Wind instruments - Brass winds



[also French horn; Fr. cor; Ger. Horn; Ventil-horn, valve horn; Waldhorn, natural horn, hand horn; It. corno; Sp. trompa],

(1) A circular brass instrument about 35 cm. (14 in.) in diameter with mouthpiece and valve levers at the top and a widely flared end or bell at the bottom. Three or four usually rotary valves, operated with the left hand, and associated extra tubing occupy the center area. The instrument is usually made of brass and is sometimes nickel or silver plated. Horns made of German silver, copper, and—more rarely—silver also exist. The horn is a prominent solo instrument in European and American symphony orchestras, each of which has a horn section of four or more players. It is also used in bands and in chamber music ensembles such as woodwind and brass quintets.


The most common hom is a double instrument in F/Bb incorporating a horn in F approximately 3.65 m. (12 ft.) in length with a horn in Bb alto of about 2.75 m. (9 ft.). The longer or shorter instrument is selected by a left thumb valve. Three double valves for the left hand provide both horns with the usual additional lengths of tubing. Single horns in F are also encountered. Less often found are single instruments in Bb alto, double horns in F/F alto or Bb/Bb soprano, and triple horns in F/Bb/F alto.

The F/Bb hom is the only survivor of a prestigious class of long brasses designed to play normally in the third octave or higher of the harmonic series. Its tube lengths and fundamentals (lowest tones) are the same as those of the F tuba (F horn) and Bb trombone (Bb horn). Yet because of its smaller bore and much smaller mouthpiece it is played in the tenor and alto ranges.

Although small, the horn mouthpiece is long and cone-shaped. The main tube of the instrument is also conical for as much of its length as possible. The sound of the instrument is smooth, lyrical, and mellow in its most characteristic written range of f to f" (sounding a fifth lower, Bb to bb'), more intense but gradually thinner on the increasingly difficult higher notes up to and above (written) c'", and more and more guttural on the extremely low notes down to c and below.

The horn is held with the right hand in the bell. Partially closing off the throat of the bell flattens the pitch; fully opening it raises the pitch, giving the player some control of pitches that may be out of tune. Closing the opening tightly with the hand produces a muted or stopped effect [Fr., sons bouches; Ger., gestopft; It. chiuso; Sp. tapada], sometimes specified in musical notation with the sign + and requiring altered fingering. The effect may also be produced with a mute, which, depending on its type, may or may not require altered fingering.

History. The horn, like the trumpet, grew out of a long tradition of signaling instruments reaching far back beyond even the civilizations of Greece and Rome. Musical use of the instrument, however, did not begin until the late 17th century, after it had become associated with court life and the royal mounted hunt. Horn calls and fanfares became increasingly musical at the lavish hunts of the French courts and were transplanted to the Bohemian (Austrian) courts about 1681 by Count Franz Anton Sporck (1662— 1738). There, because of Sporck’s wealth and his love of the hunt and of music, the Waldhorn or forest hom was used increasingly for indoor musical purposes.

Instrument makers in Vienna, particularly the Leichamschneider brothers, began producing horns in F and crooks for other keys in the first decade of the 18th century. Before mid-century, Austrian and German horns were often equipped with a master tapered crook and four or more cylindrical crooks or couplers placed between the master crook and the hom, either singly or in combination, to provide the keys commonly needed.

During this period, Bohemian and Austrian hom players—especially in Vienna, Prague, and Dresden—established the range and technical capabilities of the horn to limits approaching what is known today. Hand stopping (partially or fully closing off the bell with the right hand) was developed as a technique for tuning and for providing notes not obtainable in the natural series. Anton Joseph Hampl in Dresden was probably one of the first to bring this technique to public notice about 1760. Hampl is also credited with inventing central crooks, attached by a slide, that allow a permanent mouth pipe and mouthpiece position more convenient for hand stopping. Instruments with this system of crooks were first made for Hampl by Johann Wemer of Dresden. The use of this type of instrument, called the Inventionshorn, quickly spread throughout the Continent.

Two other types of hand horn with crooks appeared before 1800. In Austria, Germany, and France, horns for orchestral use were developed. These provided separate terminal crooks for the complete range of hom keys (Bb alto, A, G, F, E, Eb, D, C) and a coupler for Bb basso. Terminal crooks were tapered from the mouthpiece and avoided the additional amounts of cylindrical tubing necessary when couplers were added between a terminal or master crook and the rest of the hom, or when central Inventionshorn crooks were added. A central slide was retained for tuning purposes. In 1780, Joseph Raoux and his son Lucien-Joseph, both of Paris, brought out their cor-solo based on the ideas of Carl Thiirrschmidt. Less abrupt curves and extra strength were achieved on central Inventionshorn crooks by crossing the branches just before the slide. These horns, made for the soloist, were provided with five crooks only—G, F, E, Eb, and D.

