2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Musical Instruments

en: Trumpet, tr: Trompet, es: Trompeta, fr: Trompette, it: Tromba, de: Trompete, is: Trompet, ru: Труба, pt: Trompete, he: חצוצרה, gr: Τρομπέτα,
Playing range
in B flat: sounds a whole tone lower
Related instruments

Flugelhorn, Cornet, Bugle,
Natural trumpet, Bass trumpet, Post horn, Roman tuba, Bucina, Shofar, Conch, Lur, Didgeridoo, Piccolo trumpet

The trumpet is the highest brass instrument in register, above the horn, trombone, baritone, euphonium and tuba. A musician who plays the trumpet is called a trumpet player or trumpeter. The most common trumpet by far is a transposing instrument pitched in B flat - the note read as middle C sounds as the B flat 2 semitones below - but there are many other trumpets in this family of instruments.


The trumpet is made of brass tubing bent into a rough spiral. Although the bore is roughly cylindrical, it is more precisely a complex series of tapers, smaller at the mouthpiece receiver and larger just before the flare of the bell begins. Careful design of these tapers is critical to the intonation of the instrument. Sound is produced by blowing air through closed lips, producing a "buzzing" sound into the mouthpiece and starting a standing wave vibration in the air column inside the trumpet. The player can select the pitch from a range of overtones or harmonics by changing the lip aperture. There are three piston valves, each of which increases the length of tubing when engaged, thereby lowering the pitch. The first valve lowers the instrument's pitch by a whole step (2 semitones), the second valve by a half step (1 semitone), and the third valve by one-and-a-half steps (3 semitones). When a fourth valve is present, as with some piccolo trumpets, it lowers the pitch a perfect fourth (5 semitones). Used alone and in combination these valves make the instrument fully chromatic, i.e., able to play all twelve pitches of Western music. The sound is projected outward by the bell.

The mouthpiece has a circular rim which provides a comfortable environment for the lips' vibration. Directly behind the rim is the cup, which channels the air into a much smaller opening (the backbore or shank) which tapers out slightly to match the diameter of the trumpet's lead pipe. The dimensions of these parts of the mouthpiece affect the timbre or quality of sound, the ease of playability, and player comfort. Generally, the wider and deeper the cup, the darker the sound and timbre.

Types of trumpets

The most common type is the B flat trumpet, but C, D, E flat, E, F, G and A trumpets are also available. The C trumpet is most commonly used in orchestral playing, where its slightly smaller size gives it a brighter, more lively sound than the B flat trumpet. Because music written for early trumpets required the use of a different trumpet for every key (they did not have valves and were therefore not chromatic), and also because a player may choose to play a particular passage on a different trumpet from the one indicated on the written music, orchestra trumpet players are generally adept at transposing music at sight. Being able to play music written for the B flat trumpet on the C trumpet, and vice-versa, is fairly common. Each trumpet's range extends from the written F sharp immediately below Middle C, up to about three octaves higher. Standard repertoire rarely calls for notes beyond this range, and the fingering tables of most method books peak at the C ( high C) two octaves above middle C. Several trumpeters have achieved fame for their proficiency in the extreme high register, among them Bill Chase, Maynard Ferguson, Dizzy Gillespie, Malcolm McNab, James Morrison, and Arturo Sandoval, who helped make well-known the term double high C to describe the next octave above high C. It is also possible to produce pedal tones below the low F sharp, although this technique is more often encountered as a sound-production exercise rather than as a written trumpet part.

Piccolo trumpet in B flat, with swappable leadpipes to tune the instrument to B flat (shorter) or A (longer)
Piccolo trumpet in B flat, with swappable leadpipes to tune the instrument to B flat (shorter) or A (longer)

The smallest trumpets are referred to as piccolo trumpets. The most common of these are built to play in both B flat and A, with separate leadpipes for each key. The tubing in the B flat piccolo trumpet is one-half the length of that in a standard B flat trumpet. Piccolo trumpets in G, F and even C are also manufactured, but are rarer. Many players use a smaller mouthpiece on the piccolo trumpet. Because of the smaller mouthpiece size, endurance is often limited and the sound production technique is different from that used on the B flat trumpet. Almost all piccolo trumpets have four valves instead of the usual three: the fourth valve lowers the pitch, usually by a fourth, to facilitate the playing of lower notes. Maurice Andre, Hakan Hardenberger, and Wynton Marsalis are some well-known piccolo trumpet players.

Trumpets pitched in the key of G are also called sopranos, or soprano bugles, after their adaptation from military bugles. Traditionally used in drum and bugle corps, sopranos have featured both rotary valves and piston valves.

The bass trumpet is usually played by a trombone player, being at the same pitch and using a similar mouthpiece. Bass trumpet is played with a trombone or euphonium mouthpiece, and music for it is written in treble clef.

trumpet in C with rotary valves
trumpet in C with rotary valves

The slide trumpet is a B flat trumpet that has a slide instead of valves. It is similar to a soprano trombone. The first slide trumpets emerged during the Renaissance, predating the modern trombone, and are the first attempts to increase chromaticism on the instrument. Slide trumpets were the first trumpets allowed in the Christian church.

