Episode 6 – The Bass Trumpet

In this episode, Matt and I delve into the realm of the Bass Trumpet

From Bandestration

Thein E-flat Alto/Bass Trumpet

Thein C Bass Trumpet

Alexander C Bass Trumpet

Bach B-flat Bass Trumpet

Whole-Tube and Half-Tube Instruments and the Pedal Range

In his classic text, Orchestration, Cecil Forsyth talked about brass instruments being classified into two categories – whole-tube instruments and half-tube instruments.

Whole-Tube Instrument – a brass instrument capable of playing its fundamental pitch (the so-called pedal tone).

Half-Tube Instrument – a brass instrument that cannot play its fundamental pitch.

harmonic series

Forsyth was never clear as to which instruments fell exactly into what category.  In general, he stated that tubas were most definitely whole-tube instruments while trumpets and cornets cannot.  He neglects to mention trombones in either category, but includes passages that show pedal tones. Continue reading “Whole-Tube and Half-Tube Instruments and the Pedal Range”

Trumpet vs. Cornet vs. Flugelhorn

While all played by the same performer, the Trumpet, Cornet, and Flugelhorn are all in different families of brass instruments and all have different sound qualities.  Knowing the differences between the three instruments is essential for good band and orchestral writing.

The B-flat Trumpet, B-flat Cornet, and B-flat Flugelhorn all have the same range, but it’s a combination of bore structure and mouthpiece design that give these three instruments wholly different characters.

Continue reading “Trumpet vs. Cornet vs. Flugelhorn”

Contrabass Trumpets

Contrabass Trumpets

I only include these rare, and sometimes unique, trumpets for the sake of completeness.  There have been several instruments called a Contrabass Trumpet over the years.  Some of these are pitched in F below the regular Bass Trumpet, while others are a full octave lower than the Bass Trumpet.  The instrument in F is the equivalent of an Bass Tuba, while the one in C or B-flat is the same pitch as the Contrabass Tuba. Continue reading “Contrabass Trumpets”

Bass Trumpet

Bass Trumpet

The Bass Trumpet, sometimes called a Tenor Trumpet, is pitched one octave below the standard B-flat or C Trumpet, and can be pitched in either key (B-flat or C).  Unlike the other members of the trumpet family, the Bass Trumpet is almost never played by a true trumpeter, but rather is usually played by a trombonist or a Euphoniumist.  Because of this, we should rethink some of the ways we have traditionally thought of writing for the Bass Trumpet. Continue reading “Bass Trumpet”

Alto Trumpet

Alto Trumpet

The Alto Trumpet is rarely seen anymore.  It is pitched in either E-flat or F a sixth or a fifth below the standard C Trumpet.  In many ways, it is the exact instrument that was used in the Nineteenth Century for their F Trumpet parts, but with a slightly bigger bore.  This bigger bore favors the lower notes.

There is one major piece in the orchestral literature that calls for the Alto Trumpet: The Rite of Spring.  Here, I am going to clear up a huge problem that every single orchestration book has gotten wrong.  Continue reading “Alto Trumpet”

C and B-flat Trumpets

C and B-flat Trumpets

The B-flat and C Trumpets are the standard trumpets seen.  In bands, the B-flat Trumpet is king, whereas the C Trumpet is much more common in the orchestra.  The C Trumpet is written at concert pitch, while the B-flat sounds a second lower than written.  In professional circles, the choice of B-flat versus C is completely dependent on the player.  If a player feels that the sound of a particular passage is better played on the C when it is written for the B-flat, then they play it upon the C.  In some regards, trumpet players completely disregard a composer’s intentions when it comes to instrument choice.  They have completely abandoned the old F Trumpet in favor of the smaller instruments, irrespective of the composers’ wishes for the bolder sound of the old instrument. Continue reading “C and B-flat Trumpets”