The trumpet is a popular beginning brass instrument because of its manageable size and musical versatility – and also because it is loud and shiny! Some trumpeters, particularly those who begin before age 8 or 9, start first on the Cornet, a smaller lighter instrument similar to the trumpet, on which it is a little easier to produce a good tone.
The trumpet player blows into the mouthpiece, while buzzing his lips, changing pitch and tone by changing the amount of air pressure, the shape of the lips and the combination of three values pressed down to change the length of the tubing.
Trumpet requires breath and lip control and stamina, but less finger coordination than most other instruments. When kids get braces on their teeth, they need to adjust their embouchure (position of the lips) and technique and/or use some sort of device – a guard or cushion or pad or wax – to protect the lips from being cut by the braces.
Trumpets are used as solo instruments and in orchestras, concert bands, marching bands, jazz bands and brass ensembles. Because the trumpet has a high and loud voice, the trumpet often gets to play melody, in addition to providing harmony and rhythm.
Trumpet players read music on the treble clef.
The trumpet is a transposing instrument. That is, music written for trumpet is transposed – raised or lowered to a different “key” – so that the note played sounds relatively higher or lower than the note written on the page. This practice allows trumpet players to use the same fingerings on different sizes of trumpets.
The standard trumpet is a “B-flat” trumpet. Advanced players may also play a “C” trumpet, a “piccolo” trumpet or other sizes of trumpets.
Where To Buy A Trumpet
Trumpets are available at large stores that carry musical instruments, as well as smaller specialty music stores.
See “Where To Buy Musical Instruments” for general buying advice on:
- Buying in a Specialty Store vs. “Big Box” Stores
- Buying Online vs. In-Person
- Renting vs. Buying
- Buying Used Instruments
How To Buy A Trumpet
Pricing on trumpets varies according to workmanship and features. Most student trumpets are made with a two-piece bell (vs. a one-piece bell or seamless bell in more expensive models, which improves sound and projection).
Trumpets are made of brass, but come with different finishes. Most are lacquered or silver-plated. The more expensive silver-plate gives a slightly brighter tone.
The composition and fitting of valves is another factor that affects price. Student trumpets usually have durable nickel-plated valves, while more expensive trumpets are usually made with a corrosion-resistant alloy, Monel, or stainless steel.
A used trumpet may be a good value. If possible, have a teacher or experienced trumpet player check out any used instrument you are considering buying. Check to make sure the slides all operate smoothly and the water keys close tightly. Make sure the valves don’t drag or stick. Check for dents, leaks or corrosion.
Sample Trumpet Prices
$300 – 500
$600 – 900
$1,000 – 2,000
If you are buying your instrument from a specialty music store, inquire about a trade-in policy. When your student is ready for a larger or higher quality instrument, they will often give you a good portion of the original instrument price back when you trade it in.
Trumpet Accessories: What Else You’ll Need
A good case, music stand and metronome are recommended for all instrumentalists. Trumpet players will also need valve oil, slide grease and a mute.
Trumpet Care and Maintenance
After playing the trumpet, remove moisture inside by opening the water keys and blowing through it. Wipe off the outside with a clean soft cotton cloth to remove fingerprints and oils.
Valves usually need to be oiled every 2-3 days, or when needed, so they move up and down easily. Slides need to be greased about once a month. Some recommend cleaning the inside of your trumpet every 2-3 months, using a mouthpiece brush on the mouthpiece and a cleaning snake on the tubing and slides. Since this involves taking the instrument apart completely, others recommend (particularly for younger students) having it cleaned by a professional about once a year. Also take the trumpet to a professional if parts, such as the mouthpiece, caps or slides, become stuck. Don’t try to force them apart.
Protect your trumpet by keeping it in its case. To avoid damage to slides and valves, don’t keep books or anything other than small accessories in the case with it.
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