Arpeggios on Brass Instruments

While fast chord arpeggios are great and no problem to play on strings and woodwinds, they can become very difficult on brass instruments. It is quite tricky for brass players to cover a big range safely in a short time and especially if the range of the arpeggio is quite large it becomes even more tricky for them.

Arpeggios are not per se impossible on brass instruments. In fact they can have a quite dramatic effect as the building up trumpet arpeggio in the beginning of Mahler’s 5th Symphony. Here the sudden burst upwards creates a quite fascinating and menacing quality. Also, notice that this special melodic line is written as a distinct solo and that arpeggio is being prepared musically quite drastically. There are a few more examples in the literature for brass arpeggios, for instance Holst’s Jupiter, where Horn arpeggios are playing as an accompaniment in the background at this part of the piece which adds to the “jollity” of the piece as the subtitle implies.

However, be aware that these instances are rare and follow a very specific purpose. The “casual accompaniment arpeggio” as often seen in strings/woodwinds are unidiomatic and unneccessarily tricky on brass instruments and should rather be avoided or given to instruments that can play them with more ease.


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