The trumpet is a classical and versatile instrument that can be played in many different genres. It is also very easy to learn and take care of. Many trumpeters quickly learn how to play the instrument quickly and maintain playing it for life. There are several things a beginner trumpeter should know before playing and how to care for the trumpet properly.
Like all instruments, the trumpet has a unique set of notes and finger patterning along with how to clean and store the instrument. Knowing and mastering the trumpet’s basic techniques and care will provide a solid foundation for playing for many years ahead. Read this guide completely before and during learning how to play the trumpet.
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Get To Know The Parts Of The Trumpet
Before playing the trumpet or any instrument, the player should become familiar with the instrument’s physical aspects. The trumpet has several key components to it, and they are the:
- Mouthpiece is what you’ll attach to the trumpet to blow air into it to produce the sound. Make sure to place it in snugly before playing and remove it and clean it after each time you play.
- Lead pipe is where you put the mouthpiece, and it starts transporting the flow of air through the instrument.
- Tuning slide is what you will use to tune your trumpet.
- Water keys allow for moisture to be released from the trumpet while playing, preventing buildup.
- Three valves, which are what you press to play different notes. Each valve also has its own valve slide to manipulate the pitch of the note you’re playing.
- Bell is where the sound comes out of the trumpet.
The trumpet is also one of the few instruments that need minimal assembly after storing. The most you have to do to assemble and disassemble your trumpet is to put in and remove the mouthpiece. Other instruments, such as the trombone and flute, need to have their bodies assembled and disassembled before playing and storing them.
If you choose to play the trumpet, chances are you’ve seen someone play it professionally at a concert, a restaurant, or in a video online. Some accessories for the trumpet will make your life plenty easier.
You also want to purchase some valve oil to prevent the metal from rubbing against itself while your playing. This will keep your notes fluid and your trumpet living a long life. You’ll also want to buy some slide grease, a cleaning kit, and some lip balm.
Bell covers are not only great for storage, but if you’re playing in a band, they reduce the number of aerosols you produce while playing the trumpet. This is important for kids playing in a school band to prevent spreading colds and viruses. Bell covers do not affect or distort the sound produced by the trumpet in any way.
Learning Notes and Reading Sheet Music
The next fundamental parts of learning how to play the trumpet are learning the notes and reading sheet music. Learning to play a new instrument is like learning a new language. If you already know how to play another instrument or read sheet music, this will be easier for you. If you don’t, there’s no need to worry; reading sheet music and learning notes is fairly simple.
Like every instrument, the trumpet has many different notes and tones. To create these sounds, you have to breathe at a steady rate into the mouthpiece and move your fingers in various combinations to get the notes out.
Since trumpets only have three valves, it leaves the combinations for notes limited. Changing the tone with your breath and tongue placement speed will expand the number of notes you are playing. Here’s a great fingering chart to follow when you’re learning the notes. You’ll notice they continuously repeat for higher notes.
When you’re first learning different notes, play them for one to two whole notes (four to eight counts). Your goal should be to maintain the same tone for the note without it going lower or higher. Keep a steady flow of air into the mouthpiece.
An excellent way to practice getting the notes out is to practice your scales. Scales are a set of several notes that change in pitch, where they get higher and then lower. There are many different scales you can learn to practice your notes, especially with sharp and flat notes. Here’s a great video that shows how to play the C-major scale:
Using a Tuner for Your Trumpet
If you don’t have an instructor telling you how your notes should sound or don’t have a keen ear for how to mimic sounds, you can always use a tuner to ensure you are playing the correct note. Get a popular tuner and you won’t go wrong.
If you’ve never tuned your instrument before, if you’re using a tuner, you want the note that you’re playing to show on the tuner. It will often tell you if your note is flat or sharp. Here is a fabulous video that shows you how to tune your trumpet.
Overall, if you pull the main tuning valve out, it will make the trumpet flat. If you push the tuning valve in, it makes the note sharp.
Reading Sheet Music
At first, reading sheet music can seem intimidating. Bars, clefts, all new and different symbols point in different directions; however, reading sheet music is as simple as possible. Before guide videos, this was one of the only ways to learn how to play songs if you couldn’t play by ear.
