How easy or difficult are brass instruments to learn?

(18 Posts)
Dancergirl Wed 29-Jun-16 13:44:25

This is actually for me!

Background - I played the piano as a child getting up to Grade 7 in my teens. It fell by the wayside at university and I hadn't played properly until about 5 or 6 years ago when I started having lessons again. It was always my ambition to get Grade 8. However, after trying TWICE during these 5 years, I have realised the huge amount of work that's needed and I'm wondering if it's worth it.

I have always loved the sound of brass instruments and brass bands and wondering whether to learn a new instrument instead of persevering with the piano. There's not an awful lot you can DO with Grade 8 piano, I'm not a natural sight reader so wouldn't really play socially etc. But learning a brass instrument has a lot more scope for playing in bands and the like and I think I'd enjoy it.

I heard Haydn's trumpet concerto on Classic FM the other day and it really made me want to learn!

If you or your child play a brass instrument, how do they find learning? Can you progress quite fast?

Mistigri Wed 29-Jun-16 13:56:24

My DD took up sax as a third instrument, and went from scratch to equivalent of grade 4 standard in two terms. I played clarinet for a year or two as a child and found I could play it quite easily, I reckon it wouldn't take long for me to have a functional level and be able to play in a brass ensemble or Jazz group.

I think the big hurdle for sax, and probably other brass instruments, is building up the facial muscles and stamina required to play for long periods. This is just a question of practice though.

(I'm a recent returner to piano having played as a child; I also play guitar, with is another good social instrument. I might consider sax too, now dd seems to have dropped it and we have a spare sax laying around).

Dancergirl Wed 29-Jun-16 14:10:03

Thanks misti is the breath thing hard at first? I also played a bit of clarinet at school and found it made me a bit light headed at times.

Mistigri Wed 29-Jun-16 14:15:37

I found it very easy to produce sound on the sax, dd found it much more difficult (she played recorder as a child though not clarinet). I'm inclined to think that it probably varies from person to person though previous experience of producing sound with a reed probably helps.

You need to go and try out a few brass instruments I think!

I don't know anything about other brass instruments but I'm sure people from the general music thread will be along soon. Lots of brass and woodwind players on there.

igivein Wed 29-Jun-16 14:25:49

I played other instruments as a child, then when I was sixteen (as a favour for a friend who's brass band was struggling) I had two lessons on the cornet and joined the band.
It was fantastic, the social side of it is brilliant and a band will welcome players of all abilities.
If you have a brass band near you I suggest you go and see them, as they will quite often loan instruments for you to see if it's for you, especially as you have such a good understanding of music theory anyway.
I wouldn't be surprised if you were the same as me - a couple of lessons to get the hang of the breathing and fingering, then into the band!
(Have to point out though - clarinets and saxophones aren't brass instruments and although you'd be welcome in a wind band you wouldn't be able to play in a brass band).

Hopelass Wed 29-Jun-16 15:05:03

I agree with igive best thing is to go along to your local band and try it out! I played tenor horn in a brass band for 17 years and loved it. The social aspect is as good as the music imo. Your local band(s) may have a training/'B' band where people, not just kids start out before joining the main band. Good luck, you'll have a fantastic time. Brass band music is so diverse you never get bored either!!

Dancergirl Wed 29-Jun-16 16:59:35

Ooohh, I'm excited now! I've just googled and found a brass band local to me, I'll email them.

Do you agree that there's not much point with persevering with Grade 8 piano? It seems an awful lot of work just for the kudos and certificate.

Warmworm Wed 29-Jun-16 17:18:51

My 13 year old started learning trumpet in spring and has made great progress. She can play all sorts of (short) tunes. Her teacher wants her to take grade 4 next term. It's her second instrument so she knew how to read music, etc. Now she wants a French horn for Christmas! She still struggles with breathing in the longer pieces though.

I think you should do it!

Dancergirl Wed 29-Jun-16 17:28:09

Wow, from nothing to Grade 4 in a few months, that's impressive!

