Imagine a band without trumpets. Can’t do it? Not surprised. Our modern thoughts on band are so trumpet-centered that it is difficult to imagine the group without them. Yet, we need to think in these terms sometimes.
We all know the trumpet in its many forms. By definition it is a brass instrument, typically in the soprano range that has a nearly completely cylindrical bore. The normal formula given is 2/3 cylindrical and 1/3 conical. The final conical section accounts only for the flare of the bell. These numbers do not represent reality as roughly 2/3 of the bore is actually conical, though most of flare is very gradual.
Trumpets have been part of wind bands since their inception. We need only look at Handel’s Music for the Royal Fireworks to see early band trumpet parts. With the rise of the cornets, which were fully chromatic long before trumpets ever were, the role of trumpets in the band declined. Throughout most of the Twentieth Century, cornets, not trumpets, were the main soprano brass instruments. There were typically three or four cornet parts and only two trumpet parts. Today, the cornet has been all but abandoned (wrongly in my opinion), and we have nothing but B-flat Trumpets for the high brass. I have been in bands where the largest section of instruments was the trumpets.
To trumpet something means to proclaim it, to shout it out, to declare it, and this is the role of the trumpet. Think of long fanfare instruments on the ramparts of a castle sounding a call across the king’s country.
We need to seriously rethink the role of the trumpet in the band. We also need to open our tonal palates up to the various members of the trumpet family. We can no longer be as bland as B-flat.
Piccolo Trumpets (B-flat and A)
Sopranino Trumpets (G, F, E, E-flat, and D)
Soprano Trumpets (C and B-flat)