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Background Brass

Within the broad category of background brass we've included Tenor Horn, Baritone, Euphonium and Tuba. Below are sections on each of the individual instruments, however, we have grouped them all together as many of the technical specifications and options available relate to all these Instruments.


In terms of specification, background instruments can broadly be classed into two groups: "compensating" and "non-compensating".

To understand compensation one needs to understand the underlying physics of brass instrument tone production. To lower a note by an octave, the tube to produce it needs to be doubled in length. Thus the tubing of a Bb trumpet is 4ft long, where as the tubing of a Bb trombone (one octave lower) is 8ft long.

Therefore to change the pitch of a note the length of tubing has to be altered by a relative proportion, rather than an absolute length.

With a Bb tuba the length of it's tubing (open valves) is 16ft. To lower its pitch by a semi tone therefore one would need to add an extra 1/12th to its length (16 inches). Thus the 2nd valve slide will be 16" long.

However a Bb tuba with its 1st and 3rd valves depressed will be 22'8" in length. Thus to add an extra semi tone one needs to add an extra 22 2/3 inches. However, the 2nd valve slide is only 16 inches long. Therefore to add the extra 6 2/3 inches to bring the note in tune the compensating "knuckles" on the back of the valve block need to be engaged.

Thus with a compensating system, the extra tubing is automatically engaged keeping the instrument in-tune with itself, however a non-compensating instrument would play sharp (due to lack of tubing).

In smaller instruments such as cornets and trumpets compensation can be manually adjusted for using 1st and 3rd valve slides. However, the lengths involved in lower brass instruments means that compensating systems become a necessity for accurate tuning.


In order to increase an instrument's range (downwards) a 4th valve is often added - taking the pitch down 21/2 tones when engaged. Obviously, the greater the length of tubing added to the instrument the better the range but the greater the need for compensation. The 4th valve is usually positioned away from the main valve block on the side of the instrument, and played with the left hand.

brass musical instruments


The choice of lacquer or silver has no effect on the instrument's tone. We therefore generally suggest customers should choose lacquer instruments for student models. All the instruments recommended have good quality lacquer and silver instruments are charged at a premium and often "made to order".

When choosing a Besson model professional instrument however we strongly suggest choosing Silver, as both options are the same price, silver is harder wearing, easier to repair, and less prone to manufacturing finish defects which can be particularly prevalent on larger instruments.

Baritone v Euphonium!

What's the difference? - Each is pitched in Bb and look similar. In essence, it's the instruments bores. Baritones have much smaller bores than euphoniums, which in turn allows instrument makers to configure the tubing into a more compact instrument. The combined effect is two instruments with markedly different playing characteristics and tone.

Tuba Specifications

In the UK the "normal" tubas used are pitched in Eb (orchestras, wind bands & brass bands) and Bb (brass bands). This contrasts with the US and Europe when tubas in Bb, C and F are more prevalent. In addition, UK players traditionally prefer instruments with top sprung piston valves, whereas in Europe and the US front action and/or rotary valves are more common. All the instruments listed are Eb and Bb top action piston models.