Talk:Brass instrument

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Tenorshawm horn[edit]

I have removed the "tenorshawm horn", on the grounds that I don't believe it exists (it was originally listed at list of musical instruments also, but has been removed from there). If anybody knows what one is, I'm dying to know, so lets hear about it! --Camembert

I suspect it's a tenor shawm, which was a medieval reed instrument, not a brass instrument. I think it's a "horn" only in the sense that an "English horn" is a horn. -- Someone else 02:40 Dec 8, 2002 (UTC)
I know of the shawm, but thought this must be something different, as it was placed under "brass". Writing a shawm article is one of those things on my "to do" list. --Camembert
Blessings upon you. I think a good title might be "Instruments that sound like a bleating goat"<G>. -- Someone else
Heheh - it's "strident", that's all. They had to have "strident" instruments in those days, because they hadn't invented the microphone yet ;) --Camembert

Query about "Category"[edit]

Is there any benefit to saying that "brass instruments" are part of the category "brass instruments"? I mean, maybe some systems of logic permit this, but I find it counterintuitive. Ok if I revert? Thanks, Opus33 19:51, 30 May 2004 (UTC)

Dunno - is it useful that clicking it takes you to a short list of everything else in the category? I quite like that. If that is a useful feature then it should stay. Like a lot of the changes that have happened it does move us further towards a nice unified approach to finding similar stuff, rather than huge individual articles' "see also" lists or depending on the article saying "the flugel is a bit like a horn and a bit like a trumpet and a bit like a cornet and not much like a cornetto etc etc" ... hmmm not sure. I know what you mean about the set logic approach, yes, but I do quite like the indexing benefits. --Nevilley 20:55, 30 May 2004 (UTC)
Thanks, Nevilley; I think you're right we should keep it. Cheers, Opus33 22:16, 30 May 2004 (UTC)

physics of the bell[edit]

people say that a bell shape amplifies sound, and they were used in phonographs, too. it doesn't seem likely to me that it could actually amplify, though, being just a passive piece of material in a specific shape. can anyone explain the (apparent) amplification? - Omegatron 03:35, Sep 4, 2004 (UTC)

Well, from what I have gleaned off the web, the bell/horn shape does amplify the sound, in that it increases the amplitude of the sound waves, although it does not introduce any enery into the system. This makes sense; as sound waves resonate in the horn, they travel from the small end to the big end. By the time they leave the horn their amplitude is as big as the bell. I am guessing that the flared bell gives kind of a cheat by increasing the amplitude a lot at the end. Also, the shape of the bell affects the sound in complicated ways that I know nothing about. In addition, the bell shape serves to focus the sound in a particular direction. Here is the Google search I did and two links to some explanations. Hope that helps, Merphant 14:20, 11 Nov 2004 (UTC)
Hmm.. still doesn't make sense to me.  :-) - Omegatron 14:24, Nov 11, 2004 (UTC)
Hmmm... Is it just a matter of more efficiently converting vibration into sound? The vibration that isn't converted into sound becomes heat? Probably. I am rusty on the physics, but I imagine it takes the same amount of energy/power/whatever to drive a 1 gm sphere as to drive a 1 gm plate. But the plate would move more air. Obviously some of your energy goes into "wind resistance" which I guess is the same thing as converting that energy into sound. But what becomes of the extra energy? Heat doesn't sound right. - Omegatron 04:32, Mar 14, 2005 (UTC) 05:55, 15 December 2005 (UTC)

I would not call a trumpet an amplifier, and here it is as I understand it from physics classes:

If the bell end of your trumpet were not flared, like the chopped off end of a pipe, most of what you would hear would be the fundamental frequency (at which your lips actually move), and then VERY LITTLE high pitched "white noise" produced by buzzing, sounding like a mellow hum. Experiment with hoses and pipes yourself. This is where the bell comes in. The white noise, through the tube, is converted largely to high-pitch, intertube reflecting standing waves that are only audible if the end flares out (so these waves that have bounced transversely can be directed foward). The fundamental pitch, on the other hand, is a longitudinal movement of the column of air, and only varies directly in volume with the amount of air blown.

The Magic in Action:

1.Buzzing (includes a fundamental pitch and whitenoise above it)--->

2.Mouthpiece resonance (exaggerates a select series of frequencies from the white noise)--->

3.Lead pipe to bell (like the mouthpiece, also exaggerates a select and infinite series of notes. here we trade off FAST air movement with minimal sound to SLOW air movement with maximum sound...ENERGY IS CONSERVED!)

