Brass instruments are essentially long pipes that widen out into a bell shape. They get their sound from the vibrations of the musician’s lips. This works by the player putting their lips tightly into the mouthpiece and blowing. The vibration between the lips and mouthpiece causes the air to vibrate down the long brass tube.
Brass instruments are used in just about all styles of music, from classical to jazz to pop. Normally, brass is just one element in a piece of music but, in this section, I’m going to concentrate on the brass and nothing but the brass.
These are the most common brass instruments:
|French Horn (F)||F#2-C6|
|Tenor Trombone (Bb)||E2-F5|
Here is my first go at composing for brass. Essentially what I have done is re-arrange an existing song for a quartet of trumpet, horn, trombone and tuba. I used the Symphony Essentials – Brass Solo samples from Native Instruments.
The following video shows the score for Open Book. Note how the trumpet, horn and trombone are transposing instruments so, although the piece is in Bb major, the score is adapted so that the Bb instruments are shown two semitones higher than concert pitch and the horn (in F) five semitones higher.
Names and Dates
The next piece is a song called Names and Dates, which is accompanied by a brass band. There’s a long tradition of singer-songwriters working with brass bands and that’s understandable when you consider what an atmospheric backing the rich brass sounds create.
The song laments the fact that, when most people die, the only information that remains about them is their name and the date on which they were born and died. That doesn’t really do anyone justice. As the lyrics state, “There’s not a person has ever lived, with no tale to tell, without much to give. And a thousand stories could fill a book, but they all are lost if you never look.”
I’m going to move on to try my hand at composing for a traditional British brass band and for a classical ensemble. And, as usual, I’ll provide a full score.