If you're looking for a versatile instrument that can play anything from ballads to "Reveille" to jazz, then you may be in the market for a trumpet. A trumpet is an expressive instrument with a wide tonal range. The initial learning curve isn't that steep, so a beginning player can be quickly rewarded with progress.
Which trumpet is right for you? That depends on several factors, including your skill level. The ideal trumpet for a beginner would not suffice for a seasoned player. The ideal trumpet for a pro would likely be too costly for a beginner who is uncertain of their level of commitment. Aprofessional trumpet has features that may make the instrument harder for a beginner to master.
At first glance, a bugle may look like a trumpet without valves. However, if you look closely, you will see that the trumpet has a cylindrical tube before the bell while the bugle's shape is more of a long cone.
Like all instruments, the best way to quickly narrow down your list of trumpet options is to match it to your playing abilities.
These models are the most affordable. They are designed with the beginner in mind, meaning they are a little more durable and can handle a few bumps. Additionally, student trumpets have features that can get a beginner playing quickly. The tradeoff, however, is that you will have less ability to finesse the tone, which is needed for higher levels of playing.
Often called intermediate trumpets, these horns are intended for students who have mastered the fundamentals and are ready for something more versatile. An intermediate trumpet is designed to produce a richer tone, and it includes features like adjustable slide stops that let the player go beyond what is possible on a student model.
Professional trumpets are handcrafted instruments made out of the finest materials. These models offer exceptional tone and heightened responsiveness, so the instrument is able to do whatever the artist needs it to do. The higher cost of professional trumpets makes them appropriate for only the most serious and dedicated performers.
Did you know?
Embouchure is just a fancy term for the specific way that you use your teeth, lips, facial muscles, and tongue to play a musical instrument.
Types of trumpets
Although there are a wide variety of trumpets available, for the most part, only a few types will be of interest to the average player.
With few exceptions, if you are just starting off, you will most likely be interested in a Bb trumpet. There is a large repertoire available for these versatile instruments, and they offer a good tone that works in a wide variety of musical genres, from classical to pop. If you are playing in a school band, you will need to start with a Bb trumpet.
Bb plastic trumpets
You can find a Bb plastic trumpet for around $100. Yes, they are limited and have their flaws. However, they are perfect for beginners because they will not dent, and you can own a plastic trumpet for less than it costs to rent a brass trumpet. The biggest drawback to plastic trumpets is that they do not grow with the student. If a young player decides to continue with the instrument, a newer and better model will need to be purchased in a couple of years.
Think of a pocket trumpet as a full-size trumpet that has been folded down to an extremely compact size, making it highly portable. Typically, these models are manufactured for practice, not performance.
Although not quite as prevalent as Bb trumpets, many players choose this instrument as their favorite. One big advantage to C trumpets is that the music sounds as written: when you play a C note, it sounds like a C note. Some players feel a C trumpet is brighter than a Bb trumpet. If you are playing in an orchestra, chances are you will gravitate toward the C trumpet. Other than needing a Bb trumpet to play a low E (concert pitch), choosing a C trumpet is a matter of user preference.
Bb piccolo trumpets
A piccolo trumpet plays an octave higher than a regular Bb trumpet. It may be hard to find repertoire written specifically for this instrument, but if you regularly play in a higher register, it may be a good choice for you.
There are a number of other specialty trumpets, such as the herald trumpet, which features a strikingly dynamic design, making it suitable for parades. In general, however, the trumpets we've covered are the most popular types.
A note about other features
Although there are a number of other features to consider, if you choose the type of trumpet you need and make sure it’s appropriate for your playing level, you will get all the features you require. For instance, if you purchase a Bb student trumpet, you will automatically have the best bore size along with the best bell size for a beginner. Additionally, the instrument will be manufactured using durable materials that can withstand a bit of mishandling.
Did you know?
The most common trumpet is the Bb trumpet. When this type of trumpet plays a C, it actually sounds like a Bb (the note located one full step lower).
In order to have the best experience with your new trumpet, there are a few accessories you might want to consider purchasing.
Maintenance and cleaning kit: Monster Oil Trumpet Care and Cleaning Kit
You will need a number of supplies to take proper care of your trumpet. Rather than purchasing cleaning brushes, valve oil, slide grease, polishing cloth, and other items separately, you can get them all at once in Monster Oil's convenient kit.
Trumpet stand: K & M Portable Trumpet Stand
Whenever you set your trumpet down, you are putting the instrument at risk for potential damage. K & M's portable stand features five legs for added stability along with felt pads to protect the instrument. The unit disassembles for easy storage.
