What can I play?

Brass Instruments

  • Brass instruments are usually made of brass which is where the name comes from although they have been made of other things like wood, tusks and shells.
  • Brass instruments are long pipes which widen at the end into bell shape, they have been twisted and curved to make them easier to play!
  • They produce sound by vibrating your lips against them creating a "buzzing" sound.
  • The pitch and sound is mostly made my pressing on valves which open and close different parts of the pipes. An exception is the trombone which is played by sliding the pipes to lengthen and shorten the pipes.

Learn more about the Brass and other instruments for younger children or watch a video about brass instruments

Below you can find out more about the different instruments.


picture of a trumpet

  • The trumpet is an ancient instrument traditionally made from horns or shells. It is one of the smaller brass instruments and plays the highest pitch with a bright vibrant sound. The trumpet is a slender brass pipe with three valves.
  • You play the trumpet by holding it in a horizontal position, buzzing you lips on the mouthpiece and pressing down on the three valves in different combinations to change the pitch.
  • If you stretch it out to its full length it would be 6 and 1/2 feet long!
  • There are usually 2 to 4 trumpets in an orchestra and they play both the melody and the the harmony.


picture of a cornet

  • The cornet is a brass instrument similar to a trumpet but distinguished by its conical bore and shorter twisted shape. It also produces a more mellow tone than a trumpet.
  • It is perfect for beginners and young children due to its compact size.
  • The modern-day cornet is used in brass bands, concert bands and other orchestral music that requires a more mellow sound.


picture of a trombone

  • The trombone uses a slide instead of valves to change the  pitch. It is made of long thin brass pipes. One pipe slides into the other so the total length of the pipe can be extended or shortened.
  • You play the trombone by holding it horizontally, buzzing into the mouthpiece, and using your right hand to change pitch by pushing or pulling the slide to one of seven different positions.
  • A trombone when fully stretched out straight measures about 9 feet long! 
  • There are usually 3 trombones in the orchestra and they play pitches in the same range as the cello and bassoon. The three trombones often play harmonies together.


picture of a baritone

  • The baritone is a musical instrument like a tuba but smaller and higher pitched. It is also known as a baritone horn.
  • it is a brass instrument, and it usually is played primarily in base clef. It has a similar sound to a trombone.
  • You play the baritone by holding it in a horizontal position, buzzing you lips on the mouthpiece and pressing down on the three valves in different combinations to change the pitch.
  • It is a nine-foot brass tube with piston-style valves. It is narrow and smaller than a euphonium.
  • The baritone is part of the tenor section of a band, and has a brighter more vibrant sound than other larger brass instruments,


picture of a euphonium

  • The euphonium is a brass instrument. It is very similar to the baritone horn, but it is different because the tubes are wider and it is bigger.
  • The euphonium makes low sounds, similar to the trombone,
  • You play it by blowing into the instrument and "buzzing" with your lips and pressing valves to change the pitch
  • The word euphonium means: "producing nice sounds"


picture of a tuba

  • This is the grandfather of the brass family. The tuba is the largest and lowest brass instrument and has a deep rich sound.
  • You play the tuba sitting down with the instrument on your lap and the bell facing up. You blow and buzz into a very large mouthpiece and use your hand to press down on the valves which changes the sound. It takes a lot of breath to make sound with the tuba!
  • Like the other brasses, the tuba is a long metal tube, curved into an oblong shape, with a huge bell at the end.
  • Tubas range in size from 9 to 18 feet; the longer they are, the lower they sound.
  • There is generally only one tuba in an orchestra and it usually plays harmony.

Find out more about musical instruments on the BBC Bitesize website