Buying a Trumpet: Finding Your First Trumpet

Get a decent student instrument for a beginner. If a student later decides to pursue advanced education as a Trumpet player it’s likely that this first instrument would have to be replaced with a professional level horn. Still, they should have a decent student instrument to learn on.

buying a trumpet - first trumpet

How Much Does a Trumpet Cost?

A used student trumpet will be a few hundred dollars, a new pro horn will be at least a few thousand. When my son started Grade 7 Beginning Band I found him a used student Trumpet and got every penny out of it when he switched to Drums (don’t ask).

The Type of Trumpet for Beginners

Before you even leave the garage you should know that you are looking for a Bb Trumpet (B Flat Trumpet). There are some other sizes of Trumpet (see the page on that subject) but they’re not what you want for a beginner. If you really want a Cornet then that’s going to be in Bb as well.

Reputable Trumpet Brands

There are some brand names you can trust. In North America the simplest thing to do is refer you to the Conn-Selmer brands (Conn, Selmer, Holton, King, Bach), Blessing, Getzen or Yamaha.

There are some defunct brands like Olds that might be in playable condition. Other current brands like Jupiter, John Packer, Eastman and Carol Brass are mostly aimed at the student market and some professionals recommend them to their students.

How to Get a Trumpet: First Stop

Ask around.

There’s a lot of equipment around your community collecting dust and someone might be willing to lend or give an instrument to a young player. Trumpets are pretty durable and the older ones are rarely in such bad shape that they can’t be fixed. If the leadpipe has a lot of reddish spots or the valves seem a little loose in their casings it might be worn out. If the horn clearly hasn’t been played in months or years oil the valves before you try them.

How to Get a Trumpet: Second Stop

Second-hand instruments.

Look around in stores or online buy & sell listings BUT … caveat emptor. If you buy an instrument from a pawn shop, a thrift store or an online listing of some kind you might be throwing your money away. Unless you’re quite sure of what you’re getting and that it works you should think twice about this approach. You’d be better off at a reputable Music store that deals in band instruments.

How to Get a Trumpet: Third Stop

That reputable local Music store.

This actually might be your first stop if you aren’t very familiar with Trumpets. It might be a store that seems to make its money on guitars and drums – most Music stores do. The problem with some stores is that they don’t really know much about band instruments.

If the store doesn’t have a band instrument repair person (or department) then they might not know the difference between a decent horn and one that is ready for the parts bin. Even some new instruments aren’t worthy of the parts bin. The repair technicians call them ISOs – Instrument Shaped Objects.

Instrument Shaped Objects show up in big box stores, liquidation stores, online sellers and music stores that get their supplies from such places. Music shops that specialize in band instruments stand behind their products. Those ISOs are often irreparable. They are such a nuisance that the better shops simply won’t take them. It’s like a Harley shop refusing to work on your Big Wheel.

Because most proper music stores rent instruments they are often willing to sell returned rentals at a significant discount. If that’s your plan you might want to look in the late summer when they have more stock than they will in September when people are lining up for gear.

How to Get a Trumpet: Next Stop

…might be at an instrument repair shop.

If you buy a used instrument anywhere other than a store with a repair person you should get it through a repair shop. If you can do that before you pay any money for it, so much the better.

At the very least you’ll want it cleaned out and lubricated properly. You can do those things on your own  – go to the Maintenance and Repair page – but only if everything goes smoothly. That Instrument repair shop might have some interesting used Trumpets for sale. They’ll be clean and functional. Respected repair shops are often places that good used instruments go when someone is done with them. That’s where mine will end up if I get hit by a bus.

What You Need to Get Started on the Trumpet

You will need a Trumpet, a Mouthpiece, some valve oil and a case to put them in on Day 1.

If you buy or rent a new or used instrument all of those items should come as a package. If there’s a mute in the case then you’re ahead of the game!

The rent-to-own schemes at many Music stores are a convenient way to hedge your bets on an instrument but if you’re sure about needing it for a few years it’s almost always best to buy outright. Different stores have different terms, conditions and prices so shop around with those in mind as well as the bottom line.

Try to compare apples to apples … a plastic ISO is going to be a lot cheaper than a dependable used trumpet but nowhere near as useful. These days you can check instrument prices and rental contract conditions online so do a little checking around before you commit. There is a big difference between a Selmer and a Selmen (offshore immitation). The band teacher in your school probably knows where you should go but might not feel free to publish it in a newsletter. Ask in a private conversation and they’ll usually tell you. Sometimes there is a place that they think you shouldn’t go but they can’t announce that without starting a war of words.

Don’t waste your money on a plastic trumpet – they are toys.

Go to the main How to Play the Trumpet page ->

Read about Buying Your Second Bb Trumpet ->


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

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