15 Reasons Why the Trumpet is The Most Difficult Instrument to play

Some may question the validity of this statement but those that do most often are wrong.

I will list my reasons and give a light hearted account of why this is the case.

1. Trumpets most often play the melody so everyone knows if we play the wrong notes. Unlike the Bassoon, which plays notes that only Canada geese can hear, the trumpet is expected to play every note the way it was intended.

2. Trumpets are loud. When was the last time a conductor requested that a triangle player play louder?

3. Trumpets are pointed directly towards the listener. If you are in the back row of an orchestra and have a tambourine solo, 90% of what you play ends up in the ceiling or on the person next to you.

4. Trumpet players rely on their air to sustain a long slow, painful phrase, while an organist could place a book on the keys and go out for lunch and no one would know the difference.

5. To play a trumpet, the person must have strong lip muscles in order to execute the high, loud and ugly passages required of them. How much strength does it take to drop a stick on a tympani head?

6. The fingering of a trumpet is very complex. For a clarinet player to play a corresponding scale, the clarinet fingerings are simplified because of their use of nine fingers. The trumpet play is limited to only three and is expected to be able to play the same notes.

7. Trumpet players are constantly adjusting their intonation to fit the musical surroundings. At the same time the piano player is more concerned about what you place on their instrument. Get real! It’s a table with only three legs!

8. Trumpet players get more tired than most other instrumentalist. If a violinist becomes tired, they break a string and are able to rest for several minutes.

9. When trumpet players are expected to perform with mutes, it demands much more preparation than the other instruments. Watch next time when a viola adds a mute. They merely reach down to slide it onto the strings.

10. Trumpets have a much more difficult time working within their section. Nowhere in music is this more challenging for every trumpet player has to put up with other trumpet players and we all know what that requires.

11. When performing on a trumpet, half of your view of the music is blocked by the trumpet’s bell. Have you ever heard a snare drummer complain for not being able to see his/her music?

12. And speaking of singers! Trumpet players again are expected to play in tune. Intonation is not that important to most would be singers.

13. And speaking of other singers. If we trumpet players have a split lip, we play anyway. If a singer has a runny nose, out comes the understudy.

14. And speaking of additional singers, if they forget their lyrics, they think “Doobe Doobe Doo” fits every occasion.

15. The environment in which trumpet players perform is very dangerous for by the end of a concert or rehearsal, the chance of slipping on all the condensation around them is greater than most people realize.

These are only fifteen reasons the trumpet is without question (or not) the most difficult instrument to play. For these reasons I beg everyone to cut the next trumpet player some slack for you may be called to play trumpet and you would find it extremely difficult as we have found it to play..

Published by

Bruce Chidester

Bruce was a member of the faculty at the University of Northern Iowa, School of Music in Cedar Falls from 1969 until his retirement in 1999. He has performed with many well-known entertainers such as Bob Hope, Jim Nabors, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, Anita Bryant, Carman Cavalara, Victor Borgie, the Four Freshman, Blackstone the Magician, Bobby Vinton and John Davidson.

31 thoughts on “15 Reasons Why the Trumpet is The Most Difficult Instrument to play”

      1. Please listen to these:

        I would just like you to give the bassoon and chance and understand how beautiful and expressive it is. It can play in many different manners. I’m sure all of the experience you have had with bassoon players are terrible because it is hard to come across a good bassoon player. I am not here to attack you or the trumpet, but I would like you to be open minded and realize how irrelevant and ignorant this whole post is.

        2.) “All I remember having to do with a double reed is pucker and blow.”

        I would like to actually think about this question instead of coming up with a cliche attack just to make your point sound valid. It may seem like that- but that’s only to get a sound. That is not to get a constant sound, that has good intonation and and correct articulation. I can guarantee that playing a double reed for 20 minutes (for the first time) is going to make your lips more sore than playing 2 hours of experienced trumpet.

        3.) Half of your “valid” reasons don’t have any comparison with any other ensemble instrument: you’re comparing to vocalists. How is that going to falsely convince people that the trumpet is the hardest instrument to play?

