Trumpets and the Marching Band

No marching band would be complete without a strong section of trumpets. With the highest register among brass instruments, the trumpet drives the melody of most songs the Columbia University Marching Band plays.

Its large range of notes and strong projection of sound allow the trumpet to drive marching band melodies. This video, from a recent Tax Night, shows the extreme importance of trumpets in powering the band:

As you can see, the part of the song everyone sings along to (carry on my wayward son) is driven by the trumpets (with the less loud clarinets and flutes no doubt contributing).

Trumpets date far back in history, with evidence of trumpet-like instruments in existence 3,500 years ago.

Modern trumpets consist of brass tubing bent twice into an oblong shape, and are played – like all brass instruments – by trumpeters blowing through the mouth piece while buzzing their lips. Like with other brass instruments, the trumpet’s tone depends on the trumpeter, who can make a note higher or lower through tension and lip shape.

Most trumpets feature three valves, which also determine notes payed, and a bell that projects the sound outward. It was this projection of sound, and its usefulness for signaling, that was essential to humans who used the first trumpets, as the sound can carry over 10 miles in the correct geography.

The valves of a modern trumpet did not get invented and commonly used until the early 19th century, and because of this, trumpets were limited in their range and use among classical composers. This changed, however, in the 20th century, as the valves allowed trumpeters to do more. Players like Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, Wynton Marsalis, are the most famous among many other trumpeters whose jazz and classical styles made the trumpet common in music in the 20th century.

There are many different types of trumpets (b-flat is most common but there are low F, C, D, E-flat, E, G and A trumpets too). There are also cornets, which are very similar to the trumpet, but that feature a more conical-shaped brass tubing, which gives the cornet a more mellow sound.

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