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Purchasing a Trumpet for Beginners
A Guide to Purchasing a Trumpet.
I'm a band director with 13 years of experience in starting and developing band students on all instruments. One of the most frustrating aspects to my job is when parents, in a misguided attempt to save money, buy a cheap instrument and, as a result, don't give their kids a fair chance to succeed. With this guide, I hope you will gain valuable knowledge into what it takes to purchase a quality trumpet.
Low Quality Trumpets
WHAT IS A LOW-QUALITY TRUMPET?
Let me define what I mean by cheap or low quality trumpet. If you buy a trumpet from retail or wholesale stores brand new for $150 bucks or so, that is a low quality instrument. If you buy an instrument on-line "brand new, imported" for $100, that is a low quality instrument. They supposedly say "band director approved" but they don't say which band director or where they work or how many band directors approve.
There are many disadvantages to buying a low quality trumpet:
1. They will break very easily.
The metal used for these instruments are not thick enough to withstand the basic wear and tear that most young players put their instruments through. While most trumpets will withstand some dents or dings, low quality trumpets will have to be sent in for repair much more often than brand name trumpets.
I had a student who had a no-name trumpet. She would get her mouthpiece stuck occasionally. Normally, this is not a big deal--it takes me about 30 seconds to pull one. However, with her trumpet, there was not enough of a lip on the leadpipe (where the mouthpiece goes in) to attach the mouthpiece puller. As a result, every time her mouthpiece got stuck, I had to send her trumpet to the shop. Minimum shop charge is $20. By the time her parents paid $20 several times just to pull a mouthpiece AND she missed time playing in class, it was not worth it for them to buy a cheaper trumpet.
2. Many times music stores cannot repair generic instruments.
If a trumpet is mass produced or imported from a third world country, many times music stores cannot even buy the parts to replace the instrument. So, when the valve guide wears out (and it will) or you need a new water key (and you eventually will), etc., you may have to buy a new instrument because the music store can't buy parts for your instrument. Not such a savings after all!
3. The higher quality of the instrument, the higher quality of the sound.
Band is all about sound. Sounds obvious enough, I know, but sometime parents forget that when purchasing an instrument. The thin metal on the cheap instruments as well as the sub-standard craftsmanship used to make the instruments prohibits your child from sounding as good as their classmates. This is extremely frustrating for your student. Do you want your child to practice very hard, only to have them sit a lower chair than someone they play equal to or better than, just because they can't make nearly as good of a sound as their sectionmates through no fault of their own?? Do you want them to not make an honor band when they've literally practiced months for the audition just because their instrument is handicapping their chance? I sure hope not.
Quality Trumpets That Are Safe to Purchase
The instrument is one of the biggest factors in your child's success.
WHAT ARE QUALITY BRANDS OF TRUMPET TO PURCHASE??
Now that we've established some of the reasons to buy a quality trumpet, let's discuss what quality trumpets are. I allow the following brands of trumpets in my classroom, with varying degrees of enthusiasm:
Bach, Yamaha, Conn, King, Olds, Bundy, Jupiter, Getzen, Holton, Blessing, Besson and Selmer.
The top level of trumpets:
My personal favorite brand of trumpet is Bach. They seem to have a very nice, full sound and have very little problems with the valves.
Yamaha trumpets are pretty good, but, in my experience, students have had a lot of trouble with the valves sticking. If your child cleans the valves often enough with a valve brush and uses proper finger technique (pinkie on top of the ring, fingers curved pushing straight down on the valves) you can alleviate most of these issues. However, most beginners don't clean their valves enough or have perfect finger technique.
The second level of trumpets
Conn, King, Olds, Getzen, Holton, B&S, Selmer, and Blessing.
Quality horns, but normally not as nice (or popular) as Bach or Yamaha
The third tier of acceptable horns is:
Bundy, Jupiter, Besson
Bessons trumpets are okay, but not my first choice. Their euphoniums are world class (but that's another lens entirely)
Jupiter have improved quite a bit and are okay. I like their low brass (baritone and tuba, especially for junior high bands), but I don't think their trumpets are to the level as their low brass instruments.
Bundy is the lowest quality acceptable instrument. What I mean is that the sound is okay (for a beginner) and they can be fixed. Not the #1 choice by any means.
