The origins of the trumpet date back thousands of years, and this wind instrument has significant impact on history including military and ceremonially. The primitive forms of trumpets were to say the least highly rudimentary instruments and are difficult to tell apart from horns that were played in the same manner.
The original trumpets were constructed out of all manner of materials that included, bamboo, wood, clay, bark, metal, and even human bone! Their popularity grew as a ceremonial instrument for occasions from everything from coronations to sorcery.
Greece and Rome
During the eras of the ancient Greeks and the Roman Empire the trumpet was mostly used for military purposes and especially in wartime. It was found that the strong powerful sound of the trumpet was ideal for conveying messages around the battlefield. Then it developed as an ideal accompaniment to when armies were marching so the soldiers could keep stride and obey commands. These marching bands were soon adopted by nearly every European army and a distinct military-style of music was developed. It was not until nearly the 17th Century that the trumpet came to be used in orchestras and musical ensembles, although these early instruments could not yet play natural harmonics.
The Invention of the Valve
The early versions of the trumpet had a very simple shape, often with the only embellishment being a flared bell at the end of the instrument. Rudimentary different notes could be played by lip movement and speed of breathing. But for a trumpeter to play certain notes he needed different instruments that were made to pay different keys and this was normally achieved by lengthening the instrument. But in 1810 the development of the valve changed all this.
The valve is a device that alters the path of the breath of the trumpeter, and soon a second and third were added. In effect the valves alter the length of the instrument, but instead of having to have multiple instruments a trumpeter could now play all the notes he needed with just one trumpet.
The Trumpet Family
There are many variations of the trumpet that include:
- Piccolo Trumpet – roughly half the length of a standard trumpet, the piccolo trumpet has four valves and is pitched at an octave higher than its big brother. The reason for the fourth valve is because the instrument is so short.
- Pocket Trumpet – a really interesting variation of the trumpet is the pocket trumpet which has the same length tube as a standard trumpet but is designed to coil up into a more compact shape. Everything else is made smaller too, most suffer quality of sound because of the design but there are some excellent examples.
- Cornet & Flugelhorn – both relatives of the trumpet, the cornet and the flugelhorn differ by having tubes that run almost cylindrically along their entire length. The flugelhorn produces a more mellow and rounded sound due to its conical shape.
You can try why instrument you prefer by trying each one out and see which one suits your style of playing the most.