THE NEW MATERIALS HANDBOOK – BRASS

Brass is another name for Copper Alloys.  An alloy of copper and zinc, brass has been known to man since Neolithic times, but was first popularly used in ancient Rome. The advantage of adding zinc to copper is that it increases the hardness of the metal, yet the ductility remains.

In America, brass was originally used primarily as a decorative metal, but as gold and silver began to become a more visible indication of wealth, brass was relegated to the more mundane decorative uses such as chandeliers, clocks and candlesticks. Because of its resistance to corrosion, brass also became the metal of choice for scientific instruments used for navigation, astronomy and maritime pursuits. Although many musical instruments are indeed made of brass, that does not automatically classify it as a brass instrument. The technical term for a brass instrument is “aerophone”, which means the musician must blow air into the instrument, resulting in a specific sound. It is the manner in which the sound is produced that defines the instrument as a brass, therefore, some instruments that are made of wood, horn, and animal bone are included in the group of brass instruments, while other instruments that are made of brass, like the flute or saxophone, are actually classified as woodwind instruments .