Learning the Trumpet - 20 Questions for Kristin Thielemann


Kristin Thielemann Kristin Thielemann started learning the trumpet at the age of six.

She lectures and is in demand as a lecturer at further education courses for colleges, universities and music schools and hosts the podcast https://uebenundmusizieren.de/podcast/ by Schott Music. ...


What is the perfect starting age?

Trumpet playing can be done by children of early primary school age or even before. As a rule, beginners from the age of 8 - 9 progress very easily and quickly.

Do I have to learn to read music?

First of all - reading music is child's play and a lot of fun. It opens up great possibilities for opening up the world of music for yourself. In some trumpet schools, graphic notation is used at the beginning. However, it is not usual to keep this for a longer period of time or even to play according to fingerings or colours.

Are there instruments that are played in the same way?

Anyone who plays the trumpet will quickly discover that there is an abundance of great instruments: Trumpets in different tunings and sizes allow for different timbres and pitches.

Moreover, in addition to the frequently used instruments with pump valves (Périnet valves), there are also models with rotary valves that sound somewhat more orchestral. Different mutes also offer exciting possibilities to change the sound. There is also the somewhat softer-sounding cornet, which is often chosen as an entry-level instrument for trumpet lessons because of its compact construction.

Advanced players can certainly try their hand at a baroque trumpet or keyed trumpet and thus explore the history of the trumpet at first hand.

What physical requirements are advantageous?

Straight teeth make playing easier. Fixed braces are a clear obstacle! A healthy musculoskeletal system - stable back, shoulder, abdominal and arm muscles - is also important to prevent bad posture. If these muscles are not yet developed enough, some teachers recommend playing on plastic trumpets, which are much lighter than a metal instrument.

How do you know if you are ready for the instrument?

Before it gets too scientific at this point: Just try it out, take a trial lesson, borrow an instrument and play it a bit. Then, if you or your child can't get the trumpet out of your mind, your moment has come!


What does the instrument cost?

Entry-level models from established companies are available from around €450. If you are looking for something of higher quality in the beginner's range, you can get very good instruments for 700 € - 1,000 €, which - provided they are properly cared for - can be sold on quite well. Since the prices of trumpets are rather low compared to some other musical instruments, advanced players very often buy professional instruments.

Generally speaking, trumpets with pump valves, also called "American trumpets", are cheaper than the often handmade "German trumpets" with their rotary valves. But don't let the terms "American" and "German" confuse you. German manufacturers also produce fantastic "American trumpets"!

Are there other costs?

The trumpet oil and slide grease often included with a new instrument will last you well over two or more years, depending on the instrument's needs. The prices for additional purchases are very moderate: for 7 € - 12 € you can already get high-quality trumpet oil and slide grease, and the price of a cleaning set for the trumpet is also well under 20 €, which is very durable.

How time-consuming is maintenance?

Up to a certain point, trumpets can be cleaned and maintained very well by oneself. Annual maintenance at the instrument maker is not necessary, but every now and then it is a nice-to-have. Also, repairs (for example, removing a dent) are not a big deal financially, as long as a repainting is not added.

You may laugh now, but the most sensitive thing about the trumpet is its player. If you are not grossly negligent with the instrument (throwing it around, driving over it...) there is no need for repairs.

How is the instrument transported?

There are trumpet cases and trumpet bags. For some years now, the cases of many beginner instruments have fortunately been equipped with backpack straps, which makes them easier to carry. Sturdy trumpet cases for professionals, which can hold up to four trumpets depending on the model, also often have a backpack set.

Trumpet cases usually have a compartment in which sheet music can be stored and transported without creasing. Trumpet bags are softer and often much lighter in weight. They are available for carrying around the neck or as backpacks. Depending on the model, there is also room for sheet music.

In the event of a fall (for example, on a bicycle), the instrument in the case has the edge, of course, but I personally prefer to use trumpet backpacks because of their lightness.


Is it possible to teach yourself the instrument?

I don't want to deny that you can learn to play the trumpet on your own up to a certain point. However, only lessons with a trained teacher will guarantee a really solid technique, impeccable posture and progress that will motivate you or your child in the long run.

