How Are Different Sounds Made on the Trumpet?

Trumpets make use of various mechanical and the organic human element to create sound. Four basic components determine the sound of a trumpet. The embouchure, metals used in manufacturing, the valves and the breath support of the player all play a major and crucial role. These elements must work together to create the more than four-octave range of the trumpet.


An embouchure consists of the muscles in the face that come together to create tension between the lips. To mimic an appropriate embouchure for playing trumpet, pretend to suck through a straw. Your cheeks will tighten, your lips will come together and you will feel the muscles in your chin and the side of your face contract. A tight embouchure allows the player to increase the pitch, while a loose embouchure makes it possible to lower the pitch.


The metals used in the manufacturing of a trumpet directly affect the sound of the instrument. Trumpets consist of either brass or silver metals. The trumpets that use brass have an edgy and penetrating sound. These trumpets create great sounding fanfares and majestic pieces. Trumpets made of silver have a smooth and mellow sound. The smoothness of the sound makes these instruments suitable for brass choirs and orchestral settings in which the trumpet needs to blend with other brass instruments.


Trumpets have three valves that redirect air into tubes of varying length. Each tube will shorten or lengthen the distance that air has to travel through the instrument. This means that when the air has to travel further the notes of the trumpet will become lower in pitch. When air travels through a valve with a shorter length of tubing, the pitch will increase. This combined with the relative tension of the embouchure allows the trumpet player to play several octaves of pitches.

Breath Support

Breath support affects the sound of the trumpet dramatically by modifying the tone quality of the instrument. Weak breath support will result in an airy and out of tune tone. Too much breath support will result in a jagged, harsh tone in which notes sound overblown. Finding the right balance and airspeed becomes the goal of all trumpet players. Learning how to manipulate the level of breath support depending on the current range will allow the trumpeter to maintain a consistent sound throughout the instrument.

"Arban's Complete Conservatory Method for Trumpet"; Jean Arban; 2011
"Instrument Repair for the Music Teacher"; Burton Stanley; 1978


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