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The Brass family consists of various horns. The term horn commonly desiginates an orchestral valved instrument with a flared end. The instruments that make up the brass family are the horns, trombones, trumpets, and tubas. Brass instruments are brass tubes with lots of bends and three or, sometimes four, valves. The sounds come from the vibration of the air in the tube, which in turned is caused by what the musician does with his or her lips. The trick to it all is the embouchure -- the manner in which the mouthpiece and lips meet. Valves give the musician the option of choosing different lengths of tube: the longer the tube, the lower the fundamental tone.

The Brass Family

Horn Trombone Trumpet Tuba
Alto Horn Tenor Trombone Coronet Sousaphone
Baritone Bass Trombone Trumpet Tuba
French Horn

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The French Horn:

What is a French Horn?

French Horn

The horn was blown on stag hunts in France several hundred years ago. A long time before that, men and women were blowing into hollowed animal husks. By 1650 the horn was sixteen feet of coiled brass tube, with a wide bell. The coil was big enough so that the hunter could carry it over his shoulder when it was not being played. Eventually, rotary and piston valves were invented, making the instrument more versatile. Valve technology has been critical to development for the brass horns.

This leads to the French Horn. The French Horn is a circular instrument with three valves and a funnel-shaped mouthpiece. The musician supports it with his or her right hand in the bell. Many musicians prefer a double instrument, twice coiled and four feet longer, with an extra, or fourth, valve. The tube circles around in front of the player, with the large bell ending up between the right shoulder and right hip.

The horn sound blends well with woodwinds and string instruments, as well as with those of its brass cousins. It has a mellow and rich sound in the middle register. It is one of the more difficult instruments to play and the instrument is affected by heat and humidity.

French Horn Sound Clip Click icon to hear the FRENCH HORN

French Horn Film Clip Click icon to view FRENCH HORN video.

David Baptist

David Baptist is a well-known French Hornplayer of our generation. His talents also include music compositon and music arrangement.

David has performed with the Marin Symphony Orchestra, the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra, and the Stan Kenton Neophonic Orchestra.

He has also performed with celebrities such as Elvis Presley, Bob Hope, Liza Minnelli, Johnny Mathis, and many others.

For more information on the FRENCH HORN Click Here.

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The Trumpet:

What is a Trumpet?


The trumpet has been around for centuries. Natural trumpets--straight, with no valves, finger holes, or slides--were played in ancient Rome, Egypt (it was used for signaling and fanfare), and the Orient. A few hundred years later the trumpet makers began to bend it, because it's original length was becoming unmanageable. Back in the eighteenth century, it was seven or eight feet long in prebent configuration, and had no valves. Trumpets with valves were developed in the early 1800s.

Now equipped with valves, today's trumpet is the soprano member of the brass family. It is a cylindrical tube,four to four and a half feet long before being bent. It uses a shallow cupped mouthpiece at the end of a folded brass tube. The range of the trumpet, how high and low an instrument can be played, is about three octaves. The valves are used to change the pitch. Each of three valves increases the length of the operative tube and thus deepens the pitch.

The trumpet is the soprano of the brass family. It's bright timbre and good carrying quality have been well-known since antiquitiy and now through modern times. Jazz trumpeters have also contributed much to the newer color capabilities of the instrument, and in contemporary orchestrations its tone is often modified by flutter-tonguing technique as well as by the insertion into its bell of various mutes made of metal and cardboard.

Trumpet Sound Clip Click icon to hear the TRUMPET

Trumpet Film Clip Click icon to view TRUMPET video.

Miles Davis

One famous Jazz trumpeter was Miles Davis. His talent influenced many artistes of our time. His legend will continue to inspire many, young and old.

Miles Dewey Davis was born May 25, 1926 in Alton, Illinois and grew up in East St. Louis. Miles collected records and for his 13th birthday was given his first trumpet. By age 16, Miles was playing professionally and received his first real taste of what playing jazz was like when Billy Eckstine's band was traveling through and needed to replace a sick horn player.

And Jazz music has never been the same!

For more information on the TRUMPET Click Here.

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The Trombone:

What is a Trombone?

Trombone Tromba is Italian for trumpet; a trombone is thus a "big trumpet". It is an old instrument, dating back at least to 200 A.D., and was the first of the brasses to be perfected. In the 1400s it was frequently used in church music and in so-called tower music, which was performed in clock towers by bands. They played music to signal the time and also to entertain the townspeople. In those days there were four sizes of trombones,one for each singing voice. Over the years, the soprano and alto trombones gradually disappeared, leaving the tenor and bass trombones.

The tenor trombone is the one used most in orchestras today. It is contstructed in three sections, including a U-Shaped slide, all totaling some nine feet of brass. It used to be called a sackbut, from a couple of French words that translated as "push-pull". The trombone usually has no valves or keys; the tones change as the musician moves the slide to seven basic positions. Many notes are attained not by slide shifting, however, but by the muscian's breath and his or her lip movement. The slide trombone produces different tones when the slide is moved in or out. The valve trombone is played, like the trumpet, with valves.

Trombone Sound Clip Click icon to hear the TROMBONE

Trombone Film Clip Click icon to view TROMBONE video.

Jack Teagarden

Jack Teagarden helped make the trombone a big jazz instrument. He played with many talented and gifted musicians, like the well-known Louis Armstrong.

Jack was well known for his Blues and Jazz styles and recorded with several musicians of his time.

He toured the world and brought his sound and his band to foreign listeners. He became popular while overseas.

His music continues to play everywhere and his innovative and "blusey" style is still being taught to young trombonists today.

For more information on the TROMBONE Click Here.

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Christine Williams & Mitul Sanghvi
Last Revised: January 14, 2002
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