Why Play the Trumpet?

Pros and Cons to the Instrument

Photo Courtesy of Blend Images, by Larry Williams/Getty Images

The trumpet is a melodic instrument, often at the forefront of an ensemble. Here are some reasons to play it.

  1. Great at melody. Can also play in brass sections, and can add backgrounds to a groove.
  2. Stylistically flexible. Trumpets are used in bands, orchestra, jazz big bands and other ensembles, chamber music (brass quartets and quintets), show orchestras, pep bands, rock bands, Latin music ensembles, New Orleans brass bands ("jazz funeral" bands), and many others—one of the most ubiquitous instruments. You can also play fanfares and bugle calls.
  1. Inspiring artists. There have been so many inspiring trumpeters, particularly in jazz: Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, Art Farmer, Wynton Marsalis, Arturo Sandoval, Dizzy Gillespie, Bix Biederbecke, King Oliver, Herb Alpert, Harry James, Roy Eldridge, Woody Shaw, Chet Baker, Manuel "Guajiro" Mirabal…. Then, there’s Maurice Andre, Hakan Hardenberger, Philip Smith…The Canadian Brass features trumpet prominently. 
  2. Heroic classical solos. Many great pieces of music feature prominent trumpet parts. There's Mousorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, Beethoven’s 5th Symphony, Ives's The Unanswered Question—countless trumpet passages, from all the great classical eras.
  3. It’s relatively easy, inexpensive, and portable. You can get a decent new trumpet for $1,000, and a good used instrument for a couple hundred bucks. Some reputable brands: Yamaha, Bach, Conn, Getzen, Shilke. Olds. For the same money, many trumpeters recommend getting a used professional quality horn to a new student quality horn. And it’s way easier to carry on your bicycle than is a tuba.
  1. Modifications. You can get mutes (a wah-wah is big fun), or trumpet relatives (such as C tuned, or a flugelhorn, or a piccolo trumpet, or even the shofar). There are many special sound effects you can make with trumpet, such as half-valving and multiphonics.
  2. It involves your breath.  Like other wind instruments, playing trumpet connects your breath to your sound. This simply feels nice and connects you to the universe, in a similar way that yogic breathing does. The close union of brass instruments to the harmonic series also makes playing them give a direct sense of union with the physical world. It’s much less abstract than, say, playing an electronic keyboard.
  1. The sound. It’s heroic, powerful, clear, out of the box, but can be a gritty and humorous character as well. Mutes expand its color possibilities. And it can be fast and virtuosic—much quicker than the trombone.
  2. It will help you annoy your neighbors. There. It had to be said.


Downsides to Trumpet


Not to be negative, but if you are looking for a way out, here are some pitfalls.

  1. It’s not quiet. If you live in an apartment, you will torture your neighbors when you practice. And let’s not even mention what your dog thinks. There are practice mutes, though, to take the edge off.
  2. It can’t play chords. Not a great choice for a singer-songwriter who wants to self-accompany.
  3. You’re usually conspicuous. When trumpets play, they stand out and are in the center of attention. If you prefer to blend in with the crowd, you might be happier with, say, a viola.
  4. It sounds dreadful, at first. Until you’ve been at it for a couple years, it will be more like noise than like music.
  5. You’ve got company. There are a lot of trumpeters out there, so there’s competition for gigs.
  6. Spit is involved. Sorry. But it’s a dimension of playing any wind instrument that many find gross. (Suuuure, that liquid that originates in your mouth is just water vapor condensation….)
  1. It’s just treble clef. Not to imply that trumpet players are, um, shallow, any melodic instrument provides something of a limited perspective of the world. So, you might also want to study piano a bit, to help you navigate music theory study.
  2. You need co-conspirators. If you’re in the army, you can have an active solitary gig, but most trumpeters need other musicians to play concerts. It’s not usually the instrument everyone wants to you break out at a dinner party or campfire.

But sure, play the trumpet!

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Your Citation
Feist, Jonathan. "Why Play the Trumpet?" ThoughtCo, Nov. 29, 2015, thoughtco.com/why-play-the-trumpet-2455881. Feist, Jonathan. (2015, November 29). Why Play the Trumpet? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/why-play-the-trumpet-2455881 Feist, Jonathan. "Why Play the Trumpet?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/why-play-the-trumpet-2455881 (accessed November 21, 2017).