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GUIDE: How To Test Brass Instruments

16th May 2022

We asked professional brass player Rob Blencowe to create a guide for upgrading players to help them try out new brass instruments. This information is intended for players or parents making their first upgrade. Rob uses a Trumpet to demonstrate but the advice is suitable for all brass instruments.

#1 Warm Up

Try to come in pre-prepared by warming up at home, or even in the car on the way here! Some simple buzzing on the mouthpiece and breathing exercises is a great way to get your lungs and embouchure warmed up. If you can’t do it before the visit then take a few minutes in our testing rooms to warm up before you start trying the new instruments. Check out Rob’s guide to warm ups here.

#2 Use Your Own Mouthpiece

Keeping at least one constant (such as your mouthpiece) will help you understand what’s changing between models you test. You know how your mouthpiece usually performs with you and as such it makes a great starting point to test brass instruments.

#3 Test the Full Range

Why not start in the middle of the register, work slowly down to the bottom end and then up to the top. At each ‘end’ of the register you should be looking out for how the instrument speaks, the intonation and clarity of tone.

#4 Test Dynamic Range

Check out how the instrument responds at different dynamics. Is it easy to play loudly and quietly? Pick one note and try a crescendo and diminuendo on it to feel how the instrument responds.

#5 Explore the Intonation

It’s important to remember that intonation is a 2-way street. Every wind or brass instrument has intonation/tuning challenges because they are just long pieces of pipe! So, as a player you will always have to make small adjustments across the range. The point of this test though is (a) to get correctly tuned up and (b) see how the tuning ‘zones’ compare to what you are used to and what you are comfortable with. We advise using a speciality tuner such as this Korg Chromatic Tuner – not a mobile phone app which often suffer from various issues and can be misleading.

#6 Feel for Comfort

Every brand and manufacturer make instruments in slightly different ways. The position of the valves, the slides and how the various parts are attached can all vary. Some use slightly heavier materials and so you need to ‘feel’ whether the instrument is comfortable for you.