        4.) Do some research on instruments, not only the bassoon.
        But mostly bassoon, as it seems to are open to attacking it. Here are some simple facts: the bassoon is the only instrument that requires every single finger in order to play it. The left thumb alone has 10 different keys to pay attention to and right and left pinkies have 3-4 each. It takes a lot to strengthen your pinkies to be able to do this with efficiency. Thank you for your time and not-so-consideration.

        1. I am well versed with all of the double reads and the clarinet was my secondary instrument. I have owned and performed on tenor sax and have been lucky enough only to have listened to an oboe when tuning in an orchestra.I agree with many of your remarks and still hold with my original premise.

          Remember that the double reeds are always delegated to a secondary role in a band.

          Thank you for your comments

    1. Because the trumpet in a orchestra as the lead guitar in a rock band if a guitarist messes up a solo everyone knows it same for a trumpet player. Plus temperature change can affect tuning so once you have the trumpet tuned you have to keep it the same temperature. The most hard part about playing the trumpet is vibrating your lips for a full concert that can be 2 to 4 hours. But that is for all brass instruments. Lips get numb and cheeks get cramped.

    2. I don’t think it’s that they are scared of playing the instrument, I think they just decide it’s not a good choice because of how hard it seems. Trumpet is actually a very fun and some what easy instrument to play that I actually enjoy playing on a weekly basis. If anyone out there wants to try trumpet, but isn’t sure about how it will work for them, I would say go ahead and give it a try! I thought it would be difficult, but let me tell you: it turned out to be a lot easier than I expected! Have fun band students! :)

    3. People are scared because I think that some trumpet players are actually just scared of their section leaders/lead players. I’m not one of those people but someone in my trumpet section is.

  1. Playing the trumpet has not as much to do with others. I moved a tooth from over other front tooth and bought a cheep trumpet I’m playing the trumpet playing music I can play others but I feel this way. I pick it up an play my horn. It becomes music that is mine or just noise that is painful to ears. Hard is often relative to individuals is it hard for a midget to play a bass or a harp.

  2. I play trumpet and love it….Im in marching band and yes it is quite a hassle. The lip problems, cheeks tiring out, your throat drying up, the dizzyness and out of breath feelings but…..its all worth it. The sound is so beautiful. I wouldn’t go through all this if I hadn’t had loved it. But, I do think it is important for people to understand the difficulties instead of being so quick to judge. Other band members tend to laugh at sour notes….if only they could see how hard it is, then they might understand.

    1. If you are having issues with fellow band members, try this……..

      Ask the troublesome ones this question when there are several people within hearing range- “Do you really like the sound you are getting”?

      another one that always works is….

      “I don’t care what everyone thinks, I think your are doing a fine job”.

  3. … You just denounced the bassoon. You sir, had better check your facts:
    Trumpet has 3 valves. Only 3. Bassoon has 29, give or take a few, keys to push down, not including the difficulty in getting your not pitch-perfect, while the trumpet has a TUNING SLIDE. It’s as easy as that, and that is why you’re expected to sound good. Bassoon doesn’t sound like a canadian duck, goose, whatever. It sounds beautiful and is loved by many. The trumpet is popular because it is EASY. You get the melody a lot because of your pitch and octave, and you’ll find most high-octave instruments frequently get the melody. Bassoon has loose tone restrictions because of the rarity of its solos, but when it has one it too is expected to sound good. Bassoon is the hardest and makes the trumpet look as easy as the recorder.

    1. Thank you for joining our group and I do appreciate your comments.

      Let’s take them one at a time.

      1. You just denounced the bassoon.
      verb (used with object), denounced, denouncing.
      to condemn or censure openly or publicly:
      to denounce a politician as morally corrupt.
      to make a formal accusation against, as to the police or in a court.
      to give formal notice of the termination or denial of (a treaty, pact,agreement, or the like).
      Archaic. to announce or proclaim, especially as something evil orcalamitous.
      Obsolete. to portend.

      I did not condemn, censure, accuse or suggest the bassoon was in any way evil (although I have heard some played in a very sinister way).

      2. Trumpet has 3 valves. Only 3. Bassoon has 29, give or take a few, keys to push down, not including the difficulty in getting your not pitch-perfect, while the trumpet has a TUNING SLIDE.

      To most people the additional number of keys would make the instrument easier to play because of the number of players. I would much prefer 29 players on my team rather than only 3.
      Acoustically a trumpet is more out of tune than a bassoon because of the tube length problems on a 3 valve instrument where the bassoon is an instrument based on where the holes are drilled.