4.Bell (high frequencies resonating and reflecting inside the tubing from your buzzing "white noise" are projected foward)

To justify the penultimate bullet, remember, that if the lips were flapping, but no air was moving through the column, it would be very quiet. Air movement is KEY to the sound (exactly like a whistle or a flute). Thus, in effect, we are trading fast air movement for loud sound. And while it is tempting to call this phenomenon "amplification," only a select series of pitches (from your buzzing) actually makes it out the bell. I think a more accurate name for the process would be "harmonic filtering." Calling a trumpet an amplifier is like calling a flute an amplifier...what does a flute amplify? Nothing. You channel white noise into vibration of an air column, beginning with FAST air movement and ending in slow air movement (conservation of energy).

What happens: My educated guess? The volume of the low fundamental frequency you are buzzing is, for the most part, "unamplified" in brass instruments. It varies directly with the amount of air blown. On the other hand, higher frequencies, once a significant volume level has been reached, "appear" to become disproportionately louder, when really, all that is happening is as the white noise from the lips vibrating increases, higher and higher notes in the harmonic are piled on top of eachother to create "constructive interference," as the highest pitches formed start becoming out of audible range. Any given frequency in a brass instrument (even if input by a sinewave-producing loudspeaker) reaches a maximum volume, and from then on, only an illusion of "getting even louder" takes place, when really, only new, higher modes in the vibrating air column are activated, with each of those attaining its own maximum amplitude as new frequencies are exponentially added above it from your lips slapping harder.

Hope you like my reasoning, Mike G

P.S. To those who want to know what "series of frequencies" I was referring to, [[1]]. 05:55, 15 December 2005 (UTC)

The bell of a brass intrument functions in a similar way to a megaphone. It's the same as if you cup your hand over your ear. More of the sound waves are channelled in the direction that you want, toward the audience. Also, keep in mind that the entire instrument vibrates, so both the metal and the air inside the instrument. Feel the bell of a brass instrument while it's playing, this is more noticable on bass-instruments like the tuba. --edgester 00:46, 18 June 2006 (UTC)

Comments of a physicist[edit]

The purpose of the bell is in impedance matching, to maximise the energy transfer from the standing wave withing the instrument to the surrounding air. The principle, which is not explained in the impedance matching article itself, is that a gradual change in tube diameter (the bell) causes a gradual change in impedance. Gradual changes in impedance have improved energy transmission compared to step changes because the waves reflected back into the instrument tend to cancel each other out.

In this sense the bell is not an amplifier (this is indeed impossible with no additional energy input), but it does have an amplifying effect compared to no bell.

If no bell was on the instrument it would sound as bad as a simple piece of garden hose. The harsh 'white noise'y sound is heard in this situation because higher frequencies are more easily transmitted across an impedance step, in a mechanism analogous to the reduced Bass (musical term) response of smaller speakers. See Impedance matching#Acoustical matching.

At least thats what I understand from doing two years of degree level physics! I hope it helps... - Zephyris Talk 21:12, 7 November 2006 (UTC)

Is a mouthpiece essential to a brass instrument?[edit]

The first paragraph of this entry lists a mouthpiece as an essential part of a brass instrument. I disagree. A conch shell with the tip ground off has no need for a separate mouthpiece in order to be put into use as a brass instrument. Nor does the didgeridoo. Both instruments are, I believe, properly classified as brass instruments, since their sound derives from lip vibration causing oscillation of a column of air in a tubular or conical resonator. What makes an instrument "brass" is how its sound is produced, not what material it is made of -- as is already noted in the article -- nor the details of its construction, such as the presence or absence of a mouthpiece.

I will go ahead and edit the first paragraph, to address two related problems. First, the definition of brass instrument currently lists a mouthpiece as a defining feature of the type, which it is not, as is implicitly acknowledged later in the article by the listing of shofar and conch as brass instruments, even though these usually do not have mouthpieces. Second, the definition further specifies a cupped mouthpiece as a defining feature. This is even more clearly incorrect, as the mouthpiece of the French horn provides an obvious counterexample.
I will make two other modifications. I will make mention of the term labrosone, used as a synonym for brass instrument by Anthony Baines. I will also add didgeridoo to the list of other brass instruments. Rohirok 04:54, 13 Nov 2004 (UTC)
The page for the didgeridoo specifically states that it's a wind instrument. Someone who knows more about the issue than I do may want to remove it from the Brass Instrument page. Tahnan (talk) 08:30, 23 March 2009 (UTC)
Wind instrument is a broad category that includes both brass and woodwind instruments.--dbolton (talk) 18:24, 23 March 2009 (UTC)

