Things to Look for in a Trumpet

Carefully evaluate your trumpet for signs of problems.

Evaluating a trumpet requires some proficiency with playing and a knowledge of what to look for under the hood to ensure proper maintenance and a long life. Take the time to carefully evaluate the instrument before making a purchase. Trumpets need to function properly and have no deteriorating mechanical defects.


The trumpet valves contain the heart of the instrument. If the valves appear to be in poor condition, you may as well stop looking at the trumpet. Corroded valves will stick and prevent you from playing the trumpet altogether. If the valves are covered in a blue corrosion, a music shop can buff them and return them to normal. However, if the corrosion has affected the metal and leached into the valve, then avoid the trumpet at all costs. To check the valves for corrosion, remove the valve caps by turning them counterclockwise. If the trumpet has springs in the valve casing, check to see that they are all approximately the same height.


Corrosion on the outside of the trumpet provides a sign that the metal in the trumpet has started to decay. If the corrosion has a red tint to it, then the horn likely has a degenerative condition called red rot. Red rot will continue to erode the metal as the metal loses an essential metal in the alloy called zinc. Stopping red rot from progressing will not be possible and eventually the horn will develop holes in the metal. The cost to re-brass the trumpet often proves to be impractical.

Slides and Tubing

Check the slides and tubing for any dents. Dents will change the timbre of the horn. Some dents prove to be worse than others. For instance, a dent close to the lead-pipe will drastically change the tone of the trumpet while a dent in the bell has no effect on the sound. Dents close to the bell or an opening in the trumpet such as the lead-pipe or near a tuning slide can be removed more easily than dents in a crook or curved portion of the trumpet.


Finally, pick the trumpet up and play it. Play a few major scales and trying slurring octaves to judge the response of the trumpet. If the trumpet has too much resistance there may be an issue with a clog in one of the tubes. Each performer will respond to a trumpet differently, so avoid basing your decision to select a trumpet on the experience of another performer. What works for you might be a complete disaster for another player.


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