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The trumpet, very similar to the Cornet, is the smallest and highest pitched member of the brass family. As with all the brass instruments, it's sound is produced by buzzing ones lips into a mouthpiece. The differences between a trumpet and cornet are very minor in that they both play the same notes and sound virtually the same. In appearance, however, the trumpet is a bit longer and more slender than a cornet. The big difference has to do with the way the bell of the instrument flares. A cornet is more cone shaped or conical than a trumpet. For all practical purposes they are the same instrument for beginners. A music teacher may refer to the trumpet section when he or she really means all trumpets and cornets. Either is a good instrument for a beginner.
History of the Trumpet
The trumpet is a member of the brass family of instruments and has a long history. Prior to 1700 trumpets existed mainly in the form of what is known as the natural trumpet, a plain brass cylindrical bore without any side holes, crooks, valves or slides. After the 14th century the trumpet became associated with military and ceremonial functions and playing trumpet for the nobility was considered a high privilege (court trumpeters). After 1600 the trumpet began to be used in art music and toward the end of the 17th century trumpets were frequently used in operas and cantatas. During the 18th century crooks (additional lengths of tubing) were used to expand the register and overtones that could be played and side holes covered with keys (keyed trumpets) were introduced. The invention of valves in 1813 opened the way for the development of the modern trumpet.
How a Trumpet is Made
Modern trumpets are made of brass with a cup shaped mouthpiece and a narrow tube that is cylindrical for most of its length, then gradually flares into a moderate sized bell. Trumpets have three valves which singularly, or in combination, alter the length of the tubing being used which lowers the natural, fundamental pitch of the instrument, this the name valve trumpet as opposed to the natural trumpet which has no valves. Modern trumpets are pitched in the key of Bb.
It takes quite a few parts to make a modern trumpet and they include: mouthpiece, mouthpiece receiver, lead pipe, bell section, valves, valve stems, valve top and bottom caps, valve stems, valve buttons, valve guides, valve springs, water keys, water key springs, water key corks, main tuning slide, and 1st 2nd & 3rd valve slides.
So your Student wants to play the Trumpet, now what?
If your student will be joining the school band program check with the band director to make sure trumpet is an appropriate choice. Many schools have some type of instrument try-out procedures to help young students select which instrument to play based on physical characteristics, desire and the need to have a balanced instrumentation in the band program. An important part of learning to play any musical instrument is the desire and motivation to commit to the daily practice required to learn the skill sets and parents should help their child develop a regular practice schedule and encourage progress. Be positive and let your child know they are making good progress….never make fun of the odd sounds beginners will make in the early stages. Your encouragement and praise will be very meaningful to your child.
How to Choose a Trumpet
Choose an instrument from an established and respected manufacturer….ask your school’s band director which brands are acceptable. Generally, avoid sources who are not in the musical instrument business as their primary focus because there are numerous poorly made instruments being offered by retailers who are not music retailers. These instruments may look good, but they are usually made of poor quality materials and poor craftsmanship.
Recommended Beginner Trumpets
Jupiter 600L (lacquered brass) or Jupiter 600S (silver finish): both have wood frame case, 1st slide tuning ring & 3rd slide tuning saddle which make them nicer beginner trumpets than most on the market. Jupiter 606ML is like these only with Monel piston valves and a rose brass leadpipe. The Jupiter 606MRL is like the 606ML but also includes a rose brass bell which makes the tonal quality a little darker.
Selmer TR300 or Selmer TR500 Aristocrat are also very nice beginner trumpets similar to the Jupiter 600L.
Recommended Intermediate Trumpets
Utilizes silver plated yellow brass, monel pistons, 1st valve tuning saddle & 3rd valve slide ring & stop, with a wood frame case.
The Jupiter 1100S
Similar to the 1000S but utilizes stainless steel pistons, a reverse leadpipe, and a custom bell.
Similar to like the 1100S but features a one-piece hand-hammered bell and monel pistions.
Jupiter 1602S XO medium large bore, silver-plated yellow brass, hand crafted bell, monel pistons, elliptical and rounded tuning slides, pearl inlaid and metal finger buttons, regular and light action spring sets, standard and weighted bottom valve caps, 1st valve slide saddle &3rd valve slide ring with stop, XO classic case. Also available with reverse leadpipe and rose brass bell or lacquer finish. The Jupiter 1604S trumpets are like the above only with large bore configuration. Other available options for Jupiter pro line trumpets are 24K gold plated trim package and a tourlite case.
The Bach 180S37 Stradivarius is an industry standard and highly recommended for generations of trumpet players.
For professional players there are numerous custom shops offering a multitude of options to design and build any configuration of materials, design, and finish to meet even the most eclectic requests in trumpet manufacturing. One of the top trumpet players today, Trombone Shorty (Troy Andrews), requested at custom Trumpet by the master Craftsman, Mike Corrigan, the Horn Doctor. Corrigan personally creates custom masterpieces, and his custom Trombone Shorty Trumpet (and custom trombone) are great examples of how top performers and top instruments make for Grammy Level performances.
Buying a Trumpet vs Renting a Trumpet
Renting prior to purchasing allows for the return of an instrument which is an important consideration with beginner students. Credible rental sources will apply rental payments towards the purchase price. Rentals are usually only available for beginner instruments. RentMyInstrument.com is the only source we are aware of that also offers intermediate and professional level instruments on a rent to own basis.
Types of Trumpets
Trumpets are manufactured in a variety of keys and the most common usages are Bb, C, D & Eb and piccolo trumpets built in Bb and A. Piccolo trumpets are half the length to sound an octave higher and used for difficult, high range trumpet parts such as those found in many Baroque compositions. Piccolo trumpets usually have both a Bb & A leadpipes and the D & Eb trumpets usually have both slides so they player can easily change the configuration of the instrument. Some bass trumpets can still be found (Wagner demanded them in some of his compositions) but these are rare (pitched in low C, D or E).
Types of Trumpet Brass
Brass is an alloy of copper and zinc and has excellent resonance qualities for the manufacture of musical instruments. Rose brass will have more copper in the formula than yellow brass and produces a darker tonal quality. It will also be softer and will dent more easily.
Gold Trumpet vs. Silver Trumpet
Brass is finished to prevent corrosion and many finishes are available and each provides a different tonal quality with silver producing a brighter tone and gold a much darker tone. Lacquer is a standard finish a produces a tonal quality between the silver and gold.
Trumpet mouthpiece selection is highly individualized but, generally, students and players with thicker lips are often more comfortable with a larger mouthpiece and the opposite is true for those with thin lips. The standard Bach numbering system can be thought of as a system of opposites: the smaller the number the larger the mouthpiece and vice versa. The number refers to the diameter of the rim. The alphabetical indicator refers to the cup depth with A being deeper than C and E being quite shallow. Players should utilize the largest size that they can comfortably control intonation, flexibility and endurance.
3 Reasons to buy a second trumpet mouthpiece
A common reason for a second mouthpiece is for those who must perform in the extreme high register and shallow cup depth makes this easier with the trade-off being a loss of tonal quality (the tone will be brighter). Trumpet players often use smaller mouthpieces for upper register playing and/or when a brighter tonal quality is desired.
How to take care of your trumpet
Trumpet players are constantly blowing warm, moist air thru the instrument and, just by the nature of things, will include microscopic particles of whatever is in the player’s mouth and saliva. Inside the trumpet a culture will start developing which will make the instrument smell bad and also perform poorly…..plus the obvious health considerations. Trumpets can be completely disassembled quite easily and cleaned with warm (not hot) water and flexible cleaning brushes made for cleaning insides of all the trumpet slides, tubing, mouthpiece and valve casings (there are several sizes of brushes which can be purchased in cleaning kits). Great care must be taken to not scratch the valve casings since even microscopic scratches can cause valves to stick because tolerances are so small between the casings and the valves to prevent the escape of air when the trumpet is being played and to allow for a very thin layer of valve oil (much like the pistons in an engine….thus the term piston valves). Note: many players use a silver polish or lacquer polish to clean the finished parts prior to flushing instruments. Once the trumpet body (including valve casings) is flushed out and rinsed clean it can be set aside to dry or dried with a very soft cloth.
All removable slides will have a build-up of slide grease which can be easily removed by using steel wool which does not harm the unfinished brass and restores it to a nice, clean surface. Simply rinse the removable slides once the raw brass tubes are clean, dry them and apply a very thin coat of slide grease. Tuning slides using very thick grease so they stay in place while the 1st valve and 3rd valve slides use a thinner grease so the trumpet player can easily move those slides to adjust intonation during performance. Once the grease is applied, insert one tube at a time on each slide and move it around to distribute the grease….once done insert the slide and remove any excess grease with a very soft cloth or paper towel.
