Instrument Research: The Trumpet

History and Manufacturers
The history of the trumpet dates back to ancient Egypt, by evidence of animal horns, believed to be  used as signaling devices, were found in King Tut’s tomb.  Through time, the trumpet evolved into various forms, but was still mainly used to signal, proclaim or make announcements.  It wasn’t until the Renaissance era that the trumpet was fitted to create a chromatic scale and thus became noticed as a musical instrument, although initially only for its lower register of notes.  Gradually, the trumpet began to increase in popularity and was finally used by famous composers in the Classical era.  Valves were added in the early 18th century to even out the tones of the chromatic scale, thus songs for courting purposes were written in a D or C scale, while songs for military purposes were written in an E-Flat or F Scale.  Several more improvements were made to the valves, and various sizes were produced.  It was then towards the end of the Classical era that the trumpet gained notoriety as an orchestral instrument because the sound was louder and the instrument was easier to play.1

The Bach Stradivarius model is a primary choice, by musicians, for classical trumpet playing.  Founded in 1924 by Vincent Schrotenbach, he combined his skills as an engineer and talent as a musician to develop an instrument of unequaled tonal quality.  Vincent was born in Austria where he received his engineering degree, but he moved to the United States during World War I.  Soon after, he was awarded a position with the Boston Symphony, then the Metropolitan Opera House.  Later, while serving in the Army, he realized there was a real need in the market for high quality mouthpieces for trumpeters.  This inspired him to start production in the back of the Selmer Music Store in New York City remodeling old and making new mouthpieces.  His business grew rapidly and resulted in the production of his first trumpet in 1924 and his first trombone in 1928.  It was not until 1961 that Vincent decided to retire and sell his company to Selmer, despite having 12 other, mostly higher offers.  Because of their close relationship over the years, Vincent trusted Selmer to preserve the Bach tradition of excellence so that Vincent could confidently retire at 71 years of age.  To this day, Selmer Music follows all of Vincent’s original designs when producing the Bach instruments for students, intermediate musicians and professionals.  A few other well-known trumpet manufacturers include: Monette, Holton, and Olds. 2

Famous Performers
Jean-Baptiste Laurent (J.B.) Arban was born in Lyon, France in 1825.  At the age of 16, he was accepted into Paris Conservatoire to further his studies on the trumpet.  He left the Conservatorie many times, to travel to London to play professionally, yet he still managed to do extremely well as a student.  After schoo,l he served in the military and then returned to his playing career.  By 1846, he had begun playing the coronet, a popular instrument for solo orchestra pieces during the 19th Century.  When Arban began composing pieces he was concerned that the coronet had begun to replace the trumpet, thus he was adamant that the two be taught simultaneously to students when he served as a professor for the Conservatorie in his later years.  This concern also compelled Arban to write a playing manual for both instruments, known as Arban’s Grand Method, first published in Paris in 1864, and is still widely used today by students learning the trumpet and coronet. 3

Wynton Marsalis is one of the most well-known, respected Jazz musicians and composers of the 20th Century through present day.  He got his start in music very young, playing with the New Orleans Philharmonic Orchestra at age 14.  He was the youngest student to be admitted to Tanglewood’s Berkshire Music Center at age 17, then went onto Julliard from there.  His love for classical music drove him to pursue recording his first album playing pieces from Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, and many more on the trumpet, for which he received a Grammy Award.  He has since produced 10 more classical albums, as well as performed with leading orchestras around the world.  Although he has a great ability to play many genres of music, he is best known for his skills as a Musician, Composer and Band Leader across the full spectrum of Jazz. 4

Famous composers
Franz Joseph Haydn got his start in music as a boy when he was accepted to St. Steven’s Cathedral in Vienna at age eight.  He was dismissed from the school when he was 17 and struggled for many years to learn as much as he could as a free-lance musician.  Finally, at age 29 he got his break when he was appointed as Prince Pal Antál Esterházy’s Kappelmeister and served for many years under three successors to the Esterházy family, large supporters of the arts.  When Haydn retired in 1790, he was finally free to travel outside of Vienna.  He wasted no time with this freedom and went to London to compose everal concert series for the London Symphony.  Haydn iss best known for his appeal to the masses through his artistry, blended with humor.  He composed numerous operas, symphonies, dance music, and sacred music.  He had the ability to expand his talents across all genres of music and transformed instrumental expression during the Baroque Era, including his well-known Trumpet Concerto in E-Flat. 5