For beginners, the most essential parts of reading sheet music are:
- Bars are arranged with five lines and four spaces. Each line and space shows the note you’re going to play. Some notes may appear below and above the set bars and spaces, but you’ll work on that as you advance more.
- Whole, half, quarter, and eighth notes: Each of these shows the length of time a note will be played. Music is counted in fours. A whole note is a full count of four; a half is two counts, and so on. You can purchase a metronome or use an online metronome to help you keep your pace.
- Tempo is the speed at which you’ll be playing the notes.
If you’ve never read music in your life and don’t desire to learn how to read sheet music, you can still learn how to play the trumpet. Many trumpeters and musicians learn how to play by ear because they have a natural talent to detect notes.
If you can’t play by ear, there are excellent tutorials on YouTube that show you how to play notes and songs without having you read sheet music. Some tutorials, such as the below one for Camila Cabello’s “Havana” also have the notes so you can learn how to read the notes while playing, sort of like when you play “Guitar Hero.”
Breathing Techniques and Lip Placement
The way you breathe and press your lips into the mouthpiece will significantly affect the sound that comes out of your trumpet. The best way to learn how to breathe and place your lips into a trumpet is to practice with and without the mouthpiece attached to the trumpet.
It is extremely important to practice your breathing and to know your lung capacity while playing a woodwind or brass instrument. When you first start playing, you can easily become dizzy. If you start to get dizzy while practicing, take a twenty-minute break to compose yourself.
As mentioned earlier, practice breathing in three different ways, without the mouthpiece, with the mouthpiece detached from the trumpet, and finally with the trumpet fully assembled.
When you’re practicing different breathing techniques, remember to breathe at different forces and speeds.
The speed at which you blow the air will affect how high or low the note is. Faster air means a higher note. Here’s a great video showing how to play high notes.
Lip and Tongue Positioning and Movement
How you position and move your lips and tongue into the mouthpiece is important for playing the trumpet correctly. Your lips and tongue will separate notes, and they also help control the amount, force, and speed of air that comes out of your mouth into the trumpet.
When you hold the trumpet to your mouth, be sure not to press the mouthpiece hard onto your lips. It will stifle the sound you want to come out and cause a lot of pain within minutes of playing.
Your lip placement is essential for playing the trumpet. The sound you make when you place your lips into the mouthpiece is also known as buzzing. It sounds sort of like a trumpet when you do it without putting your mouth in the mouthpiece. When you first start, it may even sound like you’re blowing a raspberry. Some instructors also compare it to a mosquito buzz.
When you’re buzzing, you also don’t want to pucker your lips. You want to keep the corners of your mouth out to the sides and your lips flat. When you play higher notes, your lips will naturally become tighter to speed up the air coming out of your mouth. The opening in your mouth is also known as the embouchure.
Here’s an excellent video to start you buzzing your lips for the trumpet. When you start feeling comfortable with buzzing your lips in one tone, you can practice changing your tone as well.
How you place your tongue in your mouth will help control the pitch of the sounds you’re playing. There are three main positions for your tongue. Here’s a wonderful video that covers the tongue positions.
If you want to play a higher note, your tongue is going to be in a higher position. For lower notes, your tongue will be lower in your mouth. The video mentioned above also emphasizes that you can practice this while whistling.
How to Hold the Trumpet and Your Posture
Another essential aspect of playing the trumpet or any instrument is how you hold it and your posture. Professional musicians tend to move around while playing or even dance. While you’re learning, it’s best to remain seated in a comfortable position to prevent injury.
Holding the Trumpet
When you’re playing the trumpet, you should start by positioning your left thumb, pointer, and middle fingers in the shape of a gun. Your thumb should go in front of the first valve, in the slot that looks like a hook. Your pointer and middle fingers will wrap in front of the third valve. Next, place your ring finger through the trumpet ring and then your pinky around the ring.
Your right hand will then go into a claw shape. Your thumb will go between the first and second valves. Your pointer, middle, and ring fingers will go on top of the valves. Finally, your pinky finger will go on top of the pinky ring, which looks like a hook.
