The Basics & Overview
Welcome to TrumpetMastery.com! This course will help you learn the trumpet quickly and easily, as well as save you thousands in lessons fees.
This doesn’t mean you should avoid finding a private teacher, of course – but it certainly will get you “up to speed”.
These lessons can be viewed and used over and over again; when you believe you’re done learning from this website and are ready to move on to bigger and better things, then it’s time to end your yearly membership to this website and go be the trumpet player you were meant to be!
That being said, let’s get into the basics of the trumpet – beginning with its long and interesting history.
The trumpet’s been around for a long time.
The first recorded instance of something that even remotely resembled a trumpet was around 3500 years ago.
The earliest trumpets date back to 1500 BC and earlier. The bronze and silver trumpets from Tutankhamun’s grave in Egypt, bronze lurs from Scandinavia, and metal trumpets from China date back to this period.
Ancient trumpets like the ones depicted here were used for various reasons. The simplest – and presumably the earliest – type of trumpet was made from the hollowed-out horn or shell of an animal, into the end of which a hole was bored for the mouth.
This “trumpet” had neither a mouthpiece nor a bell, and was not so much a musical instrument as a megaphone into which one spoke, sang, or shouted. The intention was to distort the voice and produce a harsh, unnatural sound to ward off evil spirits or disconcert one’s enemies. Only later was the trumpet used to invoke friendly gods or to encourage one’s own warriors on the battlefield.
Now, we could go on and on about the trumpet’s ancient history, but let’s talk about how it became what it is today.
The first piston-valved musical instruments were developed just after the start of the 19th century. The Stölzel valve (invented by Heinrich Stölzel in 1815) was an early variety, and the modern trumpet uses this style to this day simply because it’s the most efficient.
…so that was a fun little synopsis on the trumpet, right? Let’s talk more about how a trumpet actually works!
It’s all about air flow.
The Bb trumpet is a 4 ft. 10 in. (1.48 meter) brass tube, bent into specific shapes around three piston valves. To make it work, you have to buzz your lips and push air from your lungs into the tube, changing notes with different valve combinations.
The air flows around the trumpet and changes based on the fingering combination you press down. Here’s a popular GIF to help you visualize how it works:
Breath in, blow out.
You’ve been breathing from the day you were born. For new trumpeters, however, you should know that you’ve been doing it all wrong.
When you play a brass or wind instrument, you use your diaphragm (prounounced die-uh-fram) which is a muscle located below your lungs that help you pull and push your lungs:
Where a lot of new musicians make a mistake is breathing up instead of out.
The best way to get a feel for this is lying in your bed and breathing normally. Notice how you breathe in your lower abdomen?
That’s how you need to breathe when you’re playing the trumpet.
To help you strengthen your breathing, do the following exercise 5 times a day:
1. Empty your lungs of air.
2. Breathe in slowly and fill your lungs completely while pushing your diagphram in for 10 seconds.
3. Hold for 10 seconds.
4. Slowly release your breath and empty your lungs for 10 seconds.
5. Hold for 10 seconds.
7. Repeat #1-6 again four more times, and go on with your day.
What does exercise accomplish, you might ask? What we’re doing here is resisting the natural way your diaphragm works and building that muscle so you can pull in more air more quickly, and then blow it out through your trumpet to fill it with air.
*Caution: If you feel light-headed when doing this exercise, STOP, take a break, and consider shortening the length of time you exhale, hold, breathe in, and hold again for 5 seconds each time.
Cleaning your trumpet is important.
When you play a trumpet, you’ve probably already figured out that spit is pretty involved in the process. That’s why there’s a spit valve – it’s to get rid of extra moisture in your lead pipe and your 1st slide.
Over time, however, gunk builds up in your trumpet…and not only does this prevent you from freely blowing air through your trumpet, it also brings a lot of germs!
You should aim to clean your trumpet at least once per month if you play regularly, and twice if you’re heavily involved in practice sessions and rehearsals.
Below is a video instructing you how to clean your trumpet, recorded by Shaun Shaefers:
Once you’ve got the basics down, it lays a foundation for the rest of your trumpeting adventure. Surprisingly, many trumpet players fail to maintain some of these basic maintenance and breathing practices that not only keep their trumpet clean and in good condition, but also don’t breathe properly resulting in poor performance.
Once you’ve got the basics down, feel free to move on to Lesson 2.