5 Best Trumpets: Top Student to Professional Horns
By Mason Hoberg
From the raw and aggressive jazz playing of greats like Louis Armstrong and Chet Baker to the slick and intricate work of classical musicians playing in an orchestra, the trumpet is easily one of the most endearing and notable instruments in western music. The work of musical giants, both those previously mentioned and those who weren’t, have given this instrument a strong library of classic songs and new approaches that ensure that it will resonate with musicians of today just as well as it did for those in decades past.
The only thing stopping most musicians from advancing on their instrument is that it can be really hard to figure out just how to select the best trumpet for your needs. There is a huge variety of different instruments available, and unlike something like guitars there isn’t a huge amount of resources available to help you make a good decision. Luckily, if you’re reading this article to try and figure out the best trumpet for your situation you’ve come to the right place.
- Trumpet Tunings
- Student vs. Professional Trumpets
- Trumpet Tone and Response
- Top 5 Trumpets
While trumpets are chromatic instruments (meaning that they can play in any key), the most popular model is called a Bb trumpet. What this means is that when a trumpet player plays a note that reads “C” on their sheet music the actual note being played in a Bb. The reason for this is that it allows musicians to carry fingering over from one instrument to another. So a Bb trumpet playing what is written as a C on sheet music for their instrument will use the same fingering as an Eb trumpet player playing what reads as a C on their sheet music. While this does require extra work in transposing sheet music between instruments it does mean that once you learn how to play a Bb trumpet you can carry this information over to a trumpet of a different tuning.
The majority of musicians will want to purchase a Bb trumpet, as this is the most popular type of trumpet. This means that the majority of sheet music for the instrument will be written for a Bb trumpet, which will make it easier to learn to play different songs. Another positive element to a Bb trumpet is that because of the size it has a warmer voice than a C or Eb trumpet, making it a good fit for small ensembles or orchestra playing.
Student vs. Professional Trumpets
Essentially, the main different between entry and pro-level trumpets is the ease with which they can be played and the depth of the sound they produce. Most professional trumpets have a larger bore width than a student trumpet. The bore width is the diameter of the inner tubing measured at the center valve, with smaller diameters being easier to play. A smaller bore width also produces a thinner sound. So, while a professional trumpet may require more effort to play it’s going to have a richer tone.
Just like any other instruments, professional models also have a higher degree of workmanship in order to facilitate higher levels of play. They’re also made from more musically resonate materials, though the effects this has on the sound is going to vary depending on the construction methods used on the trumpet.
Trumpet Tone and Response
You may be wondering how the frequency response/tone of the trumpet you’re eyeing is going to stack up to that of the competition. Basically, the main thing that is going to differentiate trumpets at lower levels is the size of the various components. The only thing to really keep in mind here is that the bigger the resonating components of the trumpet are the louder and warmer it’s going to be. Trumpets with a smaller bell (the open cone shape on the end, opposite from the mouthpiece) are going to be quieter overall, but they’re going to be more focused. So while they may not technically be louder they may seem louder because they’ll cut through a mix better.
Top 5 Trumpets
As always, our recommendations are made with all of you in mind. We recommend products, which we believe represent a good value, at several different price tiers. The 5 trumpets here have built up a great reputation per their price level, and we think they are a great starting points to introduce you to a tier of the horn.
Mendini by Cecilio MTT-L Student Trumpet
The hard part about trying to play orchestra instruments is that generally they are much more expensive than “pop” (in the academic sense, where everything that’s not jazz or classical is referred to as popular music) instruments for a similar level of quality, once you get past entry-level instruments that is.
For example, if you happen to have a friend who’s really into playing the violin and is playing at either a college or professional level take the time to ask them how much their instrument cost them. A mid-range orchestral string instrument can easily be in the neighborhood of several thousand dollars, and even then it can still be considered a mid-range instrument.
This is present on every orchestral instrument, even trumpets. Thankfully, recent entry-level instruments aimed at students have experienced a real increase in the level of quality relative to the amount of money you spend. This is due to the advent of globalization and the increase in the mechanization of the instrument building process, both of which translate to savings for the consumer.