The pocket trumpet is a compact B flat trumpet. The bell is usually smaller than a standard trumpet and the tubing is more tightly wound to reduce the instrument size without reducing the total tube length. Its design is not standardized, and the quality of various models varies greatly. It can have a tone quality and projection unique in the trumpet world: a warm sound and a voice-like articulation. Unfortunately, since many pocket trumpet models suffer from poor design as well as cheap and sloppy manufacturing, the intonation, tone colour and dynamic range of such instruments are severely hindered. Professional-standard instruments are, however, available. While they are not a substitute for the full-sized instrument, they can be useful in certain contexts.

There are also rotary-valve, or German, trumpets, as well as alto and Baroque trumpets.

The trumpet is often confused with its close relative, the cornet, which has a more conical tubing shape compared to the trumpet's more cylindrical tube. This, along with additional bends in the cornet's tubing, gives the cornet a slightly mellower tone, but the instruments are otherwise nearly identical. They have the same length of tubing and, therefore, the same pitch, so music written for cornet and trumpet is interchangeable. Another relative, the flugelhorn, has tubing that is even more conical than that of the cornet, and an even richer tone. It is sometimes augmented with a fourth valve to improve the intonation of some lower notes.


The oldest trumpets date back to 1500 B.C.E. and earlier. The bronze and silver trumpets from Tutankhamun's grave in Egypt, bronze lurs from Scandinavia, and metal trumpets from China date back to this period. Trumpets from the Oxus civilization (3rd millennium B.C.E.) of Central Asia have decorated swellings in the middle, yet is made out of one sheet of metal, a technical wonder. The earliest trumpets were signaling instruments used for military or religious purposes, rather than music in the modern sense. "The sound of these instruments was described as terrible, that is, producing terror, and was compared to the braying of an ass." The modern bugle continues the signaling tradition, with different tunes corresponding to different instructions, but the advent of radio made its use more ceremonial.

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

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. Improvements to instrument design and metal making in the late Middle Ages and Renaissance led to an increased usefulness of the trumpet as a musical instrument. The development of the upper, " clarino" register, by specialist trumpeters, would lend itself well to the Baroque era, also known as the "Golden Age of the natural trumpet." The melody-dominated homophony of the classical and romantic periods, relegated the trumpet to a secondary role by most major composers. An exception is Haydn's Trumpet Concerto written for keyed trumpet in 1796. The trumpet was slow to adopt the modern valves (invented around the mid 1830s), and its cousin, the cornet would take the spotlight as solo instrument for the next hundred years. Crooks and shanks (removable tubing of various lengths) as opposed to keys or valves, were standard, into the first part of the 20th century.

The Arabic word for trumpet was naffir. The Spanish used the Arabic name al naffir and changed it into anafil, while the French gave the trumpet its own name, buisine, derived from the Latin word buccina.

Today, the trumpet is used in nearly all forms of music, including classical, jazz, rock, blues, pop, ska, polka and funk. Among the great modern trumpet players are Maurice André, Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Jon Faddis, Maynard Ferguson, Adolph "Bud" Herseth, Malcolm McNab, Wynton Marsalis, Sergei Nakariakov, Lee Morgan, James Morrison, Arturo Sandoval, Doc Severinsen, and Philip Smith. See List of 20th century brass instrumentalists for a more comprehensive list.


Trumpeter performing with the United States Air Force Band in Europe
Trumpeter performing with the United States Air Force Band in Europe

On any trumpet, cornet, or flugelhorn, pressing the valves indicated by the numbers below will produce the written notes shown - "OPEN" means all valves up, "1" means first valve, "1-2" means first and second valve simultaneously and so on. The concert pitch which sounds depends on the transposition of the instrument. Engaging the fourth valve, if present, drops any of these pitches by a perfect fourth as well. Within each overtone series, the different pitches are attained by changing the embouchure, or lip position and tightness, along with increasing air velocity. Standard fingerings above high C are the same as for the notes an octave below (C sharp is 1-2, D is 1, etc.).

Note that the fundamental of each overtone series does not exist - the series begins with the first overtone. Notes in parentheses are the sixth overtone, representing a pitch with a frequency of seven times that of the fundamental; while this pitch is close to the note shown, it is slightly flat relative to equal temperament, and use of those fingerings is generally avoided.

The fingering schemas arises from the length of each valve's tubing (air passing through longer lengths of tubing produces a lower pitch). Valve "1" increases the tubing length enough to lower the pitch by one whole step, valve "2" by one half step, and valve "3" by one and a half steps. This schema and the nature of the overtone series create the possibility of alternate fingerings for certain notes. For example, third-space "C" can be produced with no valves engaged (standard fingering) or with valves 2-3. Also, any note produced with 1-2 as its standard fingering can also be produced with valve 3 - each drops the pitch by 1-1/2 steps. Alternate fingerings may be used to improve facility in certain passages. Extending the third valve slide when using the fingerings 1-3 or 1-2-3 further lowers the pitch slightly to improve intonation.


