|Brass instruments in the Musical Instrument Museum, Brussels, Belgium. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
Trumpets, though now crafted out of metal, were originally made out of the shell. They were not constructed in that medium, but rather whole shells were utilized (conch shells in particular) to create a horn sound. These original trumpets were used as ancient ritual musical in many ancient cultures. Like the modern trumpet, the sound was coaxed from the shell with the vibration of the player’s lips against the conical side of the shell or “mouthpiece.”
Trumpets created out of can date back to as early as ancient Egypt and some specimens from this time still exist. It wasn’t until the 1800’s that the trumpet began to take on the look and sound that his has today. During that time, they began to add valves to the trumpet to give it the musical range we are familiar with. Earlier horns had no such range and could only play different pitches through the manipulation of the player’s lips.
The cornet and the trumpet are similar in history and design. In fact, it is impossible to talk about the history of one without mentioning the other. Both acquired keys during a similar period which allowed them both to increase their range. Keys and valves allow brass players to change pitch as they are playing a note. The valve can be opened and closed. When the valves are opened and closed to different degrees, different amounts of air flow through the instrument creating specific tones and pitches. Valves can be used alone or in coordination to emit different notes. Thought the trumpet is just one of many brass instruments, the community of jazz artists is tight-knit and embraces all players of all instruments. For example, this community is universally disappointed in the disappearance of one manufacturer, as explained below.
Couesnon, once a famous and well-admired producer of brass instruments, was in business for over 170 years. They had one particular horn, the flugelhorn that in the 1950’s because popular with American jazz trumpet artists. To the shock and dismay of brass and jazz enthusiasts, this cornerstone of brass horn culture stopped importing to the US in the late 1970’s and can now only be purchased through vintage instrument brokers.