A guide to buying your first Trumpet

A guide to buying your first Trumpet

The trumpet is a popular choice for new players. It is affordable, very portable and has application across a wide range of musical repertoire including orchestra, windband and jazz ensemble. A variety of different types of trumpet are available but for new players, the standard Bb version is strongly recommended.



  • Types of Trumpet
  • Younger Players
  • Features
    • Bore
    • Valves
    • Bell
    • Mouthpiece
    • Finger Hooks & Thumb Rings 
    • Waterkeys
    • Stays
    • Material
  • Popular Student Trumpets
  • Any questions?

Types of Trumpet

Bb Very popular, best suited for new players, applicable to a very wide of repertoire
C More application to orchestral repertoire
D/Eb More application to orchestral repertoire
Piccolo (Bb/A) More application to orchestral repertoire
Pocket Great for taking on holiday or when space is limited

Younger Players

Learning a musical Instrument at a young age has a whole host of benefits but it is important that children are comfortable holding and playing their instrument before they start their musical journey in earnest. There are two main challenges for younger players when it comes to playing the trumpet. Physically, the player must be able to hold the instrument comfortably, supporting it at a suitable distance away from the mouthpiece.

Playing posture

In the example above you can see the younger player struggling to hold the instrument at a suitable distance.  

This is likely to result in an uncomfortable playing experience which will, at best, inhibit progress and at worst, see the player give up completely.  A poor posture will also affect lung capacity as the diaphragm is compressed and restricted.

The other consideration for younger players is their ‘embouchure’ or mouth position when starting at a young age. Developing a good embouchure can take many years and relies on making small adjustments over time. It is usually best to wait until adult teeth are fully in place so that a stable mouth and teeth position is set for players to use as their baseline for embouchure development.

If children are very keen to play before they are physically capable of playing the trumpet, there are a number of other options.

Start on a cornet

The cornet, whilst being physically smaller and lighter than a trumpet, is identical in finger positions, range and sound. This can overcome some of the physical challenges of the trumpet and may enable players to start playing at a slightly younger age. Once slightly older, players can easily switch over to playing the trumpet.


Plastic Instruments

A relatively recent development in the music instrument, plastic instruments are becoming more popular as their quality improves. Available for many different instrument types, (Trumpet, Cornet, Trombone, Flute, Clarinet, Saxophone), plastic models are very light which may reduce fatigue during practice. However, given that they are the same physical dimensions, players will still need to support the instrument at a suitable distance away from the mouthpiece. Many will assume that plastic instruments are more resistant to damage compared to their brass counterparts, and whilst that is true to some degree in terms of dinks and small dents, it should be noted that plastic instruments aren’t indestructible and when they do break, they can rarely be repaired.




The bore size relates to the diameter of the tubing in your trumpet. This has a large effect on how much air it takes to achieve a stable sound from the instrument. Student friendly models tend to have a ‘medium-large’ bore which tends to be around 0.459”. Larger bore trumpets become more prevalent at the intermediate and pro level and are capable of playing with more power but require more air to ‘fill’ them. Bore size can also have an effect on the tone of sound that your instrument produces with ‘larger’ bores producing a broader, wider sound. This subject area is frequently debated amongst trumpet players with many differing opinions. Personal preference can change dramatically amongst individuals and as a result it is always best to test an instrument extensively before buying it.


The valves and valve block are important to consider as they provide the interface through which the player interacts with their instrument. Sticky or seized valves are common issues with cheaper student instruments so be sure to check these carefully. Learning how to correctly oil your instrument’s valves will also be invaluable in reducing these kinds of issues. Valves on student instruments are usually nickel-plated. These are hard wearing, durable and perform well without frequent maintenance. Higher standard trumpets may be fitted with Monel valves which although capable of a higher standard of play, will require more frequent maintenance as they are softer when compared to nickel-plate. However, Monel valves are corrosion resistant so tend to have a longer overall lifespan. The quality of the other valve components will also play a part in the overall performance of the valve. Is the valve spring responsive? Do the valve guides fit well?


Bell size and material have a significant effect on the sound of your trumpet. The majority of trumpets will have a 4.5” bell although many other sizes are available. A larger bell will project your playing more effectively and over a wider area at the same level. The material that your bell is made from also makes a significant different to the tone of sound that you produce. See the ‘material’ section for further details.

Your trumpet bell will either be a one-piece or two-piece bell. This describes how many pieces of brass (or other material) were used to create the bell section of your instrument. Student trumpets tend to feature two-piece bells as the manufacturing process is quicker and easier. More expensive, higher standard trumpets may feature a one-piece bell which has usually been hand crafted. Instrument with a one-piece bell tend to have a slightly clearer sound as the sound is not adversely affected by the join in the bell section.


Your mouthpiece and embouchure will have as much of an effect on your playing as the trumpet you have chosen. Trumpet mouthpieces are available in a whole host of different sizes and dimensions for different types and styles of playing. Choosing a mouthpiece that works well for you is a very personal journey and heavily subjective. This process usually relies on trying many different variations before settling on the right one for you. The vast majority of student trumpets will be supplied with an entry-level mouthpiece that is suitable to get you off and running. It is common for players to look to upgrade their mouthpiece after a few years of playing as this will support their progress towards the higher grades.

Finger Hooks & Slide Rings

These components make holding your instrument more comfortable. If the trumpet is being purchased for a younger player, it is worth considering a model with an adjustable 3rd valve slide ring. These are very useful for making adjustments for smaller hands and can be changed overtime as the player grows older. These components and the quality of their soldering to the main body of the instrument may provide clues about the overall care and attention that has gone into the construction of the instrument.


These allow moisture to be easily drained from your trumpet and if used regularly can help increase the lifespan of your instrument. The majority of models will feature a waterkey on the main tuning slide and one on the 3rdvalve slide. Several different types of waterkey can be found, the ‘traditional’ lever and spring version tends to be more common on student trumpets. On more advanced models, you may come across ‘Amado’ waterkeys which some claim give a better seal reducing air leakage.  Physically, they also take up less space on your instrument but require more maintenance as they need oiling from time to time.  


These help provide rigidity and strength to you instrument’s overall shape and structure.  Stays can usually be found between the leadpipe and bell section and also between the opposing tubing of the main tuning slide. The soldering of the stays to the main body of the instrument can also provide clues to the overall quality of the construction of your instrument. The position of stays can also have an effect on the sound that your instrument produces. More expensive models may have gone through extensive research and development to determine the best position for stays to be placed.


Traditionally Brass tends to be the most common material that trumpets are constructed from. A number of different types of brass are commonly found usually differentiated by the ratio of copper to zinc. Yellow Brass is most commonly found on student models and has a copper content of about 70% (30% zinc). High grade 80:20 brass becomes more common in step-up and more professional standard models. Rose, or red, brass has the highest copper content at about 90% and is capable of achieving a warmer, mellower tone more easily. Rose brass can sometimes be found in the construction of some leadpipe and bell sections on student trumpets. This can support the swift progression of newer players and also has the advantage of resisting ‘red rot’ and corrosion.

Popular student trumpets



John Packer JP051 Bb Trumpet

Our own John Packer JP051 Bb Trumpet is a favourite with the UK education system and has been refined over many years to be perfect for first time players. It features a rose brass leadpipe for a warm sound, a medium-large bore and is supplied with a mouthpiece and case.
John Packer JP051 BB Trumpet in Lacquer




Any Questions?

Steve, our brass specialist is more than happy to answer any trumpet related queries that you might have, feel free to contact him via our contact form or comment below.


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