Jazz Trumpet Beginners Guide: What You Need To Get Started

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So, you want to try your hand at playing jazz trumpet. Well, you’ve come to the right place!

In this intro guide to jazz trumpet, we will explore everything you need to know to start playing jazz on the trumpet. While there are core principles of jazz that aren’t instrument-specific, to truly master jazz trumpet, we’ll need to focus on a few trumpet-specific things.

In this guide, we’ll zero in on trumpet specifics and break down the techniques, nuances, and approaches that make this classic instrument so popular, from classical music and free jazz to hip-hop and neo-soul.

We’ll discuss—

  • Methods to cultivate your unique jazz trumpet tone, emphasizing breathing, buzzing, and articulation techniques.
  • Refine your practice routine specifically for jazz trumpet, enabling you to tackle common challenges and elevate your playing.
  • Offer key points of study to enhance your jazz theory knowledge and practical musicianship as it applies to the trumpet.
  • Go over famous jazz trumpet players you need to listen to.

What distinguishes most players from the jazz trumpet legends?

Dedication and the right approach.

With focused effort and intentional practice strategies, you’ll witness remarkable growth in your trumpet sound, technical skills, and understanding of jazz theory. And, if you are looking for a structured approach to mastering jazz, no matter what instrument you play…

…then you need to check out the Learn Jazz Standards Inner Circle.

When you join, you’ll gain access to an expansive collection of jazz educational materials, video lessons, masterclasses, courses, and workshops. As a trumpet player, you don’t want to miss out on the Jazz Trumpet Accelerator course, which is designed to take your technical trumpet skills to the next level.

Ready to supercharge your jazz trumpet skills? The Inner Circle has everything you need.

Become the player you want to be! Join the Inner Circle.

Constructing Your Jazz Trumpet Sound

At its core, jazz music is about self-expression. Some jazz artists spend their entire careers chasing their own personal sound. One thing you can do to get the ball rolling is to start thinking about what kind of trumpet player you want to be.

How do you want to sound?

Know What You Want To Sound Like

There is a big tonal difference between Louis Armstrong and Chet Baker. These and other jazz artists have given their sound a lot of thought. As a developing jazz trumpeter, you should consider how you want to sound.

It’s not to say that you should try to sound exactly like your favorite famous jazz trumpet players, but you should consider the styles, attitudes, and playing personalities that came before you to inform your sound, even if you do so to stand out from them.

Also, consider what you want to do with your trumpet. Maybe you want to lead your own jazz combo, or perhaps you want to play trumpet in jazz orchestras. Do you want to be avant-garde, or are you looking to preserve the traditions of jazz trumpet? Maybe you want to make ambient music or play Afro-Cuban jazz.

Maybe you’ll want to try your hand at all of these things.

It’s okay if you don’t know exactly what you want to sound like yet. It’s also okay if your sound goals keep changing and shifting. The Miles Davis from 1980 sounds way different than the Miles Davis from The New Sounds (1951), his debut album. Changing and evolving is a part of being a jazz artist.

Wind vs. Air

Before diving into specific jazz trumpet techniques, we should also talk briefly about the difference between wind and air. The trumpet physically produces sound by vibrating at different frequencies. But what makes the trumpet vibrate?

Your embouchure and the breath you push through it.

Air is static. It’s everywhere all around us, and it’s the medium through which sounds travel. Air is kind of like oil paint you’d use to paint a portrait. However, paint without thought or direction is just a glob on a stretch of canvas.

Wind, on the other hand, is air with purpose and direction. It’s your breath, which you use to communicate (and also play wind instruments). In this sense, wind is like the act of painting or moving the paint around the canvas to create something intentional.

You have to think of the wind you generate as having a purpose. Each breath must be intentional.

How To Develop a Good Jazz Trumpet Tone in 3 Steps

With the philosophical aspects of being a trumpet player out of the way, let’s talk a bit more specifically about the physicality of playing the trumpet.

1. It All Starts With Breathing

You don’t need to overblow to produce a solid trumpet tone. Overflowing can lead to fatigue, blown chops, and bad tone. What is more important is your breath control, not how hard you can blow.

Breathe With Your Belly, Not Your Chest

Take in a deep breath. As you did so, your shoulders probably raised higher, and your spine may have stretched out a bit. However, you probably didn’t take as full of a breath as you could have.

