Brass instruments are wind instruments and although they may be coiled or bent in different shapes, all brass instruments consists essentially of a very long metal tube. If you straightened out all the tubing on a French horn, for example, it would be about 17 feet long! And the tubing of a tuba might be up to 26 feet long. There are two main ways to play different notes, or pitches, on a brass instrument. One is to change the actual length of the tube either using valves as on the French horn, trumpet, and tuba or a slide as on the trombone. The longer the tube, the lower the note. The shorter the tube, the higher the note. The other way to change notes is to vary the tension of the lips and the pressure of the breath. Not all brass instruments are made of brass, by the way. Some are made of nickel silver, which is an alloy of copper, zinc, and nickel. And some are made of nickel bronze, an alloy of copper, tin, and nickel. Many are silver plated and some are gold plated.
A Minute with Miles - a production of ETV Radio, made possible by the JM Smith Corporation.