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10 Reasons Trumpets Are Often Used in Jazz (Explained)

Do you find yourself listening to jazz trumpet and wondering why?

The trumpet is often used in jazz for a variety of reasons:

Here’s Why Trumpets Are Often Found in Jazz:

Trumpets are often found in jazz because of the sound, volume, and range they produce. Their flexibility and versatility make them an excellent addition. Historical reasons, such as the development of jazz and the influence of famous players, have also given the trumpet its place in jazz.

1. The Sound

One of the biggest reasons trumpets are often used in jazz is because of their sound.

Trumpet players can create a bold, bright sound that stands out from other instruments. That sound is very characteristic of jazz music, and it can be hard for other instruments to replicate that same sound quality.

Because of that, trumpets can make a huge difference in the sound of a jazz tune. While other instruments, like the saxophone or trombone, can have a jazzy sound, they aren’t as distinctive as the trumpet.

When you listen to a jazz trumpet part, you will know it’s jazz. Even someone who doesn’t know jazz or the trumpet well can pick out the sound of a jazz trumpet.

Sure, a cornet can produce a similar sound, but due to other reasons, the trumpet is much more common than the cornet when playing jazz music.

2. The Volume

Because of the trumpet’s sound, the instrument can get pretty loud.

That loud volume makes the trumpet a natural leader in the horn section of a jazz band. Other instruments can get loud, but they will still pale compared to the maximum volume a trumpet can attain.

Even in a small jazz combo, the trumpet can help take the lead with its volume. The piece may not need to be super loud, but it will be easier for listeners to hear the trumpet over another instrument.

A good trumpet player will also be able to project over any group. That way, the player doesn’t have to hurt themselves from overusing their lips.

You can get a decent volume as long as you have a good foundation for playing the trumpet. Then, you can wail over a small or larger group of players.

3. The Techniques

What helps the trumpet get the sound and volume it can is the technique of the player.

General trumpet playing lends itself to a loud, leader-type of role. That makes it relatively easy to play in a jazz setting, but traditional trumpet playing isn’t the only technique available to jazz musicians.

One of the special techniques trumpeters can use in jazz is to make a growling sound. They make the back of their mouth vibrate while still pushing air through their mouth and into the trumpet.

This growl is an excellent way to change the trumpet sound. You may not use it when playing classical music since it is a bit wild for that genre.

But in a jazz band, especially during a trumpet solo, growling can be great. It can take a while to master, but once you do, you’ll be able to use the sound when you want to improvise or stand out in an ensemble.

4. The Flexibility

The trumpet is also one of the most flexible instruments, making it easy to play fast and slow.

That makes it a perfect fit for upbeat tunes as well as slow ballads. Within a song, the trumpet can take the lead melody, play a solo, and improvise.

Of course, other instruments can do those same things. However, the trumpet’s range and sound make it easier for players to switch between different styles and improvise or play written music.

When you compare the trumpet to other horns in jazz, those other instruments can struggle to do certain things. For example, playing the trombone fast can require a lot more control to hit the right positions.

If a saxophone player needs to play fast, they need to coordinate fingers on both hands. However, the trumpet only has three valves, so coordinating fingers for fast passages isn’t as tricky.

5. The Versatility

Trumpets are some of the most versatile instruments across all genres.

The instrument is a standard part of many styles, from jazz to classical to mariachi music. Because it’s so versatile, it makes sense that it would fit in well with various jazz ensembles.

Whether you swap out the mouthpiece or the entire trumpet, you can play all kinds of music. Even if you only want to play jazz, you can play everything from bossa nova to bebop to Latin jazz.

You don’t have to learn different instruments to play in various groups. The trumpet’s versatility makes it an excellent instrument to play whether you want to focus on jazz or open yourself up to other styles.

6. The Size

It may not be as common now, but early jazz bands would march throughout the streets of New Orleans.

While a lot of instruments are suitable for marching, the trumpet’s size gives it an advantage. Holding the trumpet while standing or marching is a lot easier compared to bigger instruments.

