When deciding on which trumpet/cornet to buy, there are a few guidelines that need to be addressed. The bottom line cost is one of the most obvious questions for most people. Unless you are interested in the ultimate, hand fitted, custom made, work of art, one of a kind horn, you should expect to pay between $1,000 and $2,500 for a quality instrument. When I speak of the ultimate, one of a kind trumpet, I am reminded of a situation many years ago when a college first told me about his friend who was making truly one of a kind, custom trumpets. The new trumpet maker was David Monette. I was very skeptical of the claims given to the talented trumpet builder and when I was offered the opportunity to play on this new Monette trumpet, I jumped at the chance.
I played it for a couple days and one evening while practicing at home, my wife came into the room laughing. I asked her to explain and she asked me if I was trying to make those funny sounds. That does not strengthen your confidence when that happens but I had to agree with her. I didn’t like the sound either. Not more than a week passed until I had the opportunity to visit with Mr. Monette at our campus. I shared with him my wife’s comments and he was not a happy camper. I told him that I had a very difficult time producing an acceptable sound and his response was simple and to the point, “I didn’t make the trumpet for you to play on, I made it for (name omitted) to play”. That’s when I became a true believer in the talents of David Monette!
My college’s playing style and background were much different from mine and if the horn was made for him, it’s completely plausible that the same horn would not work for me. So, when David’s promotional material states that the trumpet is built to your playing skills, style and need, it is a fact. Now if you are ready to go on line and order one for your fifth grader, let me first mention that there are no prices listed on his site. The unofficial estimate of the cost of his horns has been posted to be between $5,000 to $50,000. I can not prove nor disprove these figures for I was a university professor and anything with more than two 0’s makes me weak kneed.
If you still want one or more of his horns, please take a number and he will get to you after he finishes with many of the top trumpet players in the world today, including the following- Maynard Ferguson and his trumpet section, Wynton Marsalis, Charles Schlueter, Andrea Giuffredi among others. If you would like additional information on this very talented and personable young genius, check out his web site at http://www.monette.net/newsite/index.htm
Now let’s get back to the basic features to look for in your new trumpet-
- Bore size- Most trumpets fall into three basic bore sizes (the smallest diameter of the lead pipe) which are Medium, Medium Large or Large. Generally speaking a Medium bore works best for most players and this designation (M, ML, L) is usually stamped some where on the instrument.
- Bell size- Most trumpets come with a bell size to be matched with the bore size but there are exceptions. I remember playing a dance job with a friend of mine, Mr. Joe Morrissey, who performed with the late Bill Case’s group “Chase” and can be heard on the Pure Music 1974 album. At that time we were both playing Schilke trumpets and we decided to switch horns during the evening. When I brought my (his) horn up to play, the bell completly covered the music. I had to play off to one side in order to see my part. NOW THAT WAS A BIG BELL!
- Light weight and heavy weight horns- avoid the extremes and go with the middle of the road weights.
- Special alloy bells- special materials and sizes are for specialized players and their playing requirements. It is best to go with the normal characteristics for the average player.
- First and third valve slide saddles (U shaped) and rings (O shapes)- These are attached to the corresponding valve slides and are used to improve intonation problems as you play. It is absolutely imperative that you have one on the third slide. Do not buy any trumpet that does not have a third slide ring attached. The first slide saddle is equally important but many good horns are sold without one. Personally, I would not play on a horn that did not have both. I will discuss this later in the section “How to play in tune”.
- Lyre (music holding device) – this is only important if you are in a marching band and need to hold your music while you play. Many horns serve dual purposes with the third valve ring being removed and replaced with the lyre. For serious players it would be better to have a permanent third valve ring and pay a few bucks for a removable lyre.
- Keyed in Bb- The trumpet family includes horns pitched in different keys such as Bb, C, D, Eb, etc. The only one you will need at this time is one pitched in Bb. All the others would have little use and you would be wasting your money on any horn other than a Bb. More on that under the section “Why are there trumpets of different keys?”
- Water keys- As you play and force warm air through your instrument condensation forms on the inside of the tubing just as it does when you blow warm air on a cold window pane. In order to extract this condensation, exit holes are placed at the stops where the water tends to concentrate. These keys can be one of two basic styles and both work well. One style works like a teeter totter and the other slides from side to side.
- Accessories- This would include the instruments case, cleaning material, valve oil, brushes, instruction etc. These materials will be fine to start with and as you develop, you will want to fine tune some of these items and I will discuss them further under the heading “Trumpet accessories”.