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Brass is used for decoration for its bright gold-like appearance; for applications where low friction is required such as locks, gears, bearings, doorknobs, ammunition casings and valves; for plumbing and electrical applications; and extensively in brass musical instruments such as horns and bells where a combination of high workability (historically with hand tools) and durability is desired. Brass is often used in situations in which it is important that sparks not be struck, such as in fittings and tools used near flammable or explosive materials. The relatively low melting point of brass (900 to 940 °C, 1,650 to 1,720 °F, depending on composition) and its flow characteristics make it a relatively easy material to cast.By varying the proportions of copper and zinc, the properties of the brass can be changed, allowing hard and soft brasses.
Depending upon the type and concentration of pathogens and the medium they are in, brass kills these microorganisms within a few minutes to hours of contact.
Even though the saxophones and sarrusaphones are classified as woodwind instruments, they are normally made of brass for similar reasons, and because their wide, conical bores and thin-walled bodies are more easily and efficiently made by forming sheet metal than by machining wood.
The keywork of most modern woodwinds, including wooden-bodied instruments, is also usually made of an alloy such as Nickel Silver/German Silver.
Also in California, lead-free materials must be used for "each component that comes into contact with the wetted surface of pipes and pipe fittings, plumbing fittings and fixtures." On January 1, 2010, the maximum amount of lead in "lead-free brass" in California was reduced from 4% to 0.25% lead.
The common practice of using pipes for electrical grounding is discouraged, as it accelerates lead corrosion.Other wind instruments may be constructed of brass or other metals, and indeed most modern student-model flutes and piccolos are made of some variety of brass, usually a cupronickel alloy similar to nickel silver/German silver.