The most common instrumentation for a brass quintet is two trumpets or cornets, one French horn, one trombone or euphonium/baritone horn, and one tuba or bass trombone. However, musicians in a brass quintet often play multiple instruments. Trumpet players often double on piccolo trumpets and flugelhorns. In some pieces, the horn is replaced by an additional trombone.
Some quintets substitute a euphonium for the trombone part. While the tuba is considered a standard, the range and style of many pieces lend themselves to being played with bass trombone as the lowest-pitched instrument. Additionally, some pieces call for the use of percussion instruments, particularly the snare drum, the tambourine, or the timpani.
The contemporary brass quintet appeared in the late 1940s created by two different groups operating independently: the Chicago Brass Quintet and the New York Brass Quintet. Two members of the Chicago Brass Quintet could be credited with helping plant the seed for the following success of the brass quintet medium: Arnold Jacobs, a tuba player of the Chicago Brass Quintet who taught two founders, Daellenbach and Watts, of the Canadian Brass, and Renold Schilke, a trumpet player also in the Chicago Brass Quintet and a master craftsman who mentored the most successful brass ensemble in history and successfully crafted the first matched set of gold-plated quintet brass instruments.
The Canadian Brass established both the style and popularity of the quintet medium throughout the world, having performed more than five thousand concerts and selling more than 500,000 quintet music books. The Canadian Brass demonstrates the rise of the brass quintet as an international phenomenon. The wealth of new music for brass quintets can largely be attributed to the American Brass Quintet, which has produced more than 100 new pieces of quintet music.
Examples of notable brass quintets