How to Read Trumpet Notes: A Beginner’s Guide

Congratulations on a great choice of instruments! Now comes the work. There are lots of places to learn music theory and your school’s music teacher is going to help with that as well. If you got a band method book or access to a website from your school then start there so that you’re on the same page as everyone else.

Reading Trumpet Notes (and Matching Them to the Sound Coming Out of the Horn)

The most confusing thing for beginning Trumpet players is figuring out which note is coming out of their horn. That’s because our instruments can get multiple notes in the same fingering.

Start by NOT pressing down on any of the valves. One of these notes should be coming out …

Open (no valve) Notes
We’ll concentrate on the first 3.

Assuming that you can get a sound out of the horn you’ll likely be playing, or able to play one of these notes:

That’s a Low C – the 1st note above
That’s a G – the next note above
That’s a higher C – the 3rd note above

Don’t get confused by the fact that two of the three notes have the same name. It’s like having two people in your class with the same name, but one’s taller than the other. You know the difference.

Practicing Reading Trumpet Notes

Get good at playing two or three of those notes and at hearing and feeling the difference between them. If you’ve got that happening it’s time to move over to this page …

If, on the other hand, you can’t get a sound out of the horn click here.

If you’re playing one of the higher notes don’t worry – it’s just that you’re special in a good way. You’ll need to relax, slow down the air, lower your tongue, drop your jaw and just let the buzz happen – don’t try so hard to make it happen. You should head to this page as well.

If you are getting a sound but it’s much lower than the sounds recorded above, you aren’t yet getting a real Trumpet sound. Try using a lot more air to get the lips buzzing faster. You might have to try this a few times and a few days in a row to get the low C to sound like a real note. After that it’s just a matter of making it sound better, and then getting more notes.

More About Reading Trumpet Notes

This page is not intended to be a comprehensive approach to music reading. It’s intended to help a total beginner on the Trumpet get their bearings.

Getting good at music reading is REALLY IMPORTANT – especially for brass players. We have to know what is actually coming out the bell, not just what might be coming out.

If you don’t have a teacher, parent, granny, sibling, friend or neighbour who can help you with music reading in general, there are plenty of websites. Some of them are free. Don’t allow yourself to start reading only the fingerings. Don’t.


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

Recent Posts