July 28, 2015
Trumpet Buyer’s Guide
Are you faced with the task of purchasing your child their very first trumpet? Are you looking for an upgrade to their current student-grade trumpet? If you answered “yes” to either of these questions, you’ve likely found that buying a trumpet can be a complicated matter, especially if you’ve never played the instrument yourself. That’s why we’ve put this guide together. Intended to guide you through the trumpet buying process, this guide will cover everything from trumpet types and valves to trumpet cases and the other accessories you’ll need. For more information, contact a Music & Arts representative today- they’ll be more than happy to answer any questions you may have about the trumpet.
As with many instruments, there are three different types of trumpets: student, intermediate, and professional. While student trumpets are machine made and intended to last for a very long time, most students outgrow them after just a few years of playing. They perform well, but lack some of the higher-end features students may need after becoming comfortable with the instrument. Intermediate trumpets come in two different forms: a student horn with additional features that improve sturdiness and tuning, and intermediate horns which are comparable to professional trumpets but are manufactured in a less costly way. Finally, professional trumpets feature the highest quality in craftsmanship and materials and should be reserved for those who plan on playing the trumpet at an advanced level.
Bb vs. C Trumpets
Bb trumpets are the most common in the trumpet family, as their sound is warm and blends in nicely with ensembles of all types. This kind of trumpet is quite versatile, and is used in music genres that range from classical to modern pop. It’s also the most common type of trumpet for students, as a good chunk of written music and instructional material is written for Bb trumpets. If you’re purchasing a trumpet for a child or someone who is newer to the instrument, this is the trumpet you should choose. C trumpets, on the other hand, are a better choice for professionals and advanced players. They’re tuned a whole tone higher and have a slightly smaller body. While there are other types of trumpets available — piccolo, D trumpets, and E trumpets, just to name a few — Bb and C are the most common.
Valves, or valve pistons, are the main moving parts of a trumpet. Since the player pushes down on these to play different notes, how easy it is for the player to press these down is a good indicating factor of the trumpet’s quality. Nickel-plated valves are often found in student trumpets, as they’re durable and tolerant of infrequent cleanings. The critical factor with valves is that they play quickly, easily, and smoothly. If you’re purchasing a trumpet in-person, evaluate the quality of the valves on your own. If you’re purchasing the trumpet from an online retailer, such as Music & Arts, read the product descriptions and, if you’re purchasing for a beginner, keep an eye out for nickel-plated valves. If you’re purchasing an intermediate model, the valves are typically made from Monel alloy.
While all trumpets are manufactured from durable brass, there are a number of different finishes to choose from, the most common being a clear lacquer finish. Clear lacquer finishes are quite common, and available in student, intermediate, and professional models. Another type of finish is silver-plate. Typically considered better than lacquer, silver-plated finishes are thinner than lacquer and allow the metal molecules to vibrate and ring more. Silver-plated finishes are flashier than their lacquered counterparts, which can influence some students to practice their instrument more often. Finally, gold-plating is only available on professional-grade trumpets and slightly darkens the overall tone.
Once you purchase a trumpet for your child, you’ll also have to purchase a handful of accessories that are important for casual players and professionals alike, including mouthpieces, mutes, and trumpet cases. Although a trumpet will most likely come with a mouthpiece, purchasing a few extras is a good idea. Mutes, which are designed to change the tone and quality of the trumpet’s sound, are typically used by jazz musicians, although virtually every trumpet player will find a mute to be useful. Since trumpets are vulnerable to scratches and dings, especially if they’ll be played by a child, purchasing a sturdy case is highly recommended. To save yourself some cash, consider purchasing a trumpet that’s bundled together with a sturdy case and other important accessories.
Used vs. New
In many cases, purchasing a previously owned trumpet is fine, as long as the previous owner took good care of the instrument. When purchasing a refurbished or like-new trumpet, make sure it’s in good condition. While sites like eBay are chock full of used trumpets, you should proceed with caution- since you can’t see the instrument and you don’t personally know the seller, only purchase from eBay as a last resort. In most cases, purchasing a new trumpet is your best bet. If you aren’t sure about your child’s commitment to the instrument, renting a trumpet is another option. In some cases, you can even participate in a rent-to-own program, where each monthly rental payment goes towards the cost of the instrument and, once the trumpet is paid in full, it’s yours to own. For sanitary purposes, many experts recommend purchasing new mouthpieces.
Trumpet Storage & Care
Once you purchase a trumpet, it’s important to keep it in top shape through proper cleaning, regular upkeep, and safe storage. Trumpets may be more resistant to humidity than other instruments, but proper care should be taken to avoid exposing the instrument to extreme temperatures. Although cleaning the outside of a trumpet is important, trumpet owners should pay more attention to cleaning and oiling the instrument on a regular basis. When it comes to oiling and greasing the instrument, you’ll need to purchase valve oil and slide grease. If your child is new to playing the trumpet, have their music instructor show them how to clean and maintain their instrument. Finally, taking the trumpet apart and cleaning it should be left to the a professional, as amateur cleanings can actually be harmful to the instrument.
Need more info about brass instruments? Check out Brass Instruments: A Guide.
Want to learn more about the trumpet? Check out this video: