There are two main reasons to learn brass instruments. The first is that learning instruments is good for the body, mind and soul as well as a splendid way to let off steam (literally, in this case). The second is so that you can make that hilarious up-down-up sound with a trombone that perfectly accompanies people falling over like this.
The latest in our series of learning music in London concentrates on huffing and puffing. A slight difference between this and other families of instruments is that learning one often provides you the basic skills of others, and as a result many tutors are proficient in a number of these instruments. With that in mind we’ve hand-picked a worthy tutor or two for each instrument but you’re more than welcome to name others (or yourself) in the comments below.
A special mention goes to London Metropolitan Brass, who run a special training band for keen beginners looking to learn the basics of brass.
Prices for each tutor are included at each of their links. Spread the word and let every street corner become home to an ear-splitting flugelhornist and hang on a second we might not have thought this through.
The cornet is the second highest-sounding brass instrument, behind only the trumpet. It’s more compact in shape than its more famous cousin, but has a mellower tone making it an interesting choice if you’re the type not to follow the crowd. Because the crowd are all learning the trumpet these days, so we’ve heard.
Tom Harrison is a cornet (and trumpet) teacher based in Barbican, whose passion for brass comes across in his School of Everything ad. He is a student at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and offers a fiver discount off your first lesson, and he’ll travel reasonable distances in London to impart his cornet knowledge.
The flugelhorn is a trumpet-like instrument with a wider bore (its interior chamber) and a mellower sound. It’s more commonly found in popular music than in an orchestra, and it has the most amusing name of any of the instruments here.
And our recommended tutor sums up that many brass aficionados can turn their hand to multiple instruments, but as Wayne Martin specifically mentions the flugelhorn in his ad he wins the coveted mention here. He teaches at schools in West Brompton and Finchley and he’s based in Hendon, though he will travel around town to spread the music of the mighty flugelhorn.
The French horn may be the instrument in this list that is easiest on the eye with its graceful curves and peculiar symmetry. You couldn’t tell to glance at it but the French horn is made up of over six metres of tubing, and confusingly is actually of German origin. It is the third highest-sounding brass instrument after the trumpet and cornet.
Julia MacDonnell is one of London’s masters of this fine instrument. She’s played with various orchestras (and bands of note such as Dry The River) since relocating to Europe from Australia, including the Bloomsbury Opera, the Beethoven Ensemble and l’Orchestre de la Cité Internationale in Paris. Now based in Canonbury, Julia’s lessons can be scheduled flexibly according to your availability.
Perhaps the archetypal brass instrument with the classic slide mechanism. And if the flugelhorn has the comedy name, the trombone probably has the most chucklesome sound — don’t try and convince us you’ve ever heard a trombone without thinking of the theme from Johnny Briggs.
Such a lovable instrument deserves to be learned properly, though you’d have to be eyeing a serious orchestral career to pick the full-time, three-year degree at the London Centre of Contemporary Music. For those unwilling to give up three whole years to the trombone, the Arts Academy offers lessons with Trinity College postgraduate Amanda Emery, who has played with the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra and the London Concert Orchestra.
The tuba is the largest and lowest-pitched of the brass instruments. It has similar dimensions to a medium-sized child, though we don’t recommend you treat the two similarly because you just can’t play catch with a tuba.
One of the most accomplished tuba tutors we’ve tracked down in the capital is Omer Plotniarz, a Hackney-based graduate of Goldsmith’s College who has played in the National Theatre and with bands all over the world. Omer will also provide tuition in music theory in the unlikely event you’d rather play this splendid instrument with your brain rather than your hands.
The baritone horn is an upright brass instrument with a predominantly cylindrical bore, not unlike a trumpet. The baritone is a popular member of most brass bands in the UK, and is frequently an accompaniment to those strange American parades of high schoolers we see in movies quite a bit (think ‘band camp’, think baritone horn).
Our recommended baritone tutor is Lauren R-R, who can of course blast notes from most brass instruments but who has the good sense to specify the baritone where others do not. Lauren has performed with the Young Musicians European Orchestra, the Guildhall Symphony Orchestra and the University of London Symphony Orchestra. She’s based at Barbican and can take lessons at her place or in neighbouring boroughs.
The euphonium is a ‘sweet-voiced’ instrument with a conical bore. It is described as having a dark, rich, warm and velvety sound, words more often used to describe wine if you’re into tasting it rather than knocking it back. It is believed to have evolved from the serpent, the oldest ancestor of all low brass instruments.
It is to a large degree interchangeable with other brass instruments, particularly the baritone horn, but if it’s the euphonium you’re keen on you could turn to Michael Shore for a lesson or two. Michael has played with the BBC Philharmonic, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and London Philharmonic orchestras, and will travel to most areas of London to teach euphonium (and other brass instruments).
There are plenty of trumpet tutors and courses across the capital, among them Danielle Audley-Wiltshier, a trumpet scholar of the Royal Academy of Music. She has been playing since the age of four and at just six years old played a solo to Prince Charles at Covent Garden. Lessons take place at Willesden Green, and if that’s too far out of your way there’s a good chance most of the others in this article can turn their hand to the trumpet.
Main image by Simon Goldsworthy via the Londonist Flickr pool.