Valve oil build-up can be removed from valves by running them under hot water—just cover the upper portion of the valve so the valve springs, valve guides, and any cork or felt material does not get wet. Like the valve casings, take great care to not scratch the valves. Also be sure to remove and clean the bottom valve caps which simply screw on to the bottom of the valve casings. Once both are clean and dried the valve caps can be screwed back on and the valves are ready to be inserted back into the casings. Check the number stamps on the valves to make sure each get back into the correct casing (1st valve, 2nd valve, 3rd valve). Partially insert each valve into its casing and apply several drops of valve oil directly on the valve and move it around just slightly inside the casing the help evenly distribute the oil. Then, line up the valve guides with the valve guide notches inside the casing and fully insert the valve into its casing and screw down the top valve cap.
Instrument repair shops also have several superior cleaning methods if you’d prefer to have your trumpet professionally cleaned. However, you can easily clean and maintain a trumpet on your own with just a cleaning tools and basic supplies (valve oil, slide grease, tuning slide grease, soft cloth, polish cloth, cleaning brushes)
Top Trumpet Brands
Even though there are many trumpet manufacturers to choose from the industry’s recognized leaders are Selmer, Bach, Conn, King, Yamaha, Jupiter and Getzen. These manufacturers offer a full line of instruments from quality beginner models thru intermediate and top pro line choices with numerous configurations to please even the most discriminating players. A progressive manufacturer to watch as a new entrant into the market is B.A.C. (Best American Craftsman)…..quite a few performing artists are already endorsing these trumpets (beginner thru pro models)
How to Play the Trumpet
One of the most important aspects of playing trumpet is consistent, daily practice of fundamentals: endurance, flexibility, scales, tonguing and breathing techniques, etc. The art of trumpet playing at a professional level requires intense commitment to a total mastery of these basic fundamentals. There are numerous books and publications dedicated to these fundamentals for all levels of accomplishment and are typically titled for beginners, intermediate players, and advanced players.
The sound of a trumpet is generated by the vibration created by pursing the lips together and forming an embouchure, frequently taught by having students think the letters “P” or “B” while slightly setting the muscles in the corners of the mouth, and then simply blowing air from the diaphragm area while maintaining a very relaxed and open throat and esophagus. The resulting vibration between the lips is often referred to as the “buzz” due to the resultant sound. Placement of the trumpet mouthpiece on the lips is often suggested to be 1/3rd upper lip and 2/3rd lower lip inside the cup of the mouthpiece although modifications vary from player to player. Also, the angle at which the trumpet is held varies widely due to the amount of overbite or under bite of the teeth structure. Beginner trumpets should seek the advice and counsel of qualified music educators and/or professional players to help them determine what mouthpiece placement and instrument angle will be best for them. However, experimenting to find the best location is advisable since there is so much variation from person to person, or in the absence of an available teacher.
Trumpet students next learn how to manipulate the buzz to create low, middle, and high register notes so the entire practical range of the trumpet is accomplished with the maximum amount of flexibility (the ability to move between notes with ease). Some slight flexing of the lip muscles will change the “buzz” from a low to a higher sound. Many teachers utilize a pivot system which simply pivots the trumpet up slightly to reduce mouthpiece pressure on the lower lip for lower notes (allows the muscles strands of the lower lip to vibrate more easily) and pivots the trumpet downward to place slightly more pressure on the bottom lip for higher notes (places more mouthpiece pressure on the muscles in the lower lip and causes the muscle strands to vibrate more rapidly like a shortened violin or guitar string…..the shorter the string the higher the note). This technique should only be introduced to advancing players. Beginners have plenty to manage just creating good tonal quality in the mid-range.
Once the basics of good tonal quality are established with how the trumpet is held and placed upon the lips then beginner students learn the fingering combinations for each note of the scale. Fingering combinations with the three valves are accomplished with the right hand. The left hand holds the instrument and also makes the tuning adjustments on the 1st and 3rd valve slides with the ring finger and thumb.
