Kinds of Trumpets 101

Many trumpets for many jobs

With so many genres of music out there it’s only normal that we have numerous types of trumpets available.

Click on each tab to learn the basics on each type of trumpet. Who knows, maybe this will inspire you to become an expert piccolo trumpet player! Before you go on, there are some things you should keep in mind to better understand this information:

  1. Trumpets come in different keys.
  2. When trumpets are in different keys, we have to transpose.
  3. Transposition is an advanced reading technique. If you’d like to know more, go the dictionary page and find “transposition.”
  4. Timbre means the quality of the tone. Like “the timbre of his playing is really warm and mellow.”

Bb Trumpet

  • Purpose: general, jazz, solo, concert band, marching band, mariachi band and orchestra (depending on orchestra and country)
  • Timbre: this trumpet can sound different depending on brand, mouthpiece and other factors. In general though, this is the typical “trumpet sound” you hear in concert and jazz bands.
  • Info: this is the most popular type of trumpet and the one most people learn on.

C Trumpet

  • Purpose: orchestra/symphony and solo
  • Timbre: this trumpet has a brighter tone than the Bb trumpet, and can cut through an entire orchestra with ease.
  • Info: the C trumpet sounds a whole step higher than the Bb trumpet.

The Flugelhorn

  • Purpose: mainly jazz
  • Timbre: very mellow, smooth and dark. It’s a staple in smooth jazz.
  • Info: the “flugel” is a mostly conical instrument, meaning the tubing gets bigger and bigger towards the bell. The Bb trumpet is not conical, but cylindrical, which means the tubing does not get bigger until it’s close to the bell. The flugel gets its warm tone from its conical shape.

The Cornet

  • Purpose: starter instrument for small children, concert band and solo
  • Timbre: similar to the Bb trumpet but less brilliant/piercing.
  • Info: because of the small size, the cornet is a great instrument for children who want to play the trumpet but their hands are too small. Many of the world’s greatest players started on the cornet.

Pocket Trumpet

  • Purpose: mainly for fun
  • Timbre: it sounds like a tighter version of a Bb trumpet.
  • Info: this little trumpet is fun to play and it’s not considered to be a serious instrument. If you absolutely can’t bring your big Bb trumpet on vacation, the pocket trumpet will do for a few days.

Eb Trumpet

  • Purpose: solo and orchestra/symphony
  • Timbre: very brilliant, this trumpet sounds quite a bit higher than a Bb trumpet.
  • Info: this trumpet has a lot less tubing than a Bb trumpet, and that’s why it sounds 3.5 whole steps higher than one. It is commonly used to play older classical solos like the Haydn and Hummel concertos.

Piccolo Trumpet or "Pic"

  • Purpose: baroque solo, orchestra/symphony and the occasional pop
  • Timbre: VERY high pitched, brilliant and piercing. It actually does sound like a tiny trumpet.
  • Info: this trumpet is half the size of a Bb trumpet and it’s often used to play old pieces from the Baroque era. The famous solo from the Beatles song “Penny Lane” was played on a pic.

The Rotary Trumpet

  • Purpose: orchestra and solo
  • Timbre: the rotary trumpet has a very smooth tone and the transition between notes is also much smoother.
  • Info: As you can see, this instrument doesn’t have piston valves, it has rotary valves like a French horn. There are rotary piccolo trumpets and other varieties too.

Herald Trumpet

  • Purpose: ceremonial events
  • Timbre: this trumpet sounds a lot like a Bb or C trumpet
  • Info: the little hooks on the bell are there to hang a flag for the ceremony. These trumpets can sometimes be seen played by royal musicians and army bandsmen to announce an inauguration or the entrance of someone important. The extra weight in the front (plus a flag) makes it more tiring to hold in place.

The Bass Trumpet

  • Purpose: for specific trumpet ensembles, brass bands a few orchestral pieces
  • Timbre: very low and more like a tenor trombone than a trumpet.
  • Info: this trumpet plays an entire octave (8 notes) below the Bb trumpet. Since the mouthpiece is so big, it’s common for trombone or euphonioum players to play it, instead of trumpet players.