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How brass instruments work - Al Cannon


19,037 Questions Answered

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What gives the trumpet its clarion ring and the tuba its gut shaking oompah-pah? And what makes the trombone so jazzy? Al Cannon shows how these answers lie not in the brass the instruments are made of, but in the journey that air takes from the musician’s lungs to the instrument’s bell.

Additional Resources for you to Explore

Younger children learning to play brass instruments are often excited about the mechanisms of their new instruments (the valves or slide), so the breathing in and blowing out of air is often underemphasized or completely overlooked. Programs such as The Breathing Gym offer some good suggestions that can help new brass students learn to breathe deeply and properly to effectively use air in their playing. Take a couple of deep breaths and check it out! Want to know about embouchure? Phillip Farkas’ book: The Art of Brass Playing has a detailed look at the set-up of the mouth or embouchure! Read it and learn more!

Brass playing exists all over the world in a great many genres! A few current brass groups to check out include Mnozil Brass, Canadian Brass , German Brass, The Westerlies, and Amsterdam Brass. Get your toes tapping and play along!

Do brass horns have a history? Humanity has a long history of blowing air into tubing to produce sound, such as the early example of the two trumpets found in the tomb of King Tutankhamen. For a detailed and academic history of brass playing, author Anthony Baine’s: Brass Instruments, Their History and Development is very thorough and describes the evolution of the instruments into their modern-day forms.

Just love music and want to learn more? Here are some “note-worthy” lessons from TED-Ed:
How playing an instrument benefits your brain - Anita Collins
Why we love repetition in music - Elizabeth Hellmuth Margulis
Music as a language - Victor Wooten

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Meet The Creators

  • Educator Al Cannon
  • Director Franz Palomares
  • Script Editor Alex Gendler
  • Composer Carlos Palomares
  • Narrator Addison Anderson

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