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What Are the Different Types of Trumpets?

Trumpets are categorized based on the key that they play, in addition to size and style.
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  • Written By: A.M. Boyle
  • Edited By: PJP Schroeder
  • Last Modified Date: 07 August 2014
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Musicians have a variety of different trumpets available to them. Trumpets are often categorized according to the key that they play. They can also be classified according to size and style. In addition, the various types of trumpets are usually divided according to the particular type of material used to make the instruments.

While most people recognize a trumpet as a popular brass instrument frequently found in bands and orchestras, they might not realize that trumpets come in a wide variety of tones and styles. Generally, musicians identify trumpets by the key that the instrument plays. The most common trumpet blown in jazz, rock, and other bands is the B-flat. Due to their affordability, popularity, and relative ease of play, these types of trumpets are often used by beginners and students.

Another very common trumpet is the C trumpet, tuned to the key of C. Musicians typically use these types of trumpets in an orchestral setting. The instrument itself is slightly shorter than the B-flat trumpet, and both the pitch and the fingerings are slightly different.

The D trumpet is much less common than both the C and B-flat trumpets but can still be found in certain orchestras. Popular in the 1800s, this particular trumpet is most suited for playing baroque-style orchestral pieces. As a result of this horn's specialized nature, experts don’t normally recommend it for beginning or casual trumpet players.

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Other, much less popular types categorized by key include the E, E-flat, F, A, and G trumpets. While these particular trumpets are still manufactured, they can be very difficult to find and rather expensive to purchase. Still, some trumpet players prefer these less popular instruments for either solo playing or specialized types of music.

Different types of trumpets not labeled according to key include the piccolo, pocket, slide, and bass trumpets. The piccolo trumpet is the smallest of the styles and has a higher pitch to it, generally a full octave above other larger trumpets. Pocket trumpets, on the other hand, look small but are actually condensed versions of the B-flat horns, producing a similar, full-bodied sound. Due to their compact nature and easy-to-carry design, these types of trumpets are often use in marching bands.

Slide trumpets have a sliding, trombone-style bar instead of finger keys. These types of trumpets are not very common but are still used in some orchestras. Longer, slimmer bass trumpets typically have a lower octave than their cousins and have a pitch similar to a trombone, although some musicians find the tone to be much more brash than that of a trombone.

Aside from key and style, trumpet players often identify their instruments according to the type of finishing material used. Basically, trumpets are either finished in brass lacquer or silver plating. Horns with a brass finish are usually less expensive than their silver-plated counterparts. Further, many experts claim that silver-plated trumpets have a superior, more vibrant sound than the brass-plated instruments and are often preferred by more experienced trumpet players.

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