The 19th century saw the invention of the valve and its application to the hom. Although the hom was one of the first instruments fitted with valves by the inventors Stolzel and Bliihmel, it was some years before refinements in construction made the valve practical and acceptable to hom players. Contemporary with valve experiments was the attempt to provide the hom with a handy way to change crooks. The first omnitonic hom [Fr. cor omnitonique] was made by J. B. Dupont of Paris about 1815; an improved model was patented in 1818. Both used a multiposition slide to direct the windway to eight different loops of tubing. The most successful of the early omnitonic horns operated by such slides was first made in 1824 by Charles-Joseph Sax of Brussels.

By the middle of the 19th century, the valved hom had proven its worth and was being written for by contemporary composers, especially Wagner. As later composers, particularly Richard Strauss, added more and more demanding hom parts to the repertory, the F/ Bb hom, introduced by Fritz Kruspe about 1898, was found to be the best compromise solution to the problems of key, range, tone quality, and chromaticism. Almost the entire repertory of hom music is played today on this instrument, regardless of the crook called for in the original part, the player making the necessary transposition. The increasing use of authentic instruments in the performance of 18th-century music, however, has contributed to a revival of the natural hom.


(2) In jazz and popular music, any wind instrument.


Bass saxhorn in B-flat

Mozart - Horn Concerto No. 3 in E flat, K. 447



[Fr., It.; Ger. Posaune; Sp. trombon]. A long, narrow brass instrument with tube ends folded to overlap in the center. One resulting U-shaped section is a cylindrical telescoping slide that begins with a mouthpiece. The other section is more conical and ends with an expanded opening or bell. About one-third of the tube length is conical, the rest cylindrical. Trombones are used in European and U.S. symphony orchestras and bands as well as in many types of jazz and popular music. They are most often made of brass (sometimes plated with nickel or silver), but have also been made of German silver and, more rarely, of copper. Special chromium alloys are now used in the slide to lessen friction. 


The most common trombone is a tenor instrument in Bb (fundamental note Bb1) folded to about 1.2 m in length with approximately 2.75 m (9 ft.) of tubing. The slide when extended provides enough additional length to lower the pitch of the instrument by up to six half-steps. The seven harmonic series of pitches  made possible by these seven positions (including the first or fully retracted position) together provide every chromatic note from low E to bb and, depending on the player’s ability, above as high as f". Other sizes of trombone, although not often used today, include the soprano or treble in Bb, alto in F or Eb, bass in Gb bass in Fb or Eb (Quart- or Quint-posaune), and contrabass in Bb2. The longer slides of old bass trombones in Gb, Fb, and Eb, usually have a hinged handle so that the lower positions can be reached. The extra-long tubing necessary for the contrabass is usually arranged in a double slide and in extra loops before the bell. Bass trombones are now made with the same tube length as the tenor but with a larger bore and one or two valves, which add enough tubing to lower the pitch a fourth to a sixth. Since the invention of the valve, trombones having valves and no slide have also been made. Valve trombones are more agile than the slide instruments but cannot match them in intonation or tone quality.

The mouthpiece of the trombone is a moderately deep cup with pronounced but rounded shoulders joining the bore. The sound of the tenor instrument in its most characteristic range (E to bb') is bright with overtones and penetrating. The upper register to d" and above is more mellow and increasingly difficult, while the low fundamentals or pedal tones from lower can tend to rattle. The addition of one or two valves allows production of the pitches from Eb down to the fundamentals. On larger-bore bass trombones these can be full round tones.

Music for tenor or bass trombone is written at concert pitch in the bass clef, switching freely to the tenor clef (c' fourth line) for higher passages. Alto trombone parts are most often written in the alto clef (c' center line).

The earliest evidence suggests that trombones first appeared in southern France or northern Italy sometime in the 15th century. Their ancestry, though vague, probably lies with the longer medieval trumpet, the buisine or tromba. A larger tromba in Italian was a trombone, while buisine gradually through varied spellings probably became Posaune in German. Spanish (sacabuche) and French (saqueboute) origins are suggested for the English term sackbut, thought to mean literally draw pipe, draw out, or push-pull. By the 16th century, the trombone was well established in England and on the Continent, and Nuremberg, Germany, had become a center of trombone making. The earliest surviving trombones are by Erasmus Schnitzer (Nuremberg, 1551) and Jorg Neuschel (Nuremberg, 1557). The first half of the 17th century is represented by many more surviving specimens as well as by good written descriptions by Michael Praetorius, Marin Mersenne, and Daniel Speer.

