The trumpet is a unique instrument. It is a mainstay in many musical genres such as jazz and traditional orchestras. Calming or boisterous, the trumpet is a versatile instrument.
And, there is no doubt that it is one of the most fun to play as well!
If you have decided to pick up the trumpet and start to learn this member of the brass family, then you will need to understand some of the basics at first.
The number one step is learning what the notes are and how to play them. As with any instrument, learning these takes time and the beginning can be pretty frustrating.
But with practice and patience, you can become the best trumpeter you can possibly be.
When it comes to the design of a trumpet, it has 3 valves. These alter the pitch with a harmonic series. This is possible due to each valve having various lengths of tubing.
The longer the tube is, the lower in pitch a brass instrument will usually go.
If you want to achieve all of the pitches, you will have to change the harmonic series. To do this, you just have to tighten and/or loosen your lip’s tension.
This results in a higher or a lower sound. The tighter the lips, the higher the tone. This is also achieved through a fast and forceful push of air through your lips.
The first few times you blow into your trumpet, you may not achieve any type of sound you’re happy with. But, don’t worry! This is normal.
By knowing the notes of a trumpet, you can practice your technique and play some fun songs at the same time.
Read on as we guide you through the different notes of the trumpet and how to play them.
You noticed that we mentioned the ‘harmonic series’ of a trumpet above. As you can see, the notes to the left of the picture display the pitches that can be played without using the valves.
You can play these notes by just loosening or tightening your lips.
Things to know
Before we delve into the wonderful world of trumpet chords, there are some things you need to know.
Firstly, when the 1st valve is pressed down, the pitch is lowered a whole tone or 2 semitones. When the 2nd valve is pressed, the pitch is only lowered by half a tone or 1 semitone.
When the 3rd valve is pressed, the pitch is lowered by one and a half tones or 3 semitones.
In order to get all the pitches you need, you have to change the harmonic series. Changing the harmonic series is quite easy, and all you have to do is change the pressure of your lips on the trumpet.
Apply pressure by tightening your lips to create a higher pitch or reduce the pressure by loosening the tension on your lips to get a lower trumpet pitch. The tightening of lips is also to increase the airspeed through the tubes to produce a high note.
You can play a harmonic series without using any of the valves. It may sound strange but it’s true. You do not need to place a single finger on any valve on some occasions.
By tightening or loosening your lips, you can achieve a harmonic series. When practicing this, you should be able to achieve an adequate sound after three to four tries. Of course, some trumpet notes will sound flat when you do not use a valve.
Therefore, you should try and master using the valves at first before moving on to the concept of not using any valves.
You will need to play various combinations to create some pleasing tones on your trumpet. Just pressing one valve at a time will not always produce all the tones you require.
For some tones, you will need to learn different combinations of finger exercises. Do this as early on in your learning process as possible so muscle memory can kick in.
The more you practice, the easier it will be to remember where your fingers should be positioned.
Below is a list of finger positions for various notes. Just follow our instructions to produce each note. In case some of the notes look unfamiliar, remember that ‘#’ stands for ‘sharp’ while ‘b’ stands for a ‘flat’ note:
- A#/Bb – Hold your finger over the first valve
- B – Hold down the middle (second) valve
- C – Do not hold any of the valves
- C#/Db – Hold down the first two valves
- D -Hold down the first and third valves
- D#/Eb – Hold down the last two valves
- E – Press down on the first two valves
- F – Press the first valve only
- F#/Gb – Press the middle (second) valve
- G – Do not press any of the valves on your trumpet
- G#/Ab – Hold the second and third valves down
- A – Press down on the first two valves
And, those are the basic notes of a trumpet. Practice and practice each note as often as you can. You’ll be surprised how quickly you start to learn and remember each note.
As you can see, it’s not as daunting or difficult to play your first notes on a trumpet. Once you learn each note and get the hang of them, you will be able to move on and follow notes charts.
Then, you are truly on the road to becoming a professional trumpet player.