Why Trumpeters Transpose
A Mini-Primer for Very Young Trumpeters and Non Trumpet-Playing Observers of the Musical Art.
Recently, while speaking with some high school age trumpet students, the question arose as to why, at this time in history, trumpeters need transposition skills. Good question, since many contemporary composers, arrangers, orchestrators, and copyists let computer programs do this for them. What’s so different about trumpeters?
to be continued.............
* An example intended strictly for the uninitiated, using the first trumpet part of the Beethoven Eroica Symphony (below): The part is written for trumpet in “Eb,” which is the key of the symphony. The pitch is notated as “C,” sounding “Eb.” If played on a modern “C” trumpet, the player would play “Eb” (The trumpet in “C” sounds a minor third lower than the “Eb” trumpet; therefore, one must play a minor third higher than written to produce the correct pitch). If performed on a modern “Bb” trumpet, the player would play “F” because the “Bb” trumpet sounds a perfect fourth lower than the “Eb” trumpet; so, similarly, the trumpeter must play a perfect fourth higher to produce the proper pitch), and on the “A” piccolo trumpet, one would play (lower) “F# because the “A” piccolo sounds a tritone higher than the “Eb” instrument; so, one must play a tritone lower to sound the correct pitch.)