Trumpet Scales: Major and Minor Scales

trumpet scalesLike music for other brass, woodwind or string instruments, trumpet music is organized around scales, or ranges of notes. Scales can use either half steps or whole steps between notes. A whole step would be, for example, from B to C, while a half step would be from a B to a B sharp, which is the same note as a C flat, and then to a C.

A chromatic scale is one that starts at a given note and includes each half step, with no gaps. Trumpet players generally use this type of scale either as part of studying broader music theory or to warm up, but other, more specific scales are used as building blocks for individual songs. Having an understanding of scales like you can get from this intermediate trumpet course on Udemy will help you get the most out of the pieces you play.

Other than a chromatic scale, scales are organized into two types: major and minor. Major scales are used in music intended to sound more upbeat or triumphant. Though any scale based around a major chord in the first, third, and fifth notes is considered major, the most common is known as concert C major, which has no flats or sharps. This is one of the first scales you’ll learn as a new trumpet student. For a trumpet tuned in B flat, this is a B flat scale. As a trumpet player, one place you would wind up using these is in marches.

In minor scales, the chord includes a minor third instead of a major third; this means that the third note in a minor scale is one half-step lower than it would be in a major. Minor keys are used in sadder, more somber music, and sometimes in certain types of blues or jazz.

Related to minor keys are blues scales. A blues scale is a pentatonic, or five-note (as opposed to seven-note) scale in which the fifth note is flat. Trumpet players focused on jazz and blues will find that they are using these often for solos in blues, jazz, and even rock.

These basic structures can be used to set a key for almost any type of music, and can begin with any note, continuing the pattern from that starting point. When played in certain types of groups, especially orchestras that include strings, trumpet music tends to be written using notes in a different key than would actually be played.

This happens when the music is composed with a focus on an instrument that is naturally tuned to a different key than a trumpet. This Udemy course on music theory can help you get used to these more complicated ideas. Learning music theory online is a great way to get started and to develop better musical abilities, on trumpet or any other instrument.

Most trumpets are tuned to B flat, which means that the notes played without any valves are the same frequency that is normally considered a B flat. A and C trumpets are sometimes used in orchestras, although non-B flat trumpets aren’t used very often outside of professional circles. Trumpet players with music written in a different key than theirs transpose it to their instrument’s key. High-level orchestral players develop this as a strong skill.

Learning scales is an important step not only for playing music, but especially when you’re ready to move on to improvising and writing your own music. An important part of improvisation is being able to match the key of the piece as a whole in order to sound coherent, and the easiest way to do this is to stick to the notes in a scale that matches the key.

Similarly, when you’re writing your own music, setting it in a particular key is an important part of creating a mood and feel for the piece. Key is one of the two building blocks to be established, along with rhythm, and more modern pieces which are inconsistent in sticking to the opening specifications or don’t set a key at all are an exception. Inconsistent keys create their own, more unsettling atmosphere for the piece. This online course in composition can help you build on a scale to write a full piece of music.

Once you’ve gotten a feel for the way that a piece of music is developed and how the key signature fits in, you’ll find it easier to take on the trumpet solos in this online course.