By Brendan Lai-Tong
There are few instruments more familiar to the public than the trumpet. Influential artists such as Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, Maurice Andre and Phillip Smith helped bring the trumpet into the public spotlight. The trumpet is a versatile instrument that is present in a wide variety of musical genres such as classical, jazz, rock and more. As a result, there is an extensive amount of music composed for trumpet from solo repertoire to chamber music. Here are some facts about the trumpet that you may not know:
- A trumpet may seem short and compact when compared to larger brass instruments, such as the trombone, but this small instrument contains roughly 6 1/2 feet of tubing. That’s taller than the average human being, yet the instrument can fit comfortably in your hands.
- Trumpets are known for being used in bands and orchestras, but they also has a military component. Armies dating back to medieval times have used the trumpet as a signal device because of its loud, rich tone that can be heard over long distances.
- The trumpet has been around since ~1,500 BC. There is even artwork by civilizations dating back to 300BC that showcase the trumpet.
- The early precursors to the trumpet, cornetto and natural trumpet, didn’t have valves or keys.
- Trumpets come in several varieties that are built to play in different musical keys. Some examples are B-flat, F, D, E, G and C.
- The trumpet has a cylindrical bore. This means that the diameter of it’s tubing remains consistent throughout the length of the tubing (except for the bell flare). This is what gives the trumpet it’s characteristic, vibrant and focused sound.
- Modern trumpets are made from brass, which is an alloy of copper and zinc, but the earliest trumpets were made out of many different materials, including conch shells and wood.
- Other variations on the trumpet family include the cornet and flugelhorn. These instruments are more mellow due to their conical bore. The tubing diameter of these instruments gradually gets larger towards the end of the instrument.
- The trumpet may only have three valves, but you can actually play 45 distinct notes by manipulating those valves.
- Bass trumpet is usually played by trombonists.
I hope you enjoyed the article, please feel free to comment if you have more interesting facts about the trumpet that I may have missed!
Brendan Lai-Tong holds degrees in trombone performance from University of Miami and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.