Learn the Parts of a Trumpet

Learn more about a bell that doesn't ring

Students preparing to play musical instruments
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Trumpets, or an instrument similar to it, have been around since 1500 B.C. when they were used in hunting or in battle. The modern variety was developed in the 15th century. There are a bunch of parts that work together to produce its unique sound featured in orchestras, jazz ensembles, rock bands, and music from different world cultures. Learn the different parts of a trumpet.

Bell

The bell is the part of the trumpet where the sound comes out of.

It functions much like a speaker. It looks a lot like a bell, hence its name, but it does not ring like one.

Mostly made of brass, it can be lacquered in gold, which produces a more mellow sound and silver-plated, which produces a brighter sound. Other trumpet manufacturers create specially made bells such as those made of sterling silver.

Alterations to the bell affect its sound. The size of the bell, otherwise known as the flare, also affects its sound. Smaller bell flares sound sharper while bigger flares sound mellower. Higher-end trumpets use tuning bells which are removable. The musician can alter the sound by adjusting the tuning bell.

Finger Hook

The finger hook is a sturdy metal hook on the top of the trumpet that enables the other hand of the player to be free to make adjustments or turn the pages of sheet music.

Valve Casings

Valve casings are the three cylinders that are attached to the pistons, positioned in the center of the trumpet.

Pistons move up and down in the valve casings to produce a full range of tones on the trumpet using different combinations of fingerings and varying amounts of air pressure from the player. The first valve casing is nearest to the player, the second is in the center, and the third is the furthest one.

To keep the valve pistons moving properly in the casings, each casing needs light lubrication with a few drops of valve piston oil. Without oil, the pistons can scratch the inside of the casing and damage the trumpet.

Pistons

Valve pistons are thin metal cylinders with holes both large and small bored through them with small finger rests on the end. The pistons are mounted into hollow cylindrical valve casings. When you blow into a trumpet's mouthpiece, the valve pistons reroute the air into different slides. These three pistons aren't interchangeable, so you should take note of their proper positions when aligning them. The valves should be oiled regularly, at least twice a week, to prevent wear, flush out debris, and reduce gaps between the valve and casing, which reduces air leakage.

When a player depresses a piston, the holes move and reroute the flow of air depending on the fingering. The longer the route of air, the lower the tone generally will be. The first trumpet piston acts to lower the tone of the instrument by a half step, while the second lowers the tone a full step. The third lowers the tone by a minor third.

Lead Pipe

The tube from the mouthpiece to the tuning slide is called the lead pipe.

Accidental bumps or dents on the lead pipe can create a small change to the intended air flow, which can radically change or hurt the trumpets pure tone. Clean out the lead pipe regularly to avoid grimy buildup, which is another factor that can affect a trumpet's sound quality.

Tuning Slide

The main tuning slide is a c-shaped metal tube that can slide in and out to finely adjust the tuning of the instrument. The further out the slide is placed, the lower the tone the trumpet will produce. The tuning slide usually has a small water key on the end for the player to blow excess moisture out of the trumpet. The main tuning slide needs to be kept greased in order to be used effectively.

Valve Slides 

Valve slides help the trumpet produce sound as well as adjust the pitch of notes. There are three valve slides: the first slide lowers the highest note a whole step (also called a fundamental, which is produced when you're not holding down any valve), the second slide lowers it a half step and the third slide is commonly used to produce notes that are lower in register.

The slides are fitted tightly so they hold their position by themselves but can still be moved in and out with a small effort. The valve slides should be removed and cleaned periodically and lubricant reapplied. 

Mouthpiece

The mouthpiece, like the name suggests, is the small mouth-sized cup part where the player creates a buzzing effect with the lips to blow air into the instrument. The cup leads into a small tube, similar to a funnel, where the air is directed precisely to the rest of the trumpet. Mouthpieces are made in varying sizes and different materials such as brass. The mouthpiece is removable from the trumpet and is typically cleaned lightly after every use and stored separately from the trumpet.