Brass (with a teacher)
This activity is for classroom use. Your teacher will have further material to use alongside the clips and information below.
SECTION 1: What is a brass instrument?
Follow these instructions and see if you have what it takes to be a brass player…
- Make a small smile.
- Keeping your smile, put your lips tightly together. It is important that the corners of your lips stay stretched up slightly in the smile position.
- Still trying to keep the lips together, blow out to force some air through them.
If you don’t get a sound at first don’t worry. You may need to experiment with how big or small your smile is and how tightly you hold your lips together. That’s what makes playing an instrument fun – you have to try things out!
Brass instruments are maybe the easiest instruments to identify as usually they are all ‘brassy’ or gold in colour. But they do look different from each other. See if you can complete the puzzles of each instrument once they are cut into pieces: your teacher will give them to you.
Once you’ve completed the puzzles, note down features that they have in common and features that are different.
SECTION 2: Meet the family
From looking at the pictures of the brass family, it is easy to see that the tuba is the biggest instrument and the trumpet is the smallest. Listen to these two pieces of music and decide which instrument is playing which piece. Can you give a reason for your choice?
Now you are going to hear another two pieces of music. This time you have to decide which is the trombone and which is the French horn – think about the main difference between these two instruments. There is a special feature in one of the pieces that gives you a big clue if you listen closely…
SECTION 3: Who’s in the hot seat?
Get ready to be transformed into a brass instrument. You need to try and remember as much as you can about each instrument in order to survive! Your teacher will give you instructions.
SECTION 4: Brass ensembles
The brass family can also form an ensemble (a group of musicians who play together). One of the most common brass ensembles is the brass band. This is a large group of musicians (like an orchestra) but made up of only brass players!
Listen to the brass band music below. Can you identify the instrument playing at 0.03–0.08 and 0.12–0.16 that doesn’t belong to the brass family?
Listen again to the music but this time close your eyes and imagine what could be happening – does the music make you think of anything specific, or make you feel a certain way?
Dynamics: The volume (degrees of loud and quiet) in a piece of music
Glissando: A continuous slide up or down between two or more different pitches
Pitch: Whether a note is high or low
Tempo: The speed of a piece of music
All media credits – titles, composers, artists, sources etc. – may be found in the Teacher Sheet, accessed from the Teacher Info box at the top of this page.