When you think of brass instruments, most people will think of the trumpet. There will be some who might think saxophone, but that is a woodwind instrument, but it is definitely the trumpet that most will think of first.
But, there is more than one kind of trumpet. So what are the different types of trumpets? Let’s take an in-depth look at some of the variations.
An Instrument With A Legacy
The trumpet, in some ways, is more than just a musical instrument. It has a history dating back thousands of years. Certainly to at least 1500 BC, but they existed way before then.
They were found in Tutankhamun’s grave dated about 1320 BC and during the same period in Scandinavia and China.
Originally Not For Entertainment
While trumpets are used for our entertainment in modern times, that’s not what they were first used for. They were designed with other needs in mind, such as announcing the arrival of royalty and other activities that involved great pomp and circumstance. Sometimes in religious ceremonies and weddings. Those are situations where the trumpet, or one of its formats, is still used today.
On The Battlefield
Initially, trumpets were known for their ability to issue instructions and communications on the battlefield. The sound would carry great distances, and call signs developed that soldiers could understand.
Eventually, the trumpet became obsolete as it was replaced by its more practical cousin, the Bugle. This is one of the different types of what we classify as a trumpet, the Bugle. But, what are the other types of trumpets?
Before we begin looking at trumpets, we ought to say they are not manufactured in just one key. There is a range of keys that you can get a trumpet. These include:
Low F, Bb, C, D, Eb, E, F, G, and A.
What Are The Different Types Of Trumpets?
- Standard Bb Trumpet.
- Piccolo Trumpet.
- Pocket Trumpet.
- Bass Trumpet.
- Baroque Trumpet.
And what you might refer to as cousins of the trumpet:
Let’s now take a look at them in turn…
The Bb Trumpet
As I have already said, this is the trumpet most people know and is the type of trumpet most people play. They are usually made of brass and have a lacquered finish. You will find some with a silver-plated finish. In some circles, these are considered superior.
These days, for those that don’t like the traditional brass or silver finish, you can get a variety of colors that use a lacquered nickel plate.
The Valves and Pistons
Just as there are a variety of materials for the main tubing, there are also choices for the important valves and pistons. These can be made from:
- Stainless steel.
The Bb trumpet will be the instrument that most students will start to play. It is the instrument that you will see the jazz musicians and the big bands play, with a few exceptions. Also, it’s the version often used in orchestras.
But, it must be said that the ‘C’ trumpet is also quite common. This will vary in orchestras in different parts of the world. The ‘C’ key trumpet offers a slightly brighter tone as it has shorter tuning slides. Some prefer that. To the ordinary ear, the differences are minimal.
The Piccolo Trumpet
A smaller member of the trumpet family is the Piccolo trumpet. This is ordinarily built to be a Bb trumpet. But, it is an octave higher than the standard Bb trumpet that we just looked at.
A Higher Pitch
Because the tubing in the Piccolo trumpet is only about half of what you will find on a standard Bb trumpet, you get a higher pitch. A lower length of tubing means that the air will travel much faster. This accounts for the brighter and higher-pitched sound.
Harder To Play
You could argue that the standard Bb trumpet is not the easiest of instruments to learn for a beginner. The Piccolo trumpet, though, can be even harder.
The way it is designed means that the mouthpiece and the valves require a different style of playing. Likewise, the air pressure to generate the sound is different, as is the tonguing required.
An extra complication is that the Piccolo trumpet has four valves as opposed to the three on the standard Bb. The addition of a fourth valve is there to lower the pitch by a fourth.
Are You Familiar With The Sound Of The Piccolo Trumpet?
It’s rather unique in its sound. It has the feel of a standard trumpet, but the brightness is evident and makes a big difference.
This lends itself to a certain style of playing. A great example of how you can play this instrument is in the Beatles’ song, “Penny Lane.” It has to be said that this was played by, at the time, one of the best Piccolo trumpeters in the world, David Mason.
The Pocket Trumpet
Easily recognized because of its smaller size, the Pocket trumpet is also usually manufactured in the key of Bb. There is usually plenty of discussion about the viability of the Pocket trumpet.
When Is A Toy Not A Toy?
There are those who that argue because of its size, the Pocket Trumpet is little more than a toy. That is not an unreasonable view looking at the size of it. But, I am sure that everyone can get a little tune out of a plastic toy trumpet.
The same cannot be said of the Pocket trumpet. The same skills that are required to play any standard larger trumpet also apply to the Pocket trumpet. In my view, it can hardly be called a toy.
A Unique Sound
What it has is a very unique sound when compared with other trumpets. Because the design compresses it to a size smaller than other trumpets, the sound produced is affected. They have a different, but quite nice, tonal quality and a similar level of projection as their bigger brothers.
However, they are rarely used, and you won’t see them being played very often. Although, they are available to buy. For example, this EastRock Pocket Trumpet Brass Bb, or check out our in-depth look at the Best Pocket Trumpets currently on the market.
The Bass Trumpet
The Bass trumpet is a different type of instrument from the more formal trumpets. As you might expect, the notes are lower than the standard Bb trumpet. They can be either a 6th or a 9th lower and, in some cases, even an octave below.
