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What Are the Different Types of Brass Instruments?

By Lori Kilchermann
Updated May 23, 2024
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Orchestras and bands are made up of a variety of instruments, including brass instruments such as the trumpet, tuba and trombone. Other members of the brass family include the French horn, flugelhorn and euphonium. Many instruments of the brass family have evolved over the years into the modern-day instruments used today.

The trumpet is an ancient instrument and one of the brass instruments played in both orchestras and bands. Changing lip tension on the mouthpiece and fingerings on the trumpet's valves will change the notes produced. Nearly 5 feet (1.5m) of winding tube makes up the bulk of the instrument. The flugel horn resembles a trumpet, but has a conical bore. It is mainly used in jazz music.

Often providing the tenor voice of a brass section, the trombone is one of the brass instruments that typically makes up an orchestra. Similar to the trumpet, the brass instruments are made from a length of tube. The 9-foot (2.7m) length is folded over in the center to overlap. Some trombones are nickel-plated, but most are made from brass.

The French horn is made from a 12-foot (3.7m) long coiled metal tube that flares into a bell shape at the instrument's base. The brass instruments use a funnel-shaped mouthpiece, and the instrument's pitch can be changed by adjusting lip tension and the horn's three valves. Pitch and tone quality can further be varied by hand-stopping, which is done by placing a hand in the bell of the horn.

There are many brass instruments that fall under the tuba name, and they are the brass family's largest instruments and have cup-shaped mouthpieces. Tubas are held vertically to be played, unlike most other brass instruments, and they have a low pitch. To change the instrument's notes, the fingering on the tuba's valves or lip tension on the mouthpiece is changed.

The baritone tuba, also known as an euphonium, is the most common type of tuba. It is often featured in marching and concert bands. Other tubas include the upright tuba, the three-valve sousaphone and marching bugle tuba. The marching bugle tuba wraps around the player and has a flaring bell at the top.

The sousaphone is named after John Philip Sousa, a composer and American bandmaster who often used the instrument in his band. The instrument's bell points upward, then is tilted forward. In addition to marching bands, the tuba is used in jazz, ragtime and big band music. Other brass instruments include the air horn, baritone horn and bazooka. The bugle, Vienna horn and vuvuzela are also members of the brass family.

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Discussion Comments

By julies — On Sep 26, 2012

I always played a woodwind instrument and have never even tried to play a brass instrument. My brother played the tuba and I still remember him transporting that thing from home to school.

I always wondered how anyone could hold that large, heavy instrument and play it well at the same time. Even though this is something I would never be interesting in playing, I think the tuba adds such a unique blend to the sound of a band playing.

By bagley79 — On Sep 26, 2012

I played the trombone in high school and also in college. I liked playing the trombone, but especially enjoyed marching band. I don't know for sure how I ended up playing the trombone, I just know I was always fascinated by this brass instrument and thought it looked like it would be a challenge.

Sadly, I haven't picked up a trombone in quite some time. I still have it packed away in its case somewhere, but think I would sound pretty rusty if I picked it up and tried to play something today.

It seems like there aren't very many opportunities to play brass instruments once you are out of an academic setting.

By honeybees — On Sep 25, 2012

One of my friends plays the French horn, and while I like to listen to all kinds of brass instruments, I think this one has a particularly interesting sound.

I had no idea there was 12 feet of metal tube that made up this instrument. Since it is coiled up the way it is, it is hard to tell just how much metal is there, but I find that a very fascinating fact.

By sunshined — On Sep 24, 2012

My husband played the trumpet when he was in high school, but that was many years ago. Recently he decided he was going to play in our orchestra at church but needed to find a trumpet to play. He didn't want to go out and buy a brand new one, so he went to a music store where they sold used brass instruments.

It took him a few months to brush up on everything, but now he is enjoying playing the trumpet again. He was amazed at how quickly it all came back to him, even though it had been a long time since he had played one.

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