This depends on your point of view. If you like the edgy sound that brass instruments have, then yes, mouthpieces are necessary. They channel a wide column of air into a small one and "spill" it back into a larger air column, saving your lungs' air. However, most importantly, as I stated above, mouthpieces serve as a filter of lower frequencies and a resonater of higher frequencies, thereby altering the equalization of the white noise input by your lips. Without a bell, these high, bright frequencies would not be projected foward. Of course, without a mouthpiece, they would not be there in the first place (they would still be in the muddle of white noise from your buzzing). -Mike

pictures of brass instruments[edit]


I'm not sure it's really correct to say partials are so called "because it causes only a part of the tubing to vibrate (whereas at the fundamental the entire tubing will vibrate)."

My understanding (admittedly from 10 year past A-Level physics) is that there is still a standing wave over the whole tube, but there are more nodes (and anti-nodes) of vibration (where you could argue that there is no vibration, as either there is no pressure change over time at these points, or no displacement of air molecules from their rest position).

If there wasn't vibration over the who tube, I don't think you'd get much noise out of the end (no energy propagation?) David Underdown 14:49, 8 March 2006 (UTC)

A partial is the interval between any note or that note, used interchangeably, played without any keys pressed down. they get progressively smaller as you rise in pitch. form the pedal tone up, it is, over 1.5 octaves: octave, perf. 5th, perf. 4th, major 3rd, minor 3rd. from there ity gets very fuzzy o the brass player, for many fingerings work. so on a Bb horn it would go:

odd F D Bb F Bb Bb(pedal)

That's the basic musicality of it. at least on a trumpet/euphonium/tuba/trombone. I don't know the physics. Faramirtook 01:20, 11 July 2006 (UTC)

The concept of a harmonic only using part of the tubing is incorrect, the higher harmonics use the entire length of the tubing, but with more waves withing that length. The term 'partial' may originate from the wavelength of the wave being only part of the entire length of the tubing. - Zephyris Talk 21:18, 7 November 2006 (UTC)

Strictly speaking, a partial is one term of the harmonic series that starts with the fundamental and goes on with integer frequency multiples of it. The way I just described it in this diff is a simplistic intuitive reading of that... __Just plain Bill 00:05, 11 November 2007 (UTC)


While reading the leaflet in a CD by Michel Portal and Richard Galliano (Blow up), I discovered the existence and sound of a rare brass instrument of the thirties : the jazzophone. I managed to find a couple of pics, which I linked to in the embryonic article I initiate about it. Since I'm not a brass player myself, can anyone simply cite it somewhere in the article in a more à propos way than what I would do? Thanks in advance. -- 11:24, 27 June 2006 (UTC)

Pedal tone[edit]

Deleted the section; wildly inaccurate and not so coherent. I don't think "Pedal tone" merits its own section, but we could possibly use a more complete description of how the overtone system works on brasses. --Rschmertz 00:41, 9 September 2006 (UTC)

lol! let's see... drawing on "harmonics" at the wiki; the picture on how a string vibrates also reflects what sound waves do insicde a brass tube. the "standing wave" prevents sound; a "harmonic wave" will freely resonate; which is why you can't easily play an "F" while fingering an "E", but "E" is easy to play.

the first harmonic, or the fundamental, and any notes below it are "pedal tones".

pressing a valve down makes the fundamental lower, and changes all the harmonics a set of lips can vibrate to above it. 2nd valve is a half step lower, 1st valve is a whole step, and the 3rd valve is a step and a half. some harmonics aren't true to pitch, and are usually avoided. with no valves pressed, the overtone series is achieved by speeding up air while tightening the embouchere, or slowing down air while loosening the embouchere.

a "bell flare" is an acoustic coupler; an impedence matching device from the mouthpeice bore diameter to the bell diameter. a conical bore instrument simply more closely follows a "horn loudspeaker" than a straight bore. straight bores are easier to play "edgy", or "brassy" than conical bores. the "ideal" conical bore would probably follow a "tractrix" curve, but this is subject to debate.

ps, I'm a horn player, and a sound engineer (RF as well, where harmonics also apply). I've found and understand the connections between many separate technologies with similar fundamentals (so to speak) (talk) 15:49, 17 March 2009 (UTC).