Instead of breathing vertically, where your chest and shoulders rise, breathe horizontally. Expand your stomach fully when breathing in, and you will take in more air than you could with only your upper chest.

By fully expanding your belly, you are stretching your diaphragm down (and taking in much more air as a result). With more air, you’ll have more wind to create your jazz trumpet sound. Do this exercise to strengthen your diaphragm muscle.

Only try this breathing exercise while seated comfortably! If you haven’t breathed this deeply before, you can get lightheaded!

2. Buzzing Exercises: To Buzz or Not To Buzz

There tend to be two camps when it comes to practicing buzzing—those who are for it and those who are against it.

Those trumpet players who are against it suggest that it isn’t necessary to practice buzzing to play the trumpet and that it can lead to unnecessary tension.

Though this can be true, with the proper awareness, control, and approach, buzzing exercise can be a great tool for helping a trumpet player develop wind control, refine their sound, control pitch, and explore the function of the tongue.

The main idea behind practicing buzzing is to develop a technique that doesn’t rely on the trumpet to produce a clear, controlled sound.

Three Types of Buzzing
  1. Buzzing the Leadpipe: Where you remove the tuning slide so that air leaves the trumpet sooner. This is the most similar to playing the trumpet.
  2. Buzzing the Mouthpiece: Where you only blow air through the mouthpiece. This is harder than buzzing the leadpipe.
  3. Free Buzzing (Just Lips): This is the hardest type of buzzing to practice. You are entirely relying on your lips to create the sound.

You don’t need to practice buzzing for hours a day. Too much buzzing practice can harm your form and cause you to overblow.

You only really need to practice buzzing for 2 minutes a day.

Buzzing Exercises

The following exercise combines singing, mouthpiece buzzing, and free buzzing. This will help you work on relating slight embouchure changes to different pitches. Be sure to do this exercise in time!

  1. Reference pitch
  2. Sing the pitch
  3. Buzz with lips
  4. Buzz with mouthpiece
  5. Buzz with trumpet
Buzzing exercises for Bb trumpet

3. Long Tones on the Trumpet

Long tones are important to practice on any wind instrument—it’s no different for the trumpet. You can put all your buzzing and breathing exercises to work by practicing long tone exercises, which will help you build endurance, stamina, and pitch control.

Long Tone Tips
  1. Don’t rush through long tone exercises! This is a moment when you can deeply analyze your sound and enhance your connection to the instrument.
  2. Use a Metronome! You should always be practicing time wherever you can. Long tones provide a great opportunity to work on time.
  3. Use a Tuner! You should always be using reference pitches to train your sense of pitch.
  4. Practice different attacks and articulations for the beginning, middle, and end of the note.

Refine Your Jazz Trumpet Technique

Breath is one vital aspect of playing trumpet, but it isn’t the only important thing you need to focus on. You also need to focus on how your breath interacts with the other important aspects of playing the trumpet, such as your finger technique or your tonguing technique.

There are a few best practices you should keep in mind when practicing trumpet.

Getting to the Bottom of Bad Technique

Ask Yourself: Is it Just Your Fingers?

Jazz trumpet is comprised of five crucial components:

  1. The Fingers
  2. Wind Production
  3. The Lips
  4. The Tongue
  5. The Left Hand

These factors must work together to produce a clear and consistent trumpet sound. What you think is only a fingering issue might be a coordination issue between the fingers and tongue, the fingers and embouchure, or maybe between your air and fingers.

BEFORE YOU CONTINUE...

If you struggle to learn jazz standards by ear, memorize them, and not get lost in the song form, then our free guide will completely change the way you learn tunes forever.

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Practice Passages, Phrases, Lines, and Melodies with a Trumpet Berp.

Trumpet Berp

A trumpet berp is a plastic device that screws onto the leadpipe of your trumpet. It’s designed to hold the mouthpiece so you can practice buzzing while holding the trumpet as you normally would.

The berp will help reveal what aspects of your technique are holding you back. (Again, with buzzing, it’s just you and the mouthpiece!) By practicing using a berp, you’ll be able to refine your embouchure, wind, and tonguing techniques while practicing the fingerings.

