THE FIRST TRUMPETS were hollowed-out tusks of animals – blowing into one end vibrated the air inside the tube to make a sound. But what kind of sound comes out, and what note it makes, depends on how long the tube is, and how fast you blow air through it.
A trumpet is a long brass tube with a flared end, or bell, that acts as a loudspeaker. The combination of the narrow tube with a wide outlet, and the material it’s made of, gives it a particularly bright, attacking sound. If a trumpet doesn’t look that long to you, don’t be fooled – it's because the tube is coiled up, so it looks a lot shorter than it really is. At one end is the cup-shaped mouthpiece, and along the tube there are valves – operated by pushing buttons – that open or close different sections of the tube to alter its length.
In this clip, Abram Wilson demonstrates how buzzing lips and the trumpet's mouthpiece work together to make a sound.