BBC National Orchestra of Wales – quiz answers

We asked you some questions about the short video of the brass instruments in the BBC National Orchestra of Wales.

How do your answers compare to ours?

Q1 Did you see and hear the different instruments? What were they called?

Well, first there was the tuba, then the 3 trombones (playing with the tuba), then the 3 trumpets, then the 3 horns, also called french horns, and finally all of them playing together.

Q2 What did you notice about them? Were they different shapes and sizes? How would you describe them?

They were all made of metal; they were shiny; the tuba was silver and the rest were gold in colour.

The tuba was very large and round and the bell pointed upwards; the trombones were medium sized, longer and the bells pointed forwards; the trumpets also pointed forward but were smaller and compact; the french horns were round, medium sized and the bells pointed backwards or to the side.

Q3 What sounds did they make? Were they different to each other? In what ways?

There are lots of ways you could describe the sound of the instruments, and there is no right answer. It’s what they sound like to you that matters. But we think they all had that distinctive brass sound, bright and loud.

The tuba had a very low, deep sound. The trumpets had a high, very bright sound, like a fanfare. The trombones and french horns sounded in the middle, not as low as the tuba, nor as high as the trumpets. The trombones played a slightly comical piece of music. The french horns were mellow and muffled.

Q4 How did the musicians play them? Were the different instruments played differently?

The tuba was held on the players lap. The trumpets and trombones were held in front of the players, and the french horns were held with one hand in the bell.

The trombones had slides which were pulled in and pushed out, whereas the other instruments all had valves which were pressed down or released up by the fingers.

Did you notice that the tuba and trumpets are held by the left hand while the right hand pressed the valves? But the french horns are held by the right hand and the valves pressed by the left hand! The trombones are held in the left hand and the right hand moves the slide. This is always true even if the players are left handed!

All the players were blowing into the mouthpiece of the instrument, and this is a characteristic of all brass instruments.

What you couldn’t see was that the players were blowing in a way that made their lips vibrate, like when you blow a raspberry (or make a rude noise!) and this is how they were able to make a musical sound. By varying the way they blow, and by pressing various valves, or moving the trombone slide, they were able to play different notes and make a tune!

Q5 What did the man who introduced the instruments, call himself? What is his job?

His name is Grant, but the important bit is that he is the “Conductor” of the Orchestra. His job is to show the musicians when to start playing, the speed at which they should play, and the way he wants them to play. During rehearsals he will tell the musicians how he wants them to play, and get them to work on parts that could be better. He is a bit like a football coach or dance instructor.

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