The trigger mechanism is not only confined to "some euphoniums and on many five-valved F-Tubas", it is also found a large number of cornets and many trumpets, is it not?-Wbchilds 00:47, 24 April 2007 (UTC)

Yes - not to mention 5-valve BBb tubas, triggers on trombones, etc... This section should be edited to show that triggers are, in fact, a common occurance.... NDCompuGeek 07:02, 24 April 2007 (UTC)

Have expanded section, but I think that the mechanism you are refering to on tubas etc are compensators, not "triggers". The section on compensators explains these well enough. Feel free to add to anything if you know of any other instruments with triggers. I've heard of and seen some other instruments with them, but they tend to be old, rare or specially made and I didnt think they were worth including. Open to futher query.-Wbchilds 10:19, 25 April 2007 (UTC)

Actually, my St. Pete BB-flat tuba has a trigger on the third tuning slide to bring it in a bit when I play it in combination with the second or fourth valve - it's a little flat otherwise. I bought it pre-broken-in (read used), so I'm not sure if this is something specific to St. Pete or if this was a custom addition. - NDCompuGeek 13:33, 21 May 2007 (UTC)

Trigger or throw on the main tuning slide?[edit]

Which instruments have one on the main tuning slide (as opposed to a valve slide) ? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 02:49, 8 January 2009 (UTC)

Main tuning slide is not expected to be moved mid-performance. The valve slides are moved because the valve system on non-compensating instruments induces errors in certain combinations. Jaxdelaguerre (talk) 06:11, 17 August 2009 (UTC)

Article quality[edit]

How hard would it be to bring this article up to GA-class? What should be added or corrected?-Wbchilds 01:58, 25 June 2007 (UTC)

Some work has been done on accuracy. Probably sources are still a big issue. E.g., What's this hanging "Baines, Anthony (1993)" reference? Who is Baines and what did he say/do/write that is cited in the top of the article then noted again in the reference? I'm inclined to remove it without full citation. JacquesDelaguerre (talk) 20:02, 6 October 2009 (UTC)
Figured out the Baines 1993 reference and did a citation. JacquesDelaguerre (talk) 12:28, 7 October 2009 (UTC)

Comparing Cylindrical/Conical Bore Tone Quality[edit]

The text describes the tone of trumpets or trombones as "bright". I have always considered these instruments to be "dark", or "edgy", or "covered" in tone. In contrast, conical-bore cornets and euphoniums have been described as "bright" and "mellow". Does "bright", for one, have a different meaning depending on the English being spoken? Why are trumpets preferred over cornets by symphonic composers? Virgil H. Soule (talk) 04:48, 3 October 2008 (UTC)

Trumpets are louder and produced higher notes more reliably in the late 19th and early 20th C. than early cornets. Jaxdelaguerre (talk) 06:14, 17 August 2009 (UTC)

Unequal Temperaments book and website[edit]

Dear friends,

The Unequal Temperaments book of 1978 was described-in writing-as the definitive reference on the matter by authorities such as John Barnes, Hubert Bédard, Kenneth Gilbert, Igor Kipnis, Rudolf Rasch and others.

In the 1990's I also developed the first professional-grade temperament spreadsheets.

Eventually I setup the "Unequal Temperaments" website, where I uploaded the spreadsheets which, kept permanently updated, are available for FREE. I also uploaded years ago a provisional "Update" to the book of 1978.

The website lately gives information on the recently released new version of Unequal Temperaments 2008, which includes a detailed chapter about Unequal Temperaments in BRASS INSTRUMENTS. (The website does NOT sell the book)

I would find it useful to Wikipedia readers if my website was included among External Links:

Kind regards


Dr. Claudio Di Veroli (talk) 17:14, 26 February 2009 (UTC)

External link[edit]

Would it be possible to add to the external links section? This page is dedicated to all the best online reference material for brass. Thanks. Ndifrancesco (talk) 12:53, 22 May 2009 (UTC)

This link would add very little value to the article and is primarily a commercial site that happens to have a page with a few brass-related links. I don't think it deserves a place in the actual article.--dbolton (talk) 19:08, 26 May 2009 (UTC)


It seems the user's contribution of a link to Valve oil is highly incidental, but I've edited it and moved it to a different rhetorical form and more appropriate para. Valve oil complains that it is orphaned, so why not? Useful info. JacquesDelaguerre (talk) 20:40, 8 November 2009 (UTC)

"Valves too large"[edit]

The following has been added today by Hyacinth:

Note that since valves lower the pitch, a valve which causes a pitch to be too low (flat) must itself be too large (sharp), while a valve which causes sharp pitches must itself be to small (flat).

