Brass instruments are a great choice for children. They’re inexpensive compared to many other instruments, are commonly taught in schools and lend themselves well to group lessons and play. While it is sometimes recommended that a child waits until they have lost their front baby teeth and their adult teeth have grown, most children can start before this happens – playing a brass instrument without front teeth can be a challenge, but it certainly isn’t impossible!
While there are many other brass instruments around, the trumpet, cornet, French horn, trombone, euphonium and tuba are the most common, and are often found in school bands and orchestras. They are also the instruments that make up most brass bands.
Trumpet or Cornet
Trumpets and cornets are very similar and often play the same part in brass bands. The main difference between the two is that the cornet’s slightly different shape gives it a more mellow tone. Trumpets and cornets are relatively low priced, are easy for children to carry around, and are suitable for most children at age 10, though some may be able to start earlier. The instruments are the most popular in the brass family, so there can be a lot of competition to play in bands. It’s also worth keeping in mind that the mouth shape used to play a cornet or trumpet is different to that needed to play other brass instruments, which can make it more difficult to switch further down the line.
French horns are the only brass instrument where the left hand is used to operate the valves rather than the right. Despite this distinction, most players start with a different instrument before moving on to the French horn.
Trombones are often used not only in brass bands, but also as part of jazz ensembles. They are the only brass instrument to use a sliding mechanism rather than valves, which can make it a difficult instrument to learn, and smaller children with shorter arms may struggle. Still, the relative rarity of trombone players means that any child that learns the trombone will never be short of opportunities to play.
Tuba and Euphonium
The tuba is the largest and lowest pitched brass instrument. Its large size means that it can be difficult to transport and its weight can make it difficult for small children to play. However, there are very few players around, which means there are plenty of opportunities for anyone who perseveres with it. Euphoniums are a lot like a smaller, higher pitched version of the tuba. Many children may find it easier to start with a euphonium before moving on to a tuba, though there are still plenty of opportunities should they want to stick with the euphonium.
For advice about buying a brass instrument for your child contact Pianos Cymru on 01766 515292 or Jones Pianos of Chester on 01244 675999.
As I write this in my office in the garden, it’s cold. Outside there’s snow on the ground and an icy wind is blowing. But what is ‘cold’ and how do we define it? The important thing to remember is that whether something is cold or not depends on your point of view. Here’s an experiment to try:
You will need three bowls filled with water, lined up in the order of bowl one, bowl two and bowl three. Bowl one should have bathwater-temperature water, not too hot though. Bowl two (in the middle) should have warm water, and bowl three should have icy cold water. You might also like to add ice cubes for extra cold!
Here’s what you do – put a hand in the hot and cold bowls and leave them there for 30 seconds. Then take them out and put them in the middle bowl, the one with the warm water. But wait – is the water in that bowl hot, warm or cold? Your brain will find it hard to work out! Compared to the hand in the hot water, the warm water feels cold...but compared to the hand that was in the cold water, the warm water feels hot!
So...how cold IS cold?
To find out, let’s start with something REALLY hot – the white dwarf star in the constellation of Draco, its temperature is about 170,000°C. That makes our own sun’s 5,500°C seem positively brisk!
Temperatures don’t get anywhere near that high on Earth. At the moment, the temperature outside is 0°C. There is still snow everywhere on the ground. So what’s the coldest thing that we know of? Well, let’s start at 0°C degrees Celcius (°C) and go down from there - snow is pretty cold, but that’s frozen water. Dry ice is colder at -78°C. Dry ice is carbon dioxide gas that has been cooled until it turns solid. As it turns back into a gas (it skips the liquid phase) it produce a pleasant, smoke-like cloud on the floor. The coldest natural temperature ever recorded on planet Earth was an incredible -89°C, at Vostok Station, Antarctica. Want colder still? Try liquid Oxygen at -183°C...or how about liquid Nitrogen -196°C? This is so cold that if you were unfortunate to leave your hand in for a while, it would freeze solid and probably drop off!
But what about the very coldest thing that we know of? Well, it isn’t a ‘thing’ as such, but most scientists agree that there is a temperature that is the lowest that we know of. It is called Absolute Zero.
Heat is a form of energy. When something is hot the atoms and molecules whizz around, taking up lots of space with their whizzing. As they slow their whizzing down, they take up less space, which is why hot things expand and get bigger and cold things contract and get smaller. So as something cools, it loses its heat energy and the molecules do a lot less whizzing...so what happens when they stop their whizzing altogether? Absolute Zero – the coldest temperature we reckon there is. No energy, no movement, no heat.
Our own star, the Sun, will eventually burn out, using up all of its Hydrogen fuel that it has released as heat and light. When this happens, life in our galaxy will no longer be possible – unless of course, by this point we have already left our galaxy to find a new planet.
Whatever happens, we’ve about 4,500,000,000 years to find a way to do it.
Rob Wix is Creative Director of Corwen-based Sustainable Science: www.sustainablescience.org.uk.
You know you're getting old when you catch yourself tutting at the sight of Easter eggs in Asda, two days after you’ve taken down the Christmas tree and lobbed it gratefully in the loft.
