Dictionary for Trumpet Players

Know the lingo of the trumpet world

Whether you play alone at home or lead the trumpet section at your school, knowing the musical terms pertaining your instrument is very important. With the list below, you will never be wondering what that guy said. For a list of general music terms please visit this great website.

+

This symbol indicates the player should almost cover the bell with a plunger, or almost cover the stem of a harmon mute with their hand. This is the “closed” position and is often seen in jazz sheet music.

o

This symbol indicates the player should not cover the bell with a plunger, or the stem of a harmon mute with their hand. Instead, they should move the hand away and leave the bell or harmon mute stem in the “open” position.

Air Column

The constant stream of air that flows from the player into the trumpet. The word column helps to visualize a steady and uninterrupted flow of air.

Aperture

The opening between the lips through which air flows into the trumpet; a small hole in the embouchure.

Articulate

To being a note with the syllable “tu”, “du” or similar. There are many different types of articulations, but in general, to articulate means to use the tongue to begin a note instead of just air. Notes should not be started by just blowing air into the trumpet unless instructed to do so.

Assistant principal

The player who will assist or take over for the principal (1st chair) player should they need them. This term is often used in symphonic or orchestral settings.

Avec sourdine

This means “with mute” in French.

Bass trumpet

For information on this and other trumpets check out the trumpet page.

Bb trumpet

For information on this and other trumpets check out the trumpet page.

Bells up

This term instructs the player to raise the bell higher in order to project more sound.

Bend

The manipulation of pitch to bend it in any way desired. For example, a trumpet player can play a low C and then bend it down to B or up to C# without pressing any valves.

C trumpet

For information on this and other trumpets check out the trumpet page.

Circular breathing

A technique that allows the player to breathe while sustaining a note. The legendary musician Kenny G says it took him 20 years to get this technique to sound “ok”. Check out his demo video here.

Corners

The corners of the lips in embouchure formation. As a rule of thumb, the corners of the embouchure should be engaged or firm while playing, without using unnecessary tension.

Cup mute

For information on this and other mutes check out the mute page.

D trumpet

For information on this and other trumpets check out the trumpet page.

Doit

An upwards scoop symbol often found in jazz. It instructs the player to “scoop” the note up to create a quick and somewhat comical ascending sound. When doing this, the embouchure is mimicking the word “doit”, hence the name.

Eb trumpet

For information on this and other trumpets check out the trumpet page.

Embouchure

The formation of the lips and mouth to play the trumpet and other instruments.

Flip

A technique often used in jazz that involves a very quick upward movement of notes followed by a fast fall to a note lower than the initial note.

Flow

A constant stream of air. Understanding the role of the “flow” of air is an extremely important factor in successful trumpet playing.

Flutter tongue

A technique often used in jazz that allows the player to roll their tongue, like in Spanish “rrrrr”, and play the trumpet at the same time. Unlike the growl, the flutter is cleaner and more pronounced.

Gliss

This term means to slide from one note to another. Trombone players are known for their ability to easily slide between notes, creating that comical trombone sound we are all familiar with.

Grip

This is another word for the left hand hold on the trumpet.

Growl

This is similar to flutter tongue, but it is not done by rolling the tongue like in Spanish “rrrr”, but instead by growling (like a tiger) in the back of the throat. One can also try to flutter tongue further in the back of the tongue to produce this effect. Unlike the flutter, a growl should sound gritty and more rugged.

Harmon mute

For information on this and other mutes check out the mute page.

Herald trumpet

For information on this and other trumpets check out the trumpet page.

Lead sheet

A term often used in jazz settings, a lead sheet normally contains the melody, lyrics and chord progressions of a piece.

Lead trumpet/player

The 1st trumpet player in a jazz band. These players are relied upon to “lead” the band in many ways from style to articulation and more.

Lip Trill

This is a very fast lip slur, but beware that you do not use your lip to accomplish it. This technique is best achieved by training the tongue to move up and down quickly as if trying to whistle bird calls. When done correctly the lip trill is clean and smooth. Note that a lip trill is different from a shake.

Mute

A device that is inserted into the bell of a trumpet to change the way it sounds. For types of mutes and their effects check out the mute page.

pTrumpet

A trumpet made entirely of plastic, including the valves. It does not require valve oil. This instrument should only be played “for fun” or by players with extremely limited financial means who cannot afford a few more hundred dollars.