I don't think this adds much and is even confusing, i.e., the valves aren't "too large", the tubing is "too long". But it's not really "too long", it's off in intonation but "working as designed" to make the combination of valves and and slides as easy to use as possible under the imperfect circumstances of the valved brass system.

I'm curious what others think before I mangle the prose ... JacquesDelaguerre (talk) 22:46, 8 April 2010 (UTC)

Longer tubes sound flatter than shorter ones. How can "too large" be sharp? I just put the page back where it was before that addition; clarification needed here before restoring that text. __ Just plain Bill (talk) 23:22, 8 April 2010 (UTC)
You know how too large can be sharp (that's what sharp means), you just couldn't think of it because of my horribly unclear text. Hyacinth (talk) 01:51, 9 April 2010 (UTC)

This isn't difficult. If you are at 12 and you want to go to 7, the number you need to go down by is 5. If you end up too low, say at 6.5, you went down by a number that was too big, thus 5.5.

With musical intervals instead of numbers, if you are at an octave (C') and you want to go down to (not by) a perfect fifth (G), you want a perfect fourth. If you end up too low, a flat perfect fifth, you went down by a perfect fourth that is too large: a sharp perfect fourth.

If you where at 1200 cents and wanted to be at 700 cents, you want to go down 500 cents. If you end up at 650 you went down 550 cents. Hyacinth (talk) 02:35, 9 April 2010 (UTC)

OK, that makes sense, but is it standard terminology? Where I come from, "sharp" means "higher pitched." Talking about intervals, I'm more used to thinking "wide" and "narrow" or perhaps "augmented" and "diminished" when fancier words seem to be called for. Who calls a wider-than-usual interval "sharp" anyway? __ Just plain Bill (talk) 02:46, 9 April 2010 (UTC)
Musicians, theorists, etc. (better question may be "who doesn't?") For example, "sharp fifth", which you won't find as often as "flat fifth" due to the latter's use in meantone temperament: [2], [3], [4], [5], [6] (last two might be the same example). Hyacinth (talk) 05:01, 9 April 2010 (UTC)
Also, if things makes sense, what prevents you from rewriting them? For example, instead of "sharp interval" you could have written "interval whose top note is sharp" or whatever. Hyacinth (talk) 05:21, 9 April 2010 (UTC)
Nothing preventing anyone from rewriting things. I removed that bit because:
  • Here the top note is in tune, and the bottom note is flat. That's the trouble with calling a wide interval "sharp." It all depends on which end you consider the anchor. It only makes sense if you consider the interval as going from low to high, as many of your sources seem to assume without saying so.
  • I don't care for circumlocutions, especially confusing ones. In casual conversation, taking the long way around the barn can be fun, but this is supposed to be encyclopedic exposition.
I am perfectly willing to tighten up text where I think its point adds to ease of understanding. Here, I am not so sure that it did. That said, I'm still reading and listening. __ Just plain Bill (talk) 11:37, 9 April 2010 (UTC)
After re-reading them, I see all of those examples refer to low-to-high intervals, assuming the lower note to be the one in tune. That is irrelevant to the context of adding length to a brass tube. A downward leap of a wide fifth from an in-tune note goes to a note that sounds flat. Flat is not sharp, no matter what the octave or pitch class. Again, in the obvious sense that plainly matters here: who calls a wide downward leap "sharp" anyway? __ Just plain Bill (talk) 17:46, 9 April 2010 (UTC)
Just plain Bill, as a revision note to your latest edit, you state "brasses do not need to play in equal temperament; see U. of Oklahoma reference". While this is true, when speaking of the out-of-tune-ness of valves, that out-of-tune-ness must be with respect to some scale. Most people mean even temperament when they refer to the intonation difficulty of brass.
It is not a question of brass instruments being built intended for one intonation scheme and being found wanting w/r/t another intonation scheme such as even temperament ... it's the logistical reality that they cannot be built with perfectly consistent intonation w/r/t any plausible intonation system as long as they depend upon combinations of valves which individually when played alone must produce accurate intervals. I.e., if valves 1 and 2 are accurate alone, they cannot be accurate in combination. This is why valve 3 alone is always "wrong" ... it is intended only to be used in combination. JacquesDelaguerre (talk) 05:06, 12 April 2010 (UTC)
Indeed. Trumpeters and other valved brass players are aware of various alternate fingerings, and may even on rare occasions use the 3rd valve instead of 1 & 2 together, but generally only briefly, on the way to or from some other fingering. In every case, no matter what the intonation scheme of the moment, there will be a desired pitch, and that is what makes sense to describe (briefly) in the note on that table.
I do not believe that "Most people mean even temperament when they refer to the intonation difficulty of brass."
Not all music is played with a piano on the scene. Near the top, that reference mentions "different tuning problems when performing with a keyboard instrument (using equal temperament) and an instrumental ensemble (using just/natural intonation)".
The length of tubing added by each valve is variable with individual valve slides. In the usual case of the third valve on a trumpet, and often the first, those slides may be moved swiftly enough to give a skilled player the ability to tune each note as it comes, which in fact is the commonly used best practice. Hyacinth's justly tuned table below, or a merger of it with the table currently in the article, may be a vehicle for further explanation of that. __ Just plain Bill (talk) 11:42, 12 April 2010 (UTC)

