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What Sound Does A Trumpet Make In Words?

What an interesting question! But before we can answer it, we need to be sure which trumpet we are talking about. Because there isn’t just one, there are five different types of trumpets. So what are they?

  • Standard Bb flat Trumpet (what you are probably familiar with).
  • Piccolo Trumpet.
  • Pocket Trumpet.
  • Bass Trumpet.
  • Baroque Trumpet.

All with their distinctive sound. And even then, the sound can vary with the same instrument. How, you might ask? Using a Mute is one way and the way it is normally done. This will also alter the sound of a trumpet. We will come back to that later.

It isn’t as easy as asking, “What sound does a Trumpet make in words?” So, let’s discuss what the trumpet and its sound are all about.

Where Did They Come From?

They are certainly not a new addition to the musical world. The first trumpets we are familiar with go back to at least 1500 BC. But, certainly, they existed before then. Tutankhamun’s grave gave us an insight into trumpets from that period.

He ruled Egypt for a short time in the 18th Dynasty, or in our years about 1320 BC. But the trumpet was not limited to that part of the world. The Bronze Lurs were uncovered in Scandinavia, and the metal trumpets in China were all from about the same period.

Not Solely For Entertainment

Before we started to use trumpets for musical purposes, as we understand it, they had other important roles to fulfill. They were played ceremonially to honor dignitaries, and other events involving much pomp and circumstance. They were also used in religious ceremonies.

But it was for communicating on the battlefield that trumpets were best known for. They produced a powerful tone that could carry great distances. There were messages and instructions attached to various prepared calls that gave information to the soldiers. 

A Useful Tool

Being able to project that sound over great distances was an extremely useful tool in the heat of battle. Eventually, the trumpet was replaced by the bugle for practical reasons. 

But they maintained their importance and were only phased out during the First World War. The Trumpeter or Bugler was a rather important duty in the armies of the time.

How Are They Played?

How Are They Played

This is what defines a trumpet as a brass instrument. Those instruments categorized as Brass use the players vibrating or buzzing lips to produce the sound.

Trumpet sounds are the same but different. In all the different types of trumpets, I listed earlier, there is a certain similarity in the sound, even if they are all different. But, it is the tone of the trumpet that sets it apart, so let’s talk about that briefly.

How Does It Sound?

You will usually recognize a trumpet when you hear it. They have a bright and more piercing tone than you get from a woodwind instrument, and they project their sound very powerfully. But we are asking, “What Sound Does A Trumpet Make In Words?”

So, while that description applies to trumpets as a group of instruments, each of the varieties mentioned above have their own timbre. It is the projection for which they are known that allows them to be used as solo instruments. For the very same reason they were so successful on the battlefield, they are great for solo breaks and especially for Jazz.

The Development Of The Trumpet

When valves were added to the trumpet in the early 1800s, it became a much more versatile instrument. This allowed it to be used in a variety of ways and genres. 

Just out of interest, the first trumpet factory was set up in Paris in 1842 by a certain Adolphe Sax. He later went on to invent another important instrument that was named after him. No prizes for guessing what that might be.

Changing The Sound

As I mentioned earlier, there is something you can use which will alter the sound of the trumpet. You can, of course, alter the sound slightly by the way you play, playing with delicacy to create a less harsh sound.

But the other way is to use a Mute. This is something that is designed to fit inside or over the Bell of the trumpet. Because the trumpet tends to be a loud instrument, you can use the mute to reduce the volume. By doing so, also changes the tone significantly.

Different Types of Mute

The most common mute you will see is what is known as a straight mute. It is cone-shaped with a cork fitment that allows it to be placed inside the Bell. Using this mute, you can also create what is close to a wah effect you will hear on an electric guitar.

There are also straight mutes made from cardboard which produce an even quieter sound. A metal mute isn’t as quiet and has a bright sound with a slight buzz.

More Mutes

There are other kinds of mutes for the trumpet. Each that have their own characteristics, which creates a different sound. These are:

  • Harmon Mute.
  • Cup Mute.
  • Plunger Mute.
  • Bucket Mute.
  • Practice Mute.

The use of the Mute is important in an orchestral setting… 

There might be whole passages where the brightness and volume of the trumpet section need to be toned down a little. The trumpets might need to sit in the section without dominating it.

Likewise, in Jazz and Concert bands, there will be occasions when the trumpets need to blend in with the overall sound. This is achieved by having completely muted sections. An example is this Harmon B – Aluminum Wow Wow Trumpet Mute.

As I said earlier, there are different types of trumpets, each with its distinctive sound. Let’s take a brief look at them individually.

The Standard Bb Trumpet

This is the instrument you will be most familiar with. The sound you will know and be able to identify with. It’s the trumpet played by the likes of Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillepsie, and of course, Louis Armstrong. 

It has three valves with a bore that is partly conical and partly cylindrical. It is built in Bb and is about three octaves in range. There are also standard trumpets built in C and D, as well as some other pitches. But these are quite rare.

A great example of a beginner’s trumpet, which may be the best starter trumpet you can buy, is the Yamaha YTR-2330 Standard Bb Trumpet. For more information, see our thorough Yamaha YTR-2330 Standard Bb Trumpet Review.

