Choosing a Musical Instrument On your Child - A Parents' Help guide to Brass

Many people are thrown into the arena of musical instruments they know nothing about when their kids first begin music in class. Knowing the basics of proper instrument construction, materials, picking a good store in which to rent or buy these instruments is extremely important. Just what exactly process should a parent follow to make the best selections for their child?

Clearly the initial step is to choose an instrument. Let your child have their choice. Kids don't make very many big decisions about their life, and this is a large one that can be very empowering. I'm also able to say from personal experience that children have a natural intuition by what is good for them. Ultimately, my strongest advice would be to put a child in to a room to try at most 3-5 different choices, and permit them to make their choice using the sound they like best.

This post is intended to broaden your horizons, to never create a preference, or to put you in a position to nit-pick within the store! Most instruments are incredibly well made these days, and selecting a respected retailer will help you trust recommendations. Ask your school and/or private music teacher where you can shop.

Brass instruments are created all over the world, but primarily in the us, Germany, France, and China. Once we talk about brass instruments, we have been referring to members of the Trumpet, Horn, Trombone, and Tuba families.


There are 2 basic kinds of materials employed in brass instrument construction. The first is clearly brass, along with the second is nickel-silver.

Brass used for instruments is available in three types:
Yellow Brass (70% Copper, 30% Zinc)
Gold Brass (85% Copper, 15% Zinc)
Red Brass (90% Copper, 10% Zinc)

Most of these brass are all employed for instrument construction. Each also carries a certain tendency towards a particular quality of sound - however this is a very subtle distinction, and cannot be used as an exclusive gauge for choosing your instrument.

Yellow brass is most common and can be used for most elements of your instrument. It possesses a very pure quality of sound, projects best of the three alloys, and supports very well at high volumes.

(Gold brass is also extremely popular, mainly because slightly more complex audio quality, and personal feedback. Normally a player hears themselves somewhat better using gold brass, however the trade off is a very slight loss in projection. This more 'complex' quality is very attractive to the ear, but sometimes get harsh at high volumes if the player is not accountable for all of their technique. It is similar to the transition to screaming from singing - there is a point at which you can easily get carried away. Gold Brass is not used for the whole instrument (in America, but a lot in Europe). We primarily apply it the bell (the location where the sound comes out), and the leadpipe (the first stretch of tubing inside your instrument). The leadpipe usage has become common for student instruments, because it resists corrosion well, the industry concern for teenagers whose body is volatile, and then for students who rarely clean their instruments.

This is also true of Red brass. This is a very complex sound, not often used in student instruments. Red brass appears almost exclusively from the bell of an instrument. This is due to its less stable nature in sound production at loud volumes. With that in mind, it can produce a marvelous sound when well-balanced against the rest of a highly designed instrument. An illustration is the famous 88H Symphonic Trombone, that has been a staple of the north american market for over 60 years.

The opposite material that is used to generate brass instruments is nickel-silver. Interestingly, there is absolutely no actual silver within this material. Most often it is a combination of Copper, Nickel, and Zinc, in varying combinations. I enjoy think of it as brass with nickel added. Its name is derived from its physical resemblance to silver, so that it is ideal for things like brass instruments, and also the coins you probably have in your wallet.

This is a very important a part of your instrument. Unlike brass, it is commonly very hard. This makes it well suited for use on instruments to:

Protect moving parts
Join two tubes with a ring (called a ferrule)
Wear parts of the instrument that can into a lot of exposure to the hands to protect against friction wear through the hands.
Companies use nickel silver in various ways, and on differing of the instrument. These construction details are minimal, but here are several suggestions to look for that can help the stability and strength of student instruments:
o The outsides of tuning slides. This really is good, because it protects parts that regularly need to be moved from damage.
o The lining tubes of tuning slides. Well suited for student instruments (and customary on european instruments), this protects against corrosion.
o Joint between tubes. When used as a ferrule, this can be a number of shapes and sizes, at the discretion in the designer. Sometimes the inside of the ferrule is regulated to improve shape (taper) right through to a larger consecutive tube. Some simple student instruments just fit expanded ends of brass tubing together.
o Parts how the hands touch. Brass is well eaten away, albeit slowly, by normal body, so a student instrument that has these areas in nickel-silver can be an asset for longevity. There are exceptions to this rule, specifically Trumpets, whose valve casings are usually made of brass alone.


Mouthpieces for brass are generally referred to as 'cup' mouthpieces, and they are made of brass, but plated in silver. Brass without treatment can cause irritation, and is mildly toxic to be such close proximity towards the lips, whereas silver is generally neutral. There are cases where some people are allergic to silver, most often the allergy is because a dirty mouthpiece. The recommended test just for this is to use an alcohol based spray cleaner, from a music retailer that is specifically intended for mouthpieces, and clean the mouthpiece both before and after each use. This is a good idea, anyway. If the irritation persists, think about a gold-plated mouthpiece, or as a last resort, plastic. Note that not all companies incorporate a good quality mouthpiece using instruments. Be sure to talk with your retailer to ensure what you are getting 's what you should be using on your student.

As with instruments, mouthpieces can come in a dizzying array of shapes and specifications. Things that you have never heard of, like Rim, Throat, inner diametre, Backbore, etc., may confuse you.((To make matters more complex, there's no standard system for identifying sizing in mouthpieces. This is often difficult for the parent to digest, as well as frustrating. How big or small if the various parts be?

Frequently, schools start kids on small mouthpieces since it is easy to get a response from them. The downside of the is that small mouthpieces can mean a very bright sound, and may actually hold a student back from developing the free blowing of air that is certainly essential to developing a good sound. There is a generally accepted order of progression from bare beginner to solid student. I suggest getting the second mouthpiece from the very beginning. This will produce a bigger/fuller sound, and can encourage more air to use right from the start. Don't let the numbers throw you here, the next mouthpiece is the bigger one. The bracket indicating numerology may be the company that makes the mouthpiece, suggested here limited to comparison.

