If you want to buy a trumpet, you have to deal with a few questions beforehand: Which pitch should it be? What type of valve? What material should the trumpet be made of? All this can quickly become confusing. We have therefore put together a buying guide to help you develop a precise idea of the instrument you are looking for.
Buy a Périnet or German Trumpet?
There are different types of trumpets. The differences lie in the type of valves. The German trumpet is equipped with rotary valves. When the valves are pressed down, the movement is transferred to a rotary valve and ensures that the air flow is diverted inside the trumpet. The French trumpet has Périnet or pump valves. Here the valves are pressed down directly by the movement and change the path of the air flow.
The valves differ not only in construction but also in sound. Pump valves are usually used more in brass bands and jazz. In traditional brass music, rotary valve trumpets are more popular. These are no strict rules, but they are helpful information when looking for a suitable trumpet. If you already know what style of music you would like to pursue in the future, you can narrow down your choice in this way.
The playing feel also differs: while rotary valves are easy and common to play, especially at the beginning, they are more complex to maintain and repair later on. The purchase price for a rotary valve trumpet is also significantly higher due to the more demanding mechanics. The Périnet trumpet, on the other hand, is often difficult to play at the beginning because the valves first have to be “played in”. As a beginner, it is especially important to pay attention to the correct posture. If you play incorrectly, the valves can otherwise get stuck. However, should a Périnet trumpet become defective, the valves are much easier to repair, sometimes even by yourself.
When deciding on the right type of valve, the desired style of music must be taken into account, as well as the budget and future maintenance and repair costs.
Which pitch is the right one?
Once you have decided whether you want to buy a German or a Périnet trumpet, there is the question of the right pitch. Depending on the construction, the trumpets sound higher or lower. Especially as a beginner, you should not choose purely on the basis of aesthetics. The lower the trumpet sounds, the more unwieldy it becomes. The bass trumpet, for example, has a tube length of 2.60m. Untrained hands or children cannot operate such a large instrument. High-sounding trumpets like the piccolo trumpet, on the other hand, often require a certain amount of skill. The most popular pitch for beginners is Bb. The Bb trumpet has a total length of 50 centimetres. With three valves, it is well suited for inexperienced players and still has a wide range of 3 to 4 octaves.
Especially as a beginner, the trumpet should be adapted to one’s own ability. A popular model is therefore the Bb trumpet; it is handy and offers the best conditions for quick learning success.
What material should the trumpet be made of?
Trumpets are usually made of either gold brass or yellow brass. Both are alloys of copper and zinc. Gold brass has a copper content of 80%, yellow brass consists of 60% copper. The more zinc there is in the alloy, the less resistant the material becomes. As a result, the tone can sound less precise. On the other hand, a trumpet with a high zinc content allows a wider range of tones. A high copper content makes for a precise and darker tone.
More and more often, trumpets made of plastic are also found on the market. Above all, they are lighter and, of course, cheaper to produce and thus to buy. Maintenance is also much easier because of the material: the trumpet can be rinsed completely. The material does not tarnish or rust. Many also see advantages in the plastic trumpet when playing outdoors. When marching in cold temperatures, the plastic trumpet is more pleasant to play than a metal trumpet.
The valves of a trumpet are made of stainless steel or monel. Monel valves are made of a nickel-copper alloy and are of particularly high quality. They are very resistant to corrosion and aggressive substances such as skin sweat. This makes them particularly durable.
The leadpipe can also be made of different materials. With plastic trumpets, the leadpipe is logically also made of plastic. Otherwise, there are leadpipes made of yellow and gold brass, pure brass, silver or nickel silver and many other materials.
More important than the material, however, is the shape of the leadpipe. It should fit the player well. There are no fixed rules for the fit of the mouthpiece. The lips must have room to swing in the so-called cup, which can mean a different shape for everyone. It is therefore important to try out many leadpipes before buying to get a feeling for the right fit.
Many trumpets are additionally provided with a special finish. They are lacquered or silver-plated or gold-plated. This is to protect the instrument. Basically, it can be said that treatment with precious metals (silver-plated or gold-plated instruments) protect better than varnishing. On the other hand, varnish treatments are much cheaper. The instruments can be varnished with clear varnish to preserve the natural colour or with gold varnish or coloured varnish.
Since the finish is applied over the actual material, its sound properties are also changed. For example, the material is no longer as flexible as it would be without the surface treatment. Therefore, the different finish variants should be tested before buying a trumpet. This is the only way to familiarise yourself with the effects and to find out which finish is the best choice for you.
