Trumpet Transformation Through Time

By Christie Bender, Ferris State University student

Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of blog posts for GRandJazzFest written by Ferris State University public relations students. Thank you, Ferris, for helping to build awareness of jazz, the great American music art form! Read about the author at the end of this post.

Dating back to the fourteenth century, the trumpet was first used to signal or make an announcement. With changes that its users made for convenience and sound, it soon was appreciated as a musical instrument.

It began with an appearance very different from today’s trumpets. The first trumpet was a long, straight tubular instrument, usually at least six feet long. It worked to amplify the buzzing sound made when lips, pressed together, forced air through it.

With time came adaptations to the trumpet. The sixteenth century has been credited for inventing a fold in the trumpet to reduce the long size. This made it a lot easier for trumpeters to hold or to play, which lead to an increase in the instrument’s popularity.

By the end of the seventeenth century the trumpet was folded into the shape that we know it as today. The innovations to the trumpet also changed the abilities it had for different sounds. It was common to have multiple shaped trumpets, due to the desire to find a newer, better sound.

The trumpet was given valves in the early 1800s which allowed for various combinations of notes. Valves open ports to more tubing, for the air to travel through. This altered the capability of various sounds immensely. The third valve opens the widest, allowing the most air to pass through. The first opens a little less than the third, and the second opens the least.

By the nineteenth century, the trumpet had slowed down in changes. It was during this time that jazz was created. The most typical jazz band will play a piano and multiple brass instruments, including the trumpet.  The trumpet is found in almost every type of music but as the loudest solo instrument, it has always played a lead role in jazz.  The trumpet has been a part of five different eras of jazz: Traditional, Swing, Bebop, Avant-Garde and Contemporary. Many famous jazz players have glorified the trumpet, such as Louis Armstrong and Miles Davis.


ChristieChristie is a senior in the public relations program at Ferris State University. She will be graduating with her bachelor’s degree in just three years instead of the usual four. She is the Vice President of Internal Relations and Secretary for the Ferris State chapter of Public Relations Student Society of America. 

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