Choosing a Musical Instrument To your Child - A Parents' Self-help guide to Brass

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Many people find themselves thrown into the world of musical instruments they know nothing about when their kids first begin music in class. Knowing the basics of excellent instrument construction, materials, and selecting a good store to rent or purchase a copy instruments is extremely important. Just what exactly process should a parent follow to make the best options for their child?

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

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

Brass instruments are made all over the world, but primarily in the united states, Germany, France, and China. Whenever we talk about brass instruments, we're referring to members of the Trumpet, Horn, Trombone, and Tuba families.


There are 2 basic kinds of materials utilized in brass instrument construction. The very first is clearly brass, and 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 used for instrument construction. Each also includes a certain tendency perfectly into a particular quality of sound - however is a very subtle distinction, and should not be used as an exclusive gauge for picking your instrument.

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

(Gold brass is additionally extremely popular, mainly due to its slightly more complex quality of sound, and personal feedback. Commonly a player hears themselves a little better using gold brass, though the trade off is a very slight reduction in projection. This more 'complex' quality is quite attractive to the ear, but can get harsh at high volumes in the event the player is not in charge of all of their technique. It is just like the transition to screaming from singing - there exists a point at which you can easily get carried away. Gold Brass sits dormant for the whole instrument (in United states, but a lot in Europe). We primarily apply it the bell (in which the sound comes out), as well as the leadpipe (the first stretch of tubing in your instrument). The leadpipe usage is now common for student instruments, since it resists corrosion well, which is a concern for teenagers whose body is volatile, and then for students who rarely clean their instruments.

This is also true of Red brass. It is a very complex sound, typically not used in student instruments. Red brass appears almost exclusively from the bell of an instrument. It's because its less stable nature in sound production at loud volumes. With that said, it can produce a marvelous sound when well-balanced against the rest of a properly designed instrument. A good example is the famous 88H Symphonic Trombone, which has been a staple of the north american marketplace for over 60 years.

The other material that is used to produce brass instruments is nickel-silver. Interestingly, there's no actual silver on this material. Most often it is a combination of Copper, Nickel, and Zinc, in varying combinations. I love to think of it as brass with nickel added. Its name hails from its physical resemblance to silver, which makes it ideal for things like brass instruments, along with the coins you probably have in your wallet.

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

Protect moving parts
Join two tubes together with a ring (called a ferrule)
Put on parts of the instrument that come into a lot of exposure to the hands to protect against friction wear from the hands.
Companies use nickel silver in a variety of ways, and on various parts of the instrument. These construction data is minimal, but below are a few suggestions to look for which can help the stability and strength of student instruments:
o The outsides of tuning slides. This can be good, because it protects parts that frequently need to be moved from damage.
o The lining tubes of tuning slides. Suitable 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 variety of shapes and sizes, at the discretion in the designer. Sometimes the interior of the ferrule is regulated to switch shape (taper) through to a larger consecutive tube. Some simple student instruments just fit expanded ends of brass tubing together.
o Parts that this hands touch. Brass is well eaten away, albeit slowly, by normal body chemistry, so a student instrument containing these areas in nickel-silver is an asset for longevity. You can find exceptions to this rule, particularly for Trumpets, whose valve casings are likely to be made of brass alone.


Mouthpieces for brass are usually referred to as 'cup' mouthpieces, and are also made of brass, but plated in silver. Brass alone can cause irritation, which is mildly toxic to be such close proximity to the lips, whereas silver is mostly neutral. There are cases by which some people are allergic to silver, but many often the allergy is because a dirty mouthpiece. The recommended test just for this is to use an alcohol based spray cleaner, out of your music retailer which is specifically intended for mouthpieces, and also to clean the mouthpiece before each use. This is a good idea, anyway. If the irritation persists, consider a gold-plated mouthpiece, or being a last resort, plastic. Note also that not all companies will include a good quality mouthpiece using instruments. Be sure to seek advice from your retailer to make certain what you are getting is what you should be using to your student.

As with instruments, mouthpieces comes in a dizzying array of shapes and specifications. Stuff that you have never heard of, such as Rim, Throat, inner diametre, Backbore, etc., may confuse you.((To produce matters more complex, there is no standard system for identifying sizing in mouthpieces. This is often difficult for the parent to digest, and also frustrating. How big or small when the various parts be?