The material plays a role in many areas of the trumpet and affects not only the sound, but also the price, durability and feel. Therefore, before buying a trumpet, all materials should be tested extensively, preferably in different combinations. This is the only way to develop a feeling for the materials and their properties.
What budget should I plan for?
When buying an instrument, the price plays a role that should not be neglected. Therefore, the budget should already be determined before the purchase. A common mistake among beginners is to buy an inexpensive instrument with the intention of upgrading to a higher quality one as soon as learning progresses. This approach is understandable, but it can cause problems. Especially in the beginning, learning the trumpet is not only about technique, but also about training the ear. If you get used to a wrong ear from the beginning because of a bad instrument, it is difficult to unlearn it.
Anyone who is faced with a supposed bargain when buying a trumpet should therefore ask themselves whether this price will also pay off in the long term. However, this does not necessarily mean that a good trumpet has to cost at least a certain amount. The Startone brand from Thomann, for example, specialises in beginner models. The instruments should offer beginners a good basis and at the same time be as cheap as possible to make it easier to get started. Here you can get a Bb trumpet with pump valves for as little as 125£*. Entry-level prices for Bb trumpets with rotary valves are around 800£*.
The budget plays an important role when buying a trumpet, but should not be set too low. To become a good player and, above all, a good listener, you need a high-quality, well-tuned instrument. This is especially important as a beginner.
Buy, rent or second-hand purchase?
Once you have decided exactly what you want from your trumpet, the last question is where to buy your instrument. It is always a good idea to go to a good music shop for advice and to try out a few instruments. Afterwards, you can either decide to buy the trumpet of your choice directly or enter into a hire purchase or buy the desired model on the second-hand market.
How to buy a trumpet
When you buy your trumpet directly, it is yours immediately. You can start playing right away and don’t have to wait for maintenance or repairs. This is especially useful if you are sure about your choice and want to enjoy your trumpet for a long time to come.
Hire purchase of a trumpet
Hire purchase is often offered by music stores in order to give customers more flexibility. With hire purchase, the chosen instrument is initially only rented. The customer pays a monthly fee and is allowed to take the trumpet home to practice on it. If the buyer decides to purchase the trumpet, the rental fees are considered a down payment for the purchase. Then only the remaining amount has to be paid. If you are not satisfied with the instrument, you can return it. This means that you are not obliged to buy the instrument, but you still have the opportunity to try it out and see if it suits your style. Hire-purchase is therefore particularly suitable if you cannot yet clearly decide on a model. Renting an instrument can also be a good way to get started playing the trumpet without having to pay a large sum for your own instrument.
How to buy a trumpet used
Another possibility is the second-hand market. Here you will find a variety of trumpets that already have a history. The advantage of buying second-hand is certainly the financial aspect. Although trumpets are generally very durable, they lose value over time. So the chances are good to find a second-hand trumpet that works perfectly but is much cheaper than a comparable new model. In addition, you can find models on the second-hand market that are no longer available in shops. With a look at the second-hand market, you might even find a model that suits you better than all the new models.
However, you should check used instruments carefully before buying. It is best to take someone with you who already has experience with the trumpet. Then you can check together if the instrument is intact and fits you well.
What do I have to consider when buying a used trumpet?
If you buy the instrument privately, you should put it through its paces yourself, otherwise you will end up with a branded instrument, but one that may need extensive repairs, which in some cases may be more expensive than if you had bought a new instrument. If you have no experience at all with the trumpet, it would be a good idea to ask your teacher to look at the instrument in question with you. He or she will be able to tell much more quickly whether it will be in good shape and comfortable for a beginner to play.
All three options have their advantages. Hire purchase is particularly suitable for the undecided, used instruments have their own charm and are usually much cheaper. Buying a trumpet outright is a good option if you are very sure about your choice and plan to play the instrument for a long time.
FAQ: Buying a trumpet
The price of a trumpet depends largely on which model you choose and whether you opt for a Périnet or a German trumpet. A common model, for example, is a Bb trumpet with Périnet valves. It is available as a beginner’s model from about 150£*. Medium-priced models cost around 500£* to 1,000£*.
Inexpensive trumpets for beginners are available from around 100£* in plastic. If you are looking for a higher quality instrument that can accompany you for a lifetime, you should budget up to 500£*.
Bb trumpets can cost between 150£* and 6,000£*. A big factor here is the type of valve: pump valve trumpets are usually much cheaper than rotary valve trumpets. The material also makes a big difference in the price.