When it comes to brass instruments, the “best-sounding” ones also tend to be the highest-sounding. The key to choosing the right brass instrument is to know that horns are the most versatile and the trumpet possesses the highest register.
That said, take note that other brass instruments can also hit notes above the fifth octave. Let’s find out what these are.
Brass Instruments With High Sounds
In most cases, it’s the high sounds that are most pleasing to the ears. The following are brass instruments known for their high registers.
This instrument transposes down a major second from the part of it that’s written. In other words, the trumpet is classified as a Bb, as the note “C” is used in all its transpositions.
It’s built with a cylindrical bore that offers a regal, brassy timbre suited for playing joyous, triumphant music. With the way it’s designed, the trumpet is more than capable of extending as high as three octaves above middle-C. Now that’s some pretty decent coverage for a brass instrument!
Arguably the most popular of all brass instruments, the cornet is no slouch when it comes to high deliveries either. It’s not as high-sounding as the trumpet, but it does provide a velvety-smooth and lyrical round sound that blends harmoniously with other brass instruments.
The Eb cornet delivers higher notes than the larger Bb cornet. However, it’s also the more difficult one to play on account of its deeper, V-shaped mouthpiece.
As an instrument whose transpositions make it sound like a perfect fifth, a French horn truly is an instrument that makes high notes easy to come by.
The instrument is placed squarely in the key of F. The highest note it can attain is an E6, which is two-and-a-half octaves above middle-C. Known for producing relatively high notes, the French horn’s conical bore gives it more mellow-sounding notes.
One of the rarer instruments in a brass ensemble, the soprano trombone usually makes its appearance in special solo performances and trombone choirs. They are classified as non-transposing instruments.
Pitch-wise, they can get up to as high as a C6, a good two octaves above the middle-C. Though in most compositions, they’re rarely written above a Bb5.
Soprano trombones typically play treble-clef music, making it different from its cousins, the bass and tenor trombone, which are played in the bass clef.
We wouldn’t go as far as to call the euphonium high-sounding, but it does register a full octave higher than the tuba. This makes it an excellent mid-tone brass instrument, if not anything more.
It requires a specialized mouthpiece with specific cup sizes to play correctly. These cups tend to be more cone-shaped and deeper than the ones used on other mouthpieces.
What sets the euphonium apart from its brass counterparts is its compensating mechanism. Three or four valves are installed in this instrument, depending on the model. These valves allow for intonation, adding a unique but also very good tone to its overall sound.
Sitting a little lower on the register than the soprano trombone is the regular trombone. It’s one of the most common brass instruments, so there’s no way it wasn’t going to be on this list. Other than that, you cannot dispute that it sounds great too.
Labeled the “infinite” brass instrument, it’s perhaps the easiest of all its counterparts to learn and master. While not so much high-sounding as others on this list, it does deliver full tones generated by valves instead of slides. That allows for not just drawn tones but also whole mid-tones.
A good breathing technique and an excellent ear for music are often required to master the trombone. Those sound like a lot, but they are still nowhere near what other brass instruments could demand of you.
The key instrument for creating joyful harmonies, the tenor horn is exceptional at providing high-pitched sounds. The problem is, it’s a sound that doesn’t normally belong in the foreground as much as the background. Its sounds become so much more impactful when set as undertones to a specific piece rather than being its main feature.
Whether in Bb or Eb, the tenor horn mainly functions as an accompanying instrument. In an Eb, the mouthpiece and bell face upward and make it easy to play the instrument in a sitting position. The tenor horn also serves as a bridge that adds gorgeous harmony to a piece.
Which Brass Instrument Should You Learn?
While not as popular as percussion and string instruments, brass instruments are so often associated with heroic deeds. As such, playing them comes with an honor not often felt with the piano, guitar, or violin.
Feel free to learn any brass instrument your heart desires. That said, don’t forget to consider the cost of the learning process, your musical goals, and the limitations of your chosen instrument before doing so.