Trombone players need to have control over the slide as they walk. Saxophone players need to use a neck strap or a more secure body harness for their instruments.

However, as a trumpet player, you can grab your instrument and play it sitting, standing, or walking. You don’t need accessories or a ton of practice to make a good sound while you march.

Sure, you need to hold your trumpet at the right angle to project your sound, but the smaller size makes that easier than other brass instruments.

7. The Range

Because of the trumpet’s size, it has one of the highest ranges of all instruments.

It can go higher than other common jazz instruments, including the trombone and family of saxophones. That means it serves a unique role when the melody goes up high.

The standard trumpet ranges extends up to a written C6 (sounding D6). Alto saxophones have a similar range, but they can only go up to a sounding Ab5 or A5.

Both instruments can play in the altissimo register to go higher. Still, the trumpet has a slight advantage, with its primary range extends a perfect fourth or a tritone higher than the sax.

The trumpet is the obvious choice when a composer or band leader wants to get that higher jazz sound. While other instruments can play higher, they don’t have the same tone that you can get from a trumpet.

8. The History

Another reason trumpets are common in jazz music is that they were one of the first jazz instruments.

When jazz first became a genre, players started using the trumpet. Because of that, the trumpet has plenty of jazz parts available.

Even if there aren’t trumpet parts written out, the trumpet’s legacy is hard to forget. The instrument helped make jazz the genre it is today.

While genres and instrumentation can evolve, the trumpet will probably continue to be a standard jazz band member. You can get that characteristic sound you expect from a jazz ensemble.

9. The Players

Thanks to the trumpet’s history in jazz, there have been a lot of famous jazz trumpeters.

From the likes of Louis Armstrong to Dizzy Gillespie to Wynton Marsalis, you can listen to famous jazz trumpeters throughout the decades. Those players have helped influence new generations of jazz trumpet players.

Having that inspiration can make it easier for younger musicians to learn about and start playing jazz. They can use the previous players as role models, and they can emulate those players’ styles.

Even if you know nothing about jazz or the trumpet, you’ve probably at least heard of Louis Armstrong. When you think of him, you probably think of jazz trumpet. That says a lot about the trumpet and its place in jazz music.

10. The Influence

Trumpets, saxophones, and even clarinets have had their heydays in the world of jazz music.

However, the trumpet had its heyday before any other instrument. The trumpet was a huge part of jazz early on, but the clarinet and saxophone didn’t gain much traction until the 1930s and 40s.

That gave the trumpet an influential part of jazz. As other instruments, such as the tuba, came and went, the trumpet remained crucial for any jazz piece.

Over time, that led to more jazz trumpeters, and thanks to the range and sound, the trumpet helped shape jazz music for players of all instruments.

Do Jazz Trumpeters Use Special Trumpets?

Some jazz trumpeters use special trumpets when playing the genre.

A good jazz trumpet will offer a good sound with a nice response and plenty of projection. That way, the player can stand out among the other members of the jazz band or combo.

In some cases, players may only switch out the mouthpiece instead of the whole instrument. That can be a more affordable option for students and newer players.

You can look for a lead mouthpiece, which can be great if you get to play a first trumpet part. If you prefer to play lower parts, you might want a mouthpiece that supports the low register.

What Other Solo Instruments Are Popular in Jazz?

Along with the trumpet, popular solo jazz instruments include the saxophone, trombone, piano, guitar, and drums.

The trumpet, trombone, and saxophone make up the horn section. Meanwhile, the piano, guitar, and drums form the rhythm section of a jazz band.

You can play jazz with any combination of these instruments. If you want to play in a smaller combo, you might play trumpet with a piano player and a drummer.

However, you can create other groups with other trumpet players or horn players. That way, you can all share a bit of the spotlight, and each has a solo.

The Trumpet’s Impact on Jazz

The trumpet is one of the most common jazz instruments for a variety of reasons.

Some reasons are more technical, such as the instrument’s sound and range.

However, the history of jazz and the trumpet has also made it a mainstay of the genre.


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