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Topic: Brassier Brass

  1. #1

    Brassier Brass

    I know, from seeing the scores of a number of B'way musicals, that the orchestrator will annotate the brass parts with the direction "Brassy" sometimes. I assume that this is meant to distinguish between mello and bright sounding brass. I also assume, since this is a direction to the performer, that the relative amounts of brightness and mellowness can be controlled by the musician. I am just wondering what they player actually does to alter the sound.

    More practically speaking, I am wondering if some of the sample libraries I own, where the brass sounds brassier than others, is due to the manner in which the samples were played (or equalized) or whether one musician was just playing them more "brassy" than the other.

    For example, I am currently using two trumpets, one tenor trombone and one bass trombone from the JABB library in my score. Since JABB uses Bb Trumpets and GPO uses C Trumpets, I am sticking with the JABB libraries for the trumpets. The JABB tenor trombone sounds okay with them, but the bass trombone is on the mellow side and seems to spread a bit. While this is fine for most numbers - especially the ones that include Westgate's French Horn - there are a couple where I want a brighter or more majestic sound. I'm wondering if I should use a bass trombone with a brighter sound, from one of my other libraries, in those numbers. If it would mean having a musician bring in two bass trombones for a live performance, it's not worth it. But if the brassiness can be controlled by the player, then using the brassier instrument where needed is a reasonable substitution for my demo.

    Another idea: Do any bass trombone instruments allow you to control the brassiness of the sample? Again, I don't mean eq or other processing that the musician won't be able to replicate live - I'm talking about stuff that he can actually do with his lips or breath to influence the sound. I don't care if the sample uses processing to get that effect - I just don't want to give somebody a demo that they can't replicate without switching instruments or playing into a mic and processing it. I hope you know what I'm getting at here.


  2. #2

    Re: Brassier Brass

    Quote Originally Posted by ejr View Post
    ... Do any bass trombone instruments allow you to control the brassiness of the sample? ...
    While each instrument will have its own characteristics, a skilled brass player (even moderately skilled) should easily be able to control the tone.

  3. #3

    Re: Brassier Brass

    I'm guessing that by 'brassy' you mean 'bright'. This can only really be achieved by playing louder. You can enhance the effect further with EQ etc. but in general, louder=brighter, softer=mellow.

  4. #4

    Re: Brassier Brass

    Use a reverb plugin, but there only the early reflections. If you have got the older Waves True-Verb use this and you get the sound.

    To manipulate as real players do, I think only the Samplemodeling instruments can do.


    "Music is the shorthand of emotion." Leo Tolstoy

    Listen to me, tuning my triangle http://www.box.net/shared/ae822u6r3i

  5. #5

    Re: Brassier Brass

    In romantic scores like Strauss or Mahler you will find the term 'schmettern' which is german for 'belt, blare, dash' and means the same as 'brassy' in english scores. Think a fanfare-like sound.

    Horn, trumpet and trombone players can produce that by a combination of lip tension and air flow that gives a saturated and bright sound which is not necessarily much louder but cuts through and sounds like a different register. I guess you need this to be recorded already (actually many samples are already recorded like this), emulating it after the fact should be quite difficult.
    All your strings belong to me!

  6. #6

    Re: Brassier Brass

    Hannes_F - What you describe is more in line with what I was thinking of and needed to confirm. As I said, I've seen "brassy" written as instructions to the performer in B'way scores, so I assumed that it meant some change in tone production, rather than indicating that he should change instruments.

    As for my samples, I am comparing the Bass Trombone in JABB (very mellow) to the Bass Trombones in GPO (from very brassy to extremely brassy). I assumed that they were played on different instruments, but I felt that the brassiness --- like everythying else -- probably had more to do with the style of playing than the differences between any two bass trombones.

    I am using the JABB trumpets (open and muted). These, I know, are Bb instruments and better suited to the theater than C trumpets (which were used in GPO) so I am not mixing the two. When I want a brassier sound, I am setting CC1 to 127 and controlling the volume with CC7. The brassiness, punchiness, or whatever you want to call it is not as critical in the trumpet parts. I just felt that the JABB Bass Trombone didn't have quite enough bite near the bottom of the staff. (Below the staff is too a little too much for my taste in this piece - except for one or two isolated notes where I need the volume and support. It helps a bit in big tuttis, at the end of a finale. You can hear this technique used quite often in some shows - Les Miz comes immediately to mind.)

  7. #7

    Re: Brassier Brass

    The thing with brass is, that the dynamic behavior is different than other instruments like sax or strings.
    While on most instrument character of the sound changes linear when getting louder,
    on brass instruments like trumpets, trombones and other, there is a certain point where the dynamic changes to a much brighter sound.
    If you see the dynamic curve from the softest to the loudest possible tone of a trumpet in 127 steps, there is a sudden change at about vel. 100.

    I'm not sure if it means to play above that dynamic when it says "brassy" in the score,
    it it could possibly be what you mean.

    What you need is a library that has multiple dynamics or separate instruments for the lower and higher dynamics.

    Have a look at the velocity check on my site:

    Chris Hein
    Chris Hein - Horns / Chris Hein - Guitars / Chris Hein - Bass

  8. #8
    Senior Member Steve_Karl's Avatar
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    May 2004
    Pittsburgh, PA 15206 USA

    Re: Brassier Brass

    The "brassy" characteristic is handled by CC#01 ( modulation ) in some of the brass instruments in Kirk Hunter Emerald, and I suspect the same in Kirk's other libs.

    It's a very effective way to get a brassy tone at any velocity, and also a good method to get very powerful swells with instruments that are programmed that way.

    The brass instruments in KH Emerald are very satisfying to me because of how playable and controllable they are when playing.

    With the same trumpet, horn, and trombone instruments I can get anything from the sweetest most delicate passages to the loudest most brassy and boisterous ... and all with just velocity and mod wheel.

  9. #9

    Re: Brassier Brass

    It seems that CC 1 serves this same function in the Garritan instruments.

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