Trumpet: 7C, 5C (Bach numerology - for strong players consider also 3C)
Horn: 30C4, 32C4 (Schilke or Yamaha numerology)
Trombone: 12C, 6½AL (Bach numerology - for strong players consider also 5GS)

We've got left Tuba off the suggested list as there are many factors which come into play for your student. Physical size plays a component, and often the condition of the instrument used, as well as the size of the instrument. These vary so greatly from student to the next that a personal consultation with your qualified music retailer is strongly recommended. Kids generally start taking the small mouthpiece (24AW is a in the Bach numerology), along with get off that while they should. There are a number of really excellent mouthpieces available, but it is hard to beat the Perantucci Mouthpieces. A PT48 or PT50 is helpful for the advancing student, along with the professional, but remember that as students grow and modify, so may their mouthpiece needs.

Just like instruments, it is a very good idea to try 3-5 at your local retailer.

When and what reason can i not buy a new mouthpiece?
Kids often seek out the short-cut. Not being able to play low or high enough is a challenge and often the kid looks for a quick answer, or has witnessed a colleague playing something different. Often, when your child approaches you about a new mouthpiece, it could very well be the time for it. Make sure to ask lots of queries about what they do and do not like with regards to their mouthpieces so you can learn from your retailer if this describes a good request. Make sure to know what they already have. The top changes to make include the subtle ones. Small differences in a mouthpiece design can help get the desired result, rather than sacrifice some or other areas of playing. Students that make the big changes in order to get high notes often give the biggest price within their tone, tuning, and technique.

Other pursuits

For Trumpet, I recommend having 1st and 3rd valve slides with rings or saddles for quick. These are helpful for tuning.

For Trombone, for early beginners, a nickel-silver slide a very good idea, as slide repairs are very pricey.

For Horn, get a double horn. It is 4 valves, and offers way more choice to the player once and for all tuning, and development down the road. Horn is tricky, so helping using this type of is a good endorsement of the child's chances.

For Tuba, try and get one that fits your kids, and on which every part - including tuning slides - are in a state of good repair. Push the school if it is a good school instrument. If your kid can handle a big instrument, buy one.

Brass instruments need consistent maintenance to work well. Be sure you know what lubricants to use on the parts of your instrument. Trumpet, a comparatively simple instrument, needs 3 different lubricants; tuning slide, 1st/3rd valve slide, and pistons. I strongly suggest synthetic lubricants. They'll hold up slightly better against forgetful students that don't do the regular maintenance.

Cleaning. Once every 12-18 months possess a professional cleaning. Otherwise clean in your house once a month using soap and lukewarm water (trouble will cause your lacquer to peel of the horn), and a flexible brush out of your retailer.

Avoid cheap instruments. With instruments you get what you pay for. There are a lot of instruments received from India and China now. The majority are excellent, while many others must not even have been made. Your neighborhood, respected dealer must have those that are reliable, and definately will stand behind them. Your big-box Costco, Wal-Mart, BestBuy, and e-Bay does not have any expertise in these matters, and operations for their bottom line only. Avoid these places. They won't possibly offer you the continued assistance, service, or repair a developing and interested student will require. If you choose this route, obtain american-made instruments (and Japan). This will be a major separator of good from bad. Individuals who make brass in the USA are generally very well trained and part of a history of excellent brass making, particularly those in the Conn-Selmer family of companies. The local, trusted retailer will help to guide you in the choices available, please remember that just because it says USA, or Paris into it, does not mean it was stated in these places. Increase which mean sometimes making this stuff part of the 'name' of the instrument.((The amount should I spend?

That is the big question. Be aware that popular instruments, like Trumpet, are less expensive because they are made in greater quantities. Some instruments, like Horn and Tuba, are challenging and time-consuming to produce, making them more expensive. Here's a list of acceptable pricing (during the time that this is being written) for brand new student instruments that works well for both American and Canadian currency.

Trumpet: $400-600
Horn: $1600 or higher (Get a double horn, or else you be back to buy another, soon!)
Trombone: $400-$700
Tuba: $2300 or over

When should I purchase a better instrument, and Why?

60 years ago, there were no 'student' and 'intermediate' instruments. Manufacturers were just visiting the realization that there was a rising, post-war market that was changing to guide a more commercial label of instrument making. Today, instruments are engineered to obtain to buy three times. First when getting started, then as an advancing student, and finally as a professional. Clearly, this is the model that makes a lot of money for manufacturers.

Ideal reasons, I often encourage parents first of all the better instrument, or maybe a good used intermediate or professional instrument. Starting on better devices are like starting with that slightly larger mouthpiece; finding a bigger, better sound is encouraging. The higher construction and materials blend of these better instruments will even leave more room growing. So what are the right reasons? This is a list that works not just as guide in order to to choose the right instrument, but also for what you should watch for to assist musical growth:

-Going to some school with a strong music program.
-Getting private lessons, or has called for some. (Check with private teacher for recommendations before buying, this will help.)
-Practicing without parental encouragement
-Has at the very least 4 years of playing ahead of them.

These factors are great indicators of if they should buy, and if they should buy intermediate or professional. In the event the bulk of these are unclear, think about rental for a year to see if they get any clearer, and supplement with regular (weekly) private lessons.

Music is an investment that requires attention from a variety of angles, and the instrument itself is simply a small step. Being with the knowledge of how to obtain the instrument is just portion of a process that a parent can - and will - be actively associated with. Many parents have no idea anything about this, but now you do! Ask the questions you should know, and you'll be just fine taking your new instrument.



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