How To Play the Trumpet: Trumpet Playing Tips

Learn the Basic Trumpet Notes and More

Boy playing music with his trumpet

The trumpet is an instrument of the brass family. To create a sound, one must produce a buzzing with the lips on the  mouthpiece. The note produced is dependent on the way in which one buzzes the lips as well as the finger combination made with the three valves. Before learning the instrument, it is important that you take the time to learn the basics of music theory (as you would for any other instrument). You will need to be able to read music and understand rhythm and time usages. 

Here are some trumpet playing tips:

  1. Fingerings To begin, you need to learn the 8 basic trumpet notes from middle C to high C. The valve combinations are indicated below (e.g. D: 1-3 means press down the first and the third valves):

    C: 0
    D: 1-3
    E: 1-2
    F: 1
    G: 0
    A: 1-2
    B: 2
    C: 0 (higher)

  2. Posture and Positioning When playing the trumpet, use your left hand to hold the instrument by the the bottom of the valves. Place the thumb of your left hand in the hook-like projection and the small finger of the same hand in the ring like structure at the end. Place the pads of your index, middle, and ring fingers of the right hand on the top of the valves and wrap your small finger around the hook adjacent to the valves. Sit up or stand up straight and breathe through your diaphragm. ALWAYS USE GOOD POSTURE.

  3. Producing a Sound Begin by wetting your lips and press your lips lightly together as if you are about to say "mmm." Your teeth should be slightly apart. Hold the mouthpiece, unattached to the trumpet, to the center of your lips, and blow until your lips vibrate. Your lips should be flat and not pursed as in blowing a kiss. This vibration will create a buzzing sound. Keeping your lips in the same position, move your tongue as if you are about to pronounce the letter "t" (press the tip of your tongue slightly between your teeth without allowing it to stick out of it). Next, slightly withdraw your tongue and simultaneously blow, again creating a vibration. You should just as quickly return your tongue to the "t" position and repeat the steps several times. Once you are able to create a full tone on the mouthpiece, reattach it onto the trumpet. This movement of the tongue is known as tonguing. Tonguing is important in order to distinctly start and stop between the notes in the music you will be playing. Hold the trumpet and mouthpiece to lips. Blow while playing a C (no fingers are down). Once you are able to create a perfect C, you can move on to the next note. Repeat the steps to play the rest of the notes. To increase the pitch, you will also need to press your lips more tightly together. Practice makes perfect! Practice will make your lips stronger and train them to play better. This takes time, so be patient.
  4. Where To Go From Here Now that you know the basics of proper playing, it is important that you practice on a regular basis if you want to become a trumpet player. Devote a special time every day to practice for at least 20 minutes. After mastering the basics of creating a sound, try playing "Merrily We Go Along." A link is provided below to a great site that has the notes as well as a midi sound file. Play along with the midi song until you have mastered it. If you are serious about playing the trumpet, I highly recommend that you take lessons with a music teacher and obtain a method book. You will value this investment in music for the rest of your life.

When starting out, you may rent an instrument, and as you get better, you may decide to purchase one. Either way, make sure you know how to care for all of the trumpet parts. This will help your playing sound lovely.


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