A 3,000 Year History
The history of the trumpet essentially dates back more than 3,000 years, during which times it has existed in different forms. A good example is the discovery of bronze and silver trumpets amongst the contents of the tomb of Tutankhamun in Egypt.
Such early history trumpets were used only for signalling, for religious or military purposes. This traditional use as a means of communication could be said to have continued to the present day – ie. the use of a bugle where different tunes communicate different types of information.
Development Of The Trumpet In Music
Using a trumpet in a musical context did not actually start until the late Middle Ages (early 15th century) and the subsequent Renaissance period. It was thanks to technical improvements in metalworking and instrument design that this came about and a trumpet could be used in the performance of music. The baroque era of music (early 1600’s to mid 1700’s) is often referred to as the “Golden Age of the natural trumpet”.
In the classical and romantic periods of music (mid 18th to mid 19th century), the trumpet fell out of favour with many of the composers of the time and was relegated to a fairly secondary role. One notable exception to this was Haydn’s trumpet concerto. The relative neglect of the trumpet in music at this time has been thought by some to be due to the fact that trumpet valves were only invented towards the middle of the 19th century. Indeed, crooks and shanks (removable tube of various lengths) were still in use during the first decades of the 20th century.
Trumpet In The 21st Century
Today the trumpet enjoys great popularity and in virtually every form of music – from classical to jazz, rock, blues. pop and more.
Great trumpet players of the 20th and 21st century span all genres of music and include Louis Armstrong (photo right), Miles Davis, Wynton Marsalis, Dizzy Gillespie and many more. On our famous trumpet players page we profile some of their lives and achievements.