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Different types of trumpet

Jazz Trumpet

Not all trumpets are alike. As Tony Cross explains, there is a wide range of instruments, each of which produces a different set of pitches

THE STANDARD orchestral trumpet is in B flat, which means that its lowest note – which is hardly ever played but from which all the other notes are generated, either directly or indirectly – is B flat. If it was stretched out into a long tube the standard length would be 130cm. In the past, trumpeters have played, or been required to play, D trumpets, C trumpets, F trumpets or E flat trumpets, to name the most common. All of these are still used nowadays for one kind of music or another, but only for special pieces rather than the norm. Many trumpet-players have a C trumpet for regular use, along with the B flat trumpet.

Open QuoteThe range of trumpets I have is very comprehensive because I’ve had to play some very demanding musicClose Quote

Tony Cross

It is not entirely clear why the B flat became the standard trumpet, but it was probably because overall it had the most consistent and serviceable tone throughout the instrument. Another reason is possibly the popularity of the B flat cornet in France and elsewhere in the 19th century, which replaced the larger and less agile F and G trumpets. Size, flexibility, tuning-consistency as well as tone quality all played their part.

Before the invention or widespread use of valves, the key of a piece or movement would determine the pitch of the trumpet. But nowadays the fully chromatic trumpet makes changing trumpets unnecessary unless particularly requested.

Tony Cross talks about different trumpets, some of which have separate articles on them.

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