The trumpet has a fascinating history that dates back to at least 1500 BC. The earliest trumpets have been found in various locations, including Egypt, Scandinavia and China.

From the very beginning, trumpets were used more during times of war to provide signals to the soldiers (which likely means that the trumpet jokes exploiting their loudness go back nearly as far). For this reason, the trumpet player was considered an integral member of any medieval army.

It was not until the Renaissance period (c. 1400-1600) that the trumpet gained a measure of prominence in musical settings. By this time, kings of the time would employ musicians to perform music to accompany their entrance and to entertain at royal events. A form of these natural trumpets are still used today at Renaissance-related events. Yet trumpets of this time still did not have valves! These valveless horns are referred to as Natural Trumpets. Without valves, one could not play the “chromatic” scale that today’s trumpets use. Only a subset of notes, called an overtone series could be played.

One of my favorite classical recordings is called “A Festival of Trumpets” by the New York Trumpet Ensemble. This outstanding recording features some of the music written during the Renaissance expressly for royal functions.

Believe it or not, it was not until the 1800’s that trumpets were developed with valves. This advancement did much to further establish the trumpet’s role as a solo instrument. This led to a tremendous increase in the amount of music written for the trumpet.

Today, the trumpet enjoys a position of prominence in many musical settings. Whether the style is classical, jazz, or rock, you can expect to see trumpets in the mix!

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