Trumpet Playing Techniques

Playing the trumpet means understanding a variety of techniques.

The trumpet is among the oldest and most developed instruments in Western music. Becoming proficient at this instrument requires an understanding of a large number of techniques specific to the instrument. Any serious trumpet player should learn these techniques to improve their marketability and success in music.


Several types of articulations can be played.

One of the basic tenets of brass playing is the ability to accurately articulate notes on the written score. Slurred notes require the trumpet player to play without using the tongue to articulate each note. Regular tonguing is the process of hitting the tip of the mouth with the tongue. Trumpet players should aim to use the tip of their tongue and hit the area where the teeth hit the gum-line. There are also advanced techniques such as double, triple and quadruple tonguing. These techniques involve using a regular tonguing technique to accent the first note and then pushing air through the instrument to create the next articulation. With practice, a trumpet player can articulate notes extremely quickly.


Different mutes are available to change the sound of the instrument.

Several types of mutes exist that a trumpet player can use to increase the timbres available on the instrument. Each mute will create a different effect and allow the trumpeter to play a variety of music. There are straight mutes, plungers, bucket mutes, cup mutes, solo tune mutes, and whisper mutes. Additionally, trumpet players sometimes play into the music stand to create an additional muffled metallic timbre.


Trills are great for ornamenting a piece of music.

There are several methods of playing trills on the trumpet. Using different combinations of valves to play alternating notes is one method of playing a trill. Other trills use the air column and do not require valves. Trills add ornamentation to the music and are commonly called for in Western art music.


Glissandos result in a smearing of several notes.

Glissandos sound like a smearing of the notes between two pitches. Glissandos only work when played ascending on a trumpet, although a trumpet player can "bend" a pitch downward by using his embouchure. Jazz and blues musicians bend pitches often, and occasionally this technique finds its way into the classical literature.


Multiphonics technique allows a trumpet player to play more than one note.

One of the most difficult techniques is multiphonics. This involves singing one pitch while playing another. Trumpet players who are able to do this successfully create the sound of intervals on their instruments. It is also possible to talk through the instrument while holding a sustained pitch; the level of clarity with this technique is relative to the degree of expertise of the trumpeter.

Circular Breathing

Circular breathing enables a player to play without taking a breath.

Circular breathing is a technique that has relatively little value in classical music. However, it can be very useful for entertainers to show their audience "how long" they can hold a pitch. With circular breathing the trumpet player holds air in his cheeks, blows it out to continue the airflow and simultaneously takes in more air through their nose. In this manner, there is a circular exchange of air in which air is taken in through the nose and expelled through the mouth. This enables the trumpeter to play continuously without having to "take a breath."


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