More about equipment: how to choose a trumpet

Thanks for hanging in there with yesterday’s post about trumpet equipment. This can be a contentious topic, and I don’t mean to offend anyone who differs from my opinion. The fact is that trumpet brands and models all have little differences here and there, and each of them usually fills a needed niche.

Why should you pick a certain trumpet? This is actually a fairly deep question. I would ask three additional questions to help you figure this out.

  1. What type of work do you plan on doing? If you are planning on playing in an orchestra section, then yesterday’s post lists several trumpets that might work. There are many other trumpets (and trumpet-related instruments) that work especially well for other playing needs. A good place to start is trying to figure out what the best players in that niche play. Try to narrow it down to the top three or four brands/models.
  2. What sound do you want? Really focus on those ideal trumpeters again here. For instance, if you like Tom Hooten’s playing, then find out what type of (Yamaha) trumpet he plays. Consider getting that trumpet. But you also like Michael Sachs’ playing, too. Then find out what Bach trumpet he plays.
  3. How does it fit in with your playing ability, style and deficiencies? If you routinely have response problems, then choosing a lighter, faster-speaking trumpet might help. If you are too bright of a player, then consider darker-sounding equipment. But I should throw in a word of caution here. Make every effort in your practice to overcome these deficiencies. There is a blurred line between your deficiencies and your “style.” Make sure you are not confusing the two, however. Try not to whitewash your deficiencies by calling them your style. Be honest and get to work on this, but pick a trumpet that will work with you the way you are now. If you start to overcome your problem areas, then great! You might need to buy a new trumpet that doesn’t just obscure them. And it’s always fun to buy a new horn.

How should you pick a trumpet? Try them out! After narrowing down your choices, you should go to a big music shop or factory (or more than one) to try the various trumpets. Of course, intonation should be a priority in your considerations, so bring your tuner and a set of fresh chops. Try the horns out on the same music material. You should check out the open harmonic series, the response at soft dynamics, the focus at loud dynamics, the ease and intonation of the high G and high C (or higher if you normally play higher), you should also consider the tone. It’s actually an advantage to recruit a knowledgable friend to hear you play, so that the feedback is more objective.

You can adapt your playing style and ability to suit a trumpet you want to play. Or you can find a trumpet that works with your idiosyncrasies. Both approaches can work, depending on your personality and overall ability. It’s basically the same difference between a neurotic personality or a personality disorder. In the first instance, the neurotic person puts the onus on him- or herself, adapting to circumstances around. The personality disorder person pretty much doesn’t change. This person requires others to adapt to him or her.

A real story (with names omitted): a principal trumpeter in a major orchestra picked out a trumpet he really liked from a maker. Then he wanted four of the same models to outfit his section. The maker balked and said each player in the section might need slightly different tweaks to achieve the same results. The principal trumpeter didn’t buy this philosophy and decided to not go with that maker.



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