Trumpet. 300 CE Larco Museum Collection Lima, Peru

The earliest trumpets were signaling instruments used for military or religious purposes, rather than music in the modern sense; and date back to 1500 BCE and earlier.

An Instrument of Many CivilizationsEdit

Bronze and silver trumpets were found in Tutankhamun's grave in Egypt. Bronze "lurs," a Scandinavian kind of trumpet, and metal instruments from China date back to this period.

Trumpets from the Oxus civilization (3rd millennium BCE) of Central Asia have decorated swellings in the middle, yet are made out of one sheet of metal, which is considered a technical wonder.

The Moche people of ancient Peru depicted trumpets in their art going back to 300 CE.

A Specialized Military TalentEdit

In medieval times, trumpet playing was a guarded craft, its instruction occurring only within highly selective guilds. The trumpet players were often among the most heavily guarded members of a troop, as they were relied upon to relay instructions to other sections of the army. Today, the bugle has replaced the trumpet largely for military applications, if used at all.

Improvements to instrument design and metal making in the late Middle Ages and Renaissance led to an increased usefulness of the trumpet as a musical instrument.

Early in the seventeenth century the Trompeterkameradschaft, a professional trumpeters' guild was formed. Each member of the union was identified by the part they played.
The trumpet in this century was known as the natural trumpet because it had no valves, slides, or pistons.

Natural TrumpetsEdit

Natural Trumpet

The natural trumpet of this era consisted of a single coiled tube without valves and therefore could only produce the notes of a single overtone series.

Crooks and ShanksEdit

During the eighteenth century changing keys on a natural trumpet by way of "crooks" and tuning slides became popular.

Longer tubing was wound to fit the instrument.

Crooks consisted of coiled brass tubes that could be inserted into the main tube to increase its length. By inserting a crook, trumpeters were able to change their instrument's length to accommodate the keys of the music they were playing.
Crooks and shanks were standard issue on trumpets, most notably in France, well into the first part of the 20th century.

Clarino PlayingEdit


The art of playing the natural trumpet was known as "clarino" playing.
Talented players such as the early baroque composer Girolamo Fantini demonstrated that by playing in the extreme upper register and "lipping" the notes of the 11th and 13th harmonics, that is, flattening or sharpening those impure harmonics into tune with the embouchure, it was possible to play diatonic major and minor scales and, hence, actual melodies on a natural trumpet.
The most talented players were even able to produce certain chromatic notes outside the harmonic series by this process (such as lipping a natural C down to B), although these notes were mostly used as brief passing tones. (In Germany, this technique was called Heruntertreiben, literally "driving down".)


Other "impure" harmonics (such as the 7th and 14th - B♭ on an instrument pitched in C - which are very flat) were avoided by most composers, but were sometimes deliberately used, for example, where their unusual sonic qualities would complement the accompanying text in a sacred work.
The development of the upper, "clarino" register lent itself well to the Baroque era, also known as the "Golden Age of the natural trumpet," which reached its peak in the works of German composers like Bach and Handel.
The art of clarino playing was revived in the mid-20th century, and the unique sound of the natural trumpet is again thriving around the world.
Most successful clarino players today use a version of the natural trumpet dubbed the baroque trumpet which is fitted with one or more vent holes to aid in correcting out-of-tune notes in the harmonic series.

The Natural Trumpet in DeclineEdit

By the second half of the 18th century the natural trumpet was in decline because of the difficulty in playing more complex music with a proper chromatic scale.
The melody-dominated homophony of the classical and romantic periods relegated the trumpet to a secondary role by most major composers owing to the limitations of the natural trumpet. Berlioz wrote in 1844:

"Notwithstanding the real loftiness and distinguished nature of its quality of tone, there are few instruments that have been more degraded (than the trumpet). Down to Beethoven and Weber, every composer, not excepting Mozart, persisted in confining it to the unworthy function of filling up, or in causing it to sound two or three commonplace rhythmical formulae."[1]

During this period, a vast body of music was written for virtuoso trumpeters, such as Cesare Bendinelli, and Anton Weidinger, whose position as one of the top trumpeters in Germany would allow him to push forward a new innovation, the "keyed" trumpet (Klappentrompete), which made it possible to play a proper chromatic scale with consistency.

The Keyed TrumpetEdit


Anton Müller ( part of 19. century)

The attempt to give the trumpet more chromatic freedom in its range saw the development of the keyed trumpet.
In early 1800 a Viennese court trumpeter, Anton Weidinger (1767-1852), improved the natural trumpet by putting five keys and additional tubing on his trumpet, enabling him to play the chromatic scale. He called it the "Organized Trumpet" (organisirte Trompete).
While Weidinger is credited with "inventing" the keyed trumpet, but he derived the idea from early attempts by other musicians and instrument makers of the same period.
In March of that year, composer Franz Joseph Haydn wrote a trumpet concerto for Weidinger as an act of personal friendship, and to endorse his musical innovation. Until then, Haydn's writing for the trumpet had rarely risen above the level of providing harmonic support or underscoring a particular musical affect. Chromatic runs and diatonic melodies replaced broken triads and fanfare motifs.

By the 1840s the keyed trumpet fell out of favor, replaced during the 1820s by the valve trumpet. Only in Italy did it find a temporary refuge, used in the operas of Rossini and Meyerbeer. Italians preferred it to the technically more accomplished valve trumpet because of purer, clearer sound.