Here is a blues head:

Chart for blues head Haighter's Blues by Chris Davis
  1. First, play it as you normally would and take note of problem areas you encounter.
  2. Then connect your mouthpiece to the berp and try it. It will be much harder to play convincingly.

By doing this, you’ll be able to feel whether it’s your wind, your embouchure, or your tongue.

  1. Spend time refining your technique on the berp until it sounds how you want it to.
  2. Move the mouthpiece back to the trumpet and try the passage again.

Here are 28 other blues heads you can try this on!

Mental Practice Off Of The Trumpet Is Also Crucial

Many jazz musicians don’t spend enough time with mental practice. Sure, we need to spend time practicing on the trumpet, but our brains also need time to practice off of the instrument. That’s why you should run through jazz trumpet exercises mentally and on your trumpet.

A great way to do this is to play air trumpet and sing (or buzz to the best of your abilities) the exercise. This not only helps reinforce the correct fingerings but also helps to build your musicianship by forcing you to create the pitches.

Essentially, if you can sing a piece of music without hearing it first, it proves that you’re playing the music with your mind and not just your instrument. You are strengthening the mind-music connection.

For the following exercises, read through them on your trumpet, then play the exercise on air trumpet with the correct fingerings, singing the music.

Clarke Studies; Exercise 1
Clarke Studies; Exercise 2
Clarke Studies; Exercise 3

Listen to Jazz Trumpet Players! Here Are 10 Jazz Trumpeters You Need to Check Out.

The following list contains some of jazz’s most famous trumpet players. These jazz musicians span the decades, from early jazz trumpeters to contemporary trumpeters.

1. Louis Armstrong

Often referred to as “Satchmo” or “Pops,” Louis Armstrong is arguably the most influential figure in jazz history and has significantly impacted trumpet playing and vocal stylings. His professional career began in the 1910s in New Orleans and lasted until 1971. Louis Armstrong witnessed jazz from its birth well into its maturity.

Check out:

  • Hot Fives and Sevens (2000)
  • Louis Armstrong Plays W. C. Handy (1954)
  • Ella and Louis (1956)
  • What A Wonderful World (1968)

2. Dizzy Gillespie

Known for his swollen cheeks and bent trumpet, Dizzy Gillespie was a pioneer of bebop and Afro-Cuban jazz. Diz played alongside other legends like Charlie Parker, Milt Jackson, and John Coltrane throughout his long career and also acted as band leader for his own groups.

Be sure to check out these Dizzie Gillespie albums:

  • Birks’ Works (1957)
  • World Statesman (1956)
  • Diz and Getz (1955)

3. Miles Davis

Perhaps the most famous of all jazz trumpeters (and maybe all jazz musicians), Miles Davis was a major figure in multiple jazz movements, including cool jazz, hard bop, and fusion. His long career began way back in the age of bebop and acoustic jazz and went well into the electronic era. His trumpet tone and musical personality are instantly recognizable.

Check out these Miles Davis albums:

  • Kind of Blue (1959)
  • Bitches Brew (1970)
  • Birth of the Cool (1957)
  • Sketches of Spain (1960)

4. Chet Baker

Renowned for his lyrical and melodic trumpet playing style, Baker was also an accomplished vocalist. His career took off when he joined the Gerry Mulligan Quartet in 1952.

Be sure to check out these Chet Baker records:

  • Chet Baker Sings (1954)
  • Chet (1959)
  • Chet Baker & Strings (1954)

5. Clifford Brown

His life was tragically cut short, but “Brownie” is remembered as one of the best jazz trumpeters in jazz history. Clifford Brown played with famous jazz musicians like Max Roach, Miles Davis, and Horace Silver and was a founding member of the group that would become Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers.

Check out these Clifford Brown albums:

  • Clifford Brown & Max Roach (1954)
  • Study in Brown (1955)
  • Brown and Roach Incorporated (1955)

6. Freddie Hubbard

Freddie Hubbard is a powerful player known for his role in hard-bop and post-bop jazz. He was an alumnus of the great jazz group Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers.

Here are some Freddie Hubbard albums to check out:

  • Red Clay (1970)
  • Straight Life (1971)
  • Hub-Tones (1963)

7. Lee Morgan

Lee Morgan was a leading voice in hard bop and best known for his composition “The Sidewinder.” Also, an alumnus of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, Lee Morgan released several albums with his own band.

