Choosing and learning the trumpet RSS

Learning / 15/04/2017
Choosing and learning the trumpet

Choosing and learning the trumpet

Learning a musical Instrument at a young age has a whole host of benefits. Researchers found that playing regularly can add up to seven IQ point in children and adults. Playing an instrument can also improve memory, concentration and organisational as well as social skills. Once an instrument has been chosen it is incredibly important for children to be comfortable holding and playing their instrument before they start their musical journey. The trumpet is a popular choice for many new players because of its affordability, portability and easy application across a wide ranging musical repertoire such as orchestra, windband and jazz ensemble. A variety of different types of trumpet is available and new players should always be mindful of their first choice of instrument. The standard Bb version is the most common trumpet type for new players, it is very popular across players and it is applicable to a wide repertoire. 

There are two main challenges for younger players:

  • Holding the trumpet comfortably

The player must be able to hold the instrument at a suitable distance, away from the mouthpiece to make it a comfortable experience. In the example above you can see the younger player struggling to hold the instrument, meaning the type chosen in not right for her.  An uncomfortable playing experience will inhibit progress and often see the player give up completely.  A poor posture will also affect lung capacity as the diaphragm is compressed and restricted.

  • Developing a good embouchure

Developing a good embouchure or mouth position can take many years and depends on making small adjustments over time. It is usually best to wait until adult teeth are fully in place before children start playing the trumpet. This way a stable mouth and teeth position is set for players to use as their baseline for embouchure development.

Waiting until adult teeth are fully in place, however, doesn’t have to be an absolute rule. If children really want to start playing, there are a number of other options such as starting on a cornet and using plastic instruments:

The cornet

The cornet, whilst being physically smaller and lighter than a trumpet, is identical in finger positions, range and sound. For this reason, children can start playing the cornet at a much younger age with much more physical ease. Once they are older they can easily switch to a Bb version of a trumpet using the skills learned by playing the cornet.


Plastic instruments

Plastic instruments are a relatively recent development in the music industry, as they are becoming more popular as their quality improves. Available for many different instrument types, (Trumpet, Cornet, Trombone, Flute, Clarinet, Saxophone), plastic models are very light, making it a perfect option for a young player. However, they are the same physical dimensions so players will still have to be mindful about managing the size of the instrument. Moreover, it should be noted that plastic instruments aren’t indestructible and when they do break, they can rarely be repaired.


Trumpet features

Features should also be a key component of the decision when choosing a trumpet for a young player. Features such as bore size, valves, bell, mouthpiece, finger hooks & slide rings and the trumpet’s material should be central to your decision process. 

The bore size relates to the diameter of the tubing in your trumpet. This has a large effect on how much air it takes to achieve a stable sound from the instrument and it is very much dependent on preference and experience. Student-friendly models tend to have a ‘medium-large’ bore which tends to be around 0.459”. Larger bore trumpets are more common at the intermediate and pro level as experience gives more lung power. 

Correctly oiling your instrument’s valves is also incredibly important as sticky or seized valves are common issues with cheaper student instruments.


Trumpet bells are either a one-piece or two-piece. The name describes how many pieces of brass (or other material) were used to create the bell section of the instrument. Student trumpets often feature two-piece bells as the manufacturing process is quicker and easier. More expensive, higher standard trumpets often feature a one-piece bell. Instruments with a one-piece bell tend to have a slightly clearer sound and they are usually handcrafted. Because of their higher quality and price they are often used by high-level, experienced players.

Mouthpieces, finger hooks and side rings

Trumpet mouthpieces have a massive impact on your ability to play. They are available in a whole host of different sizes and dimensions for different types and styles of playing. Choosing a mouthpiece that works well is a heavily subjective decision. The majority of student trumpets will be supplied with an entry-level mouthpiece. It is common for players to look to upgrade the mouthpiece after a few years of playing as this will support their progress towards the higher grades. The change is very personal and depends on trying different mouthpieces and see what works for you.

Finger hooks & slide rings make holding your instrument more comfortable. The most common trumpet for a young player should be a model with an adjustable 3rd valve slide ring. As it is adjustable it is perfect for smaller hands and can be changed with the growth of the child. These components and the quality of their soldering to the main body of the instrument may provide clues about the overall care and attention that has gone into the construction of the instrument.


Traditionally Brass tends to be the most common material used in trumpet construction. Yellow Brass is most commonly found on student models and has a copper content of about 70% (30% zinc). Rose brass is also often used for student trumpets as it achieves a warmer, smoother tone more easily. The material really helps the progression of the student’s development.

Expert advice

It is advisable to buy a trumpet from a reputable dealer where staff are knowledgeable and can give advice about choosing a suitable instrument.  John Packer Limited are dedicated brass and woodwind specialists based in Taunton, Somerset, where brass specialist Steve Herbert will be delighted to help you with your choice.

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