A perfect example of a quality instrument at a price that would be unheard of even just 20 years ago is the Mendini by Cecilio MTT-L Trumpet. This trumpet may not compete with professional models, but it is a great fit for any beginning musician or student looking for an entry-level trumpet.
The most important thing to note about this trumpet is that it has a bore diameter (.460” measured at the second valve) which is relatively similar to what you’d find in higher end trumpets. The good thing about this is that it’s going to help build a muscle memory that will translate well into a nicer instrument when the time comes for you to upgrade, though the downside to this is that it does require more effort to play than a trumpet with a smaller bore diameter.
While this isn’t going to make any impact on the tone or playability of the instrument, the Mendini by Cecilio trumpet does come in a variety of colors and finishes. You can get either lacquered silver or gold, as well as red, black, blue and even purple. Even better, the trumpet also comes with a hard shell carrying case as well as a 7C mouthpiece, a pair of white gloves, cleaning cloth, and a bottle of valve oil (used to lubricate the valves in order to ensure an easy playing action).
This trumpet has a very good sound considering the price, but the true defining feature of this instrument as opposed to others of a similar price point is its volume. This is incredibly important for a student player because if they’re instrument doesn’t have at least a reasonable amount of volume for the musician to hear themselves. If they can’t hear themselves odds are that they’re most likely going to play out of time, which is going to be frustrating during they’re time in class.
It should also be noted for those of you who are parents reading this review to find a suitable trumpet for your student that you can purchase a trumpet mute in order to dampen the volume. So while this trumpet may have a lot of volume, it still can be controlled so that it’s not obnoxiously loud when your child is practicing.
The Mendini by Cecilio MTT-L Trumpet is a great investment for anyone looking for an affordable student trumpet.
Etude ETR-100 Series Bb Student Trumpet
One of the main flaws of student instruments is that it’s common for them to be difficult to adjust. The bad part of this is that it can make it hard to adjust the intonation of an instrument. Intonation is how we describe how in tune a note is. So say you’re playing an E. It can either be sharp, flat, or in tune. A note that is sharp or flat well sound unpleasant when played in a group setting. If the note is consistently flat or sharp you can adjust a mechanism on the instrument to bring it back into tune.
That is, if your instrument has this mechanism in the first place. Many cheap instruments don’t have these mechanisms, so they are generally stuck with the intonation they come with unless you shell out for expensive repairs.
Thankfully, there are a ton of affordable instrument which do have adjustable intonation. A great example of this is the Etude ETR-100 Series Student Bb Trumpet, which in addition to having a variety of useful features also comes with the mechanisms necessary to adjust an instrument’s intonation.
The most notable feature of this trumpet is that it features a first-valve thumb saddle as well as an adjustable third-valve finger ring. This means that you can adjust the intonation of your instrument mechanically, which allows your students band instructor/teacher (or the student themselves once they gain the necessary knowledge) to easily adjust the intonation.
The first-valve thumb handle also makes this trumpet a great fit for students with smaller hands, as the positioning helps to facilitate a proper and secure grip that they likely wouldn’t be able to maintain without it.
The inclusion of the handle also means that students can focus more on producing well intoned notes (which are produced by a combination of mechanical factors as well as proper technique and breath support) as opposed to being distracted by trying to hold their instrument.
Something that should be noted is that based on both the product’s description as well as the Amazon store page this trumpet does not include a hard shell carrying case or any accessories (excluding a mouthpiece). This does mean that you’re probably going to have to purchase a case in addition to the instrument itself, which while this won’t be a substantial investment it may stretch your budget if you don’t have a lot of money to dedicate to your instrument.
For the price it does have a pretty reasonable amount of volume as well as an adequate tonal response. Students aren’t likely to notice the difference between this instrument and a more expensive one until they’ve been playing for awhile. Basically, so long as this instrument is set up well (something which your instructor should be able to do with minimum effort) it isn’t going to limit they’re progress in a way that a substantially cheaper instrument would.
