Whether you’re looking to get into music or expand your repertoire of instruments, it’s worth taking a close look at the flugelhorn. This brass instrument resembles a trumpet, but produces deeper, darker tones and plays an important place in British-style brass bands, jazz bands, and orchestras. The flugelhorn was invented in the 1830s in Austria. When compared to a trumpet, the flugelhorn's bell is wider, with a more pronounced cone. Acoustically, this translates into a fuller and mellower sound. When it comes to finding the right flugelhorn for you, there are a number of important features of these instruments to consider.
Your skill level will be an important component to think about when choosing a flugelhorn. Beginner flugelhorns are designed to be easier for beginners to move air through and are more forgiving when it comes to making quality sound. Professional flugelhorns can give you more control over the instrument’s sound and key movements but may be discouraging for musicians who are new to the flugelhorn.
A standard flugelhorn, like many of its brass cousins, has three piston valves. If you're new to the flugelhorn and have already played trumpet or cornet, this layout will make the transition fairly easy. If you are an experienced player, you can expand your range by choosing a flugelhorn with four valves. The additional valve works to lower the pitch, bringing more notes. However, keep in mind that the fourth valve adds weight to the instrument.
The finish of the flugelhorn brass affects the sound quality. Silver brass typically produces a brighter sound, closer to the sound of a trumpet, while a yellow or gold brass finish produces the darker sound that flugelhorns are known for. As a result, most flugelhorns opt for a gold brass finish.
Similar-looking flugelhorns can produce very different types of sound. Large-bore flugelhorns, play more like a trumpet and can be ideal for beginners since they make it easier to move air through the horn. Flugelhorns with larger bores are also capable of producing more volume, although this is not a concern for most players. The smaller the bore of the flugelhorn, the more distinctive the sound. But at the same time, musicians are likely to face more air resistance when playing with a smaller bore, which can be difficult for beginner and intermediate players alike.
There are a variety of different flugelhorn mouthpieces that are differentiated by their shape. These different tapers will affect your ability to intonate and pass air through your flugelhorn, although it’s easy to change the mouthpiece for one with a different taper after your purchase. If you get a flugelhorn with a mouthpiece and are not happy with the way it plays, consider trying a different mouthpiece before giving up on your instrument.
The most common problem that musicians have with their flugelhorn is inserting the mouthpiece incorrectly. Secure the mouthpiece in your horn with a slight twist, but never force it as it may become stuck in place. If the mouthpiece does become stuck, never force it out with pliers as you can damage both the mouthpiece and the horn – take it to a master for removal instead. It is very important to store the flugelhorn in a case and protect it from sunlight or other weather conditions. You should always dry the instrument before packing it and lubricate the valves with oil frequently.
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