IT: tromba – FR: trompette – GER: Trompete


The trumpet is thought of as having a primarily cylindrical bore, although modern instruments are conical toward both ends. They are made of brass and have three piston valves and a small tuning slide that adjusts the pitch of the entire instrument. The first and third valves each have their own tuning slides. A cup-shaped mouthpiece is used. The first valve lowers the pitch by a whole step, the second valve by a half step, and the third by a minor third.

Range and Natural Dynamics

FIGURE 4.5 Trumpet range

  • Bb trumpet (common)-UP a major second.
  • C trumpet (gaining popularity)-sounds as written
  • D trumpet (rare)-DOWN a major second.
  • Eb trumpet (rare)-DOWN a minor third

The compass of the trumpet is from f# upwards approximately two and one half octaves. Some players, such as those in jazz bands, can play effectively for another octave above this range.

Tone Quality

The extreme low register is difficult to control, somewhat dull and metallic, and may tend to "blat" in the hands of an inexperienced player. Notes in the middle and lower ranges (around c1), which can be played softly, blend well with most instruments. The trumpet is most often used in its middle range, where it is forceful and brilliant. As pitches get higher, the tone is increasingly penetrating, and great skill is required to play pianissimo in the highest range. Orchestrators should lead up to high notes and not stay in the upper range for too long. Because a solo trumpet can dominate an orchestral tutti, the powerful tone should be used with discretion.

Technical Abilities

The trumpet is the most agile of the brass instruments. Rapid passages, wide leaps in either direction, arpeggios, and double– or triple-tongued repeated notes are part of the solo technique. All trills are possible, as are tremolos, but their speed is limited by cross-fingerings (one finger is depressed and another released simultaneously). Lip trills are used for notes above the staff. Fanfares are most characteristic, and the incisive tone lends itself to crisp, assertive passages.

Musical Example

FIGURE 4.6 Trumpet line for trumpets in f: Dvorak, Symphony No.9, allegro con fuoco, measures 18-25, in octaves


The cornet is similar to the trumpet, mellower in sound, and usually pitched in Bb with the same range and capabilities. Traditionally having a  conical bore, modern cornets are growing more similar in shape to the trumpet, with a larger bore and a more flared bell. They are a mainstay in military and concert bands.


The flugelhorn has a conical bore and darker sound but is similar to the trumpet in range and capabilities. The lower register is fuller and more similar in timbre to the horn than the trumpet.

Piccolo and bass trumpet

These are the smallest and largest members of the family, respectively. Pitched in a variety of keys, they are used for special effects and for extremes of range. Many Baroque trumpet parts require the higher range of the piccolo trumpet.

F alto trumpet

This was the standard 19th century orchestral instrument, often used with adjustable tubing. It was employed regularly by Tchaikovsky, Mahler, and Richard Strauss.

Scroll to Top