How to Play the Trumpet: Mastering a Great Instrument

how to play the trumpetWhen it comes to playing the trumpet, you can’t expect to become a legend overnight. There are people who spend countless hours mastering the instrument before feeling truly confident in their abilities. You don’t have to be the greatest trumpet player in the world though, and you have you start somewhere, right?

Whether you want to play the trumpet with your friends, join a band, or just do it for the fun of it all, you can do it with a little bit of diligence and a lot of studying. One of the best ways to learn how to play the trumpet is to take a course. There are tons of courses you can check out online that will teach you how to play. Check out the Udemy course Trumpet – A Beginner’s Guide from MusicProfessor, which is great for people who are completely new to the instrument.

Picking Your First Trumpet

Before you start playing a trumpet you obviously have to buy one. Getting a trumpet can be a little overwhelming since there are so many to choose from. As a beginner, your best bet is to get a student trumpet in the B flat key. It doesn’t matter if it’s not from a mainstream manufacturer (such as Yamaha), since most instruments made for students are from unmarked brands.

You should also note that trumpets, as with most other instruments, can be very expensive. If you’re just starting and you aren’t sure about how long you plan on playing the trumpet, then you may choose to rent one instead of buying it. This way you won’t be spending as much money.

Before you finally purchase your trumpet, there are a few things you should check. The trumpet should have no dents in the valve casing. You should also check and see if the valves move up and down smoothly and without making a lot of noise. Finally, you should check and see if the slides move back and forth freely.

If anything feels stuck, feel free to check in with the shop where you bought or rented the instrument for a quick tune-up and for a primer in caring for it. Proper care of the instrument is necessary to keep it working and sounding great over time. After you’ve inspected thoroughly and you’re sure that it is in a good condition, you can go ahead and purchase it.

Practicing without the Trumpet

As strange as it may seem, you can start practicing without taking your trumpet out of its case. It’s important to practice this way as it helps you become comfortable with the basic lip position that you will be using while you play. Remember that playing your trumpet will be a tiring and time consuming task, which means that practicing your lips and getting them accustomed to the basic positions, is incredibly important.

The way to practice your lips through saying the letter “M”, and then stop as you say the “mmm” part as if you are humming. Keep your lips in this position as it will be the natural position for you as you play the trumpet. Now, as you are humming, keep your lips in the same position and blow. It can sound pretty strange at first, but you will get accustomed to it as you continue to practice.

A good tip to get this form of practicing down is to pretend there is a little piece of paper on your tongue. Stick your tongue, but only the tip, and then act as if you’re scraping the paper away from your tongue and spitting it away. The way that your lips catch each other should be similar to what happens when you’re making a raspberry.

By this point you should be making a buzzing noise – it’s this noise you’ll make while playing. Proper lip placement is called the “embouchure” and is crucial for playing a trumpet correctly. Once you can make this sound with your lips alone, it’s time to practice making this sound on the trumpet mouthpiece. Try moving your lips to make the sound higher or lower.

Don’t get upset if you don’t get the hang of it at first. This isn’t something that you’re naturally used to doing so it may be a little difficult for you to understand. In fact, a lot of people carry a mouthpiece around with them and practice with it. You should be able to get a good sound out of your mouthpiece if you’re making the buzzing sound correctly.

Playing with the Trumpet

After you’ve practiced your embouchure on the mouthpiece, it’s time to start practicing with the instrument itself. Of course, the first thing you should do is go get out your trumpet and assemble it fully. Now inhale through the mouth, place your lips in the position in the same that you’ve been practicing, press the instrument up against your lips, and blow. Remember that you shouldn’t push the valves yet. Be patient and just blow for now. Change your embouchure like you did when you were practicing on your mouthpiece, and you’ll notice you can start to hit different notes.

Now you can start practicing touching the valves. The valves on your trumpet are numbered one through three. The valve that is closest to your face is valve number one and the valve number three is closest to the end of the trumpet. Practice by pressing down on the first two valves at the same time. Keep blowing and you should notice that the note gets higher as you hold down these valves.

As you continue to play, you will discover that there are different ways to create different notes. Each note is determined by the way you position your fingers. You will eventually memorize the different combinations as you keep practicing, but a lot of beginners use a trumpet finger chart to help with remembering the different notes.

Playing a Scale

The first thing that most musicians learn is the scales. When you play a scale, you’re playing a collection of pitches in either ascending or descending order. As you play a scale, you must make sure that you do it in proper intervals.

The scale that you will be practicing now will be in ascending order, which means that the pitches will get higher in volume as you move from one note to the other. The first note you will place is C. Remember the way you blew into the trumpet without pushing down any of the valves? That was a C note, which means that as long as you blow and don’t touch the valves you’re playing a C note.

The next note is D. The way you play D is by pushing down both valves one and three at the same time. If you have trouble playing the D note, you can try tightening your lips just slightly.

The next note is E. Push down the first two valves to play the E note. Just as you had to tighten your lips for the D note, you may have to tighten them even more for the E note. For each ascending note, you will have to continue tightening your lips.

In order to play the F note, you just have to push down the first valve. Keep tightening your lips and blow for the F note to work.

Things tend to get a bit more complicated with the other notes. Playing the G note requires you to not push down on any valves like before, but you will have to tighten your lips more from when you were playing the F note. How tightly pressed together your lips are can play a large role in the different sounds you make.

Keeping tightening your lips and push down the first two valves again. This time you will blow and play the A note.

To play the B note, you only have to push down the second valve and tighten your lips just a little more.

The final note is the high C note. In order to play this note let go of all the valves and keep blowing with your lips tighten the same way as you were playing the B note.

You’ve now played your first scale on your trumpet. It’s not an easy task and you may not have done it perfectly, but it is definitely a great start.

Getting Better

The best way to improve your skills with your trumpet is to practice. You should practice every day for about an hour, but if you don’t have the stamina to do so then fifteen minutes is a good start. You shouldn’t move too quickly and try to learn everything at once. Becoming an advanced trumpet player will take some time.

After you’ve practice your scales enough where you can commit them to memory, you can keep practicing with different intervals and experimenting with making different sounds. Try to keep working on the same scale until playing the trumpet feels more natural.

Once you feel comfortable playing the first scale, you can experiment with playing other scales as well. You may even want to practice learning a short and simple song to further your skills.

The basics are a great start, but if you feel that you can do more and you have a good grasp on them then try to take on more complicated tasks. The Udemy course Trumpet – Beyond Beginner – A Guide from MusicProfessor teaches lessons on intermediate exercises, melodies, and fundamentals of trumpet playing that you can use to get better.

Important Notes about Practicing

Playing the trumpet is by no means an easy feat, and you may find it challenging at first. Being persistent is great, but don’t wear your lips out by practicing too much. If you try to force yourself to play when you’re tired you will be doing more harm than good. Stop if you feel excessive soreness in your cheeks and jaw or if your lips begin to feel numb.

You should only practice about three or four times a week until you feel comfortable with doing more. If you feel you are getting frustrated with a specific piece or note, then take a few breaths, relax, and try again. A lot of people start practicing by going over things they are comfortable with and then moving into newer songs and styles.

Playing Your First Solo 

Once you feel that you’ve mastered the trumpet enough to play a few songs, you should try learning a solo. There are tons of solos that you can learn for trumpets. The Udemy course Trumpet Solos teaches you three intermediate level trumpet solos to help get you started. If you want to learn something that isn’t just for trumpets, then you should check out the How to Play Any Solo course.