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

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Many people wind up thrown into the world of musical instruments they know nothing about when their kids first begin music in school. Knowing the basics of excellent instrument construction, materials, deciding on a good store to rent or buy these instruments is extremely important. Just what exactly process should a parent follow to make the best options for their child?


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Clearly the initial step is to choose an instrument. Let your child get their choice. Kids don't make the greatest big decisions about their life, and this is a large one that can be very empowering. I can also say from personal experience that children have a natural intuition as to what is good for them. Ultimately, my strongest advice is to put a child right into a room to try no more than 3-5 different choices, and permit them to make their choice in line with the sound they like best.

This post is intended to broaden your horizons, not to create a preference, as well as to put you in a position to nit-pick within the store! Most instruments can be extremely well made these days, and choosing a respected retailer will assist you to trust recommendations. Ask your school and/or private music teacher best places to shop.

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

MATERIALS

There are 2 basic kinds of materials used in brass instrument construction. The first is clearly brass, as well as 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 types of brass are all employed for instrument construction. Each also features a certain tendency perfectly into a particular quality of sound - however this is a very subtle distinction, and should not be used as an exclusive gauge for picking your instrument.

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

(Gold brass can also be extremely popular, mainly due to the slightly more complex audio quality, and personal feedback. Usually a player hears themselves a little better using gold brass, but the trade off is a very slight reduction in projection. This more 'complex' quality is extremely attractive to the ear, but sometimes get harsh at high volumes if your 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 just sits there for the whole instrument (in America, but a lot in Europe). We primarily use it for the bell (the place that the sound comes out), and the leadpipe (the first stretch of tubing inside your instrument). The leadpipe usage is becoming common for student instruments, as it resists corrosion well, that is a concern for teenagers whose body is volatile, and then for students who rarely clean their instruments.

This is also true of Red brass. This is a very complex sound, usually not used in student instruments. Red brass appears almost exclusively in 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 highly designed instrument. A good example is the famous 88H Symphonic Trombone, which has been a staple of the north american niche for over 60 years.

Another material that is used to generate brass instruments is nickel-silver. Interestingly, there's no actual silver in this material. Most often it is just a combination of Copper, Nickel, and Zinc, in varying combinations. I love to think of it as brass with nickel added. Its name comes from its physical resemblance to silver, that makes it ideal for things like brass instruments, and the coins you probably have in the bank.

This is a very important a part of your instrument. Unlike brass, it is often very hard. This makes it ideal 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 experience of the hands to protect against friction wear from your hands.
Companies use nickel silver in several ways, and on various parts of the instrument. These construction details are minimal, but here are some 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 often need to be moved from damage.
o The interior tubes of tuning slides. Well suited 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 variety of shapes and sizes, at the discretion with the designer. Sometimes the interior of the ferrule is regulated to improve shape (taper) through to 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 chemistry, so a student instrument which includes these areas in nickel-silver can be an asset for longevity. You can find exceptions to this rule, specifically Trumpets, whose valve casings are often made of brass alone.

MOUTHPIECES

Mouthpieces for brass are often referred to as 'cup' mouthpieces, and are also made of brass, but plated in silver. Brass by itself can cause irritation, which is mildly toxic to stay such close proximity to the lips, whereas silver is mainly neutral. There are cases by which some people are allergic to silver, 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 the music retailer that is specifically intended for mouthpieces, and to clean the mouthpiece before and after each use. This may be beneficial, anyway. If the irritation persists, think about a gold-plated mouthpiece, or as a last resort, plastic. Note as well that not all companies incorporate a good quality mouthpiece using instruments. Be sure to seek advice from your retailer to make certain what you are getting is what you should be using for your student.

As with instruments, mouthpieces can really be a dizzying array of shapes and specifications. Issues that you have never heard of, such as Rim, Throat, inner diametre, Backbore, etc., may confuse you.((To produce matters more complex, there is no standard system for identifying sizing in mouthpieces. This is difficult for the parent to digest, and also frustrating. How big or small should the various parts be?

