The trumpet is one of the most recognisable instruments in the orchestra. It’s also heavily associated with jazz music. Learning to play, however, can be a very daunting task. With prices ranging from less than £100 to several thousand, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed when purchasing your first instrument.
In this article, we’ll provide an overview of some good beginner trumpets, helping you decide which is best for you.
Before we go through the various trumpets out there, let’s clear up some jargon you’ll come across. Trumpet manufacturers often don’t realise how inaccessible the technical language can be to complete beginners!
Cornet – A cornet looks very similar to a trumpet. However, it’s not a trumpet. Cornets have a conical bore (the internal chamber) whereas trumpets have a cylindrical bore.
Bugle – The bugle also looks similar to the trumpet, but there are no keys or valves. As a result, the bugle has fewer notes available than a brass instrument with valves.
Types of trumpet
Trumpets are technically a family of instruments, so there are several different types.
The most common and “default” trumpet is the Bb trumpet. However, you’ll encounter several other types as you develop as a player. Professionals may use multiple trumpets in a single performance.
Bb trumpet – Bb is the key in which the trumpet is pitched. In simple terms, if you were to play a C, you’d hear a Bb. You can play multiple notes based on the harmonics of Bb without pressing any valves down. When you do press the valves down, you’ll have access to more notes.
Shop now | Bb Trumpets
Eb or C trumpet – You might see trumpets in Eb or even C. Like the Bb trumpet, if you played a C on these trumpets you would get the notes Eb or C, respectively. These are often used by more advanced players who want to achieve a slightly higher pitch or different tone.
Shop now | Eb and C Trumpets
Piccolo trumpet – This is the smallest member of the trumpet family. Like the piccolo flute, it can play the highest notes and is usually used as an alternative instrument to a standard trumpet. The piccolo trumpet was used in the Beatles’ “Penny Lane” which popularised the instrument.
Shop now | Piccolo Trumpets
Pocket trumpet – Pocket trumpets are basically just small trumpets. They’re a compact version of a Bb trumpet and have the same length of tubing as their bigger siblings.
Often seen as a novelty instrument or “toy”, the pocket trumpet does have real-world uses.
Pocket trumpets are fully functional, and they’re used for practice when players are travelling and can’t bring their main instrument with them. They also offer a fun and unique way to include a trumpet solo in live performances.
Shop now | Pocket Trumpets
Parts of the trumpet
Mouthpiece – The mouthpiece is where you place your mouth to blow air through the trumpet. “Blow” is actually an incorrect term to use – rather, you make a soft buzzing sound with your lips.
Shop now | Mouthpieces
Valves – Trumpets haven’t always had valves. Without them, though, their notes were limited. In the early 19th Century, a trumpet was engineered that used valves to direct the air through different lengths of tubing, allowing the trumpet to play more notes. Now, most trumpets and many other brass instruments use valves to achieve a full range of notes.
Slide – On a string instrument, the strings need to be tightened or loosened to keep them in tune. Trumpets, on the other hand, have slides which adjust the tuning. There are specific slides for more precise tuning adjustments as individual notes may be slightly out of tune.
Bore – The bore is the internal chamber which air flows through. There are two main types: cylindrical and conical, which refer to its shape. The difference between conical and cylindrical bores is the tone that the instrument produces. Trumpets have cylindrical bores.
Other brass instruments can be described by their bore shape as well. For example, French horns have conical bores and trombones have cylindrical bores.
Bell – The bell is the end of the trumpet where the sound comes out. These are flared to enhance the tone and volume. Trumpets vary in bell flare size, which changes how the instrument sounds
Leadpipe – This is the pipe in which the mouthpiece is placed. You may see certain trumpets have a “reverse leadpipe”, which is longer than a normal leadpipe and gets wider rather than narrower. This means there’s less air resistance when you’re playing and you’ll have a higher degree of control over tone and intonation.
Embouchure – Across all wind instruments, you need to create the correct mouth shape to get the best tone from your instrument. This is known as embouchure and it’s an extremely important aspect of your playing.
Fingering – It’s possible to change notes by altering the amount of air you blow through the instrument. But an easier way to play, and a way to gain greater precision, is to press the valves. This is known as fingering. You’ll also encounter this term with string instruments and woodwinds.
Vibrato – This is a technique that players use to increase the level of expression. The sound is a vibrating effect that you may hear in soloistic trumpet playing.
Mutes are very important and often called for by composers. The mute is an object that’s placed into the bell of your trumpet, altering the tone and making it quieter. There are several types of mutes out there to choose from.
Straight mutes – This is the standard style that’s usually recommended as a first mute for students.
Shop now | Straight mutes
Cup mute – This is perhaps the most common mute after straight mutes. They produce a quieter and more muffled tone.
Shop now | Cup mutes
Harmon mutes – A large bulb-shaped mute with a second stem-like piece that can be placed either in or out of the first piece. This mute is well-known for the “wah wah” sound often heard in jazz.
Shop now | Harmon mutes
There are many more types of mute that you may come across, but the three outlined here are probably the most common you will encounter.
Shop now | More mutes
Materials and finishes
Finish – Trumpets made of metal come in a variety of finishes. You may see silver/gold-plated trumpets or various coloured lacquers.
In most cases the finish is purely there for aesthetic reasons. However, silver plating is usually more resistant to corrosion and has anti-bacterial qualities.
There are often debates on whether the finish affects the sound. This is probably not something you need to worry too much about – you may develop an opinion on the matter as you improve as a player.