Just version of the table currently in article:

Valve combination and creation of pitch discrepancies
Valve(s) Desired pitch Necessary
valve length
tubing length
Open tubing B 0" - -
2 A 6.6" - -
1 A 12.5" - -
1+2 G 19.9" 19.1" 0.8"
3 G 19.9" - -
2+3 G 24.9" 26.5" 1.6"
1+3 F 33.3" 32.4" 0.9"
1+2+3 E 39.9" 39" 0.9"

Hyacinth (talk) 07:04, 12 April 2010 (UTC)

Nice tables, Hyacinth!
Just plain Bill, when you're right, you're right, now our only concern is to see we don't make readers' heads spin :) Please see my comments below to Hy about the two points I feel are important to make regarding valved brass intonation JacquesDelaguerre (talk) 13:36, 12 April 2010 (UTC)


  • The flatness of the 3rd valve alone (lowering the pitch by something slightly more than 1-1/2 steps) serves to render its combination with the 2nd valve (1/2 step) correct in yielding 2 whole steps. The player is expected to use the 1st and 2nd valves in combination to achieve (a very closely correct) 1-1/2 steps rather than relying on the 3rd valve alone, the latter only intended to be used in valve combinations. Playing notes using certain combinations of valves (notably 1st + 3rd and 1st + 2nd + 3rd) requires compensation to adjust the tuning appropriately, either by the player's lip-and-breath control, or via mechanical assistance of some sort.

The above needs more explanation or correction. Hyacinth (talk) 02:17, 9 April 2010 (UTC)

For example, given a length of tubing equaling 100 inches when open and a consistent addition of 6 inches (correct for the 2nd valve), one obtains the following tuning discrepancies:

Valve combination and effect on pitch
Valve(s) Adds Total Pitch Tubing/open Decimal ET decimal Intonation Semitone:
previous/current pitches
ET decimal
Open tubing 0" 100" B 100/100 1.0 1.0 in tune
2 6" 106" A 106/100 1.06 1.059 in tune 106/100 1.06 1.059 in tune
1 12" 112" A 112/100 1.12 1.122 (flat) 112/106 1.057 1.059 (sharp)
1+2 18" 118" G 118/100 1.18 1.189 (flat) 118/112 1.056 1.059 (sharp)
3 18" 118" G 118/100 1.18 1.189 (flat) 118/112 1.056 1.059 (sharp)
2+3 24" 124" G 124/100 1.24 1.259 flat 124/118 1.051 1.059 sharp
1+3 30" 130" F 130/100 1.30 1.335 flat 130/124 1.048 1.059 sharp
1+2+3 36" 136" E 136/100 1.36 1.414 flat 136/130 1.046 1.059 sharp

However, given a length of tubing equaling 100 inches when open, a first valve of 12 inches and a 1+3 combination equaling the correct 33.5 inches, one obtains the following tuning discrepancies:

Valve combination and effect on pitch
Valve(s) Adds Total Pitch Tubing/open Decimal ET decimal Intonation Semitone:
previous/current pitches
ET decimal
Open tubing 0" 100" B 100/100 1.0 1.0 in tune
2 4.4" 104.4" A 104.4/100 1.044 1.059 flat 104.4/100 1.044 1.059 sharp
1 12" 112" A 112/100 1.12 1.122 (flat) 112/104.4 1.073 1.059 flat
1+2 18" 118" G 118/100 1.18 1.189 (flat) 118/112 1.056 1.059 (sharp)
3 21.5" 121.5" G 121.5/100 1.215 1.189 sharp 121.5/118 1.029 1.059 sharp
2+3 25.9" 125.9" G 125.9/100 1.259 1.259 in tune 125.9/121.5 1.036 1.059 sharp
1+3 33.5" 133.5" F 133.5/100 1.335 1.335 in tune 133.5/125.9 1.060 1.059 flat
1+2+3 39.5" 139.5" E 139.5/100 1.395 1.414 flat 139.5/133.5 1.045 1.059 sharp
  • Note that [in this system] the 2nd valve is short to compensate for the 3rd. While the 2nd is flat and the third is sharp, together 2+3 is in tune.