Trombones of the 16th and 17th centuries are surprisingly similar to modem instruments. Not only are the basic proportions the same, but they were made in the same sizes, with the tenor in Bb, then as now, being the most common member of the family. The bell was not flared as widely, loose stays with hinged clasps held the instrument together, and the slide may not have worked as freely. But a modem performer would have little difficulty understanding the instrument and negotiating parts written for it. During this period, trombones were regular members of town and court bands. With cometts they were the principal instruments used to support singing in many churches and were most effectively used in works of Giovanni Gabrieli and Schiitz.

During the 18th century, the trombone received a more widely flared bell, and loose stays were replaced by firmly soldered braces. The earlier part of that century also saw a general decline in the use of the instrument. But this trend was reversed later in the century when military bands found the trombone useful and when its ecclesiastical and supernatural associations drew it into the opera orchestras of Gluck and Mozart.

In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, some communities of Moravian immigrants in the U.S. used the trombone choir extensively for community and religious activities. Until the invention of the valve, trombones and some slide trumpets were the only brass instruments capable of performing the parts of a chorale. The trombone also found specialized use in Belgian and French military bands, where grotesque dragon heads—sometimes with rattling tongues—replaced the usual bell. This type of instrument was called a buccin, possibly after the early Roman instrument of that name.

By the 1830s, valve instruments flourished in most military bands. The valve trombone without slide was made as early as the late 1820s, and F valve attachments for the tenor slide instrument were invented by 1839. In the U.S., slide trombones with bells pointing to the rear over the player’s shoulder were in use by the late 1830s.

Slide trombones in alto, tenor, and bass sizes were regular members of the symphony orchestra by the mid-1800s, though even then the alto part was sometimes played on a tenor. The use of a larger-bore Bb trombone with valve attachment to F or Eb bass instead of the regular bass trombone began in Germany in the early 20th century. This, together with the neglect of the alto, led to the present practice of using two Bb tenor instruments and a Bb/F or Eb bass trombone for the usual three orchestral parts. The second and often the first player may also have a valve attachment to F because of its technical advantage as an alternate to the lower slide positions. The soprano trombone was revived briefly in the early 20th century for dance-band and novelty use, but was not very successful. The Bb tenor trombone, however, has been a staple of jazz throughout its history.

Rimsky-Korsakov. Concerto for Trombone



[Fr. trompette; Ger. Trompete; It. tromba; Sp. trompeta], A soprano brass instrument commonly about 1.4 m in tube length, folded twice to a narrow rectangular shape about 35 cm (14 in.) long. A mouth pipe with mouthpiece protrudes from one end of the rectangle, and an expanded opening or bell extends from the other. The center of the rectangle is occupied by three valves and associated extra tubing. The bore of the trumpet is mostly cylindrical, though like the cornet it expands just before the bell. Most trumpets are now made of brass, either lacquered or plated with silver, nickel, or more rarely gold. Other materials occasionally used besides brass include German silver, copper, silver, and very rarely gold.


Trumpets are commonly available in several sizes named according to the pitch class of their fundamental. Instruments in Bb, C, D, Eb, F, and piccolo Bb or A have actual fundamentals Bb, c, d, eb, f, and bb or a. The Bb instrument is used mostly in school bands and popular music. The C trumpet is the favorite among professional orchestra players. The higher trumpets are becoming more common and find use in certain segments of the repertory written for instruments in those keys or demanding an extremely high register. For the latter use, piccolo trumpets are made in a variety of shapes, some (occasionally called Bach trumpets) straight except for the valves and their associated tubing, and some with four rather than three valves. American trumpets are now almost invariably equipped with Perinet piston valves for the right hand, though orchestra players sometimes use instruments with rotary valves. Better-quality instruments also have levers or rings for adjusting the length of the first and third valve tubes.

The trumpet mouthpiece is generally a shallow cupped shape with formerly rather pronounced but recently more rounded comers surrounding the bore or throat. The sound of the instrument is brilliant and commanding in its most characteristic range from written c' to c'", gradually less brilliant on the increasingly difficult notes above this range, and more and more dark and grainy on the lower tones to f#. Special timbres and effects can be produced by using various kinds of  mutes in the trumpet bell.