The fact that you can now purchase cut-price cranberry sauce, Paxo and reindeer socks at the same time as hollow bunnies, hot cross buns and Justin Bieber eggs always strikes me as terribly cynical and an insult to my savvy consumer intelligence. (As much as I admire the major supermarkets that cannot wait to celebrate Christ's resurrection, I do feel they should finish celebrating his birth first.) I show my disgruntlement by rolling my eyeballs at similarly aghast shoppers, shrugging in a world-weary type of way and making rather lame joke about there being Halloween masks in the next aisle too, ha, ha, ha!
The problem is that if you don’t get in there early, (before New Year) you are left with the Easter dregs – you know, the ones with the caved-in fronts, peeling foil and suspiciously nibbled bits, or the horribly inappropriate ones which cause your darling children long-lasting trauma and tarnish Easter Sunday for ever more:
‘But that’s Hello Kitty – that’s for girls! I want Ben 10.’
‘They taste the same hun, honest.’
‘Nooo! Hello Kitty tastes pink! Bleurrrgh! I hate pink flavour!’… etc.
I love Easter actually, despite its spectacularly commercial side. This, the oldest and most important festival in the Christian calendar, diluted by gluttony and rubbish films on the television, is a time when most of us get together with our families, share a meal and, of course, eat one’s weight in chocolate. (Although this is neither compulsory nor advisable!) Even though Easter is one of the more child-oriented events on the calendar, my significant other knows better than to leave me out of the egg-fest and never fails to furnish me with a shiny ovoid of gargantuan proportions. I always feel a touch nauseous after scoffing a whole one (and its accompanying calorie-laden accessories) but take this as a sign of value for money and par for the course at this time of year.
Calories aside for minute, (16 in one Cadbury’s Mini Egg!), I’ve just read that supermarkets are raising the price of Easter eggs this year even though cocoa prices are falling. Wow! They really do love to capitalise on our excitement and generosity, don’t they? Expecting us to shell out (pardon the pun) for what is essentially a chocolate cover for an egg-shaped vacuum ensconced in vast amounts of cardboard, foil and plastic is maddening. An estimated 3,000 tonnes of waste is produced in the UK every year, solely from Easter packaging. And don’t get me started on the nightmare which is recycling after the event...
Happy Easter, one and all, and don’t forget, Easter is the only time when it’s safe to put all your eggs in one basket!
Stuck for ideas for funky Easter decorations? Try this beautiful Easter tree or floral wreath using the delicate pastel hues of early spring flowers as your inspiration.
You will Need
Spring branches in bud
Coloured pens/paints and glitter
A galvanised bucket/terracotta pot
1 Wash each egg then, using a sharp needle, prick a hole carefully at least 3mm in diameter at the top and bottom. Blow through one hole to force the raw egg out through the other – you’ll find this easier if you break the yolk with the needle first.
2 Rinse eggs inside and out then place in microwave oven for about 20 seconds to harden the shells. Leave them overnight to dry out completely.
3 Carefully decorate your eggs and attach looped ribbon to the pointed end.
4 Cut branches such as forsythia or pussy willow and, using the oasis, arrange them firmly in your bucket or pot.
5 Hang your pretty creations from your tree.
Easter trees can be made more personal by attaching family photographs to the eggs.
Nothing says spring quite like flowers! Brighten up your front door with a homemade floral wreath to welcome your family and friends this Easter.
Stud a circular wreath base of florists’ oasis with a glorious array of spring flowers. Working centrally round the inner edge of the ring, start with the largest blooms, and then fill in with smaller ones, covering the inner and outer edges to conceal the base. Ready-made wired mossy bases are really effective as well but do tend to be rather expensive.
Add a final touch of colour by tying a length of bright ribbon into a large bow, fold a stub wire over the bow centre and twist ends together. Wrap the ribbon around the bow centre for a neater finish. Insert the bow into your wreath and await the envious ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ from your guests!
This versatile wreath could also make a stunning flower arrangement for your Easter table.
Take your wreath down on alternate days and immerse the base in water. Drain thoroughly before re-hanging.
Dragonsong is an inclusive community choir for young people from across the County of Wrexham aged between 12 and 18. There are no auditions, so the choir is open to anyone who wants to sing and be part of something new.
The choir’s repertoire focuses on new arrangements of modern music and rehearsals take place at Yale’s on Hill Street, Wrexham. Anyone aged 11 to 18 is welcome.
Dragonsong is led by the very talented Charlotte Jones. Charlotte has a depth of experience as a Musical Director, a musical performer and working with young people. A former secondary school teacher, she is now a full time music professional and part of the successful vocal trio, The Harmonettes who performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2012. Charlotte also leads the Resonate Singers and the Rare Choir in Liverpool.
Dragonsong rounded off a very exciting 2012 with a concert at Central Station, Wrexham, with the support of Three Mile Smile (a four piece rock and roll band). Dragonsong are now finalising a calendar of performances for 2013.
The two primary objectives of the Dragonsong committee for 2013 are to encourage more young people to join the choir and to raise funds to support the activities of the choir.
Rehearsals are every Tuesday during term time 6.30pm—8.00pm Yale’s, Hill Street, Wrexham.
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