form. Many people call this instrument the French
    horn, although this usage is uncommon among
    players of the instrument. In other languages,
    the instrument is named Horn, Corno (plural
    corni), and Cor.
  • Compared to the other brass instruments, the
    typical range of the French horn is set an octave
    higher in its harmonic series.
  • The conical bore (helped by its small, deep
    mouthpiece), provides the characteristic "mellow"
  • The double horn combines two instruments into one
    frame the original horn in F, and a second,
    higher horn keyed in B-flat. By using a fourth
    valve operated by the thumb, the horn player can
    quickly switch from the deep, warm tones of the F
    horn to the higher, brighter tones of the B-flat

The trombone
  • The word trombone derives from the Italian word
     tromba - meaning trumpet - and one - a suffix
    for "large." Thus, literally, a trombone is a
    "big trumpet." The trombone is referred to by its
    name in other languages, posaune, sackbut or
    sacbut, basun, tromba spezzata
  • The trombone consists of a cylindrical tube bent
    into an elongated "S" shape (it is interesting to
    note that in French, trombone also means paper
    clip "). Most trombones are slide trombones. The
    section immediately following the mouthpiece is a
    short straight length of tube called the lead
    pipe. Below that is the slide, which allows the
    player to extend the length of the instrument,
    lowering the pitch. Some trombones have valves.

The Tuba
  • The tuba is the largest of the brasses  and is
    one of the most recent additions to the modern
    symphony orchestra, first appearing in the mid
    19th century.
  • Tubas are found in various pitches, most commonly
    in F, E?, C, or B?. The most common tuba is the
    contrabass tuba, pitched in C or B? (referred to
    as CC and BB? tubas respectively). The contrabass
    tuba is sometimes confused with the contrabass
    bugle (tuned in the key of G) commonly used by
    drum and bugle corps. The next smaller tuba is
    the bass tuba, pitched in F or E? (a fourth above
    the contrabass tuba). The euphonium  is sometimes
    referred to as a tenor tuba, and is pitched one
    octave higher (in B?) than the BB? contrabass
    tuba. The "French tuba" corresponds to the tenor
    tuba, but is pitched in C.
  • The tuba can have up to six rotary or piston
    valves, although four or five are by far the most
    common. Three-valve tubas are generally used only
    by beginners. Some early models of the contrabass
    bugle (a type of tuba which sits on the player's
    shoulder and is used in some marching ensembles)
    have only two valves, presumably to reduce the
    weight of the instrument. Some piston valve tubas
    have a compensating system to allow accurate
    tuning when using several valves in combination
    to play low notes.

other brass instruments
  • Flugelhorn

The Shofar
  • The oldest horn in continual use is the Shofar.
    It is an ancient musical horn made from the
    curved horn of a ram, used in ancient times by
    the Israelites to sound a warning or a summons.
    This instrument dates back about 6,000 years and
    is still used in Jewish religious services today.

  • Is possibly the world's oldest musical
    instrument. It is a wind instrument originally
    found in Northern Australia.
  • The didjiri-du.. is a long hollow tube, often a
    tree root about 5 feet long, slightly curved at
    the lower end. The musician squats on the ground,
    resting his instrument on the earth. He fits his
    mouth into the straight or upper end and blows
    down it in a curious fashion. He produces an
    intermittent drone.

Didgeridoo are made of eucalyptus trees, the
stringybark and the woollybutt. The Aboriginal
craftsmen would simply tap the tree or brands to
see if it is hollow. The termite residual in each
stick can be cleaned out by soaking the length
for a few days in water then prying it out with a
stick or coals. To test for any holes or cracks
in the timber, a stick was sealed by hands at
both ends and held under water for two or three
minutes. If bubbles appeared, if holes would be
filled with bees wax.
To get a sound, you need to vibrate your lips.
You must relax the muscles that are in your face,
i.e. your jawbones, your cheeks, and have your
lips vibrate loosely and then blow the wind
through your lips.