Trumpet Chapter Sample

From Chapter 6D. Trumpet Technique:

Right Hand Finger Technique

To cultivate excellent valve technique, teach your trumpet students the following guidelines:

1. Hold the entire weight of the instrument up with the left hand and arm; do not transfer the weight to the right hand and arm.

2. Curve the fingers of the right hand, producing a backwards “C” shape.

3. Move valves at the same time, regardless of direction. For instance, when moving from 2 to a 1-3 combination, valve 2 should be moving up at exactly the same time as valves 1 and 3 are moving down.

4. Move the valves rapidly from open to closed position or vice-versa; precisely at the moment of the desired note change.

5. Do not permit the 3rd finger to be slower than the first two fingers.

6. Valves must be fully depressed or fully open at the beginning of each note (assuming no scoop inflections are desired).

7. Strive for a completely relaxed right hand (even while rapidly depressing valves).

8. Do not puff the air with each change of valve combination. Develop independence between the right hand and the airflow.

Valve Slides

Third valve slides vary in design and shape as do left hands. The third valve slide is usually operated by the left ring finger, but in some situations the slide is best operated by the middle finger. Many trumpeters place the ring finger in the third slide ring and use the middle finger to help extend the slide. The first valve slide, whether a saddle or a trigger mechanism, is operated by the left thumb.


In orchestral works, trumpeters will likely encounter music requiring transposition into the keys of A, B-flat, B, C, D, E-flat, E and F. The reason for these transpositions correlates with the early development of the trumpet and valves. When trumpets were first developed there were no valves, so players used crooks (slides that changed the overall key of the instrument) to play in the key of the composition; as the piece changed keys, trumpeters would have to change crooks even in the middle of the piece. Obviously, this system was cumbersome and grew to be unsatisfactory as the music became more chromatic. Valves were a logical solution to the problem and, even as the trumpet developed, the original notation remained. One of the advantages of keeping the trumpet parts in their original notation is to easily see the function of tonic and dominant harmonies that are so prevalent in early orchestral trumpet parts.

While band music does not often require transposition, orchestral and chamber music often does. In addition, the ability to transpose comes in handy when playing jazz and pop styles when parts are in C and the player has a B-flat trumpet. This is, in fact, the most common transposition: when the player has a B-flat trumpet and needs to read a part in C. In this case, the player would transpose everything up one whole step so the sounding pitches are correct. There are, as you might imagine, many permutations of this situation because sometimes the trumpeter is using a trumpet in a different key (such as C) and sometimes the parts are written in a different key. Remember that in the old days, this second variable was handled simply by inserting the crook that corresponded to that particular key. With the evolution of the valve came the responsibility of transposition.

As mentioned above, there are two variables to consider when transposing: the key of the trumpet being played and the key of the music.

For the first variable (the key of the trumpet being played), use this helpful fill-in-the-blank sentence:

When a ______ trumpet plays written C, it sounds a concert ______ .

Now insert the key of the trumpet into each blank, as follows:

When a B-flat trumpet plays written C, it sounds a concert B-flat .

If the key of the trumpet changes, so will the sounding pitch, as in the following example:

When an E-flat trumpet plays written C, it sounds a concert E-flat .

The second variable (the key of the music) involves memorizing the following information:

There are eight transpositions expected of a trumpeter: A, B-flat, B, C, D, E-flat, E and F. Three transpositions sound lower than C: A, B-flat and B, and four transpositions sound higher than C: D, E-flat, E and F. Knowing this, we can now devise a chart which includes the direction and interval:

Lower sounding transpositions:

A: sounds a minor third lower so the part must be written a minor third higher

B-flat: sounds a major second lower so the part must be written a major second higher

B: sounds a minor second lower so the part must be written a minor second higher

Higher sounding transpositions:

D: sounds a major second higher so the part must be written a major second lower

E-flat: sounds a minor third higher so the part must be written a minor third lower

E: sounds a major third higher so the part must be written a major third lower

F: sounds a perfect fourth higher so the part must be written a perfect fourth lower

To transpose to sounding pitch, follow the above guidelines.

If, for example, the trumpet part says “trumpet in E-flat,” transpose the written notes up a minor third to find the sounding pitches.

This example assumes the player is using a C trumpet, but sometimes a trumpeter must transpose while playing a B-flat trumpet. In this case, a second step in involved to account for the fact that the instrument is in a different key:

Step 1. Follow the guidelines above. If a middle C is written in the trumpet part which says “trumpet in F,” transpose up a perfect fourth to F.

Step 2. Transpose up an additional step to G to account for the fact that a B-flat trumpet is being played.