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Bb Or C trumpet? 5 Important Differences (Explained)

Have you ever wondered why some trumpeters carry multiple instruments?

One of the trumpets may be in Bb while the other is in C.

Here’s The Difference Between The Bb And C Trumpets:

Bb trumpets sound a major second lower than written, while C trumpets sound the same as written. C trumpets are smaller and have a brighter tone, and they’re more common in orchestral music. Overall, Bb trumpets are more popular and better for beginners.

1. What Is the Difference Between Bb and C Trumpets?

The Bb and C trumpets have a lot of similarities, but their differences matter more.

While you can use the same written notes and fingerings, these two trumpets take time to learn.

Consider how a C trumpet compares, even if you’re already good at the Bb trumpet. Then, you can decide if you want to play the C instrument.


Of course, the C trumpet is smaller than the Bb trumpet.

While the size might not be as apparent from afar, it can make a difference when playing the instruments.

You may need to use a smaller embouchure to play the C trumpet, especially when you play up high. The bore will also be smaller inside the instrument, and the bell isn’t quite as big.

On the one hand, a smaller trumpet can be nice if you have small hands or can’t hold as much weight.

However, it can be tough if you have larger hands and are used to the size of a Bb trumpet.


Another significant difference is the pitch you use to tune each trumpet. You can adjust the pitch with your lips or move the slides on both trumpets.

However, the letters in the names of each trumpet reflect the pitch of each instrument. A Bb trumpet sounds a whole step lower than written, so you need to play a whole step higher to be in tune with a piano.

The C trumpet is in the same key as a piano, so you don’t need to transpose.

While most trumpet music is transposed accordingly, C trumpet music doesn’t need to be.


Because of the size and pitch level, the two trumpets can have slightly different tone qualities.

The Bb trumpet is mellower than the C trumpet since it sounds a step lower.

If you play the C trumpet, it can sound quite bright, so you may need to practice more to achieve a good tone. Also, you’ll need to work on intonation since C trumpets aren’t as good as Bb trumpets in that area.

Getting a darker tone will be easier when playing in the low register on either trumpet. If you struggle with tone colors, you may want to stick to the Bb trumpet.


Almost all beginner trumpet players start learning to play on a Bb trumpet.

It’s much easier to find an affordable, durable model in the key of Bb.

School bands tend to use Bb trumpet since most band music uses that instrument. The same is true of marching bands and jazz bands, so you’ll have more opportunities if you play the Bb trumpet.

You’ll also find a lot of solos and chamber music pieces that use a trumpet in Bb. While music exists for the C trumpet, the repertoire is smaller by comparison.


A few C trumpets out there cost less than $1,000.

However, you’ll have more Bb trumpets with that or a similar budget.

To find more C trumpets to try, you’ll need more money. That makes the Bb trumpet a better option for students and anyone who doesn’t have much money to spend.

Even if you’re a serious trumpet player, you might not be able to invest in a C trumpet. It’s okay to stick with the Bb trumpet until you earn or save more money.

2. When Is It Recommended to Use a Bb Trumpet?

Sometimes, you can choose between a Bb trumpet or C trumpet, such as basic trumpet practice.

However, there are times when you’ll want or need to use a trumpet in Bb.

Before you save up for a C instrument, consider why the Bb version may suit you better. Then, you can select a trumpet that meets all of your needs.

As a Beginner

Bb trumpets are much more accessible to beginner players.

For one, most school bands will have Bb trumpet parts and not C trumpet parts so that you can play the written notes and sound in tune.

If you live near a music store, you can probably rent a Bb trumpet. Then, you won’t have to commit to purchasing an instrument until you’re sure you’ll keep up with it.

You might also have an easier time finding a private teacher who can work with you on the Bb trumpet.

Most trumpet method books are for the Bb trumpet as well.

While the C trumpet is smaller, it can be more difficult for beginners. It would help if you learned to control your embouchure, and the Bb trumpet gives you the freedom to experiment with that.

In Most Settings

Even as you get better at the trumpet, you may find more chances to play the Bb trumpet.

You can join a concert band, marching band, or jazz band.

Plenty of orchestral trumpet parts are in Bb, but some are in C. So even if you want to play C trumpet in an orchestra, you may need to play one in Bb.

You’ll also find some solos and chamber trumpet parts that use a Bb instrument. Regardless of the type of music you want to play, you can make it work on a Bb trumpet.

That’s not always the case if you stick with a trumpet in C. When you’re ready for a better instrument, you can find plenty of Bb models.

3. When Is It Recommended to Use a C Trumpet?

While the Bb trumpet is more popular, the C trumpet serves an important purpose.

As you get more serious about playing music, you might want to get a smaller instrument.

Consider the different ways you can use a C trumpet. Then, you can make sure to build your trumpet collection to have the gear you need.

Orchestral Music

Some orchestral trumpet parts call for a trumpet in C.

This probably stems because trumpets couldn’t always play in every key, so you needed trumpets of varying sizes.

You might need a C trumpet to cover parts in older symphonies. You won’t have to transpose the music as you read your part, and you can sound in tune.

If you’re in an orchestra, ask your director if any music will call for a C trumpet. If so, you can get an instrument to prepare for the first rehearsal.

The C trumpet isn’t necessarily a replacement, so you’ll still want to have a Bb trumpet on hand. However, it’s better to have both if you expect to play in orchestras.

When You Don’t Want to Transpose

When you play from written trumpet parts, you don’t have to transpose as most composers do so for you.

There may be a few instances when you want to play and need to transpose.

For example, maybe you know a guitarist or pianist who wants to improvise together. You’ll need to know how to transpose if you want to play in the same key on your Bb trumpet, but you don’t have to worry about that with a C trumpet.

Or perhaps you want to play the melody using a jazz lead sheet or sheet music for a pop song. You can play the vocal line as written with your C trumpet since it’s a non-transposing instrument.

That also works if you want to learn a solo originally for violin or flute. If you only had a Bb trumpet, you’d have to play everything up a whole step.

4. Can Bb Trumpets Play in the Key of C? (and Vice Versa)?

Bb trumpets can play in the key of C, and they can do this in a couple of ways.

First, they can play in the written key of C, which will sound like the key of Bb on the piano.

Alternatively, they can play in the sounding key of C, but they’d need to play in the written key of D. This applies when playing in both major and minor keys.

A C trumpet can also play in the key of Bb in the same way. For a C trumpet to play in the key of Bb, the player needs to play the written Bb scale.

But you don’t have to worry about transposing when playing in any key. Luckily, both trumpets are chromatic, so you can play from a written F#3 to a written D6, regardless of how the trumpet transposes.

5. Which Tuning Is More Popular Among Trumpeters?

The Bb trumpet is much more popular among players at the beginner or student level.

It’s in more band programs, and private teachers will probably recommend you start on that trumpet.

However, the more popular tuning depends once you reach the professional level. The Bb trumpet will still reign supreme in the jazz world since that’s the tuning that most jazz trumpet parts use.

If you decide to play in orchestras, you may find the C trumpet is more popular. The two tunings might be about equal in terms of popularity.

A Trumpet That’s Tuned in Both Bb and C

The Model 1410 from Kanstul is a convertible trumpet that you can play in Bb and C.

It features a bell that offers fantastic intonation and easy response.

Meanwhile, the mouthpiece has a nice taper that helps you get a good sound. You’ll also get two complete sets of slides to select the right set based on how you want to play the trumpet.

This is a great option if you’re tired of lugging around two instruments. Of course, you need to retune each time you swap out the slides, but you can save a lot of space and time when practicing.


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