Johann Nepomuk Hummel was Haydn’s successor as Kappelmeister for the Esterházy family during the 18th Century.  He was a student of Mozart’s, a virtuoso performer, and also wrote a number of pieces for the solo piano.  Many of the pieces he wrote were specifically for clients as they requested.  He composed chamber music and many orchestras.  Recently, his Trumpet Concerto in E-major, along with several piano concertos, have experienced a revived interest among musicians looking to expand the difficulty of their repertoire. 6

Haydn and Hummel both wrote exquisite, well-known pieces for the Trumpet.  Haydn wrote one Concerto for Trumpet in E flat in 1796 and Hummel wrote one in E-major, succeeding Haydn’s in 1804.  Both concertos are considered to be premier pieces for the classical trumpet player and for more traditional trumpet players alike.    In addition, the pieces written by the composers highlighted above, the Performers referenced prior – Arban and Marsalis – also composed some wonderful pieces for the trumpet. 7 8

Arban wrote a variation of the “Carnival of Venice” for the Trumpet that remains one of the greatest solo pieces today for the instrument. 11  Marsalis worked with the New York City Ballet to write “Them Twos”, a ballet that Peter Martins choreographed in 1997. 12  Another well-known piece for a trumpet player’s repertoire is the “Flight of the Bumblebee”.  This piece was originally written for a string ensemble by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, but Billy May rearranged the composition specifically for the show The Green Hornet in 1966.  This variation later appeared in the Pulp Fiction soundtrack in 2003. 13

Famous Orchestras
The New York Philharmonic is the oldest symphony in America, founded in 1842.  The Philharmonic has always boasted the music of its time and was the first US Symphony to bring the works of Beethoven and Brahms to the States.  Presently, the Symphony performs an average of 180 concerts a year and tours the world extensively, having appeared in 63 countries.  They are known for their cultural diplomacy and media pioneering, when they began radio broadcasts weekly in 1922 (which still continue today).  The Symphony features four members in their trumpet section, the Principal Chair is held by Philip Smith who joined the Symphony in 1978.  He has been featured as a soloist in over 100 Symphony concerts, which highlights the importance the trumpet brings to their performances. 9

London’s Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) is fairly young, by leading symphony standards, having recently celebrated their 65th Anniversary.  However, the RPO is one of the most prestigious symphonies in the United Kingdom and they enjoy performing music from a large repertoire (often times outside of the scope of traditional classical music.   Wynton Marsalis has played with the RPO on several occasions.  The RPO typically features 2-3 players in the trumpet section, but their brass section totals 10-12 musicians in any given performance. 10


(1)    Estrella, Espie, “History of the Trumpet”, Music Guide, Retrieved from:

(2)    “History of the Bach Stradivarius”,, 2011, Conn-Selmer, Inc. Retrieved from:

(3)    “J.B. Arban”, O.J.’s Trumpet Page, Updated March 5, 2011, Retrieved from:

(4)    “Wynton Marsalis Biography”,, 2011, Wynton Marsalis Enterprises, Retrieved from:

(5)    “Franz Joseph Hayden”,, Retrieved from:

(6)    “Johann Nepomuk Hummel”, The World’s Leading Classical Music Group, Retrieved from:

(7)    Haydn Concerto in E flat:,_Hob.VIIe:1_(Haydn,_Joseph)

(8)    Marsalis, Wynton, “Haydn, Hummel, L. Mozart: Trumpet Concertos”, Wynton Marsalis playing with the National Philharmonic Orchestra with Raymod Leppard Conducting, Released 1983, Retrieved from:

(9)    New York Philharmonic Website:

(10)London Royal Philharmonic Website:

Additional Site References for Trumpet Repertoire:

(11)Arban Carnival of Venice, Retrieved from:

(12)Marsalis, Wynton “Forever, First Love, Almost, Horror, Sex and Loss”, New York City Ballet: Them Twos, Premiered June 3, 1997, Retrieved from:

(13)May, Billy Jazz re-arrangement of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumblebee”, for The Green Hornet, 1966, Retrieved from: