Choosing a Musical Instrument To your Child - A Parents' Self-help guide to Brass

Many people end up thrown into the realm of musical instruments they know nothing about when their children first begin music at school. Knowing the basics of fine instrument construction, materials, picking a good store in order to rent or get yourself a dvd instruments is extremely important. So what process should a parent follow to make the best selections for their child? - August Alsina Style Instrumental

Clearly the first task is to choose a device. Let your child get their choice. Kids don't make lots of big decisions with regards to their life, and this is a major one that can be very empowering. I can also say from personal experience that youngsters have a natural intuition about what is good for them. Ultimately, my strongest advice would be to put a child into a room to try only 3-5 different choices, and permit them to make their choice depending on the sound they like best.

This data is intended to broaden your horizons, not to create a preference, or put you in a position to nit-pick in the store! Most instruments are extremely well made these days, picking a respected retailer will help you to trust recommendations. Ask your school and/or private music teacher where you can shop.

Brass instruments are produced all over the world, but primarily in the us, Germany, France, and China. If we talk about brass instruments, we are referring to members of the Trumpet, Horn, Trombone, and Tuba families.


There's 2 basic kinds of materials used in brass instrument construction. The first is 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 employed 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 areas of your instrument. It features a very pure audio quality, projects best of the three alloys, and supports very well at high volumes.

(Gold brass is also extremely popular, mainly due to its slightly more complex audio quality, and personal feedback. Normally a player hears themselves a bit better using gold brass, nevertheless the trade off is a very slight decrease in projection. This more 'complex' quality is very attractive to the ear, but tend to get harsh at high volumes if the player is not in control of all of their technique. It is like the transition to screaming from singing - there exists a point at which you can easily get carried away. Gold Brass sits dormant for the whole instrument (in America, but a lot in Europe). We primarily put it on for the bell (where the sound comes out), along with 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 concern for teenagers whose body chemistry is volatile, as well as 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 inside the bell of an instrument. It's because its less stable nature in sound production at loud volumes. That being said, it can produce a marvelous sound when well-balanced against the rest of a nicely designed instrument. An illustration is the famous 88H Symphonic Trombone, which was a staple of the north american industry for over 60 years.

The other material that is used to create brass instruments is nickel-silver. Interestingly, there is no actual silver within this material. Most often it's 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 on your bottom line.

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

Protect moving parts
Join two tubes plus a ring (called a ferrule)
Put on parts of the instrument which come into a lot of connection with the hands to protect against friction wear from your hands.
Companies use nickel silver in a variety of ways, and on some part of the instrument. These construction facts are minimal, but here are a few suggestions to look for that can assist the stability and strength of student instruments:
o The outsides of tuning slides. This can be good, because it protects parts that frequently need to be moved from damage.
o The inside tubes of tuning slides. Perfect for student instruments (and common on european instruments), this protects against corrosion.
o Joint between tubes. When used as a ferrule, this can be a selection of shapes and sizes, at the discretion from the designer. Sometimes inside the ferrule is regulated to change shape (taper) by way of a larger consecutive tube. Some simple student instruments just fit expanded ends of brass tubing together.
o Parts that the hands touch. Brass is well eaten away, albeit slowly, by normal body, so a student instrument which has these areas in nickel-silver is definitely an asset for longevity. You can find exceptions to this rule, designed for Trumpets, whose valve casings are generally made of brass alone.


Mouthpieces for brass are usually referred to as 'cup' mouthpieces, and are generally made of brass, but plated in silver. Brass alone can cause irritation, and is mildly toxic to be in such close proximity to the lips, whereas silver is mainly neutral. There are cases in which some people are allergic to silver, but most often the allergy is caused by a dirty mouthpiece. The recommended test just for this is to use an alcohol based spray cleaner, from your music retailer which is specifically intended for mouthpieces, and clean the mouthpiece both before and after each use. This a very good idea, anyway. If the irritation persists, think about a gold-plated mouthpiece, or like a last resort, plastic. Note additionally that not all companies include a good quality mouthpiece using their instruments. Be sure to check with your retailer to be sure what you are getting is the thing that you should be using for the student.

As with instruments, mouthpieces can really be a dizzying array of shapes and specifications. Things that you have never heard of, for example Rim, Throat, inner diametre, Backbore, etc., may confuse you.((To generate matters more complex, there isn't any standard system for identifying sizing in mouthpieces. This can be difficult for the parent to digest, as well as frustrating. How big or small should the various parts be?

