What is a Natural Trumpet?
A natural trumpet (often referred to as a Baroque trumpet) is a long, double-folded trumpet without valves. It was the trumpet used across Europe from the 15th through the mid 19th centuries, and is a common ancestor to all modern brass instruments. It is the trumpet that composers like Bach, Handel, Mozart, and Beethoven wrote for, and has had a resurgence in the past 50 years in the performance of Baroque and Classical-period music.
Because it is roughly twice the length of a modern trumpet or bugle pitched in the same key, its harmonic series sits an octave lower, making it possible to play several notes in the middle and lower registers, as well as a complete scale in the upper register:
Harmonic Series of a Modern Trumpet Pitched in C (approx. 4ft in length):
Harmonic Series of a Natural Trumpet Pitched in C (approx. 8 ft in length):
Why use the Natural Trumpet to teach beginners?
The natural trumpet is an ideal pedagogical tool for both teaching and learning the fundamentals of brass playing because it limits the variables. It puts the focus on the development of fundamental techniques and aural skills which are critical for success on all modern brass instruments. Furthermore, its simplicity and approachability makes it an ideal teaching/learning tool for brass players and non-brass players alike.
- The absence of valves/slides limits distractions, helping students focus on the fundamentals of sound production, articulation, and navigation of the harmonic series.
- Limiting the sound palate to the naturally occurring harmonic series helps students hear and navigate important intervallic relationships which are inherent to all brass instruments.
- The natural trumpet is an extremely effective tool for a “learn by ear” approach which helps students to develop the aural skills critical for overall musical development.
- The natural trumpet is particularly effective in group instruction. Having students “on the same page,” in the same key, with the same instruments, allows for more efficient and in-depth work on pedagogical issues such as embouchure formation, breathing, and articulation. Furthermore, having students on a level playing field in a classroom setting promotes the development of group awareness and ensemble skills.
- Because all notes in the middle and lower register of the natural trumpet form consonant (non-dissonant) intervals, students can play whichever notes are most comfortable at first, giving them an opportunity to gain confidence in sound production while they develop the more precise skills necessary to match specific notes.
Harmonic Series of a Natural Trumpet Pitched in C