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Brass instrument
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Brass instrument


A brass instrument is a musical instrument that uses a cupped mouthpiece shaped in a way that allows the player's lips to vibrate to generate the instrument's sound.

The view of most scholars (see organology) is that the term "brass instrument" should be defined by the way the sound is made, as above, and not by whether the instrument is actually made of brass. Thus, as exceptional cases one finds "brass instruments" made of wood, like the cornett, and "woodwind instruments" made of brass, like the saxophone.

Table of contents
1 Families of brass instruments
2 Sound production in brass instruments
3 Other
4 See also
5 External link

Families of brass instruments

Brass instruments nowadays generally come in one of three families:

Piston valve

Rotary value


In the past, a fourth type was common:

Some other brass instruments

Sound production in brass instruments

Because the player of a brass instrument has direct control of the prime vibrator (the lips), brass instruments exploit the player's ability to select the harmonic at which the instrument's column of air will vibrate. By making the instrument about twice as long as the equivalent woodwind instrument and starting with the second harmonic, players can get a good range of notes simply by varying the tension of their lips (see embouchure). Brass players call each harmonic a "partial".

One interesting difference between a woodwind instrument and a brass instrument is that woodwind instruments are non-directional. This means that the sound produced propagates in all directions with approximately equal volume. Brass instruments, on the other hand, are highly directional, with most of the sound produced traveling straight outward from the bell. This difference makes it significantly more difficult to record a woodwind instrument accurately. It also plays a major role in some performance situations, such as in marching bands.


The trumpet, trombone, French horn, and tuba are the brass instruments most often found in a symphony orchestra. See also wind instrument.

For a comparative list of the pitch of various brass instruments see pitch of brass instruments.

See also

External link