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B-Flat (Bb) trumpets are the most common variety in use among trumpet players. Most players will begin their trumpet studies on the Bb instrument due to the easy blending in ensemble setting and potential for a warm, rich tone. The Bb trumpet is considered a transposing instrument where the sound produced is one whole step lower than the written note. So for a player to play a ‘concert Bb’ tuning note, the written note C must be played.
Nearly all B-Flat trumpets have three piston valves, allowing half-step and whole-step pitch changes with the simple push of a piston. The basic design of the trumpet is a cylindrical shape with tubing that has varying size throughout the instrument (called bore size) ultimately ending at the bell which will have a wide flair. The bore size will vary among different instruments, but the most common bore sizes will be .459” or .460” (considered medium-large bore size) and .462” (considered a large bore size). This measurement is normally taken at the 2nd valve slide and relates in inches to the diameter of the tubing at that point. However – all Bb trumpets have multiple bore sizes throughout the instrument to produce the rich and complex overtones.
Common uses for the B-Flat trumpet will include concert band or symphonic wind ensemble or community band where the broad range and easy projection of the instrument will easily carry the melody or written counterpoint lines. School marching bands will feature a larger section of trumpet players since the marching music normally requires the punch and bright articulation Bb trumpets can produce. A jazz band or jazz ensemble will also utilize Bb trumpets. While a symphony orchestra can utilize Bb trumpets, the C trumpet is more commonly found in that setting because that instrument has a bit more brightness needed for most classical compositions.
In nearly every case, the Bb trumpet will be the instrument of choice for any jazz or pop trumpet soloist – again because of the flexibility to create a wide range of sounds from bright to dark, and loud to soft.
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