How brass instruments work

So many of us love listening to orchestra or jazz music. But does the working of these brass instruments create a curiosity in your mind. If yes, then you might want to keep reading further.

Let’s begin with what actually is a brass instrument.

In simple words, a brass instrument is a musical instrument that produces sound by sympathetic vibration of air and the player’s lips. They are also called ‘labrosones’ or ‘labrophones’; a combination derived from ‘Latin’ and ‘Greek’ words meaning ‘lip’ and ‘sound’. Brass instruments are musical instruments that can produce sound as mentioned above and not the ones that are only made from brass.

How do Brass instruments work?

Music consists of vibrations traveling through air, like any sound. Instruments are based on how those vibrations are produced. Percussion instruments are struck, string instruments are plucked or bowed, woodwinds have air blown against a reed or sharp edge.

Brass instruments work with the help of three things, the vibration of the air blown by the musician, the valves and the control of the musician on his lips while blowing the air.

The first thing a brass instrument player learns is to breathe in as much air as possible. The musician has to then blow the air into the tubes of the instrument. Valves are used to change the tube length of the instrument. This helps the musician in playing different notes of different frequencies. There are different types of valves like ‘Piston Valve’, ‘Rotary Valve’ and ‘Slide Valve’. The most important and difficult task in playing a brass instrument is the control the musician has while letting the air out from his lips in order to create the desired musical sound.

As the escaping air meets resistance it creates a vibration called the ‘Buzz’. Harmonic series is a limited pattern of pitches formed by the way that sound waves travel through these tubes. The musician can alter the pitch of the note through slight contractions of lips and alterations to air, volume and speed. Slower, warm sighing air produces lower pitches and faster cool flowing air produces higher pitches in the series.

The musical experience we receive on the other end is the musician’s exceptional skill to control his breathing and his instrument.

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