Most trumpet parts since about 1900 are written either for Bb trumpet, sounding one tone lower, or for C trumpet at concert pitch. Orchestral parts from earlier periods were written for tmmpets that could be put in the appropriate key for the composition to be played by means of crooks (small loops of extra tubing). These parts were commonly in Bb, C, D, Eb, and F, sounding from a tone lower to a fourth higher than written. Some late 19th-century parts were written for tmmpets with an extra valve or slide to put them in A, sounding a minor third lower. Orchestra players today usually play all of these parts on Bb or C instruments, making the necessary transposition as they play.

The trumpet has a very long history, having been used in ancient Egypt, the Near East, and Greece. During much of that time, however, it was a signaling device sounding only one or two tones. Even in the Roman era, trumpetlike instruments, though prominent in art and literature, are not known to have been used in music. They remained instruments of only a few tones for signaling, announcing, commanding, and ceremonial purposes.

It was not until the 14th and 15th centuries that the more musical possibilities of the long trumpet began to be recognized and used, and the instrument acquired its characteristic folded form. The instruments of this period were natural tmmpets, on which only the tones of the harmonic series were available. Evidence exists that toward the end of this period, however, some instruments may have been fitted with a single slide at the mouth pipe, theoretically providing a chromatic scale, except for one pitch, from the fourth harmonic upward. Such an instrument was called a tromba da tirarsi.

The 16th century saw increasing use of the trumpet in a variety of more musical situations in addition to court ceremony and military communication. Craftsmen in Nuremberg, Germany, began to excel in trumpet making during this period and supplied instruments to most of Europe. At the end of this century and the beginning of the next, the first written accounts of trumpet playing occur. In these works are found trumpet calls, fanfares, toccatas, and sonatas using mostly the low register of the instrument. Among the later of these writings are the first illustrations of melodic playing on the higher pitches of the harmonic series.

During the 17th and 18th centuries, the natural trumpet reached its peak of development and was used with brilliant elfect by Bach, Handel, and many other composers. The instruments were from about 1.8 to 2.5 m (6 to 8 ft.) in total length, folded to traditional form, and pitched usually in D and C for court use and in E\> and F for the military. Players specialized in different registers, allowing the clarino or high-range players to concentrate on the top dozen or so tones where melodic playing is possible. This type of playing reached its zenith in the mid-1700s and gradually declined toward the end of the century. The lower range was called the principale.

The orchestral trumpet of the late 18th and the early 19th century was in F, with crooks for lower keys down to C or Bb to match the key of the composition played. Its sound was not as loud as the modem hum-pet’s, and it balanced well with other instruments in smaller ensembles. The limitations of an instrument that could play only the tones of the natural harmonic series, however, became gradually more perplexing toward the end of the 18 th century and led to a number of attempts to improve the instrument mechanically.

Hand stopping, used on horns since about 1750, was tried on specially constructed trumpets [Ger. In-ventionstrompete] beginning in the 1770s. The keyed trumpet was tried with limited success by several makers and players in the last 30 years of the century. Four or five keys like those on clarinets of the time provided pitches missing in the natural harmonic series. Concertos by Haydn and Hummel exploited the capabilities of these instruments. The slide trumpet, never completely forgotten since the 15 th and 16th centuries, was revived again in England in the late 1700s. The improved slide mechanism was fairly successful in that country throughout the 19th century, and such instruments continued to be made into the 20th century in the U.S. as well.

The most important mechanical improvement, however, was the invention of the valve for brass instruments about 1814. Valves were very quickly applied to the trumpet, and, although crude at first, were gradually refined until they provided the trumpet with a fairly even chromatic scale. By the mid-19th century, the orchestral trumpet in F had two or three valves instead of the crooks used earlier in the century.

Late in the 19th century, as larger orchestras played for larger audiences, the long F trumpet was finally given up in favor of shorter valved trumpets in Bb and C. The new instruments were louder, more brilliant, and somewhat easier to play accurately. After the mid-1920s, the trumpet also replaced the comet in dance bands.


[formerly also cornopean; Fr. cornet a pistons; Ger. Kornett; It. cornetta; Sp. corneta, cornetin] A soprano brass instrument very similar to the modem trumpet but having a slightly more conical bore. Its sound is somewhat more mellow than that of the trumpet (depending on the player). It is used in European and American military, community, and school bands.

The cornet first appeared in France about 1830 when valves were applied to the cornet simple or post horn. The instrument was built in C with shanks and crooks for most keys down to D. A deep conical mouthpiece was used at first, as the instrument was originally intended for hom players. The lower crooks soon fell into disuse, however, and with a shallower mouthpiece the comet became the leading voice and soloist for many kinds of bands. Its agility and flexibility were exploited in brilliant popular solos during the last half of the 19th century. In the 1920s, it was largely replaced by the trumpet in jazz and popular music. Its written range is from f# to c'" or higher, sounding a whole tone lower on the common Bb instrument. The soprano Eb cornet has been widely used as a solo instrument and in brass bands.

