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Getting to know the Trumpet Family

S.E. Shires Destino III Doc Severinsen trumpet
S.E. Shires Destino III Doc Severinsen Bb trumpet

Bb Trumpet: If you are in middle or high school, studying music in college, playing professionally, or are simply a trumpet enthusiast, you likely have a Bb trumpet. It uses piston valves, which reroute the air through an additional length of tubing by moving a cylindrical block inside a cylindrical casing. The air rerouted through the additional length of tubing causes the pitch to change.

Bach Stradivarius “Artisan” C trumpet
Bach Stradivarius “Artisan” C trumpet

C Trumpet: C trumpets are generally used by advanced players and professionals. As you might expect, they are tuned a whole step higher than a Bb trumpet. This means they have a slightly smaller body. They generally sound slightly brighter than a Bb trumpet. As an added bonus, C trumpets also make transposition in orchestra simpler. Many orchestral trumpet players opt to use a C trumpet, as it can blend better with the strings, yet also projects brilliantly.

Thein 11.05M Rotary C Trumpet
Thein 11.05M Rotary C Trumpet

Rotary Valve Trumpet: Simply referred to as rotary trumpets, these instruments utilize rotary valves that rotate 90 degrees to divert the airflow. Rotary trumpets typically have a larger bore, shorter valve movement, and a larger bell with a wider flare. In North America, they are often used in Germanic literature, as they produce a warm, full, and powerful sound. In Germany and Austria, rotary trumpets are used regularly for most repertoire. The rotary valve was invented before the piston valve, and requires higher maintenance.

Yamaha Piccolo Trumpet YTR-9830 960579
Yamaha Piccolo Trumpet

Piccolo Trumpet: The piccolo trumpet is pitched one octave higher than the standard Bb trumpet. They are usually pitched in Bb or A, using a separate leadpipe for each key. The airflow on the piccolo trumpet is more compressed, and the instrument requires less air than a Bb trumpet. Piccolo trumpets are used by advanced players and professionals for high trumpet repertoire, ranging from Handel’s ‘Messiah’ to the Beatles’ ‘Penny Lane’.

Bach Stradivarius 181ML Cornet #753268
Bach Stradivarius 181ML Cornet

Cornet: The cornet has a conical shaped bore, while the trumpet has a cylindrical shaped bore. Generally, cornets have a deeper, broader sound than the trumpet. They are more compact than a trumpet, and some people find it easier for beginners to learn on a cornet. The cornet is a relatively new instrument, as it was invented in the late 1820’s by adding valves to a post horn. It is used in British-style brass bands.

See Below for a detailed description and analysis of piston and rotary valves:

(Courtesy of Yamaha.com)
(Courtesy of Yamaha.com)

–Dr. Sally Podrebarac

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