Choosing a Musical Instrument For Your Child - A Parents' Guide to Brass

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Many people are thrown into the arena of musical instruments they know nothing about when their young children first begin music in school. Knowing the basics of excellent instrument construction, materials, and selecting a good store in order to rent or purchase a copy instruments is extremely important. Precisely what process should a parent or gaurdian follow to make the best choices for their child?

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Clearly the first task is to choose an instrument. Let your child have their own choice. Kids don't make developed solid relationships . big decisions regarding their life, and this is a big one that can be very empowering. I'm also able to say from personal experience that children have a natural intuition in what is good for them. Ultimately, my strongest advice would be to put a child in a room to try a maximum of 3-5 different choices, and allow them make their choice based on the sound they like best.

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

Brass instruments are produced all over the world, but primarily in the us, 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 two basic kinds of materials found in brass instrument construction. The foremost is clearly brass, and also 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 has a certain tendency towards a particular quality of sound - but this is a very subtle distinction, and should not be used as an exclusive gauge for choosing your instrument.

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

(Gold brass can be extremely popular, mainly due to the 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 incredibly attractive to the ear, but can get harsh at high volumes in the event the player is not accountable for all of their technique. It's just like the transition to screaming from singing - there exists a point at which you can easily go too far. Gold Brass just sits there for the whole instrument (in The united states, but a lot in Europe). We primarily utilize it for the bell (where the sound comes out), and the leadpipe (the first stretch of tubing with your instrument). The leadpipe usage is becoming common for student instruments, as it resists corrosion well, the industry concern for teenagers whose body is volatile, and then for students who rarely clean their instruments.

Does of Red brass. This can be a very complex sound, generally not used in student instruments. Red brass appears almost exclusively inside 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 well designed instrument. One example is the famous 88H Symphonic Trombone, that has been a staple of the north american market for over 60 years.

The other material that is used to produce brass instruments is nickel-silver. Interestingly, there is no actual silver on 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 the coins you probably have in your wallet.

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

Protect moving parts
Join two tubes with a ring (called a ferrule)
Wear parts of the instrument which come into a lot of contact with the hands to protect against friction wear from the hands.
Companies use nickel silver in a variety of ways, and on differing of the instrument. These construction details are minimal, but below are a few suggestions to look for which will help the stability and strength of student instruments:
o The outsides of tuning slides. This really is good, because it protects parts that frequently need to be moved from damage.
o The within tubes of tuning slides. Well suited 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 inside the ferrule is regulated to switch shape (taper) by way of a larger consecutive tube. Some standard student instruments just fit expanded ends of brass tubing together.
o Parts that the hands touch. Brass is easily eaten away, albeit slowly, by normal body, so a student instrument which includes these areas in nickel-silver is surely an asset for longevity. You'll find exceptions to this rule, specifically Trumpets, whose valve casings are often 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 by itself can cause irritation, which is mildly toxic to be such close proximity for the lips, whereas silver is usually neutral. There are cases in which some people are allergic to silver, most often the allergy is caused by a dirty mouthpiece. The recommended test because of this is to use an alcohol based spray cleaner, from your music retailer which is specifically intended for mouthpieces, and to clean the mouthpiece both before and after each use. This is a good idea, anyway. If the irritation persists, look at a gold-plated mouthpiece, or as a last resort, plastic. Note additionally that not all companies will include a good quality mouthpiece using their instruments. Be sure to talk with your retailer to be sure what you are getting is what you should be using for the 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 create matters more complex, there's no standard system for identifying sizing in mouthpieces. This could be difficult for the parent to digest, and also frustrating. How big or small if the various parts be?

Most often, schools start kids on small mouthpieces because it is easy to get a response from them. The downside of this is that small mouthpieces can mean a very bright sound, and will actually hold a student back from developing the free blowing of air which is 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 right off the bat. This will produce a bigger/fuller sound, and may encourage more air to be utilized right from the start. Don't let the numbers throw you here, the second 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 have left Tuba off the suggested list as there are many factors that can come into play to the student. Physical size plays a component, and often the condition of the instrument getting used, as well as the size of the instrument. These vary so greatly derived from one of student to the next that a personal consultation together with your qualified music retailer is strongly recommended. Kids generally begin the small mouthpiece (24AW is a in the Bach numerology), try not to get off that but they should. There are a number of really excellent mouthpieces available, but it's hard to beat the Perantucci Mouthpieces. A PT48 or PT50 is helpful for the advancing student, as well as the professional, but remember that as students grow and modify, so may their mouthpiece needs.

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

When and for what reason do i need to 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 simple 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 questions regarding what they do and do not like regarding mouthpieces so you can uncover from your retailer if this sounds like a good request. Be sure you know what they already have. The top changes to make will be the subtle ones. Small variations a mouthpiece design may help get the desired result, and never sacrifice some or all the areas of playing. The scholars that make the big changes just to get high notes often pay for the biggest price of their tone, tuning, and technique.


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

For Trombone, for early beginners, a nickel-silver slide is a good idea, as slide repairs cost a lot.

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

For Tuba, try and get one that fits your son or daughter, 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 little child can handle a big instrument, get one.

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

Cleaning. Once every 12-18 months possess a professional cleaning. Otherwise clean at home once a month using gentle soap and lukewarm water (hot water will cause your lacquer to peel of your respective horn), and a flexible brush from a retailer.

Avoid cheap instruments. With instruments you get what you purchase. There are a lot of instruments originating from India and China now. Many are excellent, while many others must not even have been made. Your local, respected dealer should have those that are reliable, and will stand behind them. Your big-box Costco, Wal-Mart, BestBuy, and e-Bay doesn't have 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 that a developing and interested student will need. If you choose this route, request american-made instruments (and Japan). This is 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, in particular those in the Conn-Selmer family of companies. Any local, trusted retailer will assist you to guide you in the choices available, please 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 items part of the 'name' of the instrument.((Simply how much should I spend?

This is the big question. Be aware that popular instruments, like Trumpet, are less costly because they are made in greater quantities. Some instruments, like Horn and Tuba, are challenging and time-consuming to generate, making them more expensive. Below is a list of acceptable pricing (back then that this is being written) for first time student instruments that actually works for both American and Canadian currency.

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

When should I obtain 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 aid a more commercial style of instrument making. Today, instruments are engineered to acquire to buy three times. First when just beginning, then as an advancing student, last but not least as a professional. Clearly, this is a model that makes big money for manufacturers.

Ideal reasons, I often encourage parents to begin with the better instrument, or even a good used intermediate or professional instrument. Starting on better equipment is like starting with that slightly larger mouthpiece; obtaining a bigger, better sound is encouraging. Better 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 merely as guide for helping to choose the right instrument, however for what you should watch for to aid 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 no less than 4 years of playing in advance of them.

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