Some younger players may have questions about the use of instruments other than their normal Bb trumpet or cornet and for that reason I will try to sort out the many trumpets and their primary use in our trumpet world.
By far the most often purchased and used trumpet in this country is the Bb trumpet. Almost all of the trumpet sheet music written today is for the Bb trumpet (cornet). Seldom do music stores handle any trumpet other than the Bb.
The Bb trumpet has an easily recognized sound which tends to be mellow in the low range and bright and powerful in the higher range. This combination works well for performing in marching bands, dance bands as well as solo performances.
By far the instrument I currently play the most is my Bb cornet. 90% of the recordings I make for my site trumpetensemblemusic.com are done on my Bach cornet. The reason for this choice is that the cornet recordings sound the way I want my Bb trumpet to sound. The cornet is a very forgiving instrument and I have noticed that my high range is easier, my slurring is easier and my endurance is much easier because of the added resistance of my cornet.
Period solos such as “King Neptune”
and others require the use of the cornet even though the trumpet could be used. I am a strong believer that the cornet should be elevated to the same level as the trumpet but only a few staunch cornet people agree with me.
Few will even recognize this instrument for its popularity was lost many years ago in favor of the Bb cornet. During this transitional period, half of the cornet solos were published for A cornets and Bb cornets. This transition is much like the popularity of Beta video recordings giving way to VHS video recordings. I have continued to arrange some of these transitional cornet solos as in the case of “The Student’s Sweetheart”
Which was originally written for an A cornet.
The typical tone characteristics of the C trumpet is more consistent throughout the instruments wide range and for that reason it is very popular in symphonic areas. This consistency makes it also popular in chamber ensembles such as brass quintets. Due to the fact that the C is slightly shorter than the Bb, its tone quality is also slightly brighter in most cases.
The popularity of the C trumpet in orchestral playing is also important when one considers the vast amount of literature the player is faced which requires transposition to be done. Most transpositions in the orchestra are for parts higher than written and because of this position; the notes are closer for the C trumpet player to transpose. As an example; a Bb trumpet reading D trumpet music must transpose up a third whereas the C trumpet’s transposition is only a second.
Orchestral trumpet sections usually require a more uniform tone quality than that of a big band trumpet section and the more consistent tone quality of the C trumpet works best for this situation.
The trumpet pitched in D is widely used when playing period pieces such as the music from the Baroque period. Just as the C trumpet is brighter than the Bb trumpet, the D trumpet is that much brighter than the C trumpet and exhibits a much more penetrating sound than the two previously mention instruments. As the length of each instrument shortens, the intonation problems usually increase. The D trumpet is most often used for high parts such as “The Trumpet Shall Sound” from George Frideric Handel’s Messiah.
Few compositions are more often performed on an Eb trumpet than Joseph Haydn’s “Trumpet Concerto in Eb” and Johann Nepomuk Hummel’s “Trumpet Concerto in Eb. Other than these two well-known solo pieces, only a few other solo compositions are generally performed on the Eb trumpet. The orchestral literature is filled with symphony numbers where the Eb is the preferred instrument and one reason for this choice is the simplification of fingering problems on some of these pieces.
The preferred use of the G trumpet is relatively limited to orchestral playing but I have used one for some Baroque solos in the past.
A/Bb piccolo trumpet
The most common trumpet recognized as a “piccolo” trumpet is pitched in Bb although the term piccolo is applied to all smaller trumpets just as the smaller flute is called a piccolo flute. The piccolo Bb plays one octave higher than the conventional Bb trumpet and to most, this might be very appealing when playing early works which require a higher range of playing. For that reason most players rely on the “pic” as an easier solution to this challenge. Just as the popularity of “Feels So Good” by Chuck Mangione brought attention to the flugle horn, so did Marvin Stamm’s performance on “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” bring attention to the use of a Bb “pic”.
Before you run out and purchase one of these diminutive tools, you must first realize that your range problems have not yet been completely resolved for working with this smaller instrument has it’s own challenges as well as rewards.
Due to the fact that the bass trumpet performs an octave lower than our conventional Bb trumpet, most players using this instrument are trombone, baritone and euphonium players. You may run into players in combo situations who prefer the valves over the slide of a trombone or you may find trumpet players who prefer the lower range of the bass trumpet to that of the regular Bb trumpet.
An additional use of the bass trumpet would be in British Brass Bands as well as trumpet choirs.
European bands have been using flugle horns for more years than we in the United States and only through the recordings made by jazz musicians were we able to catch up to our friends across the bay.
The popularity of the flugle has increased because of its mellow and less penetrating sound. During the Cool jazz craze, many Bb trumpet players began using this instrument.
When I mention to a fellow musician that I once owned a slide trumpet, he very adamantly corrected me by saying, “There is no such thing as a slide trumpet. That was a soprano trombone”! Now that I think about it, he may be correct.
A trumpet player trying to place the slide in the correct position is like trying to push a car up a hill with a rope. If you are thinking about purchasing one, you would be better off sending me the money and forgetting about that purchase.
To be completely honest with my readers, I have never owned nor have I even played on a pocket trumpet and for that reason I will share other players ideas on the purchase and playing of this instrument. Most that own and play one like it. That’s about it from me on the subject. I will say that it is smaller and easier to carry.
In summary, I would compare trumpet players use of the many shapes and forms of trumpets to the many requirements of the tools of carpenters. If you need the tool for the job, get it for it will make the labor much easier for you.