A History Of The Trumpet

Learn the fascinating history of trumpet!

The trumpet is simply an extension of the idea of amplifying one's own voice. While it contains rich, pure sounds all its own, it is interesting to note the history and ideas of the trumpet, and its correlation to our human instrument.

If you see a seashell on the beach, and notice that the wind makes a sound when it hits the shell, you are watching the power of air in a confined space. If you watch wind blow over a glass bottle and moan, that is a wind instrument in action. Early human tribes used shells and horns to call each other.

As a wind instrument is modified on the outside, its sound modifies as well. The earliest drawing of trumpets were found in two places: the tomb of King Tut and on the wall of a South American tribal spot in Peru. The notations in King Tut's tomb were crude but accurate, depicting a long instrument with a flared neck. Valves were a long time in coming after this introduction, so trumpets limited to the notes of the Harmonic Series of a particular key. For this reason, they were used by the Egyptians simply as indicators, or as battle signals.



Greece, China, Rome, and many other ancient peoples had their own idea of what the trumpet was to look and sound like. It existed in many different ways throughout all of these cultures, and many others. Tibetians have a long, sloped tube of almost 15 feet long, while certain regions of the Andes have funnels of one inch that create noise. Clearly, wind instruments have many different ways to make sound. At a very early point in our history, trumpets also became associated with Biblical lore, especially that of Christianity. The sound of trumpets is meant to represent angels, war, and the end of the World.

During the Renaissance, several versions of the trumpet began to appear. one version included a piece that could be placed over the mouth of a wind instrument to stop air. Another instrument, called the slide trumpet, had a slide very similar to that of the trombone. The trumpet began to be used to playing and pitches, instead of announcements and war. In seventeenth and eighteenth-century Europe, the trumpet gained great popularity, and began to resemble, in turn, the clarinet, the flute and the French horn. These instruments later branched off and became wind pieces of their own right.

Valves were added in the nineteenth century, making the trumpet an instrument near to the human voice in versatility. Instead of the clumsy sounds and keys heard before, the trumpet was now a sonorous, smooth instrument that could carry an orchestra. This is the basis of the trumpet today as a leading member of an orchestra.

While the trumpet is very popular in its common form in the United States, it is important to note all of the variations of the trumpet that exist today. In the Middle East, they prefer a sound much different to ours, as is the same with Asia and even Russia and South America.

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