Mistigri Wed 29-Jun-16 17:42:03

Dancergirl you should expect pretty quick progress on a second instrument (assuming a good level on the first, which you have). It might be a bit harder for an adult than a teenager but you should be good enough to play in ensembles within weeks. DD was playing with her music school's senior wind ensemble (for grade 4/5 up) within a term.

Re piano I suppose it depends how much it means to you. You may find that playing in a brass band is an alternative kind of "validation" for you?

Good luck with choosing an instrument smile

raspberryrippleicecream Wed 29-Jun-16 17:47:06

Trombone and tuba playing DC here. DS1 started off on trumpet and switched after Grade5 as he suited a bigger f.

DS 2 took Grade 3 trombone in less than a year, taking Grade 4 piano in the same session.

The hardest part is stamina and your lip.

Brass band sounds far more fun the solitary piano.

Do see if you can try different instruments

Ferguson Wed 29-Jun-16 20:06:27

Trumpet, flugelhorn, tenor horn, or trombone are reasonably easy, given that you already know quite a lot about music from piano. Yes - stamina, and amount of 'puff' are the things to work on. And, brass instruments 'transpose' and are in different keys from piano, but that doesn't make it any harder as the music score will be written to take account of that.

I agree it isn't worth 'flogging' yourself to get to Grade 8 just for the sake of it. Assimilate as much Theory as you can though. A good MIDI keyboard is also fun, and integrates with computers.

This US company I came across was new to me, but they do a vast range of electronics:

uk.m-audio.com/products/browse/category/keyboards-and-controllers

FranKatzenjammer Wed 29-Jun-16 20:24:38

I'm a brass bander (a cornet player): definitely do it! At first, you should look for a 4th section band, or a non-contesting band, who will encourage beginners (also, some higher section bands have training bands). They will be very pleased to have someone with your musical knowledge. Trumpets don't feature in brass bands, so you will be making a faux pas if you ask to play one! I have to disagree with Ferguson about the flugelhorn: it isn't easy (in this context) as there is only one flugel in each brass band and it has a lot of solo parts. Try out different instruments, as other posters have said: back row cornet, 2nd horn or 2nd baritone may be the most suitable at first. Do let us know how you get on, or if you want to ask anything else fire away!

FranKatzenjammer Wed 29-Jun-16 20:30:27

Also, to answer your question, I took up brass playing at about 14 and got Grade 8 on the trumpet and the tuba by 18 (like you, I'd played other instruments first). The hardest part is stamina, as other posters have said.

Dancergirl Thu 30-Jun-16 08:12:41

Trumpets don't feature in brass bands

I never knew that! What ensembles do trumpet players play in, concert bands and the like?

FranKatzenjammer Thu 30-Jun-16 08:44:15

Jazz bands, concert bands, orchestras etc.- the trumpet is very versatile. But if you love the sound of a brass band, you should consider the cornet. It's similar to the trumpet but with a more mellow sound. The notes are the same and it's possible to switch between the two with relative ease. If you learn through a brass band, the tuition will be either free or cheap.

Icouldbeknitting Thu 30-Jun-16 11:58:17

Brass bands also have a need for tuned percussion - pianists with their two stave reading skills are useful there. If you ring the local band secretary and explain your position they will be able to tell you whether they are the right band for you and if they aren't they will give you the number for the closest band that is. They will be able to lend you an instrument and get you started. You will need to commit to regular attendance at rehearsals and concerts so ask about rehearsal times to see if they will work for you.

DS got to G3 in six months and that was with having to learn music. To start with you will not have the muscle to last through a rehearsal but it will come with practise. You can get silent mute systems if you're worried about the neighbours, they pop up on ebay at reasonable prices.

Witchend Mon 04-Jul-16 13:30:47

The brass instruments used not to have grades 1 and 2 because they said you would get so quickly to grade 3 it wasn't worth having them. You should be able to get to grade 3 standard very quickly, a few months if you want to. I think they start getting harder around grade 5.

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