Choosing a Musical Instrument For Your Child - A Parents' Self-help guide to Brass

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Many people wind up thrown into the arena of musical instruments they know nothing about when their children first begin music at school. Knowing the basics of good instrument construction, materials, deciding on a good store where you can rent or purchase these instruments is extremely important. Precisely what process should a mother or father follow to make the best selections for their child?

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

These details are intended to broaden your horizons, to not create a preference, as well as to put you in a position to nit-pick within the store! Most instruments are extremely well made these days, deciding on a respected retailer will assist you to trust recommendations. Ask your school and/or private music teacher where you should shop.

Brass instruments are made all over the world, but primarily in the us, Germany, France, and China. Whenever 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. You are 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)

These kinds of brass are all utilized for instrument construction. Each also includes 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 popular and can be used for most parts of your instrument. It features a very pure audio quality, projects best of the three alloys, and stands up very well at high volumes.

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

The same is true of Red brass. This can be a very complex sound, not often 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 in mind, it can produce a marvelous sound when well balanced against the rest of a nicely designed instrument. A good example is the famous 88H Symphonic Trombone, which was a staple of the north american industry for over 60 years.

Another material that is used to produce brass instruments is nickel-silver. Interestingly, there is absolutely no actual silver within this material. Most often this is a combination of Copper, Nickel, and Zinc, in varying combinations. I prefer to think of it as brass with nickel added. Its name hails from its physical resemblance to silver, that makes it ideal for things like brass instruments, and the coins you probably have in your pocket.

This is a very important section of your instrument. Unlike brass, it is often very hard. This makes it perfect for use on instruments to:

Protect moving parts
Join two tubes together with a ring (called a ferrule)
Wear 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 some part of the instrument. These construction data is minimal, but here are some suggestions to look for which will help the stability and strength of student instruments:
o The outsides of tuning slides. This can be good, because it protects parts that regularly need to be moved from damage.
o The lining tubes of tuning slides. Ideal for student instruments (and customary on european instruments), this protects against corrosion.
o Joint between tubes. When utilized as a ferrule, this can be a selection of shapes and sizes, at the discretion in the designer. Sometimes the interior of the ferrule is regulated to switch shape (taper) 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 easily eaten away, albeit slowly, by normal body chemistry, so a student instrument that has these areas in nickel-silver is an asset for longevity. You will find exceptions to this rule, specifically Trumpets, whose valve casings are often made of brass alone.


Mouthpieces for brass are often referred to as 'cup' mouthpieces, and tend to be made of brass, but plated in silver. Brass alone can cause irritation, which is mildly toxic to stay such close proximity on the lips, whereas silver is usually neutral. There are cases by which 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 the music retailer that is specifically intended for mouthpieces, and to clean the mouthpiece before and after each use. This is a good idea, anyway. If the irritation persists, look at a gold-plated mouthpiece, or as being a last resort, plastic. Note additionally that not all companies incorporate a good quality mouthpiece using their instruments. Be sure to seek advice from your retailer to be sure what you are getting 's what you should be using on your student.

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

Usually, schools start kids on small mouthpieces since it is easy to get a response out of them. The downside of the is that small mouthpieces can mean a very bright sound, and may actually hold each student back from developing the free blowing of air that's essential to developing a good sound. You will find there's generally accepted order of progression from bare beginner to solid student. I would recommend getting the second mouthpiece from the very beginning. This will produce a bigger/fuller sound, and may encourage more air for use right from the start. Don't let the numbers throw you here, the 2nd mouthpiece is the bigger one. The bracket indicating numerology could be the company that makes the mouthpiece, suggested here simply 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 now have left Tuba off the suggested list since there are many factors that can into play for that student. Physical size plays a component, and often the condition of the instrument being used, as well as the size of the instrument. These vary so greatly from student to the next which a personal consultation using your qualified music retailer is strongly recommended. Kids generally start on the small mouthpiece (24AW is one in the Bach numerology), such as the get off that while they should. There are a number of really excellent mouthpieces available, yet it's hard to beat the Perantucci Mouthpieces. A PT48 or PT50 helps with the advancing student, along with the professional, but remember that as students grow and modify, so may their mouthpiece needs.

Much like instruments, it is a excellent idea to try 3-5 at your local retailer.

When and what reason can i not buy a new mouthpiece?
Kids often search for the short-cut. Not being able to play low or high enough is a challenge and often the kid looks for an instant answer, or has seen a colleague playing different things. Often, when your child approaches you of a new mouthpiece, it may well very well be the time for it. Be sure you ask lots of queries about what they do and do not like regarding their mouthpieces so you can uncover from your retailer if this sounds like a good request. Make sure to know what they already have. The most effective changes to make include the subtle ones. Small differences in a mouthpiece design will help get the desired result, rather than sacrifice some or all the other areas of playing. The kids that make the big changes just to get high notes often give the biggest price of their tone, tuning, and technique.

Other considerations

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 can be very expensive.

For Horn, get a double horn. It has 4 valves, and offers a lot more choice to the player for good tuning, and development later on. Horn is tricky, so helping with this particular is a good endorsement of your respective child's chances.

For Tuba, try and get one that fits your child, and on which all parts - including tuning slides - have been 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 function well. Be sure you know what lubricants to use about what parts of your instrument. Trumpet, a relatively simple instrument, needs 3 different lubricants; tuning slide, 1st/3rd valve slide, and pistons. I strongly suggest synthetic lubricants. They are going to hold up slightly better against forgetful students who do not do the regular maintenance.

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

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

That is the big question. Know 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 create, making them more expensive. Here's a list of acceptable pricing (at that time that this is being written) for new student instruments that work well for both American and Canadian currency.

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

When should I purchase a better instrument, and Why?

Sixty years ago, there were no 'student' and 'intermediate' instruments. Manufacturers were just going to the realization that there was an emerging, post-war market that was changing to guide a more commercial model of instrument making. Today, instruments are engineered to help you get to buy three times. First as a beginner, 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 possibly a good used intermediate or professional instrument. Starting on better devices are like starting with that slightly larger mouthpiece; receiving a bigger, better sound is encouraging. The better construction and materials mixture of these better instruments will likely leave more room growing. So what are the right reasons? Here is a list that works not merely as guide for helping to choose the right instrument, nevertheless for what you should watch for to assist musical growth:

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

These factors are perfect indicators of whether to buy, and whether or not to buy intermediate or professional. When the bulk of these are unclear, look at a rental for a year to ascertain if they get any clearer, and supplement with regular (weekly) private lessons.

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