Tuner and metronome: KLIQ Music Gear MetroPitch Metronome Tuner
On a trumpet, a variety of pitches can be played with a single fingering. Besides helping you to tune your trumpet, a tuner can let you know when you are playing the right pitch. A metronome can help you better understand rhythm. KLIQ Music Gear's MetroPitch is both a tuner and a metronome, and it is available at an affordable price.
Music stand: GLEAM Music Stand
You may be tempted to get a high-end music stand that looks like the ones your band director has, but you do not need that for practicing at home. A sturdy, affordable music stand that holds your music in place is all you need. GLEAM's fully adjustable music stand checks all the right boxes and is about half the price of the kind you use in school.
Trumpets can vary in price from under $100 to well over $3,000. Typically, what you need to spend depends on the type of player you are.
Inexpensive: At the lowest end of the price spectrum, you will find trumpets under $150. These are either plastic models or entry-level student models made of brass.
Mid-range: In the middle price bracket, you can find trumpets from $200 to $1,000. However, if you're looking for the best value in this price range, stay between $400 and $800; these models offer high quality at a price that isn't too extreme.
Expensive: Once you move beyond $1,500, the trumpets are designed for serious players who want to step up to a better instrument. Trumpets that cost over $2,500 are crafted with the professional musician in mind.
Did you know?
Although the trumpet looks like one of the smaller instruments in the band, if you were to uncoil the tubing, it would stretch approximately 6 1/2 feet long.
Besides being careful not to drop or dent your trumpet, there are a few care and maintenance routines that you should regularly perform to help keep your instrument in pristine condition.
- After playing, remove excess moisture from your trumpet by opening the water key and blowing gently into the instrument.
- Use a clean, dry polish cloth to remove fingerprints before putting the instrument back in its case.
- Don't wait until your valves start sticking to oil them. Applying valve oil twice a week is a good habit to develop.
- If you play regularly, clean your mouthpiece once each week using a mouthpiece brush and disinfectant designed for the trumpet mouthpiece.
- Once a month, remove the valves and bottom caps so you can use a valve casing brush to clean out the insides of the valve casings.
- Grease all of your instrument's slides with slide grease at least once a month.
- Twice a year, treat your trumpet to a deep cleaning by disassembling the instrument and soaking everything except the valves and mouthpiece in lukewarm water with mild detergent.
Other products we considered
Choosing a musical instrument is a subjective matter. Elsewhere in this article, we spotlighted a number of the best options available. However, there are a few honorable mentions that might catch your fancy. For instance, if you like the fact that plastic trumpets won't dent, are affordable, and can be a good gateway instrument to higher levels of musicianship, consider pBone's Plastic Trumpet with gig bag. This instrument is manufactured in a classy white and black and comes with a 3C and a 5C mouthpiece.
Mendini by Cecilio has an affordable Nickel Plated Bb Trumpet Starter Kit. Besides the instrument, your purchase includes a tuner, a case, stand, gloves, mouthpiece, and more.
If you want a highly portable practice instrument, Mendini by Cecilio also makes the impressive Nickel Plated Bb Pocket Trumpet. This diminutive model comes with the same accessories as the full-size model but is designed for portability, so you can practice no matter where you go.
When playing the trumpet, poor posture doesn't just look bad, it also prevents you from completely filling your lungs with air. For a wind player, poor posture results in poor tone.
Q. I'm blowing into my trumpet, but it's not working. Is there something wrong with my instrument?
A. The trumpet is not like a whistle; you need to do a little more than blow into it to produce a pleasing tone. The core of a trumpet's distinctive sound is a buzz. You must get your lips buzzing just right to create music. One technique to try is blowing air through your lips while you are humming. When you feel the tickle in your lips (and maybe even your ears), you know that you're getting the hang of it.
Q. How do I tune my trumpet?
A. The main tuning slide is the frontmost curved part of your trumpet's tubing. It is easy to find because it is located next to the bell and features the water key. If your trumpet is sharp (you can learn this by using a tuner), inch the slide out a tiny bit until your trumpet is properly tuned. If, on the other hand, your instrument is flat (again, your tuner will reveal this), inch the slide in until your trumpet is properly tuned.
Q. My trumpet gurgles whenever I try to play. It sounds horrible. Is it broken?
A. Not at all. That gurgling sound you hear is just moisture that has built up inside your instrument. Tilt the instrument slightly downward and blow gently as you open the water key that is located at the front of your instrument. When you do this properly, clear liquid will come spilling out of the hole. If you blow too hard, the liquid will not be able to escape. It is important to remember that you do not want to empty your instrument on a carpet, as it may contain valve oil, which could stain the carpet.
Q. Which lesson book should I purchase?
A. The one your band director recommends. At school, the lesson books for the different instruments all work together so the students learn comparable notes and skills. This allows the band to function as a whole rather than a multitude of individuals.