This noble instrument is constructed of brass tubing which has been shaped into a rough spiral and although the bore of the trumpet is roughly cylindrical, it could be more accurately described as a complex series of tapers, smaller near the mouth piece and larger when approaching the flair of the bell. Modern trumpets have begun to use different materials and you can now even find plastic trumpets available.
Trumpet sound is produced by the blowing of air through closed lips into the mouthpiece creating a rasping or buzzing sound and causing the air to vibrate inside the trumpet. The player is then able to vary (by changing the shape of his or her lips) the pitch of the note according to the available range of overtones or harmonics. In the same way as the horn, the trumpet was originally a natural instrument – only able to obtain notes in the harmonic series from a fundamental note and this of course led to trumpets crooked in many different keys being found in scores of the classical period.
The B-flat trumpet which is probably the most commonly used trumpet in any form of music today is of course a transposing instrument which actually sounds a tone lower. Probably because of the history of the trumpet and also because often a trumpet player will decide to play a particular passage on a different trumpet from the indicated on the written page, trumpet players tend to be extremely capable of transposing music at sight.
Although the trumpet is capable of extreme agility, it is always wise not to write rapid passages for any great length of time in a score. (Although by means of single, double, and triple challenging, these extremely rapid staccato passages may be performed). It is always worth remembering that trumpet players are human and do need time to breathe after all!
The trumpet is probably most dynamic when used for brilliant parts – the opening of “Mahler’s fifth Symphony” springs to mind but this diverse instrument is also very capable of highly dignified, noble and slow-moving phrases or tunes for example in Wagner’s Prelude to Parsifal”. Vibrato is always best used sparingly on the trumpet as it can sound excessively sentimental if overdone! This of course has been exploited well in the famous spaghetti western movies of Sergio Leone such as “The Good the Bad and the Ugly”