Frequently, schools start kids on small mouthpieces since it is easy to get a response away from them. The downside on this is that small mouthpieces can translate to a very bright sound, which enable it to actually hold each student back from developing the disposable blowing of air which is essential to developing a good sound. There exists a generally accepted order of progression from bare beginner to solid student. I recommend getting the second mouthpiece from the very beginning. This will produce a bigger/fuller sound, and definately will encourage more air to be used right from the start. Don't let the numbers throw you here, the next mouthpiece is the bigger one. The bracket indicating numerology is the company that makes the mouthpiece, suggested here only for comparison.

Trumpet: 7C, 5C (Bach numerology - for strong players consider also 3C)
Horn: 30C4, 32C4 (Schilke or Yamaha numerology)
Trombone: 12C, 6┬ŻAL (Bach numerology - for strong players consider also 5GS)

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

Like with instruments, it is a excellent idea to try 3-5 at the local retailer.

When or for what reason should I not buy a new mouthpiece?
Kids often try to find the short-cut. Not being able to play high or low enough is a challenge and sometimes the kid looks for a fast answer, or has witnessed a colleague playing different things. Often, when your child approaches you in regards to a new mouthpiece, it may well very well be the time for it. Be sure you ask lots of questions on what they do and do not like about their mouthpieces so you can learn from your retailer if this is a good request. Make sure you know what they already have. The top changes to make include the subtle ones. Small variations a mouthpiece design can help get the desired result, instead of sacrifice some or all the other areas of playing. The kids that make the big changes simply to get high notes often pay for the biggest price in their tone, tuning, and technique.

Other pursuits

For Trumpet, I recommend having 1st and 3rd valve slides with rings or saddles for fast paced. 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. This has 4 valves, and offers way more choice to the player for good tuning, and development as time goes on. Horn is tricky, so helping using this type of is a good endorsement of one's child's chances.

For Tuba, try and get one that fits your child, and on which all parts - including tuning slides - will be in a state of good repair. Push the varsity if it is a good school instrument. If your child can handle a big instrument, get one.

Brass instruments need consistent maintenance to operate well. Be sure you understand what lubricants to use on the parts of your instrument. Trumpet, a rather simple instrument, needs 3 different lubricants; tuning slide, 1st/3rd valve slide, and pistons. I highly recommend synthetic lubricants. They will hold up slightly better against forgetful students who don't do the regular maintenance.

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

Avoid cheap instruments. With musical instruments you get what you purchase. There are a lot of instruments via India and China now. Lots of people are excellent, while many others must not even have been made. Your neighborhood, respected dealer needs to have those that are reliable, and may stand behind them. Your big-box Costco, Wal-Mart, BestBuy, and e-Bay doesn't have any expertise in these matters, and functions for their bottom line only. Avoid these places. They can not possibly offer you the continued assistance, service, or repair a developing and interested student will be needing. If you choose this route, obtain american-made instruments (and Japan). This can be a major separator of good from bad. Those who make brass in the USA are generally very well trained and part of a history of excellent brass making, specifically those in the Conn-Selmer family of companies. Your neighborhood, trusted retailer will guide you in the choices available, and remember that just because it says USA, or Paris into it, does not mean it was made in these places. Functions and features sometimes making these things part of the 'name' of the instrument.((Simply how much should I spend?

Which is the big question. Remember 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 generate, making them more expensive. Here is a list of acceptable pricing (at the time that this is being written) for brand new student instruments that actually works for both American and Canadian currency.

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

When should I purchase a better instrument, and Why?

Six decades ago, there were no 'student' and 'intermediate' instruments. Manufacturers were just coming to the realization that there was a growing, post-war market that was changing to aid a more commercial model of instrument making. Today, instruments are engineered to acquire to buy three times. First when just beginning, then as an advancing student, and lastly as a professional. Clearly, this can be a model that makes big money for manufacturers.

For the right reasons, I often encourage parents first of all the better instrument, or even a good used intermediate or professional instrument. Starting on better devices are like starting on that slightly larger mouthpiece; finding a bigger, better sound is encouraging. The greater construction and materials mix of these better instruments will likely leave more room to grow. So what are the right reasons? This is a list that works not only as guide in order to to choose the right instrument, however for what you should watch for to help you musical growth:

-Going into a school with a strong music program.
-Getting private lessons, or has called for some. (Check with private teacher for recommendations before selecting, this will help.)
-Practicing without parental encouragement
-Has a minimum of 4 years of playing before them.

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

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