trumpet, brass wind musical instrument of part cylindrical, part conical bore, in the shape of a flattened loop and having three piston valves to regulate the pitch. Its origin is ancient; records of a type of simple valveless trumpet are found in China from as early as 2000 B.C., and it is mentioned in the Bible and in Greek and Roman history. It attained its present shape early in the 15th cent., at which time it became an important ceremonial instrument. It was used in the opera orchestra as early as Monteverdi's Orfeo (1607) and became a standard orchestral instrument later in the century. At this time the trumpet lacked valves, and a highly developed technique existed for playing in the upper register of the instrument, where a complete diatonic scale was available. The trumpet parts of Bach and Handel were written for such a style. Later in the 18th cent. this bright quality was not desired, and the trumpet was used more in its lower register. The instrument will accept a mute, used to repress some of its stridency. Crooks, additional lengths of tubing, were added to the natural trumpet to allow the adjustment of pitch. This was a fairly clumsy method, however, and was superseded in the early 19th cent., when valves were added. A transposing instrument, it is now most often in B flat. A bass trumpet in C was first called for by Wagner. The trumpet is an important member of most dance and jazz bands.
See A. Baines, Brass Instruments: Their History and Development (1976).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.