Buying A New/Used Trumpet Is Like Buying A New/Used Car

You may think this is a strange comparison but the selection of each is very similar as I will try to illustrate.

Guidelines when purchasing a new car

• Should I buy a new car or a used one?
• Do I need a new car?
• What do I want to do with my new car?
• How much money should I spend?
• Where can I get the best deal?
• Which manufacture should I look at?
• Which model should I try?
• What options should I consider?
• Should I trade in my old model or keep it?
• Test driving a new car.
• Should I consider the resale value?

Guidelines when purchasing a new trumpet

• Should I buy a new trumpet or a used one?
• Do I need a new trumpet?
• What do I want to do with my new trumpet?
• How much money should I spend?
• Where can I get the best deal?
• Which manufacture should I look at?
• Which model should I try?
• What options should I consider?
• Should I trade in my old model or keep it?
• Test driving a new trumpet.
• Should I consider the resale value?

As you can see, there are many similarities to the purchase of an automobile and a new trumpet. I will try to help with your process and give some pointers to make sure you don’t pick a “lemon”.

Should I buy a new trumpet or a used one?

If a top quality instrument has been taken care of, a used instrument can save you a substantial amount of money. Just as in the purchase of a new or used car, the value drops when you leave the lot/store. New trumpets generally are priced competitively and finding a great buy on a used instrument can and many times happens.

Do I need a new trumpet?

This is something only you can answer. If you are buying a new horn in hopes of increasing your range or improving your ability to match that of Wynton, save your money. If, on the other hand, you feel that your instrument is holding you back because of its quality or workmanship, do consider a new instrument.

What do I want to do with my new trumpet?

The requirement of a new horn many times will dictate the brand and model you choose. As an example; if you are going to play in a symphony orchestra, the need of a C trumpet far outweighs that of a Bb. If you are going to play commercial jobs, you would be best to look into a brighter, more projecting instrument rather than one with a dark, warm tone quality. And the reverse is true for a dark sound in a jazz group may be what you should purchase.

How much money should I spend?

Your needs and finances are the most important factor in this decision. Always follow this rule, “buy carefully and spend wisely”. Nothing is as bad as saving your money and then spending it on something you don’t like.

Where can I get the best deal?

Just as with car selection, you should shop around. If you are interested in a new horn, I suggest you compare prices with this location.

When shopping for a used instrument, check this source for a good deal.

Which manufacturer should I look at?

Every player has his/her own opinion as to which manufacturer makes the best horn. Through the years, this practice has taken on a whole new direction. In ancient history (roughly 1950-1980) the market was dominated by just a few manufactures. Some of the top brands included, Bach, Benge, Olds, Schilke, Conn. Institutions of higher learning (colleges and universities) favored the almighty Back as “THE ONLY INSTRUMENT WE WILL ALLOW”. This quote was told to me by a trumpet professor one day while I was considering their university. This was told to me even before I had played a note. Needless to say, I did not attend that school.

Fortunately, as well as unfortunately, you have a much wider and more improved selection of instruments to consider. One of the best sources to investigate would be the internet’s bulletin boards.

Be very cautious of the imported makes for many are poor knockoffs of better horns.

I have listed a few which may be of help to you when selecting a brand of trumpet. When reading these posts, remember this- “Everyone has their favorite and it might not be the best horn for you”. Consider the person posting for some are qualified and most are not. Give more credence to the professional players than the weekend warriors for they are guided by a higher standard than the casual player.

Which model should I try?

Do not be confused by the advertising for you will read that this and that horn will help you play faster, higher, longer, stronger than any other trumpet. “THERE AINT NO ANIMAL LIKE THAT”. What you need to do is narrow your search to the top manufactures and compare each of their models to your needs. Every horn is a compromise in some way.

What options should I consider?

Trumpet options used to be simple. Do I want a large bore or a medium bore. Then came the options of which bell should I buy. Then came the option of brass, silver or lacquer finishes. Then came the choice of which leadpipe, reversed taper, metal alloy, heavy bracing, tuneable bell, designer colors, engraved bell or plain, heavy weight valve caps, mother of pearl finger buttons, short or long valve stems, moly or plastic valve caps, regular water keys or the fancy ones, felt pads or rubber, soft case or hard, etc.

In most cases the options will be considered after you find an instrument that fits your taste and needs.

Should I trade in my old horn or keep it?

As in the case of trading cars, you will have to make this decision. Most professional players have two instruments for the need sometimes come up when you are playing a show and you need to send your giging horn out for repair or someone decided to sit on it just before an important job.

Test driving a new trumpet

Feel has more to do with deciding on a new horn in the same way a new car is determined. If it doesn’t feel good, don’t buy it. The last thing you want to do on a concert or gig is to have to fight your instrument. The feel of the instrument in your hand and its ability to do what you want it to do is the best way to judge your new trumpet. If it happens to be a Monette or a Bach, it makes no difference. Test driving a car usually can be done in fifteen or twenty minutes but to be certain of your choice of a new trumpet will take more time than that. Plan on spending an hour or so, playing and comparing every horn you are considering. If the local dealer will not let you play on his/her instrument, find another dealer. Be sure to check out the following characteristics and features when deciding-

• Ease in blowing
• The sound you like and can be happy with for a long time
• Intonation problems other than the usual on low D,C#, third space E and a few others
• Comfort in your hand for it will be there for long periods of time
• Workably smooth third valve slide
• Resistance without working you to death.
• Upper register free and easy
• Low range warm and rich
• Flexibility between slurred notes satisfactory
• Priced within your means
• Suitably safe case for protection

Should I consider the resale value?

This is something I have strong feelings about. If you are choosing your trumpet because of its resale potential, I don’t think you are a serious trumpet player.

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.

2 thoughts on “Buying A New/Used Trumpet Is Like Buying A New/Used Car

  1. Karen Reply

    Thank you for the article. I am in the process of learning about trumpets for our enthusiastic 8.5 year old, and coincidentally, also looking around for a newer, used minivan for our family. There are a lot of choices out there. Is there a “Honda Odyssey” of trumpets out there for a beginner youth player?

    • Bruce Chidester Reply

      Thank you for visiting and I will be as brief as possible.
      1. The first place to check is with the local band director for a new or used instrument. Most often they will try to talk you into a new instrument.

      2. Next, stop in at your local music store to find out what their current rental policy is. Although the price and quality of rentals seem, in my opinion, a little too high for a beginner they sometimes have good quality used instruments available.

      3. Check local papers for used instruments.

      4. Check Craig’s list for used instruments.

      5. Check my next blog for more information.

      Give me two days to write this post for your question will take a little time to write. You are not the only concerned parent asking this question and I need a couple days to look into the current market for students such as yours.

      Thanks for the question and I will begin working on this new post just after I get my coffee.

      The very best to you and yours from Denton, Texas.

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