Jazz Techniques for the Trumpet

Jazz trumpet techniques introduce a new spectrum of sound possibilities for composers and trumpet players. Many of the techniques used for jazz music have found use in western art music. Trumpet players who wish to become successful jazz trumpet players must not only learn these advanced techniques but must be capable of employing them on the spot in the middle of a performance.


In western art music, the articulation is controlled from the diaphragm by cutting off air to the note. In jazz trumpet playing, the tongue stops the articulation. Notes cut off with the tongue sound more forceful and provide a cleaner stop. Another component of articulation is the way trumpeters swing the music. Swinging notes involves slightly lengthening the first note in a series and shortening the second note to compensate. The first beat in any composition requires a heavy accent, as the goal of each measure is the next down beat.

Valve Technique

Valve technique becomes more important in jazz music than other types of music. Trumpet players must learn to manipulate their valves to create desired effects such as vibrato and glissando. The vibrato involves quickly rocking the hand back and forth while pressing down valves. Glissando requires the player to press the valves down partially when moving between notes and creates a smearing effect of the pitches.

Alternate Fingerings

The trumpet has several alternate fingerings for playing certain pitches. For instance, instead of depressing the first and third valve, the player may use the third valve only. The third valve by itself is usually a bit flat, but this option is useful for playing tremolos. Jazz trumpet players use this technique to create quick flurries of sound referred to as tremolos. A tremolo involves the quick alternation of two notes.


Improvisation is one of the more important techniques for a jazz trumpet player to learn. Improvisation involves reading a lead sheet with chord changes and improvising melodies on the spot. In truth, professional improvisers don’t completely wing a performance. The practice of several types of scales and trumpet licks provides them with an arsenal of material to play in any key that is required.


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