Getting your first instrument can be a very exciting experience for the young trumpeter--but often a pain to the parents. There are so many options, choices, and brands available that even the most level-headed person can get confused. This section will help you to sort through all of the decisions, and hopefully give some insight from people who've already been down the road before.
One choice that first time buyers are forced to make is to choose between playing on a trumpet or a cornet. Really, it does not matter initially, but there are a few good reasons to consider a cornet, especially if the person who will be playing the instrument is on the small side. A cornet is more compact than a trumpet, so it's usually easier to reach everything for people with small hands. Also, many times a cornet is lighter. These are only a few brief physical differences, but for a more in depth discussion of the differences between a trumpet and a cornet, look at the page, Trumpets vs. Cornets
Trumpet or Cornet?
Many band and orchestra directors have a preference that they want students to get. In this case, it is best to use the instrument that the director recommends.
New or Used
Frankly, buying a new trumpet or cornet is very costly, especially if you're not sure that the student will stick with it. When you buy a new instrument, which may range from 500 to 1000 dollars for a "beginners's instrument," you are assured of a playable instrument that usually has some type of warranty. Many music stores also may have a rent-to-own plan that may be worthwhile to look into. On the average though, it is usually a good idea to either borrow an instrument from a friend who has quit playing or buy a used trumpet.
When buying used trumpets, check with your
director to see if there are any students who have dropped out
of the class who might sell their trumpet. This way, the
director can tell you if the instrument is in good shape. If there
are no instruments available in this fashion, local pawn shops
might be a good idea to look into, but you should be prepared
and know what to look for when you walk in the door. You
should bring with you a bottle of valve oil and slide grease
to check everything out. First, inspect the quality of the
brass. Are there many dents? A few are fine, but make sure
that the bell, leadpipe and valve casings are free from any
major dents. Small dents are fine, but large ones will
noticeably make the instrument sound different. Next, oil the
valves, as outlined in Trumpet
Maintenance. After oiling, make sure that all of the
valves are free flowing, and that there is no friction. If
there is any, don't bother with the instrument, because
repairing it will probably cost as much as the instrument.
Next, make sure that all of the slides can move. If some don't
want to come out, apply some slide grease and a little
pressure. It's usually OK if the slides are tight, but they
must be able to move. (One exception is the third valve, which
should move easily). Check to make sure that there is a finger
ring on the third valve slide that allows the player to put
his or her third finger in to adjust the slide while playing.
At this point, the condition of the finish isn't essential--it
is more for looks than anything else. Very little difference
can be heard in the sound quality between a good finish and a
poor one. Make sure that all of the soldered joints still are
soldered, and have not broken free. Finally, make sure that
the instrument fits well in the musician's hands. Make sure
that he or she can reach everything, and move the valves with
ease. As far as price goes, a good used trumpet can be found
for between $150 and $250. For anything less than that price
range, double check the instument. Good deals can be found,
but that can often signal that something is wrong.
How Long Should it Last?
A first trumpet or cornet will last until
the student gets serious about the instrument. This means
competing at contests, playing lead parts, and showing long
term commitment. For some, this could be only one year after
they've started to play, and for others it could be many more.
Usually, the student will know just by intuition when it's
time. After this, it is advisable to look into seriously
purchasing a new trumpet or cornet.
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Written and published by Chris Glazner, John Timpani, and Christian Reed.
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