Music Study – The Trumpet

The TRUMPET is like the horn ; the same name includes two instruments : the simple Trumpet and the Trumpette à pistons or chromatic trumpet.

The principle of the simple trumpet is the same as that of the horn, but as no use is made of stopped notes, its scale is reduced to natural notes only, about a dozen, which is indeed very little. Nevertheless, on account of its brilliancy and power, it is a magnificent instrument, with a heroic and heraldic character.

To remedy the inconvenience of this small number of notes, makers have ingeniously devised various means. First they tried a spring slide, which, being lengthened at will, lowered the whole natural scale by one, two or three half-tones ; then, later, an Englishman, whose name is not known to us, had an idea of adding keys to the trumpet, as to the clarinet or oboe, and his endeavours were crowned with success; but he found that he had created a new instrument whose quality of tone bore little resemblance to the typical tone of the trumpet. ” It was an acquisition, but not an improvement.” The inventor called his keyed trumpet by the name of the horn-bugle. Then the French maker Adolphe Sax adapted to it the system of valves, now generally adopted.

The trumpette à pistons has the advantage over the simple trumpet of being able to produce all the diatonic and chromatic notes in its compass, and is therefore infinitely more convenient for the composer, and also more agreeable for the performer, who with it is no longer condemned to perpetual flourishes, but is able to attack the most varied passages. Just as in the case of the horn, however, the addition of the valve mechanism modifies the timbre, which, no longer so brilliant nor pompous, becomes a little heavier.

Inversely to what we have said about the horn, teachers of the trumpet are generally of the opinion that it is better to begin with the study of the trumpette à pistons, between twelve and eighteen, or even sooner, provided that the amount of study be pro-portioned to the physical strength of the individual. To commence too late, after the age of about twenty-five, would be risky, for there are few instruments so ticklish as this one. Those, however, who have previously played the cornet can undertake the trumpet at any age whatsoever. Regarding the necessary time for study, it is difficult to tell precisely, because it depends entirely upon the temperament of the pupil and the force of resistance in his lips ; with this reservation, as much time as possible.

Although of the same family as the horn, the trumpet differs essentially from it in its effects. Its sonority is at once less sweet and soft, but more silvery, clear, strident and brilliant. These are the qualities that must be sought, with a clean, frank and precise attack ; even a little ruggedness, if not allowed to become excessive, is not inappropriate. Moreover, pupils would do well to endeavour to produce with ease the piano and pianissimo shading, in which the modern composers have found ravishing effects.