History and Evolution of the Modern Trumpet 


The trumpet has a very long history with roots in ancient Egypt, the Near East, Greece, and Rome. At the time of these civilizations, the instrument was much simpler. The horns were generally straight with no mouthpiece and no bell. They could usually only play a few notes and used them as a signaling device. In military culture, they relayed messages to soldiers and gave them instructions on the battlefield. Trumpets were used by the Romans for this purpose until their downfall and the instrument did not return again for this purpose until many centuries later. Trumpets were also used for many ceremonial and religious announcements. They were thought by some cultures to dispel evil spirits. The trumpet is also referred to numerous times in the Bible as “an instrument of communication and great fanfare” used by saints, angels, and the common man alike.

The crusades marked the return of trumpets in European military tactics. Trumpet players soon rose in prestige in the armies across Europe. The respect for the craft grew so much that many people began to form music guilds.

It was in the 17th and 18th century, during the Baroque period, when trumpets began being incorporated into musical compositions. The trumpet began growing in popularity as an orchestral instrument. It was prized especially for its upper register, or its clarino. Trumpet became an integral part of many famous composers’ pieces including Bach, Handel, Haydn and others.  The introduction of the clarinet in the mid-18th century caused it to replace the high register of the trumpet and the focus of the trumpet began to change.
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The 18th century is also when the evolution of the modern trumpet began. By this time, the instrument consisted of a tube twice the length of modern trumpets made of brass and coiled once with a removable mouthpiece. The playable range of the trumpet began to improve; players extended their rage by specializing in upper or lower registers. People also experimented with shape and other means of extending  range.
Other brass instruments like the trombone began to develop as they figured out that a slide could adjust the length of the instrument.

It was during the Romantic period that valves were first introduced. It was this addition to the instrument that made the trumpet what it is today. Valves were an exciting new development as they allowed players to access pitches that could not be played previously. For the first time, it was possible to play the full chromatic scale.  Since the mid-19th century, trumpets in the key of Bb or C became standard because they were half as long (from 7-8ft to 4-4.5ft) and much easier to play. These adjustments affected the intensity of the instrument’s sound, and the trumpet became less obtrusive and more elegant sounding.

Trumpet continues to be a popular instrument and integral in most bands and orchestras. While Bb and C trumpets are the most common, there are many others that are occasionally used.