      3. (A) Bassoon doesn’t sound like a (C)anadian duck, goose, whatever. It sounds beautiful and is loved by many.

      Mostly by bassoon players.

      4. The trumpet is popular because it is EASY.

      I assume you mean it is easy “to play”. Way off on that one! Your comment brought me back to my double reed class and as I remember, once you got a good reed, all you had to do was pucker and blow.

      5. You get the melody a lot because of your pitch and octave, and you’ll find most high-octave instruments frequently get the melody.

      Let me think now….High octave instrument like a piccolo? Stars And Stripe Forever seems to be the only tune I can remember.

      6. Bassoon has loose tone restrictions because of the rarity of its solos, but when it has one it too is expected to sound good.

      I don’t have any idea what you are talking about in the first section of this sentence but I think I understand the second section. Are you saying that when a bassoon has a solo, it is expected to sound good? Yes, the player of a bassoon is expected to sound good but unfortunately most bassoon players are too busy complaining that their reed (which they make themselves) doesn’t work right.

      7. Bassoon is the hardest and makes the trumpet look as easy as the recorder.

      ….interesting comparison.

      I would again thank you for your comments. We all tend to defend our own instrument for when you calculate the time, money and effort involved playing our instrument, we are very protective of any accusations or disparaging comments about our chosen instrument. I appreciate your enthusiasm and commend you on your defense.

      In closing I would like to point out a couple observations and assumptions after viewing your comments-

      1. Proof read all documents before publicizing them.
      2. Stay in school and take more English classes.

  4. Is this a joke? It sounds like you have a major ego problem my friend. Have you tried playing instruments such as the hammer dulcimer, an oboe, or bag pipes? These are three instruments that are harder than a trumpet. You don’t have to spend hours creating reeds. And the. Another hour adjusting them. You think you struggle keeping your instrument quiet, play the oboe! Do you have musical experience on all instruments brass, woodwind, string and percussion? Try any four mallet piece for marimba and I’m sure you will think twice about calling the trumpet the hardest instrument to play. Lets step down your ego pal, and refer to ALL instruments.

    1. Do Dobro, Trombone and Harmonica count?

      Thank you for your comments and remember I play trumpet which means I must have a big ego as you indicated. That comes from playing the most difficult instrument.

      1. Ok so let me get this correct:

        You also think that trumpet is harder than an instrument with multiple keys because you only have three and less variety. It Would be nice to just hit a button and adjust my lips to get a desired tone. Or move my slide and lip up to go to the next note. On oboe or bassoon you are moving you fingers in difficult combinations.

        Another point to make. your instrument requires minimum care. You don’t have to worry about humidity effecting how your reed or instrument pays.

        Oh yes and you don’t have to worry about vibrato and creating a unique tone without any help. All you do is pop your mute in Nd that’s that.

  5. I am a fellow trumpet player and even though I don’t exactly agree with Bruce on everything, some I find funny for the weak minded trumpet players (not saying you are so, Bruce). He is just pointing out some generalizations of OUR chosen instrument. A lot of you kids are taking this post too seriously I feel. And to the Joe Schmoe’s commenting on why reed instruments are difficult and blah blah blah I have too many keys (opposed to our 3 valves).. I challenge you to a 30 day learning session of each others instrument playing Donna Lee by Charlie Parker (or whatever tune you see fit) and I’m gonna come out on top cause ya’ll don’t understand until you put your lips on a mouthpiece.

    1. I don’t agree with me on many points either.
      Your comment on Donna Lee was greatly appreciated!

      Isn’t the United States a great country to share ideas with others?

      Stay well and live long……

  6. I think every musician can say that their particular instrument is the hardest – or none of us would have to practice for years!

    I only play a trumpet ,so I cannot really appreciate the difficulties others face, but all I can say about the trumpet is that some days it is the most contrary instrument to enforce your will on, other days it will play perfectly. I think it all depends on my mood and attitude – sometimes I even think the thing can sense my mood !
    I think it is true that the trumpet is the one instrument that chooses its player not the other way around, then you have to find the perfect horn, mouthpiece etc.
    For a lot of people this can make them give up early, but like everything, perseverence can be bliss.

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