Brass instruments - (see tables)


A family of tubular wind instruments or aerophones most often made of brass and sounded by the buzzing of the player's lips. Each consists of a more or less expanding length of tube with a mouthpiece at one end and a rapidly enlarging or flared opening called a bell at the other end. Common members of this family are the *trumpet, *cornet, *horn, *trombone, *euphonium, and *tuba of European and American bands and orchestras.


I. Types. Brass instruments used for musical purposes can be divided into three main types. (1)Short instruments such as the *cornett, *serpent, and *ophicleide are designed to play from the lowest octave of the *harmonic series. These are now all obsolete.  (2) Medium-length instruments have ranges that usually begin with the second octave of the series. The trombone as well as most present-day valved brasses belong to this category. (3) Long instruments begin their most useful range in the third octave of the harmonic series. These include the present-day French horn and the Baroque and Classical trumpets.

Simple brasses such as military *bugles will sound only a limited number of tones spaced approximately according to the *harmonic series. There are, for instance, only four pitches available in the first two octaves and four more in the next octave. The player controls the tone to be sounded by the compression of the lips and the force with which the instrument is blown.

In order to produce additional tones, most brasses are fitted with *valves or a *slide, either of which can lengthen the instrument and provide an additional series of tones with fundamentals on each of several successive half-steps lower. Earlier brasses changed their sounding length by adding sections of tubing called crooks (*natural horn, trumpet) or by opening side holes similar to those on flutes or saxophones (cornett, serpent, keyed trumpet, *keyed bugle, ophicleide).


II. History. The use of natural objects as lip

vibrated aerophones is common to most early
civilizations. Bronze, brass, copper, or silver instruments awaited only the necessary skills in metal working. At least by 1500 B.C.E. in Egypt, metal signaling trumpets were in use. By about 1000 B.C.F., Scandinavian metal workers were producing the tenor-sized
*lur. The Romans used a number of signal and ceremonial brasses for military as well as civilian occasions. The *buccina, *lituus, *cornu, and *tuba appear in the literature and art of the first few centuries B.C.E. and C.E.

Evidence of the use of brasses for more musical purposes in Europe begins to appear in the late 14th and early 1 5th centuries. This evidence centers on the longer trumpet of two sizes then in use in Europe, both the natural version of this instrument and one equipped with a single slide at the mouth pipe. At the same time the cornett or Zink, a wooden instrument covered with leather and provided with finger holes, began to appear. By the end of the 16th century it formed, with trombones, the nucleus of the Venetian ensembles for which Andrea and Giovanni Gabrieli composed.


By the second half of the 15th century, the trombone with U-shaped slide had appeared. During that same period the famous Nuremberg brass-making dynasties were founded. From at least 1500 on, the sound of the *post horn was familiar in Europe. And late in the 16th century, the serpent joined the choir in French churches. The next brass instrument, the French horn, evolved from the hunting horn in the late 17th century. Its final musical taming took place in the following century.