By the time children reach the age of 10, many of them will be able to learn how to play some of the bigger brass and woodwind instruments that were physically unsuitable for them before. Not only are instruments from the brass and woodwind sections a unique and entertaining choice for children who want to play music, they can also help growing kids develop better hand-eye coordination, learn better breath control, and increase their confidence. Additionally, the band atmosphere in which many students practice at school gives children the opportunity to socialize and make new friends with similar interests. Listed below is a helpful guide to the popular brass and woodwind instruments available to young musicians.
Brass instruments are known for their loud, bright tones. To play a brass instrument, a musician uses his or her lips to create a vibration against the mouthpiece, which is then amplified through the instrument’s metal body. Brass instruments are used in a wide variety of music genres, but are especially notable for their place in jazz, marching bands, and professional orchestras. The following are among the most popular brass instruments for children to learn.
Though there are several different versions of the trumpet, the most commonly played is the B-flat trumpet. The standard range of the trumpet spans the F-sharp note below C4 to the B note two and a half octaves higher. The notes are manipulated by a musician using three piston valves located on the instrument’s top. Trumpets are arguably easier to learn how to play than other brass instruments, and a reasonably good quality trumpet can be purchased for a beginning student at an affordable price.
The French horn is often referred to simply as “the horn” in orchestral settings. It is among the more difficult of the brass instruments for young students to learn. Because of the way that the instrument is designed, horn players are much more likely to play the wrong notes, and performing without cracking or hitting a wrong note requires precision. Despite its difficulty, the French horn is celebrated for its rich, beautiful sound, and plays a distinct and important role in orchestra performances.
The trombone is unique among brass instruments because the player uses a slide to create different pitches rather than valves. The most commonly used version of the instrument is the tenor trombone, which plays in the key of B-flat, though the sounds it produces are one octave below the B-flat notes played by the standard trumpet.
The tuba is by far the largest instrument in the brass family, and accordingly, it plays the lowest notes. The instrument is made from a single long, metal tube that can range in size from nine to 18 feet, with the longest tubes creating the lowest sounds. The standard version of the tuba is played while the musician is sitting down, with the instrument on his or her lap, though specially designed tubas are used in marching bands.
In contrast to the brass section, players create music on a woodwind instrument through one of two ways. For reed instruments in the woodwind family, a player produces notes by blowing through a mouthpiece equipped with a strip of thin material known as a reed. The reed, which may be made from materials like wood, plastic, metal, cane, or synthetic materials, is responsible for creating the vibrations that produce a sound, rather than the musician’s lips. For flute instruments in the woodwind family, sounds are produced when a musician blows air across the edge of the instrument’s mouthpiece. The following woodwind instruments are among the most popular for children to play.
Of all the instruments in the woodwind family, the flute is the highest pitched, and creates a sound similar to that of a whistle when a player blows air across the top of the instrument’s tone hole. It is an extremely popular instrument for young musicians. The most commonly used flute in bands and orchestras is the soprano flute, which often plays the melody part in an orchestral performance. Flutes are a great choice for student musicians because they are widely available and easy to transport to and from classes.
The clarinet family comprises several reed instruments that range from the small, high E-flat clarinet to the large contrabass, which plays deep, low notes. The most commonly played clarinet is the soprano version, which produces notes in B-flat. The clarinet is typically made of wood with metal keys covering holes that span its length, though some clarinets are built from plastic, plexiglass, metal, or other synthetic materials. It is a popular choice for beginner musicians, though it may take young children some time to learn how to cover the instruments’ holes, some of which are not entirely covered by the keys.
Though made of brass, the saxophone is considered a woodwind instrument because it is played through a mouthpiece equipped with a reed. The four most commonly used members of the saxophone family are the soprano, alto, tenor, and bass versions, with the most widely-played being the alto and tenor. Like instruments in the brass family, the saxophone can often be heard in jazz and big band music, though it also has found use as a unique component of rock groups in recent years.
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Photo used under Creative Commons from Marina K Caprara