Check out these Lee Morgan albums:

  • The Sidewinder (1964)
  • Search for the New Land (1966)
  • The Gigolo (1968)

8. Wynton Marsalis

Wynton Marsalis is a modern trumpet master who’s not only a virtuosic player but also an educator and advocate for preserving jazz music.

Check out these Wynton Marsalis albums:

  • Black Codes (From the Underground) (1985)
  • Standard Time, Vol. 1 (1988)
  • J Mood (1987)

9. Art Farmer

Known for both his trumpet and flugelhorn playing, Farmer had a warm and melodic style. He played with renowned saxophonist Benny Golsen.

Here are some Art Farmer albums to check out:

  • Meet the Jazztet (1960)
  • Blame It on My Youth (1988)
  • Modern Art (1958)

10. Clark Terry

Clark Terry was a celebrated trumpeter and flugelhorn player and was recognized for his impressive technical prowess and rich, warm tone. He had an expansive career that spanned many decades and included performances with some of the most significant big bands and musicians in jazz history (he was a member of the Count Basie Orchestra and Duke Ellington’s orchestra).

Check out these Clark Terry albums:

  • Serenade to a Bus Seat (1957)
  • Color Changes (1961)
  • Portraits (1989)
  • In Orbit (1958)

Supercharge Your Jazz Trumpet Playing. Join The Learn Jazz Standards Inner Circle and Master Jazz Music.

Ready to take your jazz trumpet skills to the next level? The Learn Jazz Standards Inner Circle has the materials, educational resources, and thriving community you need to help get you where you want to be.

Come see what the Inner Circle has to offer.

TAKE YOUR JAZZ PLAYING TO THE NEXT LEVEL.

We help musicians of all instruments start improvising confidently over jazz standards in just 30 days without mind-numbing hours of practice or the overwhelm.

TAKE YOUR JAZZ PLAYING TO THE NEXT LEVEL.

We help musicians of all instruments start improvising confidently over jazz standards in as little as 30 days without mind-numbing hours of practice or the overwhelm.

“Jazz music is the power of now. There is no script. It’s conversation. The emotion is given to you by musicians as they make split-second decisions to fulfill what they feel the moment requires.”
WYNTON MARSALIS

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Refund Policy

For play-alongs and eBooks:

Because these are digital downloads, and not returnable, we have a strict no refund policy. All purchases are final and cannot be reversed. Please be sure that you fully understand the product you are purchasing and what is and what is not included. Of course, if you ever have any questions about a product feel free to contact usor visit our FAQ page.

For 30 Days to Better Jazz Playing eCourse

Please make sure you completely understand the product you are buying before purchasing.

14 Day 100% Money Back Guarantee

  • This guarantee lasts 14 days, which completely covers almost half of the course, enough for you to observe its’ effectiveness.
  • We can’t guarantee you will be Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, or John Coltrane in 2 weeks. We’d be suspicious of anyone who could promise that. Becoming a better jazz musician is a process and it requires work.
  • If you’re not happy with the quality of this program…send us an email and showing you did the work. We’ll refund 100% of your money (We’ll even eat the credit-card processing fees) and we’ll part as friends. We believe in the power of this course and so we’ll take responsibility for it.

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To the maximum extent allowed by applicable law, you agree to indemnify, defend and hold harmless Learn Jazz Standards, its directors, officers, employees, servants, agents, representatives, independent contractors and affiliates from and against any and all claims, damages, liabilities, actions, causes of action, costs, expenses, including reasonable attorneys’ fees, judgments or penalties of any kind or nature arising from or in relation to the these Messaging Terms or your receipt of text messages from Learn Jazz Standards or its service providers.

