Do you want to improve your trumpet playing? You can learn all of the etudes you want, but your trumpet may be holding you back.
Because of that, you need to know how to tell if a trumpet is of good quality.
Fortunately, you can follow our checklist to narrow your search for the perfect instrument:
1. Research Players
One of the best ways to tell if a trumpet is good is to consider who plays that model.
For example, Louis Armstrong played on a Henri Selmer trumpet, so it’s fair to say that Selmer is a good brand. Consider if other famous trumpet players have played a trumpet brand or model.
While some players may have played low-quality instruments, that’s rare. The odds are that, at least as professionals, good trumpet players can justify spending more on a better model.
Even if you aren’t ready for a professional trumpet, you should still consider the brand.
Then, you can look for a student model trumpet from that company, and you’ll probably get a decent instrument.
2. Read Reviews
Another way to tell if a trumpet is of good quality is to look at customer reviews.
This is particularly useful when shopping online for a trumpet. Many retailers have a review section where buyers can share their thoughts on the instrument. Pay attention to the type of player writing the review and what they say.
While some reviews can be skewed, good or bad, the overall review section is helpful. If you find plenty of poor reviews, that’s a sign the trumpet isn’t worth the cost.
On the other hand, a review section with dozens or hundreds of four- and five-star reviews are excellent.
You can take that as a sign that the trumpet in question is a good option.
3. Playtest the Trumpet
Intermediate and advanced trumpet players should playtest a trumpet to determine if it’s good.
Playing the instrument allows musicians to feel and hear the model. Of course, the experience can be subjective, but it can be very telling. If a professional player struggles to get a sound out of a trumpet, that’s a bad sign.
While beginners may not be able to use this tip, they can ask advanced players for help. If you have a teacher, have them playtest a trumpet you want to buy.
Then, get your teacher’s honest thoughts on the model after they play it. Your teacher can help you decide if the trumpet is favorable in general and specifically for you.
If you don’t have a teacher, ask another trumpet player to test the model for you so that you can at least see and hear it in action.
4. Check the Response
A fantastic benefit of testing a trumpet is the ability to learn how it responds.
The response of the trumpet can make a huge difference in what it’s like to play it every day. A good trumpet will respond quickly and at the accurate partial.
If an advanced trumpeter has to work hard to get the correct parts, they may be playing a cheap trumpet.
Now, some trumpets will respond better for a player than others. However, if many people try it and all have issues, you can eliminate that trumpet from your list of good instruments.
It’s important to consider how the trumpet responds throughout the range. That way, you can play low and high notes with ease.
You can use the best trumpets to play lead trumpet or a harmony part, and you shouldn’t need a second horn for different parts.
5. Evaluate the Craftsmanship
The craftsmanship of a trumpet is another factor that can help determine the quality.
Look for a trumpet with a smooth surface that’s free of nicks and scratches, especially if the trumpet is new. If a trumpet comes from the factory with these problems, it’s not the best trumpet for anyone.
Poor craftsmanship can lead to other problems, such as trouble getting a sound or staying in tune. Now, it doesn’t matter if the instrument is handmade or machine-made because both can be good.
However, you want to make sure that the trumpet looks good and feels comfortable. Be sure to check the entire instrument from the mouthpiece to the bell.
That way, you can make sure the trumpet is of the best possible quality.
6. View the Lacquer
A specific part of the craftsmanship to check is the lacquer or metal plating.
If a new trumpet doesn’t have a clean layer of lacquer or plating, it’s probably not a very good instrument. New trumpets should look clean and shiny, and the lacquer shouldn’t wear off quickly.
Of course, this may or may not determine the quality of a used trumpet. Vintage instruments can lose their lacquer over time, even if their owners take good care of them.
However, if a trumpet that’s a year or so old is already losing some lacquer, that’s a problem.
Sure it could be a problem with the owner’s maintenance routine, but the trumpet may not be good to start.
7. Analyze the Materials
Some trumpet players prefer lacquer models, while others like the look and sound of silver plating.
While both materials are signs of the best trumpets, each player needs to consider their preference. Silver trumpets offer a more brilliant sound than lacquered trumpets.
Consider what type of sound you want as well as the amount of maintenance you’re willing to do. Even though silver plating can provide a unique sound, the material can tarnish.
If you’re shopping for a used silver-plated trumpet, be sure to look for signs of tarnish. Then, you can determine if you’re willing to pay to remove it.
Fortunately, tarnish shouldn’t affect the sound or quality, but it is worth considering to choose the best trumpet for you.
8. Test the Mouthpiece
While getting a good trumpet is vital, so is getting a good mouthpiece.
If a trumpet comes with a mouthpiece, be sure to examine the accessory. Check for the same things as the body, such as scratches or uneven edges.
Then, give the mouthpiece a test run to see how it sounds.
You can always get a different mouthpiece to play with a trumpet. However, you should know how the one that comes with the model sounds.
Then, you’ll have a baseline for what to expect out of the instrument. Plus, you can determine if the mouthpiece fits into the body and if it’s easy to remove or not.
If the mouthpiece gets stuck, that could reveal problems with the size or shape of the leadpipe.
9. Check the Valves and Slides
Another factor to check when assessing the quality of a trumpet is the valves and slides.
Specifically, consider if the valves and slides move smoothly or if they get stuck. While some maintenance can fix that, if the valves get stuck often, that’s a sign of a bad trumpet.
Any trumpet worth playing should have valves that move smoothly when you press them. The trumpet should also have tuning slides that you can move and adjust quickly.
See how the valves and slides respond after a few practice sessions.
If they get stuck after a few times, that will cost you a lot of time and money to keep the instrument in playable condition.
10. Recognize the Brand
There are tons of trumpet brands out there, and some are much better than others.
Checking the brand is a quick way to determine if a trumpet is worth it without even playing it. Reputable brands such as Bach, King, and Yamaha, offer reliable trumpets at different prices and levels.
If you don’t recognize the brand, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. However, you should research the brand to learn if it’s one of the more trusted companies.
Unfortunately, these brands tend to charge more than the cheap knockoff brands, but the higher price is worth it for increased quality and playability.
The cheap brands may develop problems you may never experience with a better trumpet.
11. Consider the Price
Along with the brand, it’s essential to consider how much a trumpet costs.
Now, not all cheap trumpets are awful because the level, materials, and specs can affect the price, but the price can be very telling of a trumpet’s quality after accounting for those factors.
Be sure to compare trumpets at the same level to see if one is significantly cheaper than the others. The cheaper trumpet may have some quality issues, even if it claims to be a professional model, for example.
Price is also important to check when shopping for a used trumpet. If a seller lists a trumpet for way less than the average selling price for similar trumpets, it may not be that good.
They may not have maintained it well, so you may need to spend more to get the trumpet in playing condition.
The Importance of Trumpet Quality
A nice trumpet will save you a lot of time, money, and frustration.
While you could save a few bucks on a cheaper trumpet, you may need to spend more time cleaning and fixing it, and it might not last as long as a better model.
Be sure to consider as many factors as possible to find a high-quality trumpet that also meets your needs.
Then, you’ll be able to enjoy the time you spend practicing and performing.
Smithsonian: Trumpet owned by Louis Armstrong
Yamaha Choosing a Trumpet: Choosing based on the material and the coating