Tomaso Giovanni Albinoni. Trumpet Concerto Op 9 n° 2 in D Minor



(1) [Lat.] A trumpet of ancient Rome. A straight tube of bronze or iron, 1.25-1.6 m long, with a slightly flaring bell, it was first and foremost a military instrument, sounding the attack and retreat in battle. In civilian life it was heard in funeral processions, at games and gladiatorial contests, and in religious rituals, particularly sacrifices.

(2) [Eng., Fr., Ger., It., Sp.] The largest and lowest of the brass instruments, with a widely expanding tube as long as 5.5 m (18 ft.). Tubas are usually wrapped in a rectangular shape about 45 cm wide by 75 cm tall. The narrow end with mouthpiece points back from high on one side of the rectangular body, while the expanded end or bell rises above the body of the instrument either straight up or, less often, turned forward. Three or four valves for the right hand are provided. The instrument is commonly used in European and American symphony orchestras as well as in school, community, and military bands. Tubas are usually made of brass or, less often, of German silver. Brass is usually lacquered but is sometimes plated with silver or nickel. In marching bands, circular tubas called sousaphones are also common. 

Tubas are now made mostly in four sizes, BBb (pronounced “double B-flat”), CC, Eb, and F (fundamental tones Bb2, C1, Eb, and Fb). The first two sizes are the most common, with Eb a distant third, and F a rather remote last. There are also smaller tubas at baritone or euphonium pitch. They are commonly used in brass bands as well as in some French orchestras and usually have additional valves for lower notes. A few larger tubas have been made a fifth or even an octave below the BBb instmment (11 m in tube length, fundamental tone Bb3), but they have been more curiosities than useful musical instruments.

Tubas are nontransposing bass-clef instruments except in brass bands where occasionally parts are written in treble clef, the Bb instrument sounding two octaves and a tone lower, the Eb sounding one octave and a major sixth lower. The most characteristic and dependable range of the BBb and CC tubas is from Ei or F#1 to bb or c'. Lower pitches produced by additional valves or as pedal tones are slow to respond, but useful at least down to C1. Upper pitches are increasingly difficult, but useful to f' or g' with a good player and careful approach. The smaller tubas in Eb and F have correspondingly higher ranges, but can often play just as low as the larger ones if provided with additional valves. The tone of these pitches is less full. The smaller tubas are more secure in the upper register, but reach bb' or c" only with great difficulty and thin tone.

The mouthpiece most often used on the tuba is quite deep and is shaped somewhere between a cup and a cone, like a small wine glass. There are usually no pronounced shoulders where the throat begins. The resulting tone is smooth and mellow but with enough edge to give it definition, body, and carrying power.

Tubas belong to the bugle or comet families [see Brass instruments], instruments having widely expanding bores and round, mellow tone qualities. The earliest examples were bass tubas and bombardons in F and Eb designed and made in Berlin by Wilhelm Wieprecht (1802-72) and Johann Gottfried Moritz (1777-1840, founder of the firm later operated and known by the name of his son C[arl] W[ilhelm] Moritz, 1811-55); the first was patented in 1835. These instruments were the logical result of attempts to complete a choir of valved brasses for use in military bands.

Predecessors of the tuba include a number of bass instruments using side holes to alter their sounding length. The earliest of these is the serpent, dating from the late 16th century. Late in the 18th century and on into the 19th, a number of improved serpents were built, including the bass hom, several so-called  Russian bassoons, the keyed serpent, and the ophicleide. Made of either metal or wood, they were designed for more durability, easier holding, and better intonation.

From Berlin, tuba making spread quickly to Prague, Vienna, and Paris. By the end of the 1840s, the larger sizes in BBb and CC had been introduced by Vaclav Frantisek Cerveny (1819-96) of Koniggratz (now Hradec Kralove) near Prague; circular tubas called “"helicons or cavalry horns had been designed by Ignaz Stowasser (active ca. 1838-78) of Vienna; and Adolphe Sax (1814-94) of Paris was making his bass saxhorns in the upright form still most common today. During the 1840s and 1850s many other shapes and styles of tuba were tried. The most successful of these were the over-shoulder models used in the U.S. through Civil War times.

Tuba Concerto by Bruce Broughton

Cornicen (horn players) from Trajan's Column

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