Brass players also learn to utilize a number of exercises for building lip strength and flexibility and numerous method books are published specifically for these purposes. The same is true for tonguing and learning single, double and triple articulation techniques.
Students of the trumpet can search online for literally all of these topics and locate numerous videos of quality players demonstrating the various techniques.
Trumpet Breathing Techniques
The use of quality air support is paramount for being an accomplished trumpeter. Among the fundamentals of proper breathing and air support are filling completely up with air and utilizing the diaphragm muscles of the abdomen to support pushing the air thru the instrument. Many teachers will make reference to “taking the air all the way down” which simply means thinking of getting the air into your stomach instead of into your lungs…..proper breathing technique will expand the stomach and not the chest area. The next important aspect of proper breathing technique is maintaining a relaxed esophagus and airway so air flows unrestricted into the instrument. A more advanced technique also includes the position of the tongue from an “Ahh” syllable where the tongue is low in the oral cavity and an “Eee” syllable where the tongue is arched high. The arched tongue tends to intensify the air to enhance higher notes.
How to make your first trumpet sound
Place lips together and think of saying the letter “P” or “B” such as preparing to say “Pooh” or “Boy.” Take a deep breath and blow air thru the lips without altering the position described. If this is done successfully and “buzz” sound will occur created by the vibration between the lips. When this is successfully executed then place the trumpet mouthpiece on the lips
How to find a teacher for Private Trumpet Lessons
Teachers can be located by contacting local school band directors, music stores, and colleges and universities. They will have trumpet teachers/specialists on staff or will usually know contact information for recommended teachers.
What is a Mute?
Mutes are devices fitted to musical instruments to alter the sound or timbre. Common trumpet mutes are the straight mute, cup mute, Harmon mute, wah-wah mute, bucket mute and plunger mute. Each creates its own unique and distinctive timbre of sound. The type of material has a great deal to do with the mute’s sound quality and price. Layered paper mutes are much less expensive than metal mutes. Some metal mutes incorporate copper to mellow the muted sound.
How to Tune a Trumpet
Trumpets are tuned by utilizing the main tuning slide. Pulling the slide out lengthens the trumpet and lowers (flattens) the pitch. Pushing the main tuning slide inward shortens the instrument and raises (sharpens) the pitch. Trumpet players are also taught to use the 1st and 3rd valve tuning slides while performing. These slides are operated by the left hand ring finger and thumb and are used to lower the pitch of certain notes that are typically sharp on trumpet (notably C#, D, and A).
Dangers of starting with a Used Trumpet
Starting with a used trumpet poses some obvious questions: (1) has it been consistently kept clean and is it sterile (2) are the valve guides, felts and corks in good condition (3) are the water key corks in good condition (4) are there serious dents that restrict airflow thru the instrument (5) is their significant finish deterioration (6) is there any red rot which has started to develop inside the horn. When a prospect trumpet player is evaluating getting their first trumpet, some folks think ebay or craigslist or pawn shops are great places. While often times these locations people can find a good one, Band Directors will be the first to tell you that they’ve seen quite a few bad trumpets in the hands of beginning band students. This not only causes some awkward notes in the band, but can lead to a student becoming disinterested. While many parents are concerned with putting a big investment into a new trumpet, renting a trumpet can be a great option. We recommend only renting “like new” trumpets. RentMYinstrument.com only provides NEW or LIKE NEW trumpets, and we only carry name brands and allow you to select your brand. This is something Band Directors appreciate, Kids will love, and parents can live with the peace of mind they did everything to give their child opportunity for success as a trumpet player (or and don’t forget to practice!).
Louis Armstrong - jazz trumpeter at turn of the century who was an iconic jazz pioneer
Miles Davis - attended Julliard School and pioneered west coast jazz style
Dizzie Gillespie - New York jazz artist known for helping develop the bebop style.
Wynton Marsalis - best known of the New Orleans brothers and one of best technical players ever.
Maynard Ferguson - debuted with Stan Kenton Orchestra and later formed his own group... high note artist.
Bill Chase - made a name for himself during swing band revival of 1960s...known for ability in the high range.
Doc Severinsen - leader of the great big band from the Tonight Show which aired from 1962 thru 1992 with Johnny Carson. One of best known trumpet artist of all time playing all styles with unparalleled precision, flare, and power.
Herbert L. Clarke - famous soloist with the Sousa Band whose technique was mind boggling.