Usually, schools start kids on small mouthpieces for the reason that it is easy to get a response from them. The downside of the is that small mouthpieces can translate to a very bright sound, and will actually hold a student back from developing the disposable blowing of air that is certainly essential to developing a good sound. There exists a generally accepted order of progression from bare beginner to solid student. I suggest getting the second mouthpiece from the very beginning. This will produce a bigger/fuller sound, and definately will encourage more air to be used right from the start. Don't let the numbers throw you here, the other mouthpiece is the bigger one. The bracket indicating numerology is 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 into play for your student. Physical size plays an important part, and often the condition of the instrument being used, as well as the size of the instrument. These vary so greatly from student to the next that the personal consultation using your qualified music retailer is strongly recommended. Kids generally start the small mouthpiece (24AW is a in the Bach numerology), but don't get off that but they should. There are a number of really excellent mouthpieces available, yet it's hard to beat the Perantucci Mouthpieces. A PT48 or PT50 can be useful for the advancing student, along with the professional, but remember that as students grow and alter, so may their mouthpiece needs.

Like with instruments, it is a very good idea to try 3-5 your local retailer.

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

OTHER ITEMS

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

For Trombone, for early beginners, a nickel-silver slide a very good idea, as slide repairs are very pricey.

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

For Tuba, attempt to get one that fits your child, and on which every part - including tuning slides - will be in a state of good repair. Push the institution if it is a good school instrument. If your child can handle a big instrument, get one.

Brass instruments need consistent maintenance to operate well. Be sure you determine what lubricants to use on which parts of your instrument. Trumpet, a rather 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 use a professional cleaning. Otherwise clean in your house once a month using gentle soap and lukewarm water (warm water will cause your lacquer to peel of your respective horn), and a flexible brush from the retailer.

Avoid cheap instruments. With instruments you get what you purchase. There are a lot of instruments received from India and China now. The majority are excellent, while many others ought not even have been made. Any local, respected dealer needs to have those that are reliable, and may stand behind them. Your big-box Costco, Wal-Mart, BestBuy, and e-Bay doesn't have 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 a developing and interested student need. If you choose this route, obtain american-made instruments (and Japan). This can be a major separator of good from bad. People who make brass in the us are generally very well trained and a part of a history of excellent brass making, in particular those in the Conn-Selmer family of companies. Your local, trusted retailer will help to guide you in the choices available, and remember that just because it says USA, or Paris onto it, does not mean it was stated in these places. Functions sometimes making these products part of the 'name' of the instrument.((Just how much should I spend?

This is the big question. Be aware that popular instruments, like Trumpet, be cheaper because they are made in greater quantities. Some instruments, like Horn and Tuba, are challenging and time-consuming to create, making them more expensive. Here is a list of acceptable pricing (at the time that this is being written) for new student instruments that work well for both American and Canadian currency.

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

When should I obtain a better instrument, and Why?

Six decades ago, there were no 'student' and 'intermediate' instruments. Manufacturers were just coming to the realization that there was a growing, post-war market that was changing to support a more commercial model of instrument making. Today, instruments are engineered to get you to buy three times. First when just beginning, then as an advancing student, lastly as a professional. Clearly, it is a model that makes a lot of money for manufacturers.

Ideal reasons, I often encourage parents in the first place the better instrument, or even a good used intermediate or professional instrument. Starting on better equipment is like starting with that slightly larger mouthpiece; finding a bigger, better sound is encouraging. The greater construction and materials mixture of these better instruments will likely leave more room to grow. So what are the right reasons? Here's a list that works not only as guide for helping to choose the right instrument, however for what you should watch for to help you musical growth:

-Going into a school with a strong music program.
-Getting private lessons, or has asked for some. (Check with private teacher for recommendations prior to 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. In the event 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.



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