How Sound Is Produced On A Brass Instrument

Ever wonder how a brass instruments produce sound? Wonder no more. We’ve consulted shamans, mystics, physics professors, and our slightly batty exterminator Ned. Without further ado, here are our findings:

Sound travels in waves.
This is important if you want to know how brass instruments make sound. Before you start looking around for washes of sound in the air, allow us to impart some wisdom: the waves are invisible. You won’t see them, but your cilia (which are those itty bitty hairs in your ear that you destroy when you listen to your headphones too loudly) feel them. We won’t bother you with the formulae (trust us: it’s complicated), but suffice to say, what’s happening when you hear a brass instrument is invisible waves flying through space/time to assault your earholes.

Where do these sound waves come from?
Glad you asked. When brass instruments make sound, the waves are born of air, reeds, tubes, pressure, and oscillation. What the hell does that mean? Let’s break it down. You play an instrument. Let’s say it’s a tuba. You like kind of silly with this great brass snake wrapped around you, but that gleaming reptile’s gaping maw blasts such a sound that you quickly silence your detractors. You get read to blow your horn and you puff you lips like Dizzy Gilespie and you’re lamenting the fact that the tuba isn’t really a lead instrument because you have all of these dreams of flighty solos and heroin comas, but all that aside you wrap your lips around the reed of your instrument and you blow.

When you blow the reed, you create air and pressure. Your lips act as an oscillator, modulating the pressure of wind through the instrument. Because the aperture on one end of the pipe is large (it’s called the bell end, which in the UK in the event that you need to know a bell end is a knob head or in common English the tip of a penis) and nearly closed at the other end, the air is forced through the piping and out the bell end. When the air emerges at the far end of your instrument, it does so as sound waves, having vibrated such off the brass that it creates noise. In a way, the sound waves produced by a brass instrument are similar to an ejaculation; through much exertion, a euphoric experience emerges.

In a nutshell, that’s pretty much how brass instruments produce sound. At least, that’s one theory (said theory being attributed to aforementioned professors of physics, shamans, and mystics). In all fairness, though, we feel it’s only right to share with you the theory of Ned, as well.

As per Ned’s theory of brass instrumentation…

"Yeah man, check this out, it’s gonna blow your mind. Miniscule colonies of magical creatures live within every brass instrument, and  when it gets blown, these small, brass-dwelling civilizations gather in town squares to stamp their feet and howl rapturous incantations, which fall from the mouths of instruments, and voila."

Ah, Ned. And now you know how brass instruments make sound (no disrespect to Ned, but we’re gonna assume the first explanation is the correct one).


Brass Acoustics

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