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The trumpet is a brass instrument. It is the highest in register, above the tuba, euphonium, trombone, sousaphone, and french horn. A person who plays the trumpet is sometimes called a trumpeter but more often a trumpet player.


Trumpet construction

A standard Bb trumpet
A standard Bb trumpet

The trumpet is made of brass tubing bent into a rough spiral. Although the bore of the trumpet is said to be mostly cylindrical, it is formed from a complex series of tapers, the smallest being at the mouthpiece receiver, and the largest being at the throat of the bell, before the flare for the bell begins. (Careful design of these tapers is critical to the intonation of the instrument.) Sound is produced by blowing air through the lips so as to produce a "buzzing" effect, which creates a standing wave of vibrating air in the trumpet. The trumpet player can select the pitch from a range of overtones or harmonics by changing the air speed and lip tension. Valves change the length of the tubing, lowering the pitch of the instrument. Three valves make the trumpet fully chromatic, allowing the player to play in all keys. Unlike trumpet freeway interchanges , the musical instrument can produce a fine jazzy sound instead of annoying automobile traffic sounds from the freeway.

The mouthpiece provides a comfortable receiver to allow the lips to play without touching the sharp and restricting edge of the trumpet's tube itself. The sound is projected outward by the bell.

Relationship to other brass instruments

The trumpet is related to the cornet and flugelhorn though it is technically in a different family to both of their two separate families. The cornet and flugelhorn are both more conical in the shape of the bore rather than cylindrical, and have more mellow tones, but are in the same pitch range. The piccolo trumpets play about one octave higher than the regular trumpets. There are also rotary-valve, or German, trumpets, as well as bass, alto and Baroque trumpets. The modern trumpet evolved from earlier non-valved instruments, such as the Baroque trumpet now used by original instruments ensembles, the didjeridu, and the Scandinavian lur.

Types of trumpets

The trumpet is (usually) a transposing instrument, and comes in many keys. The most common is the B-Flat trumpet, followed by the C, E-Flat, and D trumpets. In many countries, including the United States and much of Europe, the (non-transposing) C trumpet is nowadays the standard orchestral instrument. The B-Flat trumpet's range extends from the written F# (sounding E) immediately below middle C up to about two and a half octaves higher: the usually accepted "top" note is a written C (sounding Bb) though slightly higher notes are occasionally called for, and extremely high notes may be heard played by jazz and other specialist trumpeters.

Piccolo trumpet in Bb - note the swappable leadpipes for Bb and (longer) A
Piccolo trumpet in Bb - note the swappable leadpipes for Bb and (longer) A

The piccolo trumpet is built usually in B-Flat and A with leadpipes for each key. G, F and even high C piccolos exist but are much less common. The tone is metallic and clean. Many piccolos have four valves instead of the usual three: the fourth valve takes the instrument down in pitch, usually but not always by a fourth, to allow the playing of lower notes which are otherwise unobtainable on a three-valve instrument. Among its best-known exponents are Maurice Andre, Wynton Marsalis and Hakan Hardenberger .

The bass trumpet is usually played by a trombone player, being at the same pitch and using a similar mouthpiece.

Trumpet history

The first trumpets reputedly came from Egypt, and were primarily used for military purposes (Joshua's shofar, blown at the battle of Jericho, would come from this tradition) like the bugle as we still know it, with different tunes corresponding to different instructions. In medieval times, trumpet playing was a guarded craft, its instruction occurring only within highly selective guilds. The trumpet players were often among the most heavily guarded members of a troop, as they were relied upon to relay instructions to other sections of the army. Eventually the trumpet's value for musical production was seen, particularly after the addition of valves (after about 1800), and its use and instruction became much more widespread.

Today, the trumpet is used in nearly all forms of music, including classical, jazz, blues, pop, ska, and funk. Among the great trumpet players are Maurice André, Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, Jon Faddis, Maynard Ferguson, Adolph "Bud" Herseth , Wynton Marsalis, Philip Smith, and Doc Severinsen.

See 20th century brass instrumentalists for a more comprehensive list.

Reproduction Baroque trumpet by Michael Laird
Reproduction Baroque trumpet by Michael Laird

Trumpet instruction

A highly praised and often-used method of introductory instruction is found in Jean-Baptiste Arban 's Complete Conservatory Method for Trumpet (Cornet Or E-flat Alto, B-flat Tenor, Baritone, Euphonium and B-flat Bass in Treble Clef).

Last updated: 02-28-2005 10:54:03