1 Learning & Playing Tuba/Trumpet/Euphonium/Baritone/Flugelhorn/French Horn/Cornet





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Published on Jun 29, 2008

In this video, Brett Youens describes the two principles on which all valved brass instruments work, with the tuba used as an example.


Hi. Let's look at brass instruments with valves and how they work. I have a tuba here; it could just as easily be a trumpet, or a French horn, or a flugelhorn, or a euphonium; they all work on the same principle.

If I blow into the mouthpiece, then the air travels this path here, and comes out of the bell. Now, if we think about a trumpet, we'll notice the first principle of the two principles we'll need to know about how brass instruments work. A trumpet has a very short pathway for the air to flow through, and a tuba has a very long pathway. Trumpets produce very high notes, and tubas produce very low notes. So: The longer the pathway, the lower the note. The longer, the lower.

So, if I want to produce a different note, then I'll need to lengthen my tuba. But, of course, I don't have time while I'm playing to get out a hammer and a nail and maybe some sort of smelting machine and lengthen my tuba. That's what the valves are for.

By depressing a valve, you make sure that the air takes a detour, thereby lengthening the tuba. So if I press this first valve here, you'll see that the air takes an extra path. If I press the second -- this little baby valve here -- then it takes a detour of a shorter length. And if I press the third valve, then it's this long, winding, granddaddy-of-them-all valve, right?

So you can see that the three valves all produce different notes.

Why don't we call the valve closest to me -- closest to the mouthpiece -- we'll call that the "daddy valve", and the little baby one, we'll call "baby valve", and the long one that's a long way away from the mouthpiece, we'll call that one the "granddaddy valve". You can just think if a granddaddy, and a daddy, and the kid were walking across the street, well then, of course, the baby's going to be in the middle, right? So, if I try it out in practice, it sounds like this.

You can hear that the baby valve makes the note a little bit lower, this one makes it quite a bit lower, and this one makes it a lot lower. Now, if we think about the different possibilities that we have, obviously the highest note we could produce would be not to have any valve. The next highest note would be the baby alone, the next highest would be the daddy alone, the next would be the granddaddy alone, the next lowest would be the granddaddy and the baby,
the next lowest would be the granddaddy and the daddy, and, of course, the lowest would be all of them together. That sounds like this.

In actual practice there is one exception to that rule, and that is that the granddaddy alone sounds the same, basically, as the daddy and the baby together, and you'll use these instead of the granddaddy alone. But that doesn't matter. That's a -- that's a tuning issue that is beyond the scope of what we want to learn today. So, in any case, that's the first principle about how brass instruments work.

But if that were the only principle, then a tuba could only play seven notes. The other principle is: You get what you give.

So if I give my tuba a different note, then I'll also get a different note. So if I buzz my lips like this, then I'll get a different note than if I buzz my lips like this. And I'll still get a different note if I buzz my lips like this. So: You get what you give. That's the second principle. That sounds like this.

Three different notes, determined just by the way that I was buzzing.

So, the first principle: The longer, the lower.
The second principle: You get what you give.

So now if we combine these, we get all the notes that a tuba can play. So now I'll buzz the lowest note, and then I'll work with the valves. Now I'll buzz the next highest note. And now I'll buzz the higher note.

And, of course, there are other notes that you can buzz as well, producing all the notes that a tuba, or any other brass instrument, can play.

So that's how a brass instrument with valves works.

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