Trumpet mouthpiece assembly showing the rim, cup, and backbore
Trumpet mouthpiece assembly showing the rim, cup, and backbore

The chromatic trumpet was first made in the late 1700s, but there were several solos written for the natural trumpet that are now played on piccolo trumpet. Some important works of trumpet repertoire are:

Chromatic Trumpet

  • Alexander Arutiunian
    • Concerto in A flat for Trumpet and Orchestra
  • Franz Josef Haydn
    • Concerto for Trumpet and Orchestra in E flat Major
  • Paul Hindemith
    • Sonata for Trumpet and Piano
  • Johann Nepomuk Hummel
    • Concerto for Trumpet and Orchestra in E Major (often transposed to E flat major)
  • Kent Kennan
    • Sonata for Trumpet and Piano

Natural Trumpet/Piccolo Trumpet

  • Johann Sebastian Bach
    • Brandenburg Concerto #2 in F Major
  • Michael Haydn
    • Concerto for Trumpet in D Major
  • Leopold Mozart
    • Concerto for Trumpet in D Major
  • Georg Philipp Telemann
    • Concerto for Trumpet, Strings, and Continuo in D Major

Orchestral excerpts

To join a symphony orchestra, the player must often first pass an audition. During this audition, the player is asked to play short parts (called excerpts) of well-known pieces. Frequently asked audition excerpts for trumpet include:

  • Bach, J.S.
    • Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 (Movements I and III)
    • Mass in B Minor (Credo)
    • Christmas Oratorio (No. 64 Nun Seid Ihr Wohl Gerochen)
    • Magnificat (Chorus: Magnificat)
  • Bartók
    • Concerto for Orchestra (Movements I, II, and V)
  • Beethoven
    • Leonore Overture No. 2
    • Leonore Overture No. 3
  • Georges Bizet
    • Carmen (Prelude to Act I)
  • Copland
    • An Outdoor Overture
    • "Hoe-Down" from Rodeo
  • Debussy
    • La Mer
    • Fêtes from Nocturnes (Muted Trio & Open Section 13-14)
  • George Gershwin
    • An American in Paris (excerpts and solos)
    • Concerto in F (Movement II)
  • Mahler
    • Symphony No. 1 (Movement I)
    • Symphony No. 2 (Movements I, II, III, V)
    • Symphony No. 3 (Off-stage Posthorn solo)
    • Symphony No. 5 (Movements I, III, V)
  • Modest Mussorgsky arr. Maurice Ravel
    • Pictures at an Exhibition (Promenade; Samuel Goldenberg und Schmuÿle)
  • Ravel
    • Piano Concerto in G (Movement I)
    • Boléro (Muted Theme and Ending)
  • Ottorino Respighi
    • Pines of Rome (Movements I, II & IV)
  • Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
    • Scheherazade (Movment III&IV)
    • Capriccio Espagnol (Movement IV)
  • Shostakovich
    • Piano Concerto (All Movements)
  • Richard Strauss
    • Don Juan (Opening through Sec. B, Weich Solo, Vivo Solo, Sec. P)
    • Ein Heldenleben (1st and 2nd E-flat parts)
  • Igor Stravinsky
    • The Firebird (Infernal Dance) (any version)
    • Petrushka - 1st Cornet in 1911 version and 1st Trumpet in 1947 version
  • Richard Wagner
    • Prelude to Parsifal

Instruction and method books

One trumpet method publication of long-standing popularity is Jean-Baptiste Arban's Complete Conservatory Method for Trumpet (Cornet). Other well-known method books include "Technical Studies" by Herbert L. Clarke, "Grand Method" Louis Saint-Jacome, and methods by Claude Gordon and Charles Colin. The Charlier and Brandt books below are used in many college and conservatory trumpet studios, containing drills on permutations of standard orchestral trumpet repertoire, transpositions, and other advanced material. A common method book for beginners is the "Walter Beeler Method", and there have been several instruction books written by virtuoso Allen Vizzutti. The Breeze Eazy method is sometimes used to teach younger students, as it includes general musical information.

Some notable books include:

  • Arban, Jean-Baptiste (1894, 1936, 1982). Arban's Complete Conservatory Method for TRUMPET. Carl Fischer, Inc. ISBN 0-8258-0385-3.
  • Callet, Jerome, and Bahb Civiletti (2002). Trumpet Secrets: The Secrets of the Tongue-Controlled Embouchure. New York: Royal Press Printing Company.
  • Herbert L. Clarke (1984). TECHNICAL STUDIES FOR THE CORNET. Carl Fischer, Inc. ISBN 0-8258-0158-3.
  • Colin, Charles. Advanced Lip Flexibilities.
  • Schlossberg, Max. Daily Drills & Technical Studies.
  • Vassily Brandt Orchestral Etudes and Last Etudes. ISBN 0-7692-9779-X
  • Theo Charlier. Trente-six Etudes Transcendantes pour Trompette. ISBN M-046-20452-4
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