The mouthpiece is the piece of the trumpet that comes in contact with the trumpeter's lips and harnesses the player's buzzing to produce a tone. There are many types, brands, and sizes of mouthpieces that are made specifically for a unique purpose, such as high register playing or deep orchestral playing. Mouthpieces can be made as a solid piece of brass, plated in silver, or it may have the ability to have a rim, cup, or throat that may be unscrewed so that changes can be made without buying an entirely new mouthpiece. For a further and in depth discussion of mouthpieces, check out the Mouthpiece Section.
The bell is a very critical part of the trumpet. Everything about it, from the materials it is made from, to its flare is important to producing the characteristic sound that a trumpet is known for. Most bells are made from brass that is plated in silver or coated in gold lacquer. The silver plating produces a brighter sound that is more open and tends to protect the instrument longer, while the lacquer produces a more mellow or "deadened" sound and has a tendency to wear off.
Some companies offer options such as sterling silver or beryllium bronze bells. This may be helpful for some people in improving tone, intonation, and projection, but it is not for everyone. It is always best to test these options out for a while to see what best meets your needs. In addition, some specialty bells may be especially delicate, and require very special care to be taken with them.
Bell flare, the rate that the bell increases in diameter, is also an option on trumpets. Very large flare produces more mellow sounds ( an example of this would be a french horn, that has a very mellow sound and a very large bell flare). On the contrary, a small bell flare produces a sharper timbre and adds a brassy color. When choosing bell flare, most people try to find a middle ground so that their instrument may be used in multiple musical settings. When choosing trumpets, it is also a good idea to see if the bell is hand hammered and seamless, or machine manufactured with a seam. The seam may be hardly noticeable, but it does effect sound production slightly.
As opposed to using a tuning slide, some more expensive trumpets use tuning bells. The bells on these trumpets are removable and attach at the valve casing. The bell slides into a receiver where it screws in place. To change the tuning, all that is needed is to loosen the screw and pull out or push in. These instruments are useful because they allow the characteristics of the instrument to be changed by changing out the bell to one that better suits your needs. In addition, it allows you to leave the main tuning slide pushed in all of the way, which eliminates any gaps that could occur where slides come in contact (this could disrupt the nodal pattern of the trumpet). The main drawback of tuning trumpets, in addition to cost, is that they are extremely fragile because there is only one brace holding it in place as opposed to the normal three.
The LeadpipeThe leadpipe is the tube that goes from the mouthpiece and its receiver to the tuning slide. It is very important that this section of tubing is free from dents, as they can severely hamper the sound produced.
The Valve Slides
The valve slides are on a trumpet for one reason: to produce sound between the natural notes (harmonics) of a trumpet. When a piston is depressed, the air is re routed through the various slides to extend the overall length of the tubing, which lowers the pitch of the note that is being played. To see how this works, take a look at How Valves Work. The first and third valve slides are movable on most trumpets today, by use of a thumb saddle, trigger, or finger ring. Each of these devices allow for the player to manually lengthen the tubing a little more, to help fix the pitch of certain notes, most notably low C# and D, which are notoriously sharp notes. For a complete guide on the use of the slides in tuning, check out tuning tendencies.
The Main Tuning Slide
The main tuning slide provides the ability to compensate for tuning problems that face trumpets and all instruments. Any instrument will not tune consistently to perfect pitch, so some room has to be given so that it can be adjusted. The slide is usually left pulled out about one half of an inch, so that if the instrument is sharp, it can be pulled out further or if the instrument is flat it may have room to be pushed in.
Many trumpets are constructed with what is know as regular construction. This is where the main tuning slide fits inside both the leadpipe and the pipe that leads to the valve casings. This may result in a small bit of resistance to a sound wave, which hits the "bump" in the leadpipe. In reverse construction, however, the leadpipe fits into the main tuning slide and the bottom connection remains the same. The difference in sounds may be small, but to a discriminating musician it is discernable.
The Finger Hook
While the finger hook serves no musical purpose, it is necessary to have to play a trumpet with just your right hand, freeing your left to turn music. Proper playing position includes resting your smallest finger on top of the hook and not in it. This seems to be a big deal with beginning trumpeters. The reason this is done is so that when playing very difficult passages of music your fingers are not tangled because of having one finger at a different angle.
Good pistons are very important to playing well. They should move extremely fast and smooth, with no jerks or sluggish responses. This is perhaps one of the most difficult aspects to constructing a trumpet. Each valve piston is different, and reroutes the air's path into a different set of slides, so each valve is not interchangeable. A small number should be printed on the stem of each piston that indicates which piston that it is. The 1 piston is closest to you, and the 3 piston is farthest away. When putting your pistons back in it is important to line them up properly. There are different ways of telling if they are lined up depending on the manufacturer. If the valve is put in backwards, no air will pass through the horn, and it feels as though you are blowing into a closed bottle. It is usually very funny to watch beginners try to play with their valves in backwards.
It is very important to keep the valves in good shape. This includes keeping them free from corrosion and keeping them well oiled. There are many different brands of commercially available valve oil, that range from organic to totally synthetic. Some are colored, some may leave a poor taste in your mouth. The best advice is to just use one that you like. Some people also go the cheap route and dip their valves in pure, clear lamp oil. For several techniques for oiling your valves, check out Trumpet Maintenance.
The Valve Casings
The valve casings are the three cylinders that the pistons fit into. It is extremely critical that dents are avoided on the casings, because they cause very costly piston damage. As soon as you do get a dent in a casing, do not play on it. Send it in for repair.