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Topic: Trumpet in modern orchestra

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  1. #1

    Trumpet in modern orchestra

    In modern orchestras, are the trumpets pitched in Bb or C? I have always thought that it is standard to use trumpets pitched in Bb, however, Wikipedia article about orchestra states that C trumpet is used (there is also same claim in discussion page about the article). Or do trumpeters possess and play both Bb and C trumpets? And is this maybe different in American and Europe?

  2. #2

    Re: Trumpet in modern orchestra

    The Bb trumpet is more or less "standard," but C trumpets are pretty common in concert orchestral works. See Bartok's "Concerto for Orchestra," for example, or Britten's "War Requiem."

    Based on conversations I've had with trumpet players over the years, most professional orchestral players will own both instruments. However, some prefer to play the Bb even when the C is called for, in which case they will just transpose the part at sight (they're good at that!).

    C trumpets are rarely seen outside of that area, though. You're not likely to see the C trumpet in band music, for instance, or jazz.
    Dan Powers
    www.danielpowers.info

    "It's easier to be a composer than it is to compose."
    --Ray Luke (1928-2010)

  3. #3

    Re: Trumpet in modern orchestra

    Thanks for reply.

    While historically the choice of trumpet used was determined by the key of the piece, I guess that with modern trumpet it doesn't matter anymore, leaving the desired sound (and range) only factor affecting the decision whether to use C or Bb trumpet, right?

    I have also read that in Bb trumpet there is a slide which can be used to change instrument to A trumpet. Is this found in trumpets nowadays anymore, and if it is, should I state which one I want to be used or write all my parts for Bb trumpet and leave decision up to the trumpeter?

  4. #4

    Re: Trumpet in modern orchestra

    Hey, just a little more info from a trumpet player, arranger, and friend of many pro players. In today's playing, most guys use whatever equipment (term used loosely for all horns, mouthpieces, mutes, etc...) allows them to play the part with the most consistency and ease. So, while C trumpets are very common these days, you might find a guy playing a C part on an Eb trumpet. It all depends on what horn feels "really good" playing a part. It has to do with the register, fingerings, etc... A friend of mine recently did an audition and used four different trumpets, (all different keys) for the excerpts.
    All that to say, sometimes the best way to go is write in C, and then know that the players are going to use whatever horns they very well please in order to best achieve the sound and a solid performance of the part. Putting the parts in C simply makes it a bit easier for transposing, b/c the player knows what he's looking at is the desired sounding pitch.
    Another word about the Bb / A trumpet. Those have gone by the way side at this point. That was sort of a novelty back around the 19th century and early 20th I think. It's not practical now.
    Hope that helps!

  5. #5

    Re: Trumpet in modern orchestra

    Thanks for help. So I guess it would be good practice to write everything to C trumpet and try to express by words the quality of sound desired, leaving it up to performer to choose instrument.

  6. #6

    Re: Trumpet in modern orchestra

    Quote Originally Posted by ferri View Post
    Thanks for help. So I guess it would be good practice to write everything to C trumpet and try to express by words the quality of sound desired, leaving it up to performer to choose instrument.
    I wouldn't even bother trying to express the quality of the sound. I think the range and style of the music will dictate which instrument the player will choose and also dictate the type of sound (dark, bright, resonant, "zippy", etc.).

    That's just my opinion of course.
    Steve Winkler GPO4 JAAB3 Finale 2012 Reaper Windows 7 Pro 64-bit VSL SE+

  7. #7

    Re: Trumpet in modern orchestra

    Quote Originally Posted by swinkler View Post
    I wouldn't even bother trying to express the quality of the sound. I think the range and style of the music will dictate which instrument the player will choose and also dictate the type of sound (dark, bright, resonant, "zippy", etc.).

    That's just my opinion of course.
    I agree with you that this is the case most of the time, and I think instructions regarding the desired sound are more of an exception than a rule. However, sometimes for example you might want different kind of sound than the style and texture of music might imply, and in more modern kind of music desired sound qualities may not always be so apparent to player than in older music.

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