Unusual Brass Instruments

The world has seen several incarnations of the more popular brass instruments that we see in 2011. Many of these instruments have fallen out of favor, for more reliable and efficient designs. However, some of them still exist and are used regularly in bands and orchestras. While you may not have seen these instruments in your local community band, many professional musicians own and play them regularly.

Valve Trombone

The valve trombone looks like a slide trombone with a few curious modifications. Instead of using a slide, the valve trombone has three valves that can be used to play chromatic pitches. This construction makes it possible to play quickly and more cleanly than on a regular slide trombone. However, without a slide, some of the glissandos and special slide techniques characteristic of the trombone are lost.


The sackbut resembles a modern-day trombone, but with a smaller tubing size and bell. The slide works much like a modern trombone, but it does not have an extra slide on the end of the trombone that can be tuned like a trombone. This instrument required the use of several crooks and additional tubing to adjust the pitch to match the ensemble. The instrument may be found in true interpretations of Renaissance- and Baroque-period music.

Piccolo Trumpet

The piccolo trumpet looks like a small trumpet that has been compacted upon itself. There isn't much room to place the hand and the index finger of the right hand has to rest along the side of the tubing. This instrument has an odd look to it and its small size allows it to play an octave higher than the regular trumpet. Playing the piccolo trumpet can be difficult since the compact design actually pushes air back to the performer. A strong embouchure must be developed to play the piccolo trumpet. The embouchure consists of the muscles in the mouth and how they are focused on producing sound. You form an embouchure each time you try and suck through a straw.

Double-Bell Euphonium

The euphonium and the baritone are two terms used to describe two different-sounding instruments. The baritone has a brassy sound akin to a trombone while the euphonium has a mellow, sweet sound similar to the fluegelhorn or French horn. The horn has two bells, one bell-shaped like a euphonium bell and the other like a baritone. This makes it possible to quickly switch between baritone and euphonium sounds. The switch can be made be depressing a fourth or fifth valve. The number of valves depends on the instrument manufacturer. Some instruments have an extra valve to improve the low register sound.


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