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Definition: brass from Philip's Encyclopedia

Family of musical wind instruments made of metal and played by means of a cupped or funnel-shaped mouthpiece. Simple brass instruments, such as the bugle, produce a limited range of notes, which are the harmonics corresponding to the length of the tube. In most other brass instruments, the length of the air column can be altered by valves or slides to produce the full range of notes. The chief brass instruments of a symphony orchestra are the trumpet, French horn, trombone, and tuba. Other members of the family include the cornet.


Summary Article: brass instrument from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Any of a group of musical instruments made of brass or other metal. It does not include woodwind instruments made of metal, such as the saxophone or flute. The sound is produced when the column of air inside the instrument is made to vibrate by the player's lips vibrating against the mouthpiece. Orchestral brass instruments are descended from signalling instruments (the ‘natural horn’, ‘natural trumpet’) consisting of a single tube with no extra mechanism. These instruments could only produce notes in their own harmonic series – the higher notes of the series being produced by the player increasing the lip tension. To achieve a variety of notes, a player used a set of crooks (several pieces of tubing of differing lengths). Early in the 19th century, the invention of the valve system meant that brass instruments could now play all the notes throughout their pitch range. They are powerful and efficient generators of sound, and produce tones of great depth and resonance.

The number and type of brass instruments needed in the symphony orchestra vary, but there are usually four French horns, two trumpets, three trombones, and one tuba. In the brass band they include the cornet, flugelhorn, tenor horn, B flat baritone, euphonium, trombone, and bombardon (bass tuba).

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Brass instruments

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