There are a ton of accessories for brass instruments, but some of them don’t work with all the instruments, a lot of them have variations and the functionality of all of them is really vague, so much so that you may not be sure what you are getting.
In this article we’ll explain the accessories, what they do, and where to get them. This guide is aimed at beginners so we’ll not get into the specifics like why do they work the way they do, Custom made accessories and specific changes in pitch, ranges and color of sound.
- Mouthpieces pullers
- Mouthpieces truing tools
- Cleaning Kits
Which one do I get?
Here’s a resume to help you choose:
- Did my instrument come with a mouthpiece? If not, get one.
- My mouthpiece is stuck. Get a mouthpiece puller.
- My mouthpiece is not round anymore. Get a mouthpiece trueing tool.
- My mouthpiece doesn’t sound the way I want. Try a booster.
- I can’t make a lot of sound when i play. Use a mute.
- I can’t read sheet music while i move. Get a Lyre.
- Where do I put my sheet music while I play. If not a lyre, a sheet stand.
- Where do I put my instrument once I finish playing? A case or a stand.
Let’s start with the most important accessory, a mouthpiece is used to buzz, so you need at least one to be able to play at all. Don’t worry you can use one mouthpiece for all of your brass instruments. If you are planning to buy an instrument make sure it comes with a mouthpiece or buy one you like at the same time.
There are different sizes of mouthpieces, for example 3C, 5C and 7C with 7C made for begginers and/or people with smaller lips. The difference in sizes is barely noticeable, the slightly bigger difference is the pitch, with smaller mouthpieces size you can get to the high pitch easily and with the bigger ones you can get better treble.
For more in depth information on the possible sizes for each instrument you can check this article here.
An accessory for the accessory, the mouthpiece puller does what it’s name says, mouthpieces get stuck on the instruments for various reasons, not cleaning them, leaving them inside of the instruments for long periods of time, getting hit when you drop them, etc. So if you want to remove the mouthpiece without fear of scratching the instrument, this is it.
Mouthpiece trueing tool
Mouthpieces sometimes get dropped and dented at the shank, this tool re-rounds them. The tool is T-shaped and if you don’t know how to use it. Worry not, you just need to introduce the tool on the mouthpiece and then hammer it a little, so yeah, you need a hammer for this. As a bonus some people used them to straight valve slides, but of course that’s not the intended use.
These ones are tricky, boosters are designed to boost the sound of your mouthpiece, what that means is that if your mouthpiece let’s you reach high pitches, with the booster you should be able to reach the same pitches easier and maybe go a little bit higher.
The problem with boosters is a problem of ambiguity, when you go searching for reviews you will find comments saying things like “more meaty core to my sound”, “slotting is even more secure”, “dynamic range has been increased” what does that even mean?
It means the change is case dependent and very small. Since the change in sound it’s not obvious and may be barely noticeable. I can only recommend a booster to veterans, but then again this guide is aimed for beginners.
A mute is an accessory placed on the bell of the instrument (where the sound comes from) that will lower the volume of the instrument. The point of the mute it’s to use it for practice in places where you can’t make a lot of noise, that means every small room with thin walls.
It also helps to regulate the sound with the rest of the instrument instead of going to the usual solution of turning the volume of everything else to the max.
There are different types of mutes:
- Straight Mute: Lowers the volume
- Cup Mute : Lowers the volume and makes the sound slightly softer
- Harmon Mute: Also known as a wah wah mute, produces the famous “wah-wah” or “wow-wow” sound effect when you place your hand on the bell
- Plunger Mute: You can place a plunger on the bell with your hand when you want to lower the volume, this also works with hats and your bare hand.
Cleaning kits come with varying combinations of the same products, here’s what they are and what they do.
Microfiber polish cloth
You may be asking yourself, why would you want a microfiber when you can just use a regular towel? The answer is “for the details”, microfibers help you get a shinier, dryer cleaner and less scratch instrument because they are more absorbent, softer and effective at cleaning. Now you can get the job with anything, but consider this to get the instrument looking a little extra crisp.
Just as with any car, after cleaning it, you can go for a polish to make the cleaning and shining last for longer. Since most brass instruments have a lacquer of steel, silver or gold you can use lacquer polish with the previously mentioned microfiber. As an extra it helps with light oxidation
When valves become sticky, you begin to feel friction while playing. First clean the instrument and then add some valve oil, the effect should be instant and you will be playing smooth and fast again. The effect duration depends on your playing habits, environment and instrument, but the rule of thumb is that it lasts weeks, maybe even months.
Since brass instruments are made of long rounded tubes, not all brushes can reach the whole instrument, for that there are special brushes that you can buy, but if you are on a budget or need to get the cleaning done you can always attach a tiny rope or plastic straw to the tinnies kitchen brush you can find.
A lyre helds sheets of music, this is especially useful for marching bands, you can also find it useful if you like to move while playing or don’t have a place to see the notes you’re playing. The priority with the lyre is to find one that doesn’t move at all and comes with the rest of the accessories.
The lyres usually come with a flip folder, the flip folder has leaves or protectors (usually 5-10) and each one can hold 2 sheets of music, 1 from each side (be careful because not all lyres have a way to see both sides quickly).
Sheet Music Stands
These ones are pretty self explanatory, they are made to hold sheets of music at different heights. Nowadays all of them will do the work so the competition is on the extra benefits.
You should be able to adjust the height and inclination of it. You may need to hold a book or even a tablet so knowing how much weight and size it can support is a nice extra.
If you have to move with the stand having one that ‘s portable it’s a must, so it should be dismantled to occupy the least amount of space possible, so you can put it in a case (yes, some come with a case included).
There is a different stand for each brass instrument but all of them do the same, hold your instrument in a firm and comfortable (to avoid scratches or hits) space. You may get away with a stand designed for other instruments working with similar instruments like the cornet, bugle and trumpet, but it becomes a different story with the euphonium, trombone and tuba.
Since there are so many variations of stands ,even for the same type of instruments (some of them are portable or hold the instrument in different angles), you want to make sure the stand works with your specific instrument, then you can worry about materials, colors and designs.