Buying a Second Bb Trumpet

You must be somewhere between Zero and Hero – congratulations! You might even be a Trumpet Hero by now in the eyes of the many unfortunates who can’t do what you can.

Bask in the glory!

The other thing you must be is feeling somewhat limited by the horn you’re playing on. Let’s deal with some generalities then get specific.

It’s Time for a Pro Horn

If you’re a high school player who is starting or planning to play Trumpet professionally or semi-professionally you should probably be playing a pro horn. The big brands make some intermediate models that are priced accordingly. They’re better suited to players who would like a step-up horn but don’t plan to do much with it beyond high school.

To be honest I would take whatever that amount of money is and look for a gently used pro horn. I just traded a couple in on my latest deal and there are two happy high schoolers out there with nicely broken-in pro horns at half price.

Bb Trumpet
Newish Bach Stradivarius Model 190S43

The Market Standard Bb Trumpet

If there is a market standard Bb Trumpet out there it is the Bach Stradivarius with a medium large bore. There are different models and finishes and so on but if you’re going somewhere to try Trumpets, make sure that you try a few of these. In the old days the quality control on those horns was all over the place but they’re reputed to be fairly consistent now. Decide for yourself.

Schilke and Yamaha are the other big players in North America and also make great horns. Yamaha and Bach (now owned by Conn-Selmer) make a whole range of instruments from entry-level student horns to their pro horns. Schilke is back to making only pro horns. These three companies probably account for over 95% of Trumpets being played in symphony orchestras in North America and maybe 75% of Trumpets in commercial and jazz settings.

Owning Several Bb Trumpets

You should think about what kind of playing you expect or hope to do because that might change your search parameters. It’s even possible that you’re here because you feel you need more than one Bb Trumpet to do different things. I tried that for a few years but found I just didn’t need two. If you plan to play in a jazz trio on Friday night, an Orchestra on Saturday night and in church on Sunday Morning you might want three!

While Arturo Sandoval would tell you to just play differently someone like Wynton Marsalis might suggest different gear for different gigs. Aside from brand names and model numbers there are plenty of variables that go into choosing the right horn(s). Bore size, leadpipe style, bracing, finish, weight, bell dimensions, bell composition, the little piece of wire inside the bell bead etc. ad nauseam. If you’re thinking about a custom Trumpet, or any expensive Trumpet do some research.

Further Research Before Buying

There are some interesting online discussions about good Trumpets at places like the Trumpet Herald site.  You can go to manufacturers’ websites. There is enough information out there (here) to make you dizzy (but not Dizzy) so get on it.

Most importantly – try horns. If there are a thousand different horns out there what are the odds that the first one is the right one for you? The only sites to avoid are ones where you can buy shiny new TSOs (Trumpet-Shaped-Objects) for a couple of hundred dollars. If they’re listing those horns as an option you’re on the wrong site.

Made-To-Order Trumpets

There are brands that are mostly directed towards professional players and are made to order in limited numbers. Most of those are are prohibitively expensive (close to $20k for a high end Monette) but companies like Kanstul, Stomvi, Warburton, Austin Winds and Finds have models in the $2000 range that are probably more fun than an intermediate model from a big production line.

Beginning players won’t take advantage of what makes these horns special but if you’re a strong player looking for a new horn think about trying something a little different! I played on some Warburton and Austin Winds Bb Trumpets at the JEN conference last year and it’s amazing what they can do by playing around with just one or two of the many variables. The exact same horn with a little tweak in the leadpipe can have a really different feel that might be just what you need.

If, like me, you live in a small town you might have to make a Trumpet shopping trip to a place where you can try horns side by side. Get yourself properly warmed up and be that person lighting it up in the Music store. Think about going to an ITG event! There’ll be Trumpets all over the place. What’s an ITG event you ask?

The Bottom Line on Buying a Quality Trumpet

The bottom line is that there are some big companies making lots of good horns and some small companies doing likewise in smaller numbers. The only really good advice is that you should try lots of horns and think about what you want them to do. If you have a friend or partner who can listen and offer useful comments that’s good too.

Plenty of salespeople in music stores know what they’re talking about and can help you, but they have to sell stuff to survive. Listen to them, take their advice but hang onto your money until you’re sure. Once you’ve bought and sold a few horns you really only get excited when one feels special. It does everything you want it to and nothing you hate – pretty much the same as motorcycles. That’s a different post.


Jim is an orchestral Trumpet player and retired high school Music teacher.

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