So, you want to play the Penny Lane trumpet solo?
Or maybe all those high baroque trumpet pieces?
(without learning natural trumpet! )?
Or maybe high parts in shows, or brass quintets…
…the high-D trumpet part in Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du Printemps…
…or Samuel Goldenberg and Schmule in Pictures at an Exhibition…
…or maybe even Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto #2 on a modern instrument?
Then you want to learn how to play the piccolo trumpet!
Here’s a quick guide to getting started:
Selecting a piccolo trumpet
There are a LOT of different models of piccolo trumpet to chose from. Three of the leading brands, and for good reason, are Schilke, Scherzer, and Yamaha. Each produce several models of piccolo trumpet, so be sure to know what you’ll be needing the piccolo trumpet for. As a very general rule:
- Loud playing, such as the Rite of Spring: Schilke or Yamaha
- Softer, lyrical playing such as Bach Magnificat: Scherzer
Of course, you can use a Scherzer for playing in shows, or a Yamaha for playing baroque music – there are no hard and fast rules. (I have been known to use a D trumpet for the high-D trumpet part in Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring) and a standard Bb trumpet for Samuel Goldenburg and Schmule in Pictures at an Exhibition. Again, no hard and fast rules here!
Remember that piccolo trumpets are often pitched in Bb/A. That is, you can change the fundamental pitch of the instrument by changing the leadpipe. Soprano G/F/E trumpets also exist, as do piccolo C trumpets.
What sort of piccolo trumpet do you recommend for different styles of music? Use the comment form below to have your say!
Selecting a piccolo trumpet mouthpiece
There are many theories about how to choose a piccolo trumpet mouthpiece. Here are some of them:
- It can be beneficial to choose a mouthpiece with the SAME diameter as your main Bb or C trumpet mouthpiece, but with a shallower cup. ie. If you play a 3C on your Bb and C trumpet, a 3E might be suitable for you as a piccolo trumpet mouthpiece
- Smaller rim diameter and shallower cup can be useful. eg. I play a 1 ½C for Bb and C trumpet, but a Schilke 13B for piccolo trumpet.
- Scherzer piccolo trumpets (German, rotary valve design) work better with Schilke, or German-style backbores
- Two very common piccolo trumpet mouthpieces are: Bach 7E, Schilke 14A4a
How to get started playing the piccolo trumpet
- Start LOW in the piccolo trumpet register – perhaps a low F (1st and 4th valves, on most models)
- Work your way SLOWLY up F major scale, 1 octave, and back down again. REST. Continue with F#. REST. G. REST. etc
- Remember that a piccolo trumpet feels like a piccolo trumpet to play – it is NOT a standard Bb trumpet, and certainly not a flugelhorn!
- Play some simple tunes in the middle to lower register, up to a 3rd space C, to get the feel for any possible intonation issues
- Play full bodied, full length notes. Otherwise, the piccolo may sound ‘pecky’
- As a first piece, try playing the Sonata in D by Henry Purcell on the A piccolo trumpet
- Only play a few minutes at a time, and rest often
Some videos to inspire you!
How did you learn to play a piccolo trumpet?
Did you practise any special exercises?