The instrument made a come-back of sorts in the 20th century with modern redesigns of a keyed trumpet by instrument makers like Egger and Monk, who studied old instruments and started making copies.
It became possible for trumpeters to start playing and to re-discover playing techniques of the keyed trumpet.
American trumpeter David Hickman, performed the second and third movement of the Haydn Concerto on a keyed trumpet in the spring of 1972 at the Wichita State University (WSU) in Kansas. He was accompanied by a pianist. The keyed trumpet in Eb was borrowed from Gerald Endsley.

Master Class/Listening:Edit

David Hickman produced a recorded master class on CD for the keyed trumpet which is available in mp3 format on " target="itunes_store" iTunes and at

Sound samples from a CD of Keyed Trumpet by Reinhold Friedrich . (Real Audio Format)

The full CD is available at CD Universe

The Valve TrumpetEdit


The development of the valve made possible the modern-day piston valved trumpet. The valves allowed a trumpet to become fully chromatic because they changed tube length simply by opening and closing the valves.
An open valve lets the air go through the tube fully.
A closed valve diverts the air through its short, subsidiary tubing before returning it to the main tube, lengthening its path.
A combination of three valves provides all the variation a chromatic trumpet needs.
The valve trumpet came into being over fits and starts, and had several points of origin on similar instruments in both East and West Europe, with keys and valves developing on the trumpet and the bugle.

Valve Trumpet TimelineEdit


1788 Charles Clogget patented the first valve, but was not able to popularize his design because it had practical design flaws.
1801 Trumpeter Anton Weidinger of Vienna (see "Keyed Trumpet" above) put five keys on his trumpet, enabling him to play the chromatic scale, but they did not have valves. The keys created certain limitations in design and use.
1810: In Dublin, Ireland, the bugle-maker and inventor Joseph Halliday placed keys on the bugle family of instruments, and produced the first keyed bugles, the bass version which came later being called the ophicleide. Halliday named his keyed bugle the “Kent horn” or “Royal Kent” bugle, after his military commander, the Duke of Kent. Suddenly, here was a bugle that could play the entire chromatic scale.
1813: Frederick Bluehmel added a rotary valve to brass instruments.
1815: Heinrich Stolzel began improving the valve into what would become a box tubular valve. The valve was perfected and patented in 1818. Even with the Box Valve's solution to the stability of the instrument's chromatic ability, the symphonies of Mozart, Beethoven, and as late as Brahms, were still played on natural trumpets.
Around the same time in Prussia, inventor Wilhelm Wieprecht invented his “Berlin pistons” which were another attempt to create a piston valve, but the design remained in Eastern Europe.
1832: Joseph Riedlin invented another variant of the rotary valve, a form now only popular in Eastern Europe.
1839: Francois Perinet improved upon the tubular valve, inventing the piston valved trumpet in Western Europe. This design is the one that became widely adopted because it was embraced by Western European instrument makers.
1842: Antoine (Adolph) Sax developed the first mass-produced piston-valved trumpets at a trumpet factory in Paris.
The trumpet manufactured by Sax was quickly followed by large-scale manufacturers in England and the United States.
1856: Standardized parts, developed by Gustave Auguste Besson, became available.
1875: C. G. Conn founded a factory in Elkhart, Indiana. To this day most brass instruments from the United States are manufactured in this city.

Other Trumpets EvolveEdit

The creation of a B (B-Flat) piston valve trumpet was not the instrument's only evolution path. There are several types of trumpet, including a few that evolved alongside the standard B.

Slide TrumpetEdit

The slide trumpet grew out of the war trumpet as used and developed in Western and Central Europe: Don Smithers in The Music and History of the Baroque Trumpet before 1721, argues that the slide grew out of the detachable leadpipe, and separated the use of the trumpet as a dance instrument from the trumpet as a signaling device in war.
There are several types of slide trumpet, widely separated in time and place:

Medieval Slide TrumpetEdit

The Medieval slide trumpet, which developed from the war trumpet, and which developed into the trombone and the Baroque slide trumpet.

Renaissance Slide TrumpetEdit

Deriving from early straight trumpets, the Renaissance slide trumpet was essentially a natural trumpet with a sliding leadpipe. This single slide was rather awkward, as the entire corpus of the instrument moved, and the range of the slide was probably no more than a major third.
Originals were probably pitched in D, to fit with shawms in D and G, probably at a typical pitch standard near A=466 Hz.
As no instruments from this period are known to survive, the details - and even the existence - of a Renaissance slide trumpet is a matter of some conjecture, and there continues to be some debate among scholars.[2]
Some slide trumpet designs saw use in England in the 18th century.[3]

Baroque Slide TrumpetEdit

The Baroque Zugtrompete aka tromba da tirarsi, a surviving example of which exists in a German museum, had the slide fitted in the first yard, before the first bow.

Flatt Trumpet (English Slide Trumpet)Edit

The English Flatt Trumpet, used by Purcell in "Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary"; this had a double slide fitted in the second and third yards, moved by the left hand.

The English Slide Trumpet of the nineteenth century, had the same slide arrangement as the Flatt Trumpet; there were a few other slide trumpets made, one in France, one other in England during this time, none of which were as successful.

Firebird TrumpetEdit

Last but hardly least, the Firebird (trumpet), designed and made last century for Maynard Ferguson.

Trumpets in Different KeysEdit

For descriptions of each, see Modern Trumpets.



For MoreEdit

To learn more about the Trumpet and who plays it in jazz, see: Trumpet