CCSF MUS27A Symposium musician with his seven-stringed lyre beside the fluted column of a building, ca. 460 b.c.  University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology (c) Instructor: Larry Ferrara  
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Music Appreciation



Week 4




Brass instruments

Brass instruments include all the instruments that are made of brass or any other metal. Their mouthpieces are shaped like a cup or funnel shape. The player presses his or her lips into the mouthpiece and as he or she blows the lips vibrate. This vibration is passed on to the column of air in a tube, and sound is produced.

1.   Trombone
2.   Tuba
3.   French Horn
4.   Trumpet



"It came to pass when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and the people shouted with a great shout, that the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city."

Joshua 6:20





"Never look at the trombones. It only encourages them."

Richard Strauss

Every marching band has a trombone section. The song “76 Trombones” (and a big parade) says it all. The trombone is the powerful low instrument of the brass section. It differs from other brass instruments in that it has a slide. When the slide of the trombone is pushed all the way in, the highest notes can be played. As the slide is pulled out, increasingly lower notes are achieved. This lengthening of the tube to accommodate a longer column of air produces the lower notes. While blowing a continuous stream of air and moving the slide from its pushed in position to its outer most position produces a gliding sound called a glissando.



French horn  

"Music is your own experience, your thoughts, your wisdom. If you don't live it, it won't come out of your horn."

Charlie Parker, 1956

There is a funny myth about how the French horn was invented. Many years ago a strict old music teacher told his pupil, “If you don’t practice that horn. I’ll wrap it around your neck.” So he did and we have come to know the wound long brass tubes in a circle as the French horn. A funny tale, but the tubing on a French horn is many feet long and if it were outstretched and unraveled it would look like a long long trumpet. Because the tubing is so long on a French horn controlling the intonation (accurate pitch) is an extremely difficult task. Hunters to tell friends which way a fox had gone during a hunt first used the French horn. Hunting call signals could be heard for miles and by the time the horn found its way into the orchestra its sound had become elegant, noble and capable of producing beautiful tones that contain full round and dark qualities.




"The very lower bowl of music."

Peter de Vries


The tuba is a heavy, large and a hard to carry brass instrument. Equally, it takes enormous breath control and strength to support the sound. It is played similar to the French horn and the tuba typically plays the bass line in the orchestra. Tuba players usually are selected from those who naturally have a large mouth formation because the mouthpiece of a tuba must accommodate large lips. In fact there is a stereotype tuba player, it often is “the hefty kid in the marching band".






Percussion instruments are probably the oldest family of instruments and were first used to accompany dance and emphasize rhythm. Percussionists make music by hitting or striking objects either together or to another. A percussion instrument is anything that is hit, beat, pounded, whacked, thumbed or struck.



The tympani, also known as the kettledrum is played by striking the head (a thin membrane made of animal skin or plastic) with two mallets. The air then vibrates inside a kettle and produces a low deep thumpy sound. A timpani can be tuned by tightening or loosening the top or head of the instrument. The tuning is controlled by foot pedals below the instrument and when depressed they tighten the head.





The drum you see used in marching bands and on football fields being carried over the shoulder of the player is called the bass drum. It is a very loud drum and is usually struck with mallets from both side’s top and bottom. When the bass drum is used in rock groups the right foot usually controls a pedal that strikes the drum from just one side.

Bass drum    




What gives snare drums their unique sound are the snares or wires stretched tightly across the bottom of the drum. As the skin of the drum vibrates the snares buzz against the bottom part of the drum, which is made of the same material as the head. The snare drum is a favorite instrument of the rock group as well as the marching band.

Snare drum    




The xylophone is set up as a series of tuned wooden bars arranged like a piano keyboard. It is played with mallets using different material for different affects. Similar to the xylophone but tuned lower is the marimba. The xylophone can be heard in the Bugs Bunnie “Merry Melodies” theme song and when heard in certain situations will always bring a smile to the listeners ears.




Metal plates either struck together as a pair or with a drumstick or mallet. Cymbals are used to create climactic moments in symphonic works. A cymbal crash can be deafening letting the listener know that an important section of the music has occurred. Smaller cymbals produce a higher pitched sound, and bigger ones produce lower pitched sounds.





Triangle Triangle  
Tambourine   Tambourine  
Castanets   Castanets  
Whip   Whip  
Gong   Gong  


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