I want to know some practical details on what to consider if you want to play different brass instruments of various size. Specially differences between the extremities like trumpet and tuba. Is there any reason to not mix because trumpet requires too different muscle training in the lips compared to playing tuba?

I am most interested in focusing on air use and mouth techniques and physics, not so much fingering.

What I'm really looking for is if it hurts technique for my tuba playing to also start playing a small instrument like cornet or trumpet. This is only for hobby, not professionally, so it would not be a big amount of practice involved.

  • What is it you really want to do? Unless you're going pro, it's purely a matter of how much practice time you have available, and what instruments you want to play. Commented Aug 29, 2013 at 13:26
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    Do mean practice techniques of playing both in the same day? Do you mean learning to play both instruments? Air, pressure, embouchure technique, and physicality for each instrument is entirely different, though you can learn to play both. I play both. :) Commented Aug 29, 2013 at 17:29

2 Answers 2


I'm a professional tubist, and I also play trumpet as well - among other noise makers. I can tell you first-hand that playing trumpet or other instruments will generally not affect your ability to play tuba. It is good you are staying within the brass family as it is the least discouraging.

When moving through brass instruments of different sizes, it is best to go from largest mouthpiece to smallest. So, in a given day, it's better to play tuba first before heading into trumpet land.

Due to the nature of each instrument's technique, it will take you a long time to develop a high register on the trumpet (though your low register will be great!) So keep that in mind. It will also take a long time to develop stamina - even if your stamina for tuba is great.

What can be damaging to brass embouchure is moving from woodwinds to brass within the same day. Saxophone and clarinet are the worst. Flute is probably the best.

In summation: Play trumpet and have fun, just make sure you get your tuba practice in first.

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    Good answer. One question though, why do you say it is damaging to go from woodwind to brass in the same day?
    – Luke_0
    Commented Aug 30, 2013 at 18:35
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    Because playing saxophone or clarinet causes you to curl your lower lip inward over your teeth. Your teeth rub against the lip and make it sore / raw. Tuba players are useless without a solid lower lip. In addition, those two instruments use completely different muscles than for tuba, and can often leave a player with sore muscles that need to be otherwise floppy and relaxed for proper tuba performance. Though flute is a woodwind, it is actually a great instrument to play before tuba practice as it engages the lungs in a special way. Commented Aug 31, 2013 at 2:43
  • Yes, the lower lip touches the teeth. No, this shouldn't make it sore or raw.
    – Laurence
    Commented Jun 7, 2023 at 9:54

Most brass band players I know can play more than one instrument: after all, this is the main point of the "instruments in different keys" system for three-valved instruments. That said, when a player ends up playing different instruments in different bands (so they have to switch over the course of each week), they usually find that a little uncomfortable and try to resolve the situation by switching seats in one band.

There are two big differences between instruments. One is the amount of air. It takes a lot more air to fill a tuba than a cornet, but I think this shouldn't be a problem going from large to small. Sometimes players of cornets have trouble going the other way, because they're used to stretching the air out for long, twiddly passages, rather than pushing lots of air out for one long note.

The other main difference is in embouchure. Different brass instruments require completely different embouchure to each other. This, I think, is the main difficulty in switching. It's not that one instrument makes your technique worse at the other, or makes you forget how to play: more that, if you've been practising with one embouchure all week, and you sit down to play, you have to remind your lips to do the other embouchure, and it can make them tire quickly.

Thinking of it like changing car from a manual (stick) to an automatic is probably a helpful analogy. Driving an automatic doesn't make you forget how to drive a manual, but you have to get back into the habit of working the gears and giving it more or less gas in different situations.The gears are the embouchure and the gas is your breathing! A one-off change is easy to get used to, but if you keep switching, it's easier to get confused and stall at a junction.

One more thing to bear in mind is that the style of music is quite different. Cornets and trumpets often have very "nimble" music: fiddly, with lots of short notes, double-tonguing, and interesting rhythms. Tubas tend to have boring music, with lots of long notes. (Maybe this is why you want to try something new!) Unless you already play other instruments too, you may find that learning to read faster and change fingerings more quickly is a bigger hurdle for you than the change in instrument.

In summary, I don't think you should be afraid that learning a new instrument will hurt the old one. In the long term, the new perspective, and opportunities to play different music, will probably help your playing overall. Just be prepared for your tuba playing to feel harder until you get used to switching back and forth, and be ready to do just as much "lip practice" on trumpet or cornet as if it were your first instrument.

  • About the "style of music is quite different", I would just see as a bonus to expand the repertoire on my tuba playing. As to "boring" is more what you make of it. The conductor in the wind band where I play often like us to play the parts that are written for string/EL bass if those has parts that is missed in the tuba arrangement. So that often includes more interesting play. Also I often encounter interesting parts originally arranged for tuba that are both difficult and/or cool passages.
    – awe
    Commented Aug 30, 2013 at 12:23
  • I am not thinking switching to another instrument. I love to play tuba, and although I am thinking of trying other instruments, I am probably not going to go away from tuba as my main instrument.
    – awe
    Commented Aug 30, 2013 at 12:25
  • All the tuba players I know complain about their parts being boring. Of course, there are exceptions (tuba solos tend to be quick), but for the most part you're anchoring the chords and rhythm with long, repetitive notes. That's why I say an inexperienced player might find the faster-paced music for smaller instruments tricky, but rewarding in terms of broadening your musical understanding (and making those tricky solos easier).
    – Dan Hulme
    Commented Aug 30, 2013 at 14:27

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