How do you choose suitable practice material?

Again, trust the teacher! Your trumpet teacher knows a wealth of suitable material for every level. Online music shops or music shops also have a lot of suitable material in their assortment and can help you find it. Most trumpet teachers work with an instrumental school.

If you want to please yourself or your trumpet-playing child, purchase one or more playbooks, which are often equipped with playalongs and thus offer excellent opportunities to go on a journey of discovery on your own.

How can you practise without disturbing others?

If you or your child play beautifully, your neighbours will enjoy it! There are also practice mutes that can be used if you really want it to be quiet. However, I know few professional or advanced musicians who play permanently and exclusively with mutes. If you have very fussy neighbours, you have to be honest and say that you would be better off with another instrument!

What are the different playing techniques?

There are great ways to modify the tones by changing the air flow or the attack. There are also useful skills such as double and triple tonguing and flutter tonguing, which are particularly effective for blowing fast notes.

When can you expect the first successes?

You will be able to play small pieces after just a few weeks. If you practise regularly and diligently, after about a year (or even before) you will be able to play music very well together with others or perform easier pieces as a soloist or with piano accompaniment.

Sheet Music to start with


What are popular pieces for the first prelude?

The three volumes Easy Concert Pieces for trumpet and piano are currently storming the hit lists of student auditions and are also very often on the programme at competitions. They shine through their diversity with catchy tunes from baroque to pop, rock and jazz.

In addition to the trumpet and piano parts, these three booklets each contain a sound recording with the piano accompaniment to play along with, but also a demo version of all the works, played by a great instrumentalist.

What are the classics and what is your favourite piece?

The classic of all is the Trumpet Concerto by Joseph Haydn. It is also one of my personal favourite pieces for the trumpet.

Which piece really makes you want to play the instrument?

Since the trumpet is so diverse and is used in everything from baroque to contemporary classical music, pop, rock, jazz, folk music, in an orchestra, ensemble, band or as a soloist, there is no one piece for me. But I can imagine that recordings of the brass ensemble German Brass impress you very much and offer a good reflection of the manifold possibilities one has with the trumpet. You can find many excellent videos on the YouTube channel German Brass.

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How can you make music together with others?

With the trumpet you are really choosing the all-rounder among instruments. Whether as a soloist, in a duo, trio or accompanied by organ or piano, in a small to large brass ensemble, in folk music groups, the polka band or the brass orchestra, a brass band or the trombone choir, a school orchestra, the big band, symphony or opera orchestra - with the trumpet you are simply in the right place everywhere.

This means that the learning path can be very individual, flexible and varied, which we trumpet players experience as a real treasure. With a trumpet, life is simply always exciting!

What function does the instrument fulfil in ensembles?

Due to the diversity, a blanket answer is impossible. In general, however, it can be said that when the trumpet enters, the music often becomes majestic and impressive. The sound of the trumpet gives the music a special glow and a wonderful radiance.

Are there any clichés about the instrument and its players?

In the past, trumpet players had the reputation of being very hard drinkers. I think the trumpet helps people discover something very valuable: openness and straightforwardness. Because when we play into the instrument, it has to happen very openly and with a good flow of air that we let out of us very deeply. Only then does it sound good.

Once a wrong note is 'on its way' to the audience, it can't be 'exchanged away' or covered up - we have to stand by it. I feel again and again that it is good for pupils to hold this 'mouthpiece' trumpet in their hands, to let the music and the big notes come out of themselves and to experience that it is worthwhile to dare to do something.

Encore: Which pieces are suitable for the concert finale?

For me, a special treasure when choosing encores for concerts with trumpet with piano or organ accompaniment is the edition Concerto Primo - 12 concert pieces for trumpet and piano. Here I particularly like "I've got the blues" by Joe Pinkl. Pieces from Quadro Nuevos Tango for Two also go down very well and are suitable for many situations. From Easy Concert Pieces 3 for Trumpet and Piano I have also often played something as an encore, such as my composition "Irish Fiddle Boy" or also my arrangement "Where'er you Walk" by George Frideric Handel.

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