The best trumpet
The versatile trumpet can play a number of musical styles, from patriotic anthems to symphonic solos to smooth jazz ballads. Shopping for a trumpet can be a bit daunting because you want to get your purchase right the first time. We're here to help. In this buying guide, we discuss the criteria you should keep in mind as you shop for a trumpet, and we offer information about some of our favorites. Our top choice is this Bb trumpet from Yamaha, a renowned maker of musical instruments. If you want a well-made horn for a beginning or intermediate player, we highly recommend it.
Considerations when choosing trumpets
Student vs. step-up vs. professional trumpet
One of the easiest ways to narrow your search is to determine the ability level of the player. If you're buying for a child just starting out in music, you could probably get by with a low-cost student trumpet. Bear in mind that you will probably want to replace the instrument as the child advances. Most student trumpets are made of brass, though there are some plastic choices available.
A step-up trumpet, also known as an intermediate trumpet, is one level up from a student trumpet. Designed for players who have mastered the basics, a step-up trumpet is made of better materials and produces a richer tone than a student trumpet.
Most amateur musicians would likely be satisfied with a student or intermediate trumpet, but a professional-grade trumpet is also an option. Often handcrafted, these horns are made of only the finest metal; some are gold or silver. As you might expect, professional trumpets cost a pretty penny.
Bb trumpet: If you're shopping for a student, you most likely need a Bb trumpet. What does this mean? If you play a Bb on this trumpet, the pitch will match the sound of a C key on a piano. The Bb trumpet is the preferred horn for students preparing to join the school band.
Piccolo trumpet: A piccolo trumpet is a Bb trumpet that plays an octave higher. These horns have four valves instead of the traditional three. It's unlikely that a beginner would need a piccolo trumpet, as the repertoire for this instrument is limited.
C trumpet: If you play a C on a C trumpet, the pitch will match the sound of a C key on a piano. Orchestra trumpet players often prefer the C trumpet. If you're not sure, check with your director first to make sure you buy the right one.
Pocket trumpet: The pocket trumpet is a Bb trumpet that plays and sounds like a full-size trumpet, but the coils are tightly wound to create a smaller instrument. Pocket trumpets are cheaper than full-size trumpets, but some people find them harder to play.
Mouthpiece: A well-made trumpet mouthpiece is essential for good tone production. Bear in mind that a beginner will do better with a small, shallow mouthpiece because it's easier to play, whereas an advanced player will find success with a deeper mouthpiece that produces a larger, warmer sound.
Bell: The bell of a trumpet also influences its tone. A larger bell creates a warmer sound, whereas a smaller bell creates a brighter sound. Some bells are seamless, meaning that they are made of a single piece of brass. Seamless bells tend to produce better tone because they are easier to play.
Finish: Some trumpets are coated with a lacquer that protects the instrument from scratches. The lacquer may be clear or colored. Notably, some musicians feel the lacquer dampens the tone of the trumpet. You could also choose a trumpet plated in gold or silver. Gold plating encourages a mellow tone, whereas silver brings out the nuances of the tone. A trumpet plated with gold or silver costs considerably more than a lacquered trumpet.
You can find suitable student trumpets in the $100 to $200 range. These instruments are often made of low-quality brass. Better trumpets tend to cost at least $500 and stretch up to the $3,000 mark. Unless you're a professional trumpeter, however, you needn't spend thousands of dollars.
Q. What's the difference between a trumpet and a cornet?
A. The two instruments are similar, and in a band, trumpet and cornet players usually sit together. However, there are some slight differences between the instruments. The tubing of a cornet is wrapped tighter than the tubing of a trumpet, and the bore (inside diameter of the tubing) of a cornet is conical, whereas the bore of a trumpet is cylindrical. As a result, the cornet produces a warmer tone than the trumpet.
Q. Why do so many trumpets come with gloves? Must I wear them when I play?
A. You can play your trumpet without gloves. Companies often include them as part of a bundle because in many marching bands, gloves are part of the required uniform.
Trumpets we recommend
Best of the best: Yamaha's Bb YTR 2330 Trumpet
Our take: A vibrant student trumpet that costs more than other choices but renders terrific sound and tone quality.
What we like: Classic Yamaha quality. Sturdy yellow brass and two-piece bell.
What we dislike: It's pricier than other student trumpets.
Best bang for your buck: Mendini by Cecilio's Bb Trumpet
Our take: Fun, affordable brass trumpet in a host of cool color choices.
What we like: The trumpets are pre-tested and come with a one-year warranty. Purchase includes case, gloves, cleaning cloth, and valve oil. A low-risk investment.
What we dislike: Tone quality is on par with other low-cost student instruments. Dedicated players will eventually need to invest in a step-up horn.
Choice 3: Jean Paul USA's Standard Student Trumpet
Our take: A good-quality horn for a reasonable investment.
What we like: Attractive lacquered yellow brass. Nice case. Tone quality is great for beginners and may even satisfy intermediate players.
What we dislike: Customers register a fair number of complaints about sticky valves.
Melissa Nott is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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