Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by Nibblewood, Nov 10, 2009.

  1. Nibblewood

    Nibblewood New Friend

    Nov 10, 2009
    I'm doing an A level physics project over the question 'Why is Brass the most common material used to make a trumpet?' and i have a few questions to put out there.

    Why is brass and copper resistant to corrosion?
    What is it about brass that gives it the right resonance to make the right sound
    Is it the vibration of the lips, the air moving through the mouthpiece or a combination of the both that makes the sound?

    Thanks in advance for any replies!

  2. ComeBackKid

    ComeBackKid Fortissimo User

    May 11, 2009
    Yorba Linda, CA
    This first question seems more like a chemistry question than a physics question. But as a Physicist (not in materials or acoustics), I will take a shot at a couple of these.

    Brass (which is zinc and copper and a few other things) and copper are NOT resistant to corrosion. In fact, they are very susceptible to it. If you are thinking about brass objects (such as instruments) that stay shiny, it is because they have a clear coating on them (typically lacquer or urethane or something else). If you remove that coating, they will immediately begin to tarnish and corrode. Environmental issues can slow down or speed up that process but it is happening all the time.
    There is no simple answer to this. In fact many, or even most, metals will make a musical sound under the right circumstances. It is likely that brass is used because historically it was available long before many other metals and being soft, it is easy to polish into a bright luster which is suitable for instruments. Other materials such as nickel-silver have been used but brass remains the favorite because it is relatively inexpensive and easy to form into the shape of an instrument, and because of its beauty.
    The answer to this question is very complicated. But there is a video series in a thread in the 'sticky' area at the top of this section called "How a Trumpet Works." It will probably answer most of your questions about this topic. There are also many other threads in this forum that discuss this issue. You can do a search for 'vibrate' or 'vibration' and I would think you will come up with a lot of material.

    Good luck on your project.
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2009
  3. gzent

    gzent Fortissimo User

    Nov 5, 2003
    Rochester, MN

    There are no simple answers. Here are some resources dedicated to trumpet physics:

    Trumpet Physics

  4. dhbailey

    dhbailey Piano User

    Jul 28, 2009
    New Hampshire
    The real answer as to why brass is used most to make trumpets is because it's the easiest metal to work with to create the shapes needed, since it is worked cold. It's been proven that it's the shape of the tubing and the bell and the leadpipe which are the most important factors in the sound of a trumpet, not the material used.
  5. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    like already mentioned, brass is used because it is easy to work with. It isn't the brass per se, but how it is used. We can temper or anneal brass to get desired properties for different parts of the horn. That and the physical construction is what gives the total product. It is not possible to sort out one or 2 major characteristics for success. there are HUNDREDS.
    It theory, we need no air moving through the lips for a trumpet to work correctly. The vibrating lips actually just get a standing wave set up in the trumpet. That is what makes the horn work. It is not some kind of megaphone.
    To get the lips to move, we blow air through them. After that, the air has no real musical function. We need to build instruments to let us get rid of our air (inefficiencies) so that we can breathe at reasonable intervals. Otherwise we would suffocate.

    Check my sticky thread at the top of this forum. It is called "How a Trumpet works". pretty much everything is covered there. I also address the BS posted too.

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