BRANDS TO AVOID(this is by no means an all-inclusive list):
Rossetti, Conductor, Palatino, First Act, Tristar, Sky, Cecilio, Simba, Hyundai, Schill, Selman, and Symphony. Ask your band director. If they haven't heard of the brand, don't buy it.
Before purchasing any trumpet or accessory, please contact your child's band director, as they may have their own preferences regarding brand of instrument, mouthpiece size, etc.
Band directors or musicians, vote here for your favorite beginning brand of trumpet
What is your favorite brand of trumpet
Trumpet Silent Brass System
The silent brass system allows your child to practice into the mute that amplifies the sound through a set of headphones. You hear virtually no sound while your student can practice unimpeded. Great for parents!
Buying a Trumpet for Your Child
How do I start the process of buying an trumpet for my child??
1. Check with their band director to make sure it is okay for them to play trumpet. Not everyone has the jaw structure or teeth and lip characteristics to play trumpet successfully. Please, check with your child's teacher first.
2. Check with local music stores. Most schools have music stores come in and do an instrument display night. Representatives are on hand to answer questions and sell/rent instruments and accessories. Some schools invite more than one store to come in the same night to provide parents several choices.
Instruments can be purchased on a rent-to-own basis from the music store with payments normally lower than $30 a month.
The pros to this approach:
--If your child decides they don't want to continue in band, you lose only the money you paid to rent the instrument.
--Most of the time, you can purchase (for an additional monthly fee) a maintenance/insurance plan for the instrument that covers any or all repairs for the instrument while it is being rented.
--You will pay much more for the same instrument by renting to own. Most stores charge a small interest rate on the remaining balance on the instrument.
--Most stores will give a significant discount (one store I deal with gives a 25% discount) for purchasing an instrument outright.
3. You may choose to buy an instrument from someone other than a local music store. Please make sure that it is one of the brands I listed above. I have no problem with people buying instruments online on Ebay, at a pawn shop, or from an individual so long as they are quality instruments.
4. Consider buying used. I would rather a parent buy a used name brand instrument than a brand new generic instrument. In fact, many times, older instruments, so long as they have been maintained properly are superior to new instruments. Older instruments were heavier and made with more metal, giving them a darker, richer sound.
Note: with any used instrument, you will need to send it to the shop before use. At a minimum, the instrument will need to be professionally cleaned. It may also need to be adjusted, have parts replaced, new corks, etc. Check with a local music store, but I would allow an additional $100 for brass instruments to get it in ideal working condition.
Other Items You Need to Consider
--You need to purchase a Bb trumpet.
--Check with your band director regarding which mouthpiece they want your child to start with. The most common beginning trumpet mouthpiece is a Bach 7C. I personally start my kids on a 5C mouthpiece, because I like to take a more aggressive approach. A beginning student should not start on a 3C mouthpiece. I start my players in 6th grade and normally switch players to a 3C in 8th grade.
Note: While they look really cool, a megatone mouthpiece is not necessary for the vast majority of school trumpet players, especially beginners.
--You need to purchase a trumpet care kit
--I highly recommend purchasing a music stand so your child can have proper posture while practicing.
--I highly recommend purchasing a metronome to keep a steady beat for your child while they're learning music.
--For a beginning trumpet, it doesn't matter if the trumpet is lacquer (gold) or silver. When you buy an intermediate or professional trumpet, I recommend a silver trumpet, but it's not worth the extra $200 to buy a silver trumpet for a beginning trumpet player.
--Please contact your child's band director or local music store for proper trumpet care and maintenance procedures, as I don't have the space to go into that here.
Congratulations on your child starting band. Whether it is a middle school activity or a lifelong passion (like it turned into for me), band is a rewarding experience.
Remember, no one will be a great player without regular practice. Regardless of how much money you spend on an instrument, it will be wasted if your child doesn't practice. Yes, you can make them practice just like you make them do their homework and go to bed at a decent hour.
Please keep in mind that everything I've written here is based on my experience. Your child's band director may have different opinions. Please, follow the wishes of your band director.
Thanks for taking the time to read my lense. I hope that it's been useful for you.
Beginning trumpet lessons
Members of the 215th Army Band walk you through the first lessons of trumpet playing.