If the roaring sound of a brass band has inspired you to take up an instrument, or you just love the sound of a trumpet, or you simply want to learn an instrument but aren’t sure where to start, brass instruments may be for you. With the exception of the French horn and the larger brass instruments like tuba, brass instruments are relatively inexpensive, and fairly easy to begin learning. With a little patience, practice, and perseverance, and the guidance of an MTN teacher, you will be playing tunes in no time.
About Brass Instruments
There are a few different types of brass instruments. Valve brass instruments use a set of set of valves or pistons moved up and down by the player’s fingers to produce different notes. These include most modern brass instruments, such as the trumpet, French horn, euphonium, tuba and cornet. Slide brass instruments, such as the trombone, use a slide that’s moved in and out to change notes. Natural brass instruments have no valves or slides and it is only possible to play certain notes. The bugle is a good example of a natural brass instrument. The brass section of the orchestra can give different qualities to the sound depending on how the instruments are played. Most often, the brass section gives a very bright, direct sound, but if the instruments are muted or playing softly in the low registers, they can sound very mysterious as well.
Example Lesson Progression
Sound is produced on a brass instrument by buzzing the lips into a mouthpiece. Pitch is modified by valves or a slide, and by altering the tension of the lips in the mouthpiece. This tension is called embouchure. In a first brass lesson, the teacher might start by having the student experiment, first simply producing a note, then trying to alter it by changing the embouchure using the tongue, jaw and cheek muscles. Next the student will learn basic fingerings for valve instruments, and slide positions for the trombone. The student will practice moving up and down the scale, moving smoothly from one note to the next. Once this has been mastered, the student is ready to begin learning songs. As the student advances, exercises for breath control, finger dexterity, tonguing (punctuating notes by pressing the tongue against the front teeth and releasing it), and embouchure control will be introduced, as well as more advanced techniques like trilling, bending notes, double-tonguing (using both the tip and the middle of the tongue for faster articulation), and circular breathing (breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth simultaneously by storing air in the cheeks in order to sustain notes longer). Basic music theory will also be taught along the way.
How Brass Instruments are Unique
The main styles of music that utilize brass instruments are classical, jazz and band music. All three styles require at least some theory, and jazz will require the student to learn improvisation. Generally, with consistent practice, students can progress relatively quickly on brass instruments. Depending on the style and the instrument, a student can reach an intermediate level in a year or so. The French horn tends to be more difficult than other brass instruments, as the note range it is required to play is wider than other brass, and the embouchure can be more difficult to control. Classical and jazz music require more theory, and some classical music requires the student to learn to transpose, change the music from one key to another, on sight. An intermediate level of proficiency will allow the student to play most band repertoire and much of classical and jazz repertoire as well. Moving from intermediate to advanced can take several years, as the techniques being learned become more complex and subtle.
Brass instruments are versatile and in high demand for orchestras and bands. Whether you plan on finding a spot in an orchestra or band or just want to play for personal enjoyment, an MTN teacher can help you achieve your goals on a brass instrument.