As the name of the family might imply, brass instruments are made of brass. Brass is an alloy of copper and zinc, different proportions of these materials determine the type of brass the instrument is made of. This can also affect the timbre of the instrument.
Yellow brass – 70% copper and 30% zinc, yellow brass produces the bright colour in the sound that is commonly heard in trumpets.
Gold brass – This kind of brass comprises 85% copper and 15% zinc. The lower zinc level gives the instrument a darker tone that might be preferable to certain players. “Gold” refers to the colour – there’s no actual gold present in the instrument.
Nickel-silver – Like gold brass, this doesn’t contain any silver, it just has a silver colour. This is achieved by adding nickel into the mix of copper and zinc. The material has a better corrosion resistance than others and a deep, sonorous tone.
Rose brass – Rose brass is 90% copper and 10% zinc. As this has the highest copper concentration, both the colour and tone of the material are darker.
Plastic – This is a relatively new material in the trumpet world. Plastic trumpets have become increasingly popular amongst beginners due to their lower price and lighter weight compared to brass. They still sound pretty good despite not actually being made of brass.
Monel – Monel is an alloy of copper and nickel. It’s a very hard material that is resistant to corrosion and is often used for valves.
At Gear4music we stock several plastic instruments that are suitable for beginners. Plastic is a great choice for those just starting out because of its low price, and its reduced weight is particularly ideal for younger children. Plus, it’s more resistant to knocks than brass, so you don’t risk denting your instrument.
The first on our list is our very own playLITE brand.
We sell plastic trumpets that also incorporate aluminium inside the valves. This allows the trumpet to be lightweight and low price, while also having the superior valve action and precise seal of metal.
The added benefit of aluminium is that your valves can be lubricated with any standard valve oil for brass trumpets.
The playLITE trumpet is available in red and blue finishes, as well as bundles with a playLITE straight mute.
We also have various other wind instruments in the playLITE range.
Shop now | playLITE trumpets
Shop now | playLITE instruments
We sell pTrumpets in many colours with corresponding bundles. pTrumpet comes from the same company that first introduced the pBone, a plastic trombone. Like playLITE instruments, this trumpet benefits from being more durable, lightweight, and cheaper than many brass trumpets. It also comes with two mouthpieces of different sizes, so you can choose the right one for you.
Shop now | pTrumpets
If you’re on a tight budget or want a simple instrument, the pBugle is ideal. As explained in the jargon buster, the bugle is a brass instrument without valves, all you need to do is blow through it.
The pBugle is one of the cheapest “brass” instruments we sell, so it’s a pretty good choice for anyone, regardless of ability level. It’s a particularly good choice if you want to practise producing a sound with brass instruments without having to worry about valves.
Shop now | pBugle
We sell many brass trumpets at Gear4music, from more affordable beginners’ instruments to expensive professional trumpets. Let’s talk about a few beginners and student trumpets that you may want to consider.
Student Trumpet by Gear4music
The first on our list is the Student Trumpet by Gear4music. As you might have guessed, it’s a great beginners’ instrument for only a tad more money than a plastic trumpet.
This instrument is made of yellow brass, which produces the bright tone that’s commonly associated with trumpets. The valves are made of stainless steel, with nickel plating for corrosion resistance and reducing friction. They’re durable and quick to press down, perfect for quick passages of music.
The medium-large bore gives the instrument an improved tonal capacity and makes it easier for younger players with smaller lung capacities to play.
Everything you need is included with this instrument: a mouthpiece so you can play straight away and a case for travelling to lessons, rehearsals, and eventually gigs.
Shop now | Student Trumpet by Gear4music
Besson BE110 New Standard Bb Trumpet
Our second choice is the Besson BE110 New Standard Bb Trumpet. This trumpet is specially designed for young and new players, with design alterations to suit. For example, the valve block has been made smaller, making it easier for new players to hold the trumpet and become used to hand positions.
Like the Gear4music Student Trumpet, this comes with a mouthpiece and case.
Shop now | Besson BE110 New Standard Bb Trumpet
The Bach TR650 features a rose brass leadpipe, giving you access to the same tone and quality of materials usually reserved for more advanced instruments. This is great for beginners as you can develop a mature and professional sound straight away.
Again, this comes with a mouthpiece and case.
Shop now | Bach TR650
The final trumpet we recommend is the Yamaha YTR2330.
Yamaha have a great reputation in the musical instrument world, with many of their instruments across all families being highly regarded.
This trumpet is designed to provide the best possible intonation, boosting your ability to learn how to play in tune.
The Monel valves provide a boost to durability and smooth action, meaning your instrument will last longer and feel great under your fingers.
Shop now | Yamaha YTR2330
Which is best for me?
So, we’ve recommended a number of instruments here and you might be wondering which is best for you. This will depend on various factors. If you’re a complete beginner, or you’re purchasing for a child, you’ll probably find a plastic trumpet to be a great starting option. They’re cheap and durable so you won’t have to worry about wasting too much money if you find the trumpet isn’t right for you.
If you’re sure you want to pursue trumpet, the Besson or Gear4music trumpet may be a good option as they’re both low-priced trumpets made of actual brass. The Besson has the bonus of the redesigned valve block.
If you’re looking to pick up the trumpet as an additional instrument, the Yamaha or Bach trumpet might be suitable as they have the potential to take you to a high level of playing.
Although not mentioned in this article, we also have some more advanced level trumpets from our Coppergate range. Check these out if you want a professional-level trumpet at a good price!