The trumpet is characterized by its striking, triumphal sound and by the fact that it boasts the highest register of all the brass instruments. It does splendid work, single-handedly giving expression to heroism and jubilation.

The Origins of the Trumpet

The origins of the trumpet can be traced back several thousand years. However, since the primitive trumpets were rudimentary wind instruments that the player sounded simply by moving his lips, they cannot clearly be distinguished from the forerunners of the horn, on which sound is produced in the same way. Trumpets of old were made out of various materials, including wood, bamboo, bark, clay, human bone, and metal. Found on every continent, they are thought to have been used in religious ceremonies.


In the ancient Greek and Roman eras, trumpets were used for marching in wartime, for which they were admirably suited. Subsequently, almost all European royalty had trumpet bands that played military music. It was in the seventeenth century that the trumpet came to be used purely in musical ensembles. At that time, however, this was still the so-called natural trumpet, which can only produce natural harmonics, so the trumpet was not yet a fully functional instrument.

Early trumpets had a very simple shape, with just a flared bell at the end. The trumpeter could produce a number of different notes by varying his lip movement and the speed of his breath. When a trumpeter needed to play songs in different keys, such as C major and G major, he would keep a C major trumpet and a G major trumpet at hand. Accordingly, in around 1810 the valve was invented as a means for easily changing the length of the tube. A valve is a device that changes the path taken by the trumpeter's breath. A second tube was added in the middle of the instrument's tube and a valve was attached at the point where they joined. The valve controlled which tube the trumpeter's breath would pass through. It was now easy to change the length of the tube, enabling chromatic scales to be played on the trumpet.

There are several instruments that are related to the trumpet. The piccolo trumpet is half the length of the trumpet and is pitched one octave higher. Some piccolo trumpets have three valves; however, four is standard. Since the instrument is short, it needs a fourth piston valve in order to sound lower notes. A pocket trumpet has the same length tube as a normal trumpet, but is coiled into a more compact shape. Depending on the manufacturer, in some cases the shape of the bell, the bore size or other features are made smaller in order to make the instrument more compact. For those who might consider a normal trumpet too large, such as children or other individuals of small build, a pocket trumpet may feel easier to play. The cornet and the flugelhorn are also relatives of the trumpet. Compared to the trumpet and the cornet, however, both of which have tubes that are almost cylindrical along their entire length, the flugelhorn has a pronounced conical shape. Since a conical tube produces a mellower sound than a cylindrical tube, the instrument creates a completely different impression.