Yamaha Bb YTR-2330S Intermediate Trumpet
Founded more than 100 years ago, Yamaha is a multi-national corporation that services a wide variety of different markets. The funny thing about the company is that in musical circles they’ve actually been the subject of some pretty disparaging comments, but something that many of Yamaha’s naysayers likely aren’t aware of is that the company actually got its start manufacturing musical instruments. Yamaha’s logo is actually a reflection of this legacy, featuring three interlocking tuning forks.
In its inception, Yamaha actually produced pianos and reed organs. During WWII Yamaha was producing goods for the war effort, and following the war they repurposed this machinery to manufacturer motorcycles. They continued expanding into other markets in the following decades, which is why it’s not common knowledge for many people that the company actually has very musical roots.
Which is really unfair all things considered, because Yamaha never stopped producing instruments. While they may have also explored different avenues they’ve become the world’s largest manufacturer of musical instruments, producing pianos, drums, guitars, brass instruments, woodwinds, orchestral string instruments, and vibraphones.
The company’s history alone should make the Yamaha Trumpet Bb YTR-2330S worth serious consideration, but as is fitting for a company of Yamaha’s stature this instrument is also packed with a variety of great features for the price point. To learn more about how it compares to the competition, be sure to check out the specifications below.
As is clearly stated on the product’s various storefronts, this is a Bb trumpet. As previously stated elsewhere in the article a Bb trumpet is going to be the trumpet of choice for most students, as because it’s the most common trumpet used it’s going to have the widest availability of sheet music.
Beyond that, this trumpet is a great option for the musician looking to either step up to a better quality instrument or for a student looking to invest in a quality trumpet to learn on. The Yamaha features a bore diameter of .459”, putting it well in line with more expensive trumpets while still maintaining a diameter that facilitates the needs of younger musicians. The only possible concern here is that the trumpet may feel a bit heavier than your average starter instrument, though the impact this has is obviously going to depend on the age and stature of the musician in question.
Another thing to note is that the pistons and valves of this trumpet are made from a monel alloy. Monel is regarded to be more resistant to corrosion than nickel, but in order to benefit this it has to be cleaned more commonly than nickel valves because it’s generally more porous. One option isn’t necessarily better than the other, it’s just a difference to keep in mind between the two materials.
Lastly, this trumpet comes with either a hardshell case or a stiff carrying case (think the stiffer in between option, like what you’d commonly find with a Gator case) depending on availability.
For the price it has a very impressive valve action, achieving a level of smoothness that most trumpets in this price range fail to match. This aspect of the trumpet is on par with those costing many times more. The Yamaha Trumpet Bb YTR-2330S offers a great value for any musician looking for a mid-range trumpet with a professional level of playability.
Bach 180S37 Stradivarius Series Bb Professional Trumpet
Founded by Vienna native Vincent Shrotenbach in 1918, the Vincent Bach Corporation (generally known simply as Bach) is one of the premier manufacturers of professional level trumpets. The company has constantly received the top spot in voter polls concerning the durability of its instruments, their tone, and their price; handily beating many of their competitors.
The story of Schrotenbach is an inspirational one. As a child he was a classically trained violinist as well as being educated in playing both the trumpet and bugle, though by age 12 he started to focus slowly on the trumpet as his love for the instrument grew. He graduated from the Mechanical Engineering School of Ansbach Germany, reviewing an engineering degree. He also served in the military as a member of the Austrian Marine Band.
Following WWI, Schrotenbach emigrated to the United States. Following his arrival he took up a position working as a repairmen in a New York music shop, retrofitting and modifying damaged trumpet mouthpieces. During his time working in New York he gradually saved up enough money to be able to afford a foot operated lathe, which he used to manufacture his own trumpet mouth pieces. As his client base grew so too did his capital, allowing him to start a business of his own in 1918.
The Bach story is a perfect example of what hard work and dedication to quality can accomplish, and the Bach 180S37 Stradivarius Series Bb Trumpet is a continuation of the ethos that made the company such a success in the first place.
