Trumpet and clarinets can be compared in many ways. They are both transposing instruments tuned in Bb (for the most part) and they both play a leading role in orchestral settings.
But there are some major differences to be aware of.
Let’s dive into the differences between clarinets and trumpets.
Are Trumpets Or Clarinets Harder to Learn?
It is easier to learn to play the clarinet because the actual sound is generated using a reed rather than the lips. On trumpets, you form the sound with a buzzing noise generated from the lips. This takes a long time to master.
9 Important Factors When Choosing Trumpet Vs. Clarinet
Let’s dive deeper into some of the main differences between trumpet and clarinets.
There are some important things to consider if you’re thinking about whether the clarinet or the trumpet is easier to learn.
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1) The Mouthpieces Are Very Different
On the clarinet, you insert part of the mouthpiece into your mouth and as you blow, the reed will generate the sound for you.
This sound is rather easy to produce once you know where to position the clarinet mouthpiece. As long as you produce a good blow into the mouthpiece, the clarinet sound is automatic.
That’s very different from the technique you need to play the trumpet.
On the trumpet, you need to practice for several months before you can generate a good stable buzzing sound with your lips in order to produce a good clean tone that doesn’t crack.
This is the major difference between woodwind instruments and brasswind instruments.
2) It Is Easier to Hit the High Notes On Clarinets
Clarinets have a higher register than trumpets don’t require as much training to be able to play the high notes.
Check out the range/register of the clarinet and the trumpet here:
Having played the trumpet for a few decades, I can testify that the last four notes in the high register require consistant training week after week.
In other words, you quickly lose some upper range on the trumpet if you don’t practice weekly!
A good friend of mine in college played the clarinet and he could hit the high notes much more easily when we played together. Even with less practice, he has almost an extra upper octave on the clarinet compared to my trumpet.
3) The Clarinet Must Be Assembled Each Time
Most clarinets come in 5 pieces that need to be put together each time you want to play. Once you’re done playing you then need to completely take it apart again and clean the instrument.
This takes time and makes it a bit harder to get started if you just have a few minutes to practice.
With the trumpet, you just insert the mouthpiece (takes 1 second) and you’re ready to play or practice.
The clarinet also requires more effort from a small child to be able to assemble the clarinet pieces and keep them clean and tidy.
4) The Finger Positions Are Easier to Learn on Trumpets
On the trumpet, there are three valves we need to press down to produce all the notes. On the clarinet, however, there are 17 keys (!) to control the levers that cover the holes and make the tube longer or shorter.
I have played both instruments, and I found it more difficult to learn to master all the keys on the clarinet.
You also need both hands to play the clarinet. You can actually play the trumpet with one hand while you turn the note sheets or grab something in your pocket etc.
5) The Clarinet Is a Bit Louder Than the Trumpet
The trumpet and the clarinet sits around the same decibel level in an orchestral setting.
They are both among the loudest instruments but with training, you can typically practice the trumpet at a lower volume.
Also, we have more mutes available for the trumpet.
The trumpet works really well with a mute piece inserted into the bell, and that’s a great way to practice the trumpet in apartments or other places in order to play it at night or close to other people.
The clarinet can also be muted but it’s not as practical and easy to do. With the clarinet, you either need a full bag to be inserted on top of the instrument or you need to insert a piece around the mouthpiece which will alter the playing experience quite a bit.
6) The Clarinet Requires Less Embouchure Than the Trumpet
This plays into the same argument above about the natural register of the instrument.
You need a good strong embouchure to hit the high notes on a trumpet.
All in all, you need to practice regularly on the trumpet to play well. This is not needed to the same extent on clarinets and saxophones.
The lips muscles don’t need to be as strong and developed in order to play the clarinet.
7) The Clarinet Require Less Air
The clarinet has much smaller pipe length which also means that you need less air pressure to produce a good clean tone.
This can sometimes make it easier for kids to learn to play the clarinet as the trumpet require strong pressure from the diaphragm.
8) Clarinets Are Lighter Than Trumpets
The clarinet typically weighs around 1.7 lb (800 grams) while the trumpet weighs around 2.2 lb (1 kilogram). This makes it a bit easier to hold the instrument for smaller kids and when you need to play it for an extended time.
|Trumpet||1.7 lb (0.8 kilograms)|
|Clarinet||2.2 lb (1 kilogram)|
This is a small difference, but still worth mentioning.
However, you can start out on a cornet instead of a trumpet if the weight is an issue. The cornet is a slightly smaller “trumpet”, that also weighs around 1.7 lb (0.8 kilograms).
9) Are Clarinets or Trumpets More Expensive?
Clarinets and trumpets cost around the same, both when you look at student models and professional models.
You can get a fine student model at around $400-$500 for each instrument. However, you may need to get a new clarinet after 10-20 years while a trumpet often lasts around 60 years .
If you’re looking for a good used instrument you can also easily find a decent instrument for around a few hundred bucks.
That goes for both clarinets and trumpets.
How Long Does It Take to Learn Each Instrument?
You can get started more quickly on the clarinet as it’s easier to learn to form a good stable tone using the reed-based mouthpiece than the trumpet mouthpiece. However, the fingering positions on clarinets take time to master.
There are way more buttons on the clarinet and it takes time to learn how to play a chromatic scale.
Most trumpet teachers will tell you that if you practice bi-weekly for half a year, you will be able to play a decent melody on the trumpet without cracking the sound.
However, if you sit down and practice the finger positions on the clarinet well, you can probably play a decent melody after only a few months.
Both instruments only play one note at them time. This also makes the trumpet easier to learn than the piano.
Which Is More Popular, the Trumpet or the Clarinet?
Clarinets and trumpets are almost equally popular. It’s not possible to find sales statistics or number for how many instruments are being produced per year, so we have to get a bit creative here to come up with a good educated guess.
We do see more reviews on Amazon for trumpets, and that’s typically a strong indicator that they well more of these items.
It’s easy to find beginner trumpets with over 3,000 reviews on Amazon while clarinets typically have up to 2,000 reviews.
To me, that’s a sign that trumpets are a bit more popular than clarinets.