They have more tubing than a standard trumpet. Bass Trumpets at one time had three valves, but modern instruments have four. The extra tubing means that the sound is going to be much harder than what you might expect from a trumpet. It sounds more like a trombone than a trumpet.
Although, the sound is not as warm and rich as the trombone. When comparing the sound of the Bass trumpet to a standard trumpet, the timbre is much darker.
Another major difference with these trumpets is the amount of projection generated. Bass trumpets are very powerful and will generate a level that is equivalent to three or even maybe four standard trumpets playing together.
They are rarely in common use in any of the settings you will find standard trumpets being played.
The Baroque Trumpet
As with the Bass trumpet, this is another variation on the trumpet. However, you will rarely see them at all. As the name suggests, these have a link to a time long past in musical history. They do exist, but they’re just as likely to be museum pieces as they are to be seen being played.
A Different Design
They look quite different from what we know the trumpet should look like, and are very much a throwback to another time. They are long and thin and don’t have any valves but have tuning holes.
These resemble what you would expect to see on a recorder. They were how some notes were produced before the invention of the valve. Despite the tuning holes, they are still lacking in some notes that they can play.
As you can imagine, the sound is unique and resembles a bugle or a horn rather than what we expect from a trumpet. They play a whole octave above a standard Bb trumpet.
You could spend half of this article discussing whether the Cornet is a variety of the trumpet or an instrument in its own right. While the trumpet goes back to ancient times, the Cornet is quite a new invention, relatively speaking. The 1800s, to be precise.
It was originally conceived as a “post horn” that had some valves added to it. It has a certain similarity in its sound to a trumpet in that they are both brass instruments. But there are differences.
Two Cornet Designs
There are two designs for the Cornet. You have the standard Bb but also a Soprano Eb. The Soprano will give you much higher notes, and it is quite common to find professional players having both. The sound has more middle range than a trumpet with much less brightness.
Differences in How They Are Designed
There are some fundamental design differences between the cornet and the trumpet.
- The placement of the valves.
- Bore shape – conical bore on the cornet, cylindrical bore on the trumpet.
- Curves – the Cornet has four, and the trumpet has two.
- The Mouthpiece has a deeper design on the Cornet, making it v-shaped.
These might seem small differences, but they all add up to make the Cornet what it is. Louis Armstrong famously played the Cornet first before moving on to the trumpet. And he remarked it was like playing two different instruments.
The Cornet For Beginners?
Louis Armstrong did, but he wasn’t given the choice. If there is an advantage to playing the cornet for a starter, it is that it is smaller and lighter and, therefore, easier to hold.
It is not a natural instrument from which to progress to the trumpet. Although, of course, many do. It is very much its own instrument.
The Safest Thing To Say
You could argue whether the Cornet is a type of Trumpet or not for a long time. It might be the safest thing to say that they are similar but just different. The Cornet is its own instrument, but it is nevertheless a variation on the trumpet.
We will say it is a cousin of the trumpet and therefore deserves to be included. A good example is this Stagg WS-CR215 Bb Cornet with Case.
A variant of the Cornet with a very recognizable shape. Despite that, it’s one people often forget when asking, “What are the different types of trumpets?”
It is played in a similar way to the trumpet but gives you a very different sound. It has a softer and warmer tone and is what you might call a very forgiving instrument. An example is this Queen Brass F-25 Flugel Horn (Bb 4-valve).
To complete my look at the different kinds of trumpets, we go to the Bugle. This is an instrument that has changed very little since it was first created. It is essentially a valveless trumpet that was designed for ease of use on the battlefield.
It served its military history well, but it is also found in other environments occasionally. On the racetrack, for example.
Hard To Play Well
Of course, it is a relative of the early trumpets that were also played without valves. Therefore, control of the sound is quite complex, and it is not an easy instrument to play well.
Having no valves or other devices for changing pitch, all notes are achieved with variations on the player’s embouchure. Because of that, the Bugle has its limitations on what notes can be played.
There are variations on the design known as Soprano Bugles that feature pistons and rotary valves. An example of what you would often find in school and marching bands is this Tzong B Flat Military Bugle.
Interested in the Trumpet?
We can help with that. Check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Trumpet, the Best Student Trumpets, the Jean Paul USA TR-330 Standard Student Trumpet, the Mendini by Cecilio MTT-L Trumpet, and the Yamaha YTR-2335 Bb Trumpet you can buy in 2023.
Also, take a look at our detailed articles on the Best Trumpet Brands, the Best Online Resources and Lessons for Beginner Trumpet Players, The Greatest Trumpet Legends, How To Clean A Trumpet, and How Much Do Used Trumpets Sell For to get more useful information about trumpets.
What Are the Different Types of Trumpets – Final Thoughts
More types of trumpets than you thought? There might be. The trumpet is not limited to the Bb standard design we all know. There are plenty of variants, as we can see. All part of the family of brass instruments and essential to the music of all genres.
But, more accurately, all part of the family of trumpets that contribute so much to music in every way.
Until next time, let the music play.