Holding the trumpet may take some getting used to, especially if you have small hands. If your hands start to cramp or feel uncomfortable, be sure to take a break, stretch, and relax your hands. This happens to many beginners who play almost any instrument.
Also, be sure to keep your wrists steady. Bending your wrists in extreme directions for extended periods can lead to pain and carpal tunnel syndrome.
While sitting, make sure that your spine is straight and not hunched over. It’s not only important for your overall spine shape, but it also affects your lungs’ power. If you’re hunched over, you’ll be out of breath more quickly than if you have a straight back while playing.
Cleaning Your Trumpet
Another important thing for beginners to know about playing the trumpet is how to clean it. Cleaning the trumpet isn’t only important for sanitary reasons, but having a dirty trumpet will affect the sounds you make in the long term.
Cleaning After Every Use
You should do a quick wipe-down of your trumpet after every time you practice and play it. This prevents any oil buildup from occurring on your trumpet, on the valves, or anywhere you hold your trumpet.
Your mouthpiece should be cleaned and disinfected regularly for sanitary reasons. Before cleaning it, remove the mouthpiece when you’re done playing. You can run your mouthpiece under warm water or use a piece of cloth to run through the mouthpiece to catch any saliva and bacteria. You should also wipe down the cup of the mouthpiece to prevent any oil buildup.
Routine Deep Cleaning
Even if you clean your trumpet after every use, you should still perform a deep cleaning on your trumpet every few months. Disinfecting the mouthpiece is important for how your trumpet sounds and your health.
You can purchase a special cleaning brush and scrub the inside of the mouthpiece with warm soapy water. Rinse it under warm running water until you don’t see any more soap. Make sure to dry your mouthpiece before storing it completely.
To keep your trumpet and mouthpiece looking shiny, you can always use a polishing cloth to prevent your trumpet from looking dull.
Maintaining Your Trumpet
Maintaining your trumpet’s condition doesn’t just fall under cleaning it. You should regularly maintain your trumpet’s health to ensure your trumpet is playing the best possible sounds. If your trumpet is broken in one way or another and you don’t realize it, it can be very discouraging for beginner and intermediate players.
The easiest thing you can do to maintain your trumpet is to bring it to a local store that sells instruments. Staff there should be trained to tune and fix any damages. If that doesn’t work, you can always search for someone local who can mend trumpets and ask them to teach you how to fix your trumpet.
Storing Your Trumpet
The final thing beginners should know about playing the trumpet is how to store it properly. As mentioned earlier, any small damages can affect the sound that you and your trumpet make. Storing your trumpet correctly is extremely effective at preventing any damage that could be done to your trumpet.
When you purchase your trumpet, it should have come in a sturdy hard case with a form-fitting cushion inside. Use this case for storage and transport. When putting your trumpet in the case and taking it out, make sure that it is on a flat surface to prevent the trumpet from slipping out. Trumpets are made of malleable materials, so it’s easy to get a ding in them.
You should also make sure the case is in the correct position when opening. If you open the trumpet case with the bottom side up, your trumpet will fall out and possibly suffer some damage. The brand is usually on the top part of the case, but if it’s not, you might want to use some paint to mark the top. Here’s a great video showing how to open the case.
You can also keep some silica gel packets in your case to help keep moisture from building up in your trumpet when you’re not using it. This is great, especially if you don’t have much time to wipe down and dry out your trumpet after playing.
Trying a Trumpet Out
If you’re a beginner, you might not want to commit to buying a trumpet. On average, trumpets can cost over $300.
If you don’t want to commit to buying a trumpet until you are at a higher level and know you enjoy playing the instrument, many instrument stores offer rental services for a low price. You may have to buy your own mouthpiece, but it is far cheaper than buying one.
How To Play The Trumpet For Beginners, Conclusion
The trumpet is a rewarding and versatile instrument to learn how to play. Learning how to play the trumpet not only consists of playing the notes but also care and maintenance. Playing the trumpet correctly will also help ensure you have the smoothest sounds coming out of your instrument.