A Unique Instrument With a Unique Sound

The Piccolo Trumpet

This is the smallest trumpet. It is usually built to Bb but an octave higher than the standard trumpet. The tubing is about half the length that you will find in the standard trumpet, which accounts for its higher pitch. The reduction in tube length means the air can travel faster, which gives you a high-pitched, bright sound.

The trumpet is never the easiest of instruments to play, but the Piccolo can be even harder. The design of the valves and the mouthpiece are different from a standard trumpet. And there are also changes in the air pressure needed to play and the tonguing required. 

A further difference…

There are four valves instead of three on a standard trumpet. The fourth valve is designed to lower the pitch by a 4th. Not the easiest of instruments to play, but mastered perfectly on The Beatles song “Penny Lane.”

A good option if you are thinking of getting one is this Piccolo Trumpet Brass Finish.

The Pocket Trumpet

Often confused with a Piccolo trumpet, the Pocket trumpet is much different. It has the same range as a Standard Bb flat trumpet, and the tubing is the same length. It also has three valves, not the four of the Piccolo trumpet. The difference is that it is built with a more compact design, which is why it has that resemblance to a Piccolo trumpet. 

The smaller size makes it easier to carry around, and it is, therefore, a great practice trumpet. Even more so, as there’s very little difference between the sound of a Standard and a Pocket trumpet.

Lacks A Little In Projection

If there is a difference, it is that the Pocket trumpet has a slightly thinner sound. Also, it tends to have less projection of its sound, which tends to make it a bit quieter. That is why they are fine for practice, but you won’t see them played in live performances.

They are considered a little bit of a novelty instrument. Having said that, they serve a good purpose for practice. If you are thinking of buying a Pocket trumpet or just want to know more, a good example at a cost-effective price is this Eastar Pocket Trumpet B Flat Brass.

Piccolo Trumpet Brass Finish

The Bass Trumpet

The trumpets we have looked at so far have a certain similarity in their sound. But, the Bass Trumpet can easily be described by just listening to a trombone. The Bass Trumpet has a much harder sound. And that can be compared more to a trombone than a Trumpet.

It operates with notes that are lower than a standard Bb trumpet. It can be set at either a 6th or a 9th below. You can even find them set up an octave below.

From Three to Four

Bass trumpets originally used three valves, but these days they have four. There is more tubing than a standard trumpet, which is one reason it sounds more like a trombone. As you would expect, the range of the bass trumpet is lower. The highest note you can play on a bass trumpet is an octave below a standard Bb trumpet.

The Sound

Whilst we likened it to a trombone, the tone is not as rich. It has a much darker timbre than the standard trumpet. That brings the sound closer to the Trombone. 

One big difference between Standard and Bass Trumpets is the projection. Bass Trumpets are very powerful, equal in power to three or four Standard Trumpets playing together.

The Baroque Trumpet

As you might guess from the name, this is a design that goes back into history a bit. These trumpets still exist today, but they are not often seen. They look vastly different from what we recognize as a trumpet, having a very long shape and no valves.

They are limited in the number of notes they can play, and for some notes, you need to use the tuning holes. These were used to create some notes before the invention of the valve. Similar to what you might find on a recorder.

The Sound

Because of the shape and the design, it has quite a unique sound and timbre. You might think it is a cross between a modern-day bugle and a horn. It plays an octave higher than the standard Bb Trumpets.

A Unique Instrument With a Unique Sound

The trumpet has had a purpose for thousands of years, from ceremonial pomp to relaying information on the battlefield and back to Kings and Queens. And for the last few hundred years, they have entertained us as well. It is a unique instrument producing a unique sound.

What Sound Does A Trumpet Make In Words?

It can be powerful; it can be subtle. The color of the sound can be muted, reducing the volume. And there are plenty of styles of Trumpets to choose from. 

Interested in Trumpets?

We have you covered. Check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Trumpet, the Best Pocket Trumpets, the Best Student Trumpets, the Mendini by Cecilio MTT-L Trumpet, the Mendini by Cecilio Gold Trumpet, the Jean Paul USA TR-330 Standard Student Trumpet, and the Yamaha YTR-2335 Bb Trumpet for great trumpets you can buy in 2022.

You may also enjoy our detailed articles on How Much Do Used Trumpets Sell ForAre Eastar Trumpets Any Good, and What’s the Difference Between a Cornet and Trumpet for more information on trumpets.

What Sound Does A Trumpet Make In Words – Final Thoughts

It has had a great and varied history. From Tutankhamun to the Greeks and the Romans, to Rorke’s Drift and Waterloo, to Fanfares at Royal Weddings. It has been heard through the ages and still is. 

And more recently, you can add on Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Louis Armstrong, and so many others. It continues to give us even more.

A sound that has rung through the ages and still does. But thankfully for our enjoyment, not as another cunningly worded invitation to mass slaughter.

Until next time, let the music play.

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About Warren Barrett

Warren has spent nearly half a century (now that's a long time!) as an ink-stained wretch writing for music magazines and websites and has no plans on giving up soon.

He is curious about all types of music and instruments apart from any genre with 'Urban' in the title. He's also not so keen on Plastic Potted Plants, Reality TV, and any movies with Kevin Costner in them.

He lives in Delaware with his wife Wendy and lots of great memories...

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