Usually, schools start kids on small mouthpieces because it is easy to get a response out of them. The downside on this is that small mouthpieces can translate to a very bright sound, and may actually hold a student back from developing the disposable blowing of air which is essential to developing a good sound. There is a 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 definately will 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 is 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, 6½AL (Bach numerology - for strong players consider also 5GS)

We have left Tuba off the suggested list because there are many factors that come into play for the student. Physical size plays an element, and often the condition of the instrument being used, as well as the size of the instrument. These vary so greatly in one student to the next which a personal consultation using your qualified music retailer is strongly recommended. Kids generally begin the small mouthpiece (24AW is certainly one in the Bach numerology), along with get off that even though they should. There are a number of really excellent mouthpieces available, however it is hard to beat the Perantucci Mouthpieces. A PT48 or PT50 works well for the advancing student, plus the professional, but remember that as students grow modify, so may their mouthpiece needs.

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

When or for what reason should I not buy a new mouthpiece?
Kids often seek out the short-cut. Not being able to play high or low enough is a challenge and often the kid looks for a simple answer, or has witnessed a colleague playing different things. Often, when your child approaches you in regards to a new mouthpiece, it may well very well be the time for it. Be sure you ask lots of questions on what they do and do not like regarding their mouthpieces so you can find out from your retailer if this sounds like a good request. Be sure you know what they already have. The best changes to make include the subtle ones. Small variations in a mouthpiece design can help get the desired result, instead of sacrifice some or all the areas of playing. The scholars that make the big changes only to get high notes often pay the biggest price in their tone, tuning, and technique.

Other things

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 may be beneficial, as slide repairs can be very expensive.

For Horn, get a double horn. It's 4 valves, and offers far more choice to the player once and for all tuning, and development as time goes on. Horn is tricky, so helping using this is a good endorsement of your respective child's chances.

For Tuba, try to get one that fits your kids, and on which all parts - including tuning slides - are in a state of good repair. Push the school if it is a good school instrument. If your little child can handle a big instrument, acquire one.

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

Cleaning. Once every 12-18 months possess a professional cleaning. Otherwise clean at home once a month using soap and lukewarm water (warm 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 coming from India and China now. Lots of people are excellent, while many others should not even have been made. The local, respected dealer really should have those that are reliable, and may stand behind them. Your big-box Costco, Wal-Mart, BestBuy, and e-Bay has no expertise in these matters, and operations for their bottom line only. Avoid these places. They cannot possibly offer you the continuing assistance, service, or repair that the developing and interested student will be needing. If you choose this route, ask for american-made instruments (and Japan). This is a major separator of good from bad. People that make brass in the united states are generally very well trained and portion of a history of excellent brass making, particularly those in the Conn-Selmer family of companies. Your neighborhood, trusted retailer will assist you to guide you in the choices available, please remember that just because it says USA, or Paris on it, does not mean it was manufactured in these places. Functions and features sometimes making this stuff part of the 'name' of the instrument.((Just how much should I spend?

That is the big question. Know that popular instruments, like Trumpet, are cheaper because they are made in greater quantities. Some instruments, like Horn and Tuba, are challenging and time-consuming to make, making them more expensive. Below is a list of acceptable pricing (during the time that this is being written) for brand spanking new student instruments that works for both American and Canadian currency.

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

When should I get a better instrument, and Why?

Sixty years ago, there were no 'student' and 'intermediate' instruments. Manufacturers were just arriving at the realization that there was a rising, post-war market that was changing to guide a more commercial label of instrument making. Today, instruments are engineered to get you to buy three times. First when getting started, then as an advancing student, last but not least as a professional. Clearly, this is the model that makes big money for manufacturers.

For the best reasons, I often encourage parents to begin with the better instrument, or possibly a good used intermediate or professional instrument. Starting on better devices are like starting with that slightly larger mouthpiece; finding a bigger, better sound is encouraging. The greater construction and materials combination of these better instruments may also leave more room growing. So what are the right reasons? Here's a list that works not merely as guide in order to to choose the right instrument, but also for what you should watch for to help musical growth:

-Going to a school with a strong music program.
-Getting private lessons, or has requested some. (Check with private teacher for recommendations before selecting, this will help.)
-Practicing without parental encouragement
-Has no less than 4 years of playing in advance of them.

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

Music is surely an investment that requires attention coming from a variety of angles, and also the instrument itself is merely a small step. Being equipped with the knowledge of how to find the instrument is just a part of a process that a parent can - and really should - be actively involved with. Many parents don't know anything about this, but now you do! Ask the questions you have to know, and you'll be just fine getting your new instrument. - August Alsina Style Instrumental