Brass Instrument

Wind instrument sounded by the vibration of the player's lips against a mouthpiece. The trumpet family includes both instruments derived from animal horn (see Horn) and those with more or less cylindrical tubing (usually having bamboo, wood, or reed models). Trumpets made of large conch shells are found as ritual instruments in many cultures. Silver and bronze trumpets with long, straight tubes, conical bores, and flared bells survive from ancient Egypt (2nd millennium BC) and resemble other ancient trumpets such as the Hebrew hasosra, the Roman tuba, and the Greek salpinx. In medieval Europe the long, straight trumpet called buisine was replaced by a shorter version of the instrument about 1300. By about 1400 the instrument became folded into an S-shape, and about 1500 it was coiled into an elongated loop. In this form, made of brass or silver, it was the standard ceremonial and orchestral trumpet until about 1800. Its narrow cylindrical bore created a brilliant tone, but its notes were limited to the harmonic series (see Harmonics) of the fundamental pitch of its length of tubing.

Instrument builders in the early 1800s sought to construct a trumpet that could play a full chromatic scale throughout its range. One short-lived invention was a key mechanism to open and close side holes in the tubing. About 1820, valves were added to the trumpet. Opening a valve connected an extra increment of tubing, thus lowering the basic pitch of the instrument and providing a different harmonic series. The modern trumpet has three valves and a bore that is partly cylindrical, partly conical. The standard orchestral trumpet, built in B-flat, has a range of about three octaves extending upward from the F-sharp below middle C. Models in D, C, and other pitches also exist. All are notated as if pitched in C (written C sounds B-flat for a B-flat trumpet), thereby allowing players to switch instruments without learning new fingerings.

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