When people ask “What’s the best professional trumpet brand?” it’s like asking, “What’s the best luxury car brand?”. The answer is “it depends”. Great, that was helpful as a screen door on a submarine. Well, maybe not that bad. The thing is, the “best” of anything depends on one thing. You. A better question might be:
What Is The Best Professional Trumpet For You?
- What are you going to use the trumpet for?
- Are you an aspiring high school player?
- Are you a professional player that makes a living playing the trumpet?
- Are you a comeback trumpet player?
- All very different usage cases where the professional trumpet that may be “Best” for the professional player isn’t right for the other two.
- What is your budget?
- If you have a room in your mansion filled to the roof with gold coins your budget is different than a high school player that works 10 hours a day to save up for a professional trumpet.
- The “Best Professional Trumpet” in this case may be what is the highest quality trumpet that fits your budget while matching how you plan to use the trumpet now and into the future.
- What are your aspirations for your trumpet playing?
- If you have only been playing for a few years and have a developed a love for the trumpet, you may choose to invest in a professional trumpet that will last for the rest of your playing career.
- If you are a comeback player, you may have no intention of playing professionally, but have the means to invest in a higher quality instrument than you had when you were younger.
- If you make a living playing trumpet, well…you already know what trumpet you want and need so feel free to skip straight to the Professional Trumpet reviews.
What is a professional trumpet?
Before we can talk about what is “the Best Professional Trumpet”, we need to define what the heck one is. A professional model trumpet offers features and options similar to most other trumpets. It’ll look very similar to every other trumpet. In fact, a brand new $300 trumpet will look just as beautiful as a brand new $3,000 trumpet. And even a $10,000 trumpet. So what gives? The differences may be subtle but will make a dramatic difference in the playability and sound quality. All trumpets are made from yellow brass. How they are designed and made are the biggest factors that separate a professional level trumpet from an inexpensive, mass produced trumpet. The bell shape/material, tuning slide, leadpipe, and valves are designed and built with a level of quality and materials that justify their higher cost. The tolerances or fit and finish in a professional trumpet are exceptional. For example, the valve cluster may be built with nickel silver for better wear resistance and tonal quality. It may be built lightweight for a more responsive trumpet. The bell is likely hand annealed by craftsmen that have been doing this work for decades. While most are made from yellow brass, you can get one with rose or gold brass for a warmer sound. Even if you are not a professional or advanced trumpet player yet, look for qualities and features that affect the sound quality, upper register richness, and sound projection.
What to look for in a professional level trumpet
The main thing to look for in this case are the bell design, leadpipe design, tuning slide design, and finish. Things to think about, you need some resistance to blow against so getting the largest bore horn may not be right for you. If you are playing a “lead” trumpet mouthpiece, they often have tighter backbores to help you in the upper register. This gives you something to “blow against”. Next, the leadpipe of the trumpet has a big influence in how fast the air moves through the horn and will feel different from trumpet to trumpet. The leadpipe design combined with the main tuning slide turn the buzzing you make with your embouchure in the mouthpiece into a standing wave which is changed in pitch by the valves and amplified by the bell. A lot of words to say, the leadpipe and main tuning slide play a critical role in the sound a trumpet makes. Less bracing on the main tuning slide makes the horn more responsive as it vibrates more freely. This may be important for you if you play lead trumpet. A lightweight valve cluster also vibrates more. See the Bach Stradivarius 190 models reviews as an example of a freer leadpipe design. Lastly, the taper (how fast the bell opens) influences the timbre of your sound. A slower opening bell (taper) will project a bit more (see the #43 Bach Stradivarius bell at the above link as an example) which is something you’ll want for jazz or lead roles. Darker sounding bells such as the Schilke 5 (verses the 1) and the 37 Bach bell are what you want if you play more orchestra or symphony work. Or if you just like the warmer sound for jazz playing.
How is a professional trumpet made?
The bells of professional level trumpets are designed with different shapes, tapers, and wall thickness. These all affect the quality and projection of your sound. The way the brass is formed or annealed (hardened), will also affect how the bell resonates. The best professional trumpets are handcrafted by artisans that use techniques refined over decades. The leadpipe design is important as it shapes the sound coming from your mouthpiece. Some are designed to improve upper register “slotting” and tone. The main tuning slide design varies from a “D” shape to a “C” shape. One is not better than the other as the leadpipe, main tuning slide, and even the bracing are designed together to complement each other. For example, Bach lines up the seam of the bell with the bracing to let the rest of the bell vibrate more freely. The amount of bracing on some makers main tuning slide affect the sound. Less bracing allows it to vibrate more giving the trumpet a more responsive feel. The design, construction, and materials (such as rose brass), affect the sound quality, projection, and how easy the trumpet is to play. You’ll notice this in the upper register when you increase your air velocity. It’s a delicate balance to perfect the free air flow while providing the right amount of resistance.
What are the best professional trumpet brands?
So now we know what a professional trumpet is and what makes them different. So what’s the best brand? As we talked about first, the better question to ask is, “which professional trumpet suites me?” The well-known brass instrument companies all have professional trumpet models. The most well known professional trumpet brands are the Yamaha Company, Vincent Bach, Schilke, and Getzen. Yes, there are smaller companies that makes custom and exceptional trumpets. These are companies like Monette, Adams, B&S, Kanstul, etc. For this article, we will focus on the “Big 4” Trumpet manufacturers that have been making musical instruments for a long time.