The above demonstrates that more than one tuning discrepancy is possible, and thus an actual, if not common one should be described. The second table is based on : "Suppose that the first and third valves do lower it by 5 equal tempered, in other words they decrease the pitch by 33.5% and so must together add a length of 33.5 cm. So fingering 1 − 3 has pipe of length 133.5 cm. If we add our 5.9 cm, we increase this to 139.4 cm. This is an increase of 5.9 cm/133.5 cm, which is only 4.4%, which is only three quarters of an equal tempered semitone." Hyacinth (talk) 03:47, 9 April 2010 (UTC)

You're correct that there is more than one scheme for the tubing lengths ergo my explanatory text may have been overly simplistic.
I'm not sure the whole brass intonation discussion, so marvellous here on the talk page, fits into the Brass instrument section article itself :)
The two points that I think are important to make are as follows:
  1. All non-compensated (via compensating system or via lipping or sliding) valved brass instruments based on the classic three-valve system, even extended to five or six valves, are pretty noticeably out of tune with respect to any common Western tuning system.
  2. They're not out of tune because brass instrument makers made a mistake, they're out of tune because the combinatorial nature of the valves inherently cannot be perfectly correct, always erring either on the valve-alone side or the valve-combination side.
JacquesDelaguerre (talk) 13:30, 12 April 2010 (UTC)
You might not need to keep repeating yourself: [7]. Hyacinth (talk) 01:32, 14 April 2010 (UTC)
Nice edit, Hy. BTW ...
which is only three quarters of an equal tempered semitone
That's not an "only" ... 3/4 of an equal tempered semitone is hugely discernible to the musical ear. But otherwise, point taken, my friend. JacquesDelaguerre (talk) 06:00, 14 April 2010 (UTC)
The quote means "only three-quarters" as in "not enough to be a whole one". Hyacinth (talk) 06:17, 14 April 2010 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────Is there a reference handy for what brass instrument manufacturers actually do? In the case of trumpets and cornets, it makes little musical sense to have any single valve sound flat. Better to have all valves and their combinations either in tune or sharp, since the usual slide compensation (either ring/saddle combinations or triggers) generally extends slides from their shortest position. Typically the third valve slide is extended for 1-3 and 1-2-3 fingerings, with further refinements of on-the-fly valve slide compensation described in that U of OK reference. That said, I doubt the article stands to benefit from going into such a level of detail. __ Just plain Bill (talk) 11:34, 14 April 2010 (UTC)

Thanks everyone my comments well answered. Great contentment reigns for the nonce. JacquesDelaguerre (talk) 14:47, 14 April 2010 (UTC)

L-shaped Horn?[edit]

I have just seen on TV (in a performance of Rossini's Messe Solonnelle from Germany) a horn about the size of an alto or baritone horn, but L-shaped, the bell pointing forward, with a U of straight tube over the player's shoulder, and the rest, including the valves, down his front. What was it? --Hugh7 (talk) 06:37, 23 June 2010 (UTC)

Probably a cimbasso. David Underdown (talk) 09:16, 23 June 2010 (UTC)

query re history[edit]

i came to this page (while listening to a classical piece) with a specific question in mind: what are the origins of brass instruments? A quick perusal did not provide the answer, and that was all i wanted. Couldn't this be a useful section to add? zonker 02:22, 11 February 2011 (UTC)zonker123 — Preceding unsigned comment added by Zonker123 (talkcontribs)

Good question. Information on the history of brass is split (perhaps clumsily) across the articles for the individual instruments and is not exhaustive. A coherent discussion extracted from other articles and supplemented might be a separate article, History of Brass Instruments. -- JacquesDelaguerre (talk) 11:03, 11 February 2011 (UTC)

Additional citations[edit]

Why and where does this article need additional citations for verification? What references does it need and how should they be added? Hyacinth (talk) 02:30, 31 October 2011 (UTC)

Additional valves[edit]

“While no longer featured in euphoniums for decades, professional tubas are still built like this, with five valves being the norm on CC- and BB-tubas and five or six valves on F-tubas.” - this conflicts with my considerable personal experience within brass bands, particularly as a BB♭ bass player. It may be true for orchestral tubas, but I would dispute “the norm”. In brass banding, 4 valve basses (and euphs) dominate. I've rephrased this sentence subtly to reduce the emphasis, and noted that it is, in fact, unreferenced. JRYon (talk) 18:29, 30 July 2012 (UTC)

