When people think of the Trumpet, they think of Louis Armstrong or Miles Davis, or even Army soldiers playing Taps or another bugle call. Every two years, we hear Leo Arnaud’s famous Bugler’s Dream (Olympic Games Theme) and John Williams’ own Olympic Fanfare and Theme rich with the sounds of the Trumpet.
Leo Arnaud – Bugler’s Dream
John Williams – Olympic Theme and Fanfare
Producing a sound on a Brass instrument is much different than the Woodwinds. There is no vibrating reed to produce the sound, so the brass player must use plentiful air (source) and facial muscles to keep his/her lips touching in order to vibrate and buzz a sound through the instrument. (See my videos on Brass Sound Production under the Solutions to Common Performance Problems Page for an in depth look at how to do this.)
The Trumpet is a melody instrument in Classical and Jazz music. Although the bugle (no valves) has been around since 1500 B.C., the modern day trumpet has only been around since approx. 1770. (The Haydn Trumpet Concerto was the first piece to used the keyed Trumpet.) There is a decent amount of Classical repertoire (most of it from the 20th Century), but not as vast as the Clarinet or Flute. There is a great deal of Jazz Repertoire for the Trumpet.
Beginners start on the Bb Trumpet or the Bb Cornet, a cousin of the Trumpet that is a little smaller and a little easier to blow through. It also has a sweeter sound, and doesn’t project as much as the Trumpet. The Cornet is known as a soloist’s instrument, and you can find many recordings of Brass Bands with Cornet Soloists.
There are many types of Trumpets (C, D, Eb Piccolo, Flugelhorn, etc), but these are generally played after the person has had a number of years of experience on the Bb Trumpet.
Classical performers to explore: Soloists: Maurice Andre, Hakan Hardenberger, Alison Balsam, Thomas Stevens, Gerard Schwartz; First Chair Players in major orchestras: Adolph (Bud) Herseth and Phil Smith.
Maurice Andre – Hummel Trumpet Concerto, 2nd & 3rd Movements
Alison Balsam-Haydn Trumpet Concerto, 1st Movement
Jazz musicians to check out: Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, Chet Baker, Wynton Marsalis, Dave Douglas, Tom Harrell.
Louis Armstrong – West End Blues
Chet Baker – Autumn Leaves
I had to put this in! Rafael Mendez discussing trumpet playing, breath support and performing Flight of the BumbleBee…
Advantages to Playing the Trumpet:
- If you like playing melodies, the Trumpet is a great instrument.
- There are lots of performing opportunities – classical, jazz, marching bands – in schools.
- There’s a very diverse repertoire for Trumpet.
Points to Consider:
- You need to make and maintain the proper embouchure (facial muscle setting) while blowing fast air through your lips in order for them to vibrate.
- Breath support (maintaining steady air pressure) is crucial to a good sound.
- You can still play the Trumpet or any brass instrument with braces, as long as you use proper Breath Support.
- The Trumpet (or any Brass instrument) is not a boy’s instrument. There are many women who play the Trumpet professionally in Classical, Jazz and Contemporary music.
- If you find that you are producing low sounds when lip buzzing, buzzing on the mouthpiece or even playing the trumpet, you may want to consider switching to either Trombone or Baritone (Euphonium). The mouthpiece is larger and you don’t need very fast air like the Trumpet.
- Watch the YouTube videos above, and explore some others that I mentioned.
- Watch my video on Brass Sound Production (under the Solutions to Common Performance Problems page) and follow the instructions for lip buzzing.
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