History of the Trumpet

student playing trumpet

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The trumpet has a long and rich history, starting with the belief that the trumpet was used as a signaling device in Ancient Egypt, Greece and the Near East. Charles Clagget first attempted to create a valve mechanism in the form of a trumpet in 1788, however, the first practical one was invented by Heinrich Stoelzel and Friedrich Bluhmel in 1818, known as a box tubular valve.

During the Romantic period, the trumpet was evident in various forms of art such as literature and music. During this time, the trumpet was merely recognized as an instrument used to signal, announce, and proclaim along with other similar and relevant purposes. It was later when the trumpet began to be considered as a musical instrument.

14th-15th Century: Folded Form

The trumpet acquired its folded form during the 14th and 15th centuries. During this time, it was referred to as natural trumpet and produced "harmonic" tones. At this time, the tromba da tirarsi emerged, an instrument that was fitted with a single slide on the mouth pipe to create a chromatic scale.

16th Century: Military Needs

The trumpet was used both in courtly and military purposes in the 16th century. Trumpet making became popular in Germany during this time as well. Before the end of this period, the use of the trumpet for musical works began. At first, the low register of the trumpet was used, then later on musicians began to utilize the higher pitches of the harmonic series.

17th-18th Century: The Trumpet Gains Popularity

The trumpet was at its height and was used by famous composers such as Leopold (Mozart's father) and Michael (Haydn's brother) in their musical works during the 17th and 18th centuries. The trumpet of this time was in the key of D or C when used for courtly purposes and in the key of Eb or F when used by the military. Musicians of this period played specifically in different registers. Notably, in 1814, the valves were added to the trumpet to enable it to play the chromatic scale evenly.

19th Century: An Orchestral Instrument

The trumpet was now known as an orchestral instrument in the 19th century. The trumpet of this era was in the key of F and had crooks for the lower keys. The trumpet continued to undergo improvements such as the slide mechanism which has been attempted since the 1600s. Later on, the crooks of the orchestral trumpet were replaced by valves. Changes in the size of the trumpet also occurred. Trumpets were now louder and easier to play due to the improvements it underwent.

5 Trumpet Facts

Several other accounts of the trumpet's existence include the following:

  • In Ancient times, people used materials such as animal horns or shells like a trumpet.
  • Pictures of the trumpet exist in King Tut's tomb.
  • The trumpet was used for religious purposes by the Israelites, Tibetans, and Romans.
  • It was used for magical purposes such as warding off evil spirits.
  • Trumpeters of earlier eras were classified into two: principale, which played the lower register, and the clarino, which played the upper register.