List of Western Brass Instruments[edit]

Wouldn't this be a good idea here? Like a list of traditional instruments, and their ranges with links, rather than burying them in a paragraph? Not trying to intrude—just a thought. o0drogue0o 08:18, 15 November 2012 (UTC) — Preceding unsigned comment added by O0drogue0o (talkcontribs)

Small images or icons of brass instruments[edit]

I would find that the article could be more useful as an educative tool if there was an example shots of each of the instruments keep it simple, not make it artistic). Something along the lines of "Which brass instrument is that?" — billinghurst sDrewth 11:22, 18 December 2012 (UTC)

Valve tubing[edit]

I have added a section on relative tube length under the valves and their relation to just tuning. I am not a trumpet player, but very interested in music theory. What do you experts think about the formulation? Should I add alternative fingerings? Should I add a cents comparison to a just tuned scale? What is the modern real tuning of the valved tube extensions? Should I remove the now mostly redundant section just above it with absolute measurements? −Woodstone (talk) 07:31, 23 November 2014 (UTC)

FYI, the tubing length of a brass instrument does not strictly determine the pitch the way one might think it does. Of course each partial does have a favored pitch center that depends on the tubing length, the shape of the bore, the profile of the bell flare, and the particulars of the mouthpiece cup, venturi and backbore, as well as the length and taper of the leadpipe, if present.
Still, some horns "slot" that center pitch more narrowly than others. On a horn with wider slotting, the player has more freedom to lip the pitch up or down. On a slide trombone, it is even possible to apply some slide vibrato while using the lip to hold the pitch steady. In such a case, the slide motion can affect the timbre of the note more than its pitch.
An analogous situation in a keyboard synthesizer might be heard with a variable bandpass filter more or less centered on the note being played, while a varying control voltage shifts the filter's peak frequency. In that case, the Q of the filter would be analogous to the degree of slotting shown by the horn.
I believe that brass players "sing" a note with their lip buzz, and choose a valve or slide position which allows that note to be reinforced by the horn. Naturally, the lip vibration is strongly influenced by the horn's resonance(s), but that element of pitch control is what makes listening to experienced brass players more rewarding than hearing elementary-school players. This is based on my dilettante-level experience with the cornet, bugle, trombone, and euphonium. Just plain Bill (talk) 16:42, 23 November 2014 (UTC)
Thanks for your comments. Of course I'm well aware that the numbers given are based on a rather simplified model of the horn. The complicated shape makes that the effective length depends somewhat on frequency and that the "harmonics" are not exactly multiples of the fundamental. Furthermore the player has a certain amount of control to vary pitch by the way of blowing. But nevertheless, I found the resulting data insightful. −Woodstone (talk) 20:02, 23 November 2014 (UTC)
A further complication: A tube, open at one end, only has resonances at odd multiples of its fundamental fequency. The shape of the bell is responsible for pushing the lower partials up in frequency, so that the horn produces a series of pitches that sound like an approximation of both odd- and even-numbered harmonics. The approximation is imperfect, and experienced trombone players pay attention to the slide adjustments needed to bring each note in tune, depending on the characteristics of the particular horn on their face at the moment. Adhering to a given temperament adds another layer of complication, but that is outside the scope of discussing the fit between a horn's overtones or partials, and an ideal harmonic series. Just plain Bill (talk) 20:56, 23 November 2014 (UTC)
Physicists still debate aspects of tube vibrations and it is an open field of research to this day. We'll not sort it all out on Wikipedia :) JacquesDelaguerre (talk) 00:59, 25 November 2014 (UTC)
I guess horn makers know a fair bit about what they aim to produce. Some information, the sort that is held in institutional memory in the form of tooling and experienced workers, may come and go as manufacturing shifts from one location to another. That kind of information may not transport well to encyclopedic text pages, even when the source is willing to share it. We take what we can get... Just plain Bill (talk) 03:29, 25 November 2014 (UTC)
We are in "violent agreement" on that, Mr. Bill :) JacquesDelaguerre (talk) 14:35, 25 November 2014 (UTC)
I vehemently agree, M. Jacques. ;) Just plain Bill (talk) 17:31, 25 November 2014 (UTC)

Alloys used in brass instruments?[edit]

What alloys are typically used for the making of brass instruments? have these changed over the years? why? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 02:04, 2 December 2014 (UTC)

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