What is a good trumpet to get for an adult beginner?
May 10, 2016 12:07 PM   Subscribe

Someone has asked for a trumpet as a gift. I searched on the basics and see that the most common type for beginners is the Bb trumpet, but was not able to easily find out objective information on what brands to seek out (and avoid) for beginners.

This person is unlikely to ever go out for a band/orchestra - she has just always wanted to play the trumpet (her grandfather played professionally) and has decided now is a good time to try it out.

In terms of budget, I was thinking around $300 and I see a lot of trumpets in that range that seem to get good reviews but I don't have any familiarity with the brands. Bonus if it comes with some sort of case.

For example, this has good reviews, but not that many. Other trumpets from that maker have a lot of good reviews. Any reason not to get that one, or better suggestions?
posted by mikepop to Media & Arts (15 answers total)
Bach, Getzen, Yamaha, King and Conn are all pretty standard makers that would be okay to buy even used, which would make the beginner models in your price range. I am sure there are others I am not thinking of off the top of my head. I have taught music for a long time and have not heard of the brand you linked to, which is does not bode well especially given that almost every musical instrument I have had a student purchase off Amazon has been basically a pile of crap.

If you can hold off a bit, the end of the school year is a great time to buy used from a music store as kids return their rentals, or used off Craigslist as kids' parents sell their (real brand names- post here or mail me if you want to ask me) beginner instruments their kids quit.
posted by charmedimsure at 12:18 PM on May 10, 2016 [8 favorites]

I'd search locally for a music store that provides lessons for beginners or rents instruments to school band members. They'll have a line on the brands of Bb cornets (that's the standard trumpet) that'll be best for both your budget and the recipient's skill level.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 12:19 PM on May 10, 2016

There are two kinds of music stores: Guitar Center rock-stuff stores, and "Band Rentals" stores. Look in the yellow pages for the latter.
posted by rhizome at 12:39 PM on May 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

Bb cornets (that's the standard trumpet)

I believe this is a regional thing, and not the case in the US. They're different instruments and have very different tone properties. In my school, everyone played (cylindrical bore) trumpets, and the school owned a few cornets that kids would play when called for in a particular piece.

Get a trumpet if you want a trumpet, especially for latin/jazz/non-orchestral playing.
posted by supercres at 12:41 PM on May 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

I recently updated to a professional trumpet and I really appreciated this resource.

That page is mostly about professional ones, but it links to here for student ones.

It's not a pretty site but I think it has good info and seemed to echo all the other research I had done.

He recommends staying away from intermediate trumpets because they are more of a marketing gimmick than anything else. I can't confirm, I've only used student and professional.

He lists some models and also suggests buying a good one used if you can find it. When I was searching there seemed to be lots of trumpets available if you wanted to put in the time to sort through them all. Maybe try locally to narrow down the field and if you can find someone who knows how to play already to test it out, that could be helpful.
posted by wintrymix at 12:53 PM on May 10, 2016

I know nothing about trumpets, but I did pursue the Googling a bit further.

Starting at the beginning, the Conn-Selmer website lists a student trumpet - Bach Student Model TR300H2 Bb Trumpet - which is sold by Amazon for $1095 - which is mostly interesting because it suggests that Conn and Bach are leading to the same place.

Getzens seem to be several hundred $$ more expensive.
posted by SemiSalt at 1:32 PM on May 10, 2016

The blemished and likely totally fine Bundy on this Woodwind and Brasswind search page page would be okay and it's in your range. I do not like Amatis, Alloras, Blessings or most of the other brands I did not mention that are on that site at all even for beginners. I forgot Jupiters and Holtons, which would probably be fine; I think Jupiter's quality as a brand has gone up significantly in the last ten years.

I never recommend my string students buy used without a knowledgeable purchaser with them, but if you stick with a decent brand you can do pretty well for brass as long as the valves and tuning slides work quite freely, it does not having any huge air-constricting dents (particularly in the lead pipe where the mouthpiece attaches) and the soldering of the braces is intact/non-wobbly. You really are best served talking to a local *band* store (not guitar place, not grocery store...if you find a place that does band instrument repair that also sells instruments, that's even better) to get started- see if they can hook you up wth a rental return.
posted by charmedimsure at 1:58 PM on May 10, 2016 [3 favorites]

Oh! Selmers would also be fine, they're in the same weird brand family as Bundys and Bachs.
posted by charmedimsure at 2:04 PM on May 10, 2016

if you stick with a decent brand you can do pretty well for brass as long as the valves and tuning slides work quite freely, it does not having any huge air-constricting dents (particularly in the lead pipe where the mouthpiece attaches) and the soldering of the braces is intact/non-wobbly. You really are best served talking to a local *band* store (not guitar place, not grocery store...if you find a place that does band instrument repair that also sells instruments, that's even better) to get started- see if they can hook you up wth a rental return.

