The brass section of the
orchestra is known for its brilliant and blazing sounds. Brass instruments
are usually made of metal tubes with a cylindrically shaped mouthpieces.
The notes that come out of the bell shaped end are produced when the
air column within vibrates. The tighter the player compresses, his lips
the higher the note. Playing the brass instruments softly produces a
mellow sound and a mute over the bell gives the composer the ability
to convey mystery or menace. In order to tune the brass, the length
of the tube must be shortened or lengthened accordingly.
The oldest brass instruments are the horn and the
trumpet which were initially constructed out of animal horns. Before
joining the orchestra, most brass instruments were used for military
or ceremonial purposes. In 1815, when valves were invented, the brass
instruments were adjusted to produce different tones by diverting the
airflow through the tubing.
The French horn was the first brass instrument
to be used consistently by composers in orchestras in the early 1700s.
The reason may be that its tones blend easily with the stings and the
woodwinds. The trumpet, on the other hand, can supersede the entire
orchestra if needed. It is the highest pitched of the brass instruments.
Normally two or three are used in a symphonic orchestra for that reason.
The tone of the tuba is much deeper than the trumpet due to the large
size of the instrument and its tubing system.