The Yamaha company was started back in 1887 by Torakusu Yamaha when he repaired and then created the first reed organ that was made in Japan. Yamaha’s entry into the trumpet world began in 1966 with the Yamaha YTR-1 which was their first brass musical instrument. Yamaha is highly regarded for the breadth of professional trumpet models in their Xeno series B-flat trumpet line. All Yamaha professional trumpets feature Monel piston valves. Wayne Bergeron, a highly regarded professional trumpet player is one of their performing artists. He co-designed the YTR08335LA trumpet and the YFH-831G Flugelhorn. The YTR-8335 is part of their Xeno series of professional trumpets. The only line above this is their YTR-9335 line which are custom trumpets for true professional players. All Yamaha professional trumpets carry a 5-year warranty.
The Vincent Bach company is one of the oldest brass instrument companies around. It started with Vincent Shrotenbach who was a trumpet player and was having trouble finding a trumpet mouthpiece. In 1918, he purchased a lathe to make trumpet mouthpieces. He started making trumpets in 1924. His trumpets were so highly regarded that professional musicians started calling them the “Stradivarius” of trumpets. This is in reference to the “Stradivarius” violin which is renowned as the finest violin created. To this day, the Bach Stradivarius professional B-flat trumpet is one of the most highly regarded trumpets. Older models command high prices when resold.
For a Bach factory tour, please see the video below:
The Model 180-37 is arguably the number one, best selling professional trumpet in the world. This trumpet is most commonly referred to as a “Bach Stradivarius Trumpet 37”. Even though the “Stradivarius” name applies to many Bach Professional trumpet models, note that the “180” is the model and the “37” is the type of bell. One of the current top professional trumpet players Louis Dowdeswell played a Bach Stradivarius model 43G on his recording of Frozens “Let It Go” (see below). It features a Gold brass bell and a special gold-plated finish. The newly released model 190-37 is their 50th Anniversary model. They are designed and built like the early models from Elkhart Indiana starting back in 1965. It features a nickel and yellow brass valve cluster, a one-piece bell, and hand lapped Monel pistons. It’s interesting to note that the Vincent Bach company is part of the Conn & Selmer company that consists of brands such as King (known for band instruments of all kind), Ludwig (great drums), Selmer (known for saxophones and other woodwinds), and Armstrong (known for flutes and piccolos). All Vincent Bach professional trumpets carry a 5-year warranty.
Was started in 1938 by T.J. Getzen. He worked at Holton, another widely known brass musical instrument company for almost 10 years. He started in Wisconsin repairing band instruments. Their first instrument was a trombone in 1946 with trumpets and cornets starting in 1947. These instruments gained popularity as student horns. In 1962, the world famous “Doc” Severinsen worked with Getzen to design and build a line of professional trumpets and flugelhorns. They were branded the 900 Eterna Severinsen. In 2007 they relaunched their famous Eterna line as the 900 Eterna to the same specifications that the “Doc” Severinsen models had. The Getzen 900 Eterna trumpet was known for it’s easy blowing design with a 0.460 inch bore. One feature prominent to these horns is the use of button type spit valves or Amado. The reason they chose this design over the common level type is that it creates less turbulence as air goes past. This is the kind of attention to detail that Getzen is known for. While much smaller than the two big companies above, the quality and designs are still world class. All Getzen trumpets come with a lifetime warranty on their valves and a 5 year overall warranty. Their Custom series professional trumpets carry a lifetime warranty.
Schilke Music Products was started by Renold Schilke back in 1956 while playing in the Chicago Symphony. He refined his designs over 30 years focusing on trumpets, cornets, and brass mouthpieces. His designs are legendary as he found and fixed some 14 faults with the b-flat trumpet. So much so that in the 1960’s, the Yamaha Corporation hired Renold as a consultant to design both their professional level brass instrument line and their manufacturing processes. This went on until Renold passed away in 1982. Renold is known for his patent of the tunable trumpet bell. He transferred the patent to Yamaha as he felt they were the only ones that had the resources and quality. Many of the Yamaha’s professional trumpet line were almost exactly the same as Schilke professional trumpets. The B1 has a large bell and remains their most popular model. It’s identical to the B5 which has a medium bell. The B5 has a bit more resistance than the B1 and has a darker sound. Some compare the B5 to the Bach 37 bell. The Schilke P5-4 is the “Reference Standard” Piccolo trumpet. It is the Piccolo trumpet that all others aspire to be. The two even use the same mouthpiece labeling system. Many (if not all) trumpet players know of Schilke mouthpieces and the legendary (infamous?) 14A4A. See our review of it and the Yamaha 14A4a in our “Best Trumpet Mouthpiece” post. Schilke is now family owned and still based in Illinois. Their craftsmanship and designs remain legendary.
Which Trumpet Brand is Best?
So after all this, which brand is the best? The answer is “it depends”, but now you understand now why. The professional level trumpets made by these four companies have the highest quality designs, manufacturing techniques, features, and materials. All feature Monel pistons (except the Getzen). All use hand processes to create each component of the trumpet to exacting standards. All have artisans that hand craft each part of the trumpet. All of these brands quality test and tune each trumpet before it leaves the factory. All have decades of experience designing and building the best trumpet they can make. Most notable, all the professional level trumpets above are “ML” bore size (0.459 inches) trumpets except the Getzen Eterna which has a bore size of 0.460 inches. If their “stock” professional trumpets aren’t good enough for you, they all have custom lines above these that were made in collaboration with well known professionals. If money is no object, Yamaha made a trumpet out of titanium which costs some $125,00. Back to the question at the start of all this. Which is the best professional level trumpet brand? The short answer is, they are all the “Best”. The top rated professional trumpets from these companies are the best trumpets they have made for decades. That means, you can’t go wrong choosing any of these brands. Now, which model of Bach, Yamaha, Schilke, or Getzen is “Best”? That’s a whole different question that we explore in our post “What is The Best Professional Trumpet?“. Click the link to go straight to it.
As always, thanks for playing along !