Pedal tones/notes

Even though the trumpet’s lowest note is an F#/Gb below the staff, we can manipulate the instrument and produce many pitches below that, which are called pedal notes. These notes are often used in warm-up routines and drills.

Piccolo trumpet

For information on this and other trumpets check out the trumpet page.

Plunger mute

For information on this and other mutes check out the mute page.

Pocket trumpet

For information on this and other trumpets check out the trumpet page.

Practice mute

For information on this and other mutes check out the mute page.

Principal trumpet

The 1st chair trumpet player in an orchestra or wind ensemble.

Sans sourdine

This means “without mute” in French.

Scoop

Basically the opposite of a doit, the scoop instructs the player to slide into the note from under it by half-valving and manipulating the pitch.

Section player

Any player in a section except for the 1st chair player.

Shake

When done correctly, the shake sounds like the note is being shaken around. It’s done by a combination of a lip trill and shaking the trumpet. Many players have different techniques for accomplishing the right sound. Note that a shake is different from a lip trill.

Sordino

This means “mute” in Italian. Note that Sordina means mute in Spanish.

Synthetic valve oil

This type of oil is different from traditional valve oil like Blue Juice. Synthetic oil lasts longer because it doesn’t evaporate as quickly, provides faster valve action and doesn’t mix with slide grease if the oil is applied through the slide.

Stopper

A rod placed on the third slide designed to stop the third slide from falling off. Its other function is designating a specific spot for the third slide to stop when pulled on purpose, like when we play low C#, which is so sharp that the slide must always be pulled out to be in tune. The stopper prevents the player from pulling out too much and causing the note to be flat.

Straight mute

For information on this and other mutes check out the mute page.

The "red" of the lips

This is the area right inside the lips (when closed naturally) that can be easily felt with the tip of the tongue while the mouth is closed. Trumpet players must be careful to avoid placing the red of the lip on the mouthpiece rim when playing the trumpet. This wrong technique results in fatigue, limited range, lack of flexibility and many other problems.

Timbre

The quality or “color” of a sound. For example, a trumpet and a french horn both playing the same note have different timbres. Also, the use of mutes in trumpets changes the sound of the timbre. Think of it as a quality or color.

Tongue arch

An extremely important factor in successful trumpet playing is the control of the tongue and its arch. The arch of the tongue is what helps us manipulate the pitch in bending, lip trills, shakes, regular lip slurs and all around playing. In trumpet playing the tongue moves similarly to when we whistle.

Transposition

The act of seeing one note on the page, say a G, and playing a different note. Transposition is especially important for orchestral players but all serious players should be taught this skill. It allows the player to play sheet music written for a trumpet in a different key. For example, you would be able to read a part written for C trumpet on a Bb trumpet. For more on trumpets and their keys check out the trumpet page.

Trigger

In some trumpets, like the King Silver Flair, the thumb saddle on the 1st slide is replaced with a trigger. Unlike a saddle, which has to be pulled out with the left hand thumb, a trigger allows the player to press it. Having a saddle instead of the trigger greatly improves the control the player has over the slide and their intonation.

Tromba

This means “trumpet” in Italian.

Trompeta

This means “trumpet” in Spanish.

Trompette

This means “trumpet” in French.

Trumpet stand

A stand made to hold 1 or several trumpets so the player can easily put them down and pick them up without risking damage. They are a better alternative to leaving your trumpet on a chair or on the floor.

Valve alignment

This is something you can get done on your trumpet to fix a valve alignment problem or simply to tweak for better performance. When the valves are aligned the holes on the valves will match perfectly with the holes on the corresponding slide.

Valve guard

A protection wrap designed to go around the valve casing to protect them from oil and debris from your hands. Although sometimes they do work, other times they trap more oil and debris under it, giving the instrument lacquer wear. I recommend not using valve guards and simply wiping down the instrument daily.

Visualizer

A mouthpiece with no cup that allows one to see the embouchure inside the mouthpiece. They also come in the form of a metal rim attached to a rod, which serves the same purpose. This and other tools can be found here.

Wah-wah

On sheet music, this word instructs the player to imitate the sound “wah wah” on the trumpet by using a plunger or harmon mute. To see a demo video check out the mute page.