The brassy tones of the trumpet have existed for centuries. Jazz music makes excellent use of this three-valved instrument to bring Jazz bands to life and get people on their feet. Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, and Dizzy Gillespie made the Jazz trumpet famous.

Invention

The earliest trumpets date back to earlier than 1500 B.C. As a broadly used musical instrument, changes in the design and metal making during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance created dramatic improvements. At this time, trumpets were made of a single coiled tube without valves, limiting the range of tones it could produce.

The Baroque era became known as the “Golden Age of the natural trumpet” in part thanks to Cesare Bendinelli who helped develop the upper clarion register. As a result, a tremendous body of music was written to highlight the trumpet.

In the mid-twentieth century trumpet playing was revived. Trumpeters in the UK and Germany fitted natural trumpets with three or four vent holes to help correct out of tune notes. In 1818, Friedrich Bluhmel and Heinrich Stölzel applied for a patent to incorporate W. Schuster’s box valve. When this design became standard in the 20th century, there was an explosion in music written for the trumpet.

Materials and Construction

Trumpets are made from brass tubing bent twice into an oblong shape. The three valves, called piston valves increase or decrease the length of tubing engaged thereby changing the pitch. Less common instruments like the piccolo trumpet have four valves. Trumpeters use the tuning slide to raise or lower the pitch of the instrument to match other instruments in the band or orchestra.

The bell helps project sound, but it also does more than that. As a closed tube, the trumpet only naturally produces every other overtone in a harmonic series. The bell makes the missing overtones audible to listeners and fellow musicians.

Next time you’re at Jazz Kitchen pay special attention to the trumpet and see how it contributes to the overall Jazz sound.