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 Trumpet

Trumpet

[Fr. trompette; Ger. Trompete; It. tromba].

A lip-vibrated aerophone. The term is used not only for the modern Western instrument and its ancestors, but also generically to denote some or all of the lip-vibrated wind instruments, depending on the system of classification.

In the Hornbostel-Sachs classification system (1914), the term ‘trumpet’ is applied to any instrument in which ‘the airstream passes through the player's vibrating lips, so gaining intermittent access to the air column which is to be made to vibrate’. This category is then divided into two subgroups; natural trumpets (‘without extra devices to alter pitch’) and chromatic trumpets (‘with extra devices to modify the pitch’).

It can be broadly observed that trumpets are widespread in Africa and Europe, less so in South Asia, infrequently found in the Americas and are rare in East and South-east Asia.

One of the most widespread and important functions of trumpets is the marking of power and status. In many parts of the world, trumpets and drums have been part of the regalia associated with kingship. This association continues to the present day: the British monarch, for example, is still heralded on state occasions by military trumpeters. Sometimes such instruments are more than symbolic regalia. In northern Nigeria, for example, the right to kingship itself was vested in the royal trumpets and kettledrums (kakaki and tambari); a coup d'état could be effected simply by capturing them. The association between long metal kakaki trumpets and Islamic rulers in West Africa is clear, but using trumpets to generate power and mark status is neither limited to metal instruments nor to the Islamic world. Throughout Oceania, conch-shell trumpets were markers of chiefly status, rank and power. In Rarotonga, for example, the local term for conch was applied to chiefs, rulers and priests.

There are many ways in which trumpets are used to communicate, for example: European herdsmen use alphorns to call each other across the mountains; Latvian youths play goat-horn āžrags on summer evenings to announce their intention to marry; Bugandan hunters from Uganda sound their eng'ombe (side-blown animal horn trumpets) to ensure a successful hunt; fisherman from Aoba, Vanuatu, blow their conch-shell trumpets, tapáe, to summon assistance for bringing in their nets. Not all communication is so pastoral: from the Roman legion to the US Cavalry, trumpets have been an essential part of military life. Communication can also exceed the boundaries of the everyday world: the BaMbuti people of the Democratic Republic of Congo sound the molimo trumpet to wake up the spirit of the forest; Japanese Shugendo Buddhists imitate a lion's roar on the horagai to drive out evil spirits; and Fijian islanders use their davui conch-shell trumpets to invoke the presence of a god. The sound of trumpets can bridge the gap between temporal and spiritual worlds. In each case, a short loud sound, series of sounds or rhythmic pattern functions as a signal, a means of carrying a message or an instruction from one person or persons to others often a great distance away.

A member of the family of brass instruments, in its modern form the Western trumpet is a folded tube opening at the end into a bell, with a separate mouthpiece and (usually) three valves. Trumpet playing normally involves overblowing to obtain various members of the harmonic series.

The Bb trumpet common in orchestras and bands today has a tube length of 130 cm and three piston valves. The period between about 1720 and 1780 saw both the zenith and the decline of the Baroque trumpet. The technique of playing in the clarino register was developed to the fullest in Vienna and other centres including Salzburg and Fulda. Concertos in which the trumpet is asked to play in the fourth and fifth octaves of its harmonic series were written by Michael Haydn, Reutter, F.X. Richter and Joseph Riepel.

In the Classical style of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven the trumpet was used mainly as a tutti instrument, although an occasional fanfare at the end of an allegro movement called attention to the trumpeters’ surviving court function. However, it is wrong to maintain, as has been done, that trumpeters of the Classical period became less skilful: instead, new skills were required. Beethoven, for example, made great demands on endurance.

In the late 18th and early 19th centuries several attempts were made to enable the instrument to play a complete chromatic scale.

The first champion of the valve trumpet was Kail, who in June 1826 became professor of trumpet and trombone (both with valves) at the Prague Conservatory. From 1827 he wrote or commissioned the earliest known works for solo valve trumpet (in low D, Eb and F) with piano or orchestral accompaniment. Besides Kail (1827), composers included Lindpaintner (1829), Kalliwoda (1832), Höfner (1836), Conradin Kreutzer (1837), Friedrich Dionys Weber, C. Grimm and W. Smita (1855 and 1856). In Italy Raniero Cacciamani in 1853–5 and Domizio Zanichelli in 1857 published works for trumpet and piano, many of them based on popular opera themes.

Wagner, Mahler and Richard Strauss notated their trumpet parts as much as possible in C, indicating the desired transposition above, thus leaving to the performer the question of which instrument to use.

Louis Armstrong (1901–71) was the most influential of early jazz trumpeters. He was the first to use the higher register to eb ''', and also set standards in jazz phrasing and ‘inflection’ – the varied attacks, timbres and vibratos common to jazz trumpeting. Other jazz trumpeters, such as Bubber Miley and Cootie Williams, excelled in growl and plunger-mute effects; trumpeters of the swing period, such as Henry ‘Red’ Allen and Roy Eldridge, explored high-register smears and rips. Virtuoso demands, already at a high level, were increased still further by the bop musicians Dizzy Gillespie and Clifford Brown, who cultivated special techniques such as half-valving; Miles Davis explored the more subdued timbres of the instrument. Avant-garde jazz trumpeting is represented by Don Cherry, who played a miniature instrument called the ‘pocket trumpet’, and Woody Shaw. The ‘big band’ style of orchestral jazz has produced a number of excellent high-note specialists, including Cat Anderson, Maynard Ferguson, Bill Chase, and, towards the end of the 20th century, the flamboyant and versatile James Morrison and Arturo Sandoval. The teaching of jazz at academic institutions has encouraged high-note trumpet methods (by Carlton MacBeth, Roger Spaulding, Claude Gordon and James Stamp) which are studied by trumpeters of all persuasions, and has furthermore produced a number of jazz players with classical training such as Allan Vizzuti and Wynton Marsalis. The jazz influence on orchestral music can also be seen in the use of new kinds of mute – cup mute, Harmon or ‘wa-wa’ mute, ‘solotone’ mute, felt hat and plunger mute – in addition to the traditional straight mute made of wood or metal.

Since the early 19th century trumpeters have traditionally had to seek their livelihood in orchestras. Although there have been cornet soloists and jazz trumpeters, only after World War II did the trumpet slowly come to be recognized again as a solo instrument in orchestral music. The first recordings of the Haydn concerto, performed by George Eskdale and Helmut Wobisch, were important in this revival. While the earlier soloists – Eskdale, Wobisch, Scherbaum, Voisin, Ghitalla, Roger Delmotte – were primarily orchestral musicians, some trumpeters are now active exclusively as soloists. The charismatic Maurice André has enjoyed an unparalleled career, and two of his pupils, Guy Touvron and Bernard Soustrot, were pursuing active solo careers at the end of the 20th century, as were Eric Aubier and Thierry Caens (France), Reinhold Friedrich and Markus Stockhausen (Germany), Håkan Hardenberger (Sweden), Ole Edvard Antonsen (Norway), Jouko Harjanne (Finland), Michael Brydenfelt (Denmark), John Wallace (Britain) and Stephen Burns (USA).

Reference (with liberty): New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell, (editors), 2nd ed., Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.

"Trumpet" Teachers:

  • Abdallah Mneimneh
  • Daniel Darazi
  • Edgard Wadih
  • Elie Njeim
  • Ion Todei
  • Rabah Mneimneh
  • Tibor Stefan

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