Dispute Resolution

  1. General. Any dispute or claim arising out of or in any way related to these Messaging Terms or your receipt of text messages from Learn Jazz Standards or its service providers whether based in contract, tort, statute, fraud, misrepresentation, or any other legal theory, and regardless of when a dispute or claim arises will be resolved by binding arbitration. YOU UNDERSTAND AND AGREE THAT, BY AGREEING TO THESE MESSAGING TERMS, YOU AND Learn Jazz Standards ARE EACH WAIVING THE RIGHT TO A TRIAL BY JURY OR TO PARTICIPATE IN A CLASS ACTION AND THAT THESE MESSAGING TERMS SHALL BE SUBJECT TO AND GOVERNED BY ARBITRATION.
  2. Exceptions. Notwithstanding subsection (a) above, nothing in these Messaging Terms will be deemed to waive, preclude, or otherwise limit the right of you or Learn Jazz Standards to: (i) bring an individual action in small claims court; (ii) pursue an enforcement action through the applicable federal, state, or local agency if that action is available; (iii) seek injunctive relief in aid of arbitration from a court of competent jurisdiction; or (iv) file suit in a court of law to address an intellectual property infringement claim.
  3. Arbitrator. Any arbitration between you and Learn Jazz Standards will be governed by the JAMS, under the Optional Expedited Arbitration Procedures then in effect for JAMS, except as provided herein. JAMS may be contacted at www.jamsadr.com. The arbitrator has exclusive authority to resolve any dispute relating to the interpretation, applicability, or enforceability of this binding arbitration agreement.
  4. No Class Actions. YOU AND Learn Jazz Standards AGREE THAT EACH MAY BRING CLAIMS AGAINST THE OTHER ONLY IN AN INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY AND NOT AS A PLAINTIFF OR CLASS MEMBER IN ANY PURPORTED CLASS OR REPRESENTATIVE PROCEEDING. Further, unless both you and Learn Jazz Standards agree otherwise in a signed writing, the arbitrator may not consolidate more than one person’s claims, and may not otherwise preside over any form of a representative or class proceeding. You agree that, by agreeing to these Messaging Terms, you and Learn Jazz Standards are each waiving the right to a trial by jury or to participate in a class action, collective action, private attorney general action, or other representative proceeding of any kind.
  5. No Class Actions. YOU AND Learn Jazz Standards AGREE THAT EACH MAY BRING CLAIMS AGAINST THE OTHER ONLY IN AN INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY AND NOT AS A PLAINTIFF OR CLASS MEMBER IN ANY PURPORTED CLASS OR REPRESENTATIVE PROCEEDING. Further, unless both you and Learn Jazz Standards agree otherwise in a signed writing, the arbitrator may not consolidate more than one person’s claims, and may not otherwise preside over any form of a representative or class proceeding.
  6. Modifications to this Arbitration Provision. Notwithstanding anything to the contrary in these Messaging Terms, if Learn Jazz Standards makes any future change to this arbitration provision, you may reject the change by sending us written notice within 30 days of the change to Learn Jazz Standards’s contact information provided in the “Contact Us” section below, in which case this arbitration provision, as in effect immediately prior to the changes you rejected, will continue to govern any disputes between you and Learn Jazz Standards.
  7. Enforceability. If any provision of these Messaging Terms is found to be unenforceable, the applicable provision shall be deemed stricken and the remainder of these Messaging Terms shall remain in full force and effect.

Changes to the Messaging Terms

We reserve the right to change these Messaging Terms or cancel the messaging program at any time. By using and accepting messages from Learn Jazz Standards after we make changes to the Messaging Terms, you are accepting the Messaging Terms with those changes. Please check these Messaging Terms regularly.

Entire Agreement/Severability

These Messaging Terms, together with any amendments and any additional agreements you may enter into with us in connection herewith, will constitute the entire agreement between you and Learn Jazz Standards concerning the Messaging Program.

Contact

Please contact us with any inquiries or concerns at [email protected]

OUR PROVEN PROCESS FOR LEARNING JAZZ STANDARDS LIKE A PRO

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DOWNLOAD THIS CHORD CHART

Get our FREE "Jazz Trumpet Beginners Guide: What You Need To Get Started" chord chart and our entire library of 200+ jazz standards!

Chord Chart

DOWNLOAD THIS CHORD CHART

Get our FREE "Jazz Trumpet Beginners Guide: What You Need To Get Started" chord chart and our entire library of 200+ jazz standards!

Chord Chart

DOWNLOAD THIS CHORD CHART

Get our FREE "Jazz Trumpet Beginners Guide: What You Need To Get Started" chord chart and our entire library of 200+ jazz standards!

Chord Chart