The key thing to note about this trumpet is that its defining feature is the care and attention to detail put into its construction. Even if you find a significantly cheaper trumpet made from the same materials odds are good that it won’t perform to the same level, because while the materials utilized are important there’s nothing that influences the sound of an instrument more than the talent of the person who constructs it.
With that being said, another feature of the instrument that may influence your opinion is that the instrument is intended to be light, which is great for those of you who intend to play for long periods of time. Both the body and bell are made of a lightweight brass, making the trumpet worth serious consideration for younger players or those of a smaller stature who are looking to upgrade to a professional quality instrument.
The pistons of the trumpet are made from monel, an alloy that is heavily resistant to tarnishing. The only flaw with monel is that it’s slightly more porous than nickel, meaning that while it is more resistant to tarnishing overall it will have to be cleaned more often.
Lastly, this Bach trumpet comes with a C180 woodshell case and a Bach 7C mouthpiece. While this is expected for the price range the fact that they state the inclusion of these two accessories is helpful when weighing the pros and cons of different models.
For the price range it’s an incredible sounding instrument. The Bach 180S37 Stradivarius Series Bb Trumpet lives up to its namesake just as well as it lives up to the reputation that the brand has built up as a premier manufacturer of musical instruments.
Getzen 3003 Genesis Custom Series Bb Professional Trumpet
The Gretzen story is an interesting one. The company was founded in 1939 by Anthony James Getzen. Getzen trained in instrument repair with a company local to his native Wisconsin, eventually moving on to become a plant manager. It wasn’t long until Gretzen struck out on his own, opening up his own repair shop. While he initially opened the store solely as a repair shop, but after the economic upswing that followed WWII he expanded into manufacturing instruments of his own.
The company changed hands several times in the following decades due to a variety of factors. Though in the early 80s the sons of its original founded Anthony James Getzen purchased the company, once again putting it in control of the family.
Though the company’s history may be a turbulent one, it would be impossible to argue that they don’t make quality instruments. A perfect example of the quality that Getzen strives for is the Getzen 3003 Genesis Custom Series Bb Trumpet.
As with other professional grade instruments, it’s important to separate materials from workmanship. A mid-level trumpet and a professional instrument can be made with the exact same metals and features but a professional instrument is going to sound better nine times out of ten. The reason for this is that while the materials may be the same the quality of the construction and fit of the components is what separates a good instrument from a great one. This is true with any instrument, and trumpets are no exception.
With that out of the way, there are two features that define this trumpet. The first is that it features a bore size of .462”, meaning that when compared to a .459” or .46” bore size this instrument is going to require more effort to play. This is because since it has a wider chamber more effort is required to get the air to vibrate to the necessary degree. With that being said, the benefit of this design is that it’s generally louder and produces a fuller tone to that of a smaller trumpet.
The second feature that defines this trumpet is the Interchangeable Leadpipe System. Essentially, this allows you to convert your trumpet’s leadpipe to either a standard or open configuration. The two configurations dramatically impact the feel and tone of the instrument, allowing you to switch between the two based on the sound you with to produce at the time.
This trumpet comes with both a 1C mouthpiece as well as a Getzen hardshell carrying case.
The first thing to note about the quality of this instrument is that professional instruments are in a different league than their cheaper counterparts, and as such are judged differently. The quality and reliability found in a professional instrument will blow any beginner to mid range trumpet out of the water, and the same holds true for its overall playability.
Lastly, this trumpet carries the Getzen Platinum Warranty. Basically, what this means is that the trumpet and every component on it is guaranteed against defects in workmanship and materials for the life of the instrument. This does help to inspire confidence on the part of potential buyers, because they know that should they happen to receive an instrument that doesn’t meet the appropriate standards they can either have it repaired or replaced at no additional cost.
The Getzen 3003 Genesis Custom Series Bb Trumpet is a professional quality instrument in every since of the word. It has a stunning amount of playability and a bright and pleasing response, and due to its innovative Interchangeable Leadpipe System it has a lot of versatility that other trumpets in this price range lack.