This should be the best answer.

I haven't played consistently in, oh, almost 15 years, but I did play for a decade in & out of school.

I would recommend that you think of your trumpet budget as the purchase of the thing, then in a few months or a year that you buy (a) a new mouthpiece and potentially (b) a mute or three, especially if you play jazz, practice in a space that shares walls with neighbors, don't like the weird comment from the guy outside your house ("was that Beyonce you were playing on the trumpet?" "The Star Wars theme, actually.") or all three.

For the mouthpiece, you'll start with a 7c most likely, but that won't fit your emboucher, teeth, etc more than adequately--it's standard because all kids can manage it, not because it makes you sound good. Once you *have* an emboucher, go find a mouthpiece that serves it better. Trust me! It took me years to find that out,+ then my other brass friends thought I was weird for not having known.
posted by migrantology at 2:10 PM on May 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

My first trumpet was a Yamaha Bb, definitely a student model and would most likely be in your price range. When I decided that I was going to stick with playing (and the Yamaha got run over by a car during marching band practice), my parents helped me buy a Benge which in the mid-eighties was $600, so not in your price range.

I never found cornets to be widely used in the U.S., but when I moved to England they were very common there, so I bought one.
posted by bendy at 2:58 PM on May 10, 2016

1) Trumpet does not equal cornet. Many people treat them as interchangeable instruments, but they really aren't.

2) Yamaha, Conn, Bundy are probably decent choices in your price range. Do not buy from Amazon or eBay until you know exactly what you need to look for. (Conn, Bach, Selmer, & Bundy used to be separate companies, but over the years they have amalgamated. IME, Jupiter is inconsistent. The Alloras, etc, are generally not very good for beginners. There is no point in fighting the horn while learning to play.)

3) Find a band supply store and buy from them. They will often offer a 30 day play test, especially for brass instruments. If you can't find a shop on your own, contact the band director at the local high school and ask them where they get the instruments they use. It's possible they may know a student who is getting rid of a trumpet.
posted by jlkr at 4:51 PM on May 10, 2016

I usually give my students the same advice as above, to skip the "intermediate" level trumpets completely as they are a guaranteed ripoff. Option A is definitely finding a local band store or repair place that sells or rents used instruments.

In the absence of that, my vote for Option B would be to find an Olds Ambassador trumpet from the 60s or 70s on eBay. The Ambassador was *the* standard student-model trumpet for at least 30 years and used ones are typically in great shape because it's built like a tank. I have a 1970s Ambassador that my kids play now -- I inherited it from a friend who never took care of it, I continue to not take care of it, I sometimes catch my kids swordfighting with it, it is frequently "stored" on the floor of my kitchen, and the damn thing still plays fine. Another option would be to find (again on eBay) a used Getzen 300-series Bb, another very good old budget instrument though not nearly as sturdy (so you'd need to pay more attention to quality when buying one used).

After a few years of practice they're going to be limited by any of these instruments but at that point they'll be in a position to make a better decision, and presumably have a teacher or more-experienced friend to help them out. For "legit" classical players the only move at that point is to $2000+ instruments (eg Bach Stradivarius or Artisan). Jazz players have less-expensive options that are usable but that's still in the $1000-2000 range.
posted by range at 7:25 PM on May 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

I played trumpet in high school, and the only difference I noticed between our different beginner models was that some had better designed spit valves (simple = good) and third valve slides. Only one or two of us had usable third valve slides. Often this was due to bad maintenance, but also due to the fit and design.

I think it's nice to shop for an instrument in person. Take her to your closest decent music shop and let her try the beginners models. I still remember getting my horn.
posted by kjs4 at 12:01 AM on May 11, 2016

Thanks to all! A lot of great info to dig into here and I believe there is a band supply store a few towns away I can check out.
posted by mikepop at 7:48 AM on May 11, 2016

The blemished and likely totally fine Bundy

When I was in high school, I played several upper line but old hand me down trumpets. My uncle, who played jazz professionally most of his adult life, gave me a new Bundy he'd picked up on the cheap to stand in for his normal horn when he was getting it relacquered. He said no one ever noticed, and that's the horn I ended up taking with me to college.
posted by solotoro at 2:57 PM on May 11, 2016

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