Bass trumpet

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Bass trumpet in C with rotary valves Basstrompete.jpg
Bass trumpet in C with rotary valves

The bass trumpet is a type of low trumpet which was first developed during the 1820s in Germany. It is usually pitched in 8' C or 9' B today, but is sometimes built in E and is treated as a transposing instrument sounding either an octave, a sixth or a ninth lower than written, depending on the pitch of the instrument. Having valves and the same tubing length, the bass trumpet is quite similar to the valve trombone, although the bass trumpet has a harder, more metallic tone. [1] Certain modern manufacturers offering 'valve trombones' and 'bass trumpets' use the same tubing, valves, and bell, in different configurations - in these cases the bass trumpet is virtually identical to the valve trombone. [2]

Trumpet musical instrument with the highest register in the brass family

A trumpet is a brass instrument commonly used in classical and jazz ensembles. The trumpet group contains the instruments with the highest register in the brass family. Trumpet-like instruments have historically been used as signaling devices in battle or hunting, with examples dating back to at least 1500 BC; they began to be used as musical instruments only in the late 14th or early 15th century. Trumpets are used in art music styles, for instance in orchestras, concert bands, and jazz ensembles, as well as in popular music. They are played by blowing air through nearly-closed lips, producing a "buzzing" sound that starts a standing wave vibration in the air column inside the instrument. Since the late 15th century they have primarily been constructed of brass tubing, usually bent twice into a rounded rectangular shape.

Germany Federal parliamentary republic in central-western Europe

Germany, officially the Federal Republic of Germany, is a country in Central and Western Europe, lying between the Baltic and North Seas to the north and the Alps, Lake Constance and the High Rhine to the south. It borders Denmark to the north, Poland and the Czech Republic to the east, Austria and Switzerland to the south, France to the southwest, and Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands to the west.

Transposing instrument a class of instruments whose sounded note differs from its written note

A transposing instrument is a musical instrument whose music is recorded in staff notation at a pitch different from the pitch that actually sounds. A written middle C on a transposing instrument produces a pitch other than middle C, and that pitch identifies the interval of transposition when describing the instrument. For example, a written C on a B clarinet sounds a concert B.



The earliest mention of the bass trumpet is in the 1821 Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung, in which Heinrich Stölzel's Chromatische Tenor-trompetenbaß and Griesling & Schlott's Chromatische Trompetenbaß are described. Several other variants were produced through the 1820s and were employed in military bands. Wide-bell versions in 9' B are still used today in Austria and Bavaria under the name Baßtrompete, and narrow-bell versions in 9' B are used in Italy under the name tromba bassa. They perform no melodic function, but are used solely to fill out harmonies.

Heinrich David Stölzel was a German horn player who developed some of the first valves for brass instruments. He developed the first valve for a brass instrument, the Stölzel valve, in 1818, and went on to develop various other designs, some jointly with other inventor musicians.

Wagner's bass trumpet

Richard Wagner's first intention for Der Ring des Nibelungen was a bass trumpet in 13' E, based on the instruments he would have come across during his dealings with military bands. However, while the opening section of Das Rheingold might indicate the use of such an instrument, the part quickly rises to G5, which would be the nineteenth partial on this long instrument; Wagner understood brass instruments very well and saw that this was impractical. While it was argued during the late nineteenth century (Oskar Franz: Zeitschrift für Instrumentenbau, 1884) that the instrument in question was actually pitched an octave higher, the instrument actually built by Moritz of Berlin on Wagner's personal instruction for the Munich theatre (according to Zeitschrift für Instrumentenbau, 1908) was pitched in 8' C with crooks for B and A and sounded one octave lower than written. The records of Moritz were not preserved, though a wide-bell bass trumpet with military-band proportions in 8' C with B and A crooks does make an appearance in their post-1900 catalogue, while Gebrüder Alexander of Mainz offered a narrow-bore model in either E or C.

Richard Wagner German composer

Wilhelm Richard Wagner was a German composer, theatre director, polemicist, and conductor who is chiefly known for his operas. Unlike most opera composers, Wagner wrote both the libretto and the music for each of his stage works. Initially establishing his reputation as a composer of works in the romantic vein of Carl Maria von Weber and Giacomo Meyerbeer, Wagner revolutionised opera through his concept of the Gesamtkunstwerk, by which he sought to synthesise the poetic, visual, musical and dramatic arts, with music subsidiary to drama. He described this vision in a series of essays published between 1849 and 1852. Wagner realised these ideas most fully in the first half of the four-opera cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen.

<i>Der Ring des Nibelungen</i> Cycle of four operas by Richard Wagner

Der Ring des Nibelungen, WWV 86, is a cycle of four German-language epic music dramas composed by Richard Wagner. The works are based loosely on characters from the Norse sagas and the Nibelungenlied. The composer termed the cycle a "Bühnenfestspiel", structured in three days preceded by a Vorabend. It is often referred to as the Ring cycle, Wagner's Ring, or simply The Ring.

<i>Das Rheingold</i> opera by Richard Wagner

Das Rheingold, WWV 86A, is the first of the four music dramas that constitute Richard Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen,. It was performed, as a single opera, at the National Theatre Munich on 22 September 1869, and received its first performance as part of the Ring cycle at the Bayreuth Festspielhaus, on 13 August 1876.

The model normally used today is in 8' C with four rotary valves, and is played by a trombonist owing to the size of the mouthpiece. Bass trumpets in E are usually played by trumpeters as the mouthpiece is closer in size to that of the standard B trumpet.

Rotary valve type of valve in which the rotation of a passage or passages in a transverse plug regulates the flow of liquid or gas through the attached pipes

A rotary valve is a type of valve in which the rotation of a passage or passages in a transverse plug regulates the flow of liquid or gas through the attached pipes. The common stopcock is the simplest form of rotary valve. Rotary valves have been applied in numerous applications, including:

Mouthpiece (brass)

On brass instruments the mouthpiece is the part of the instrument placed on the player's lips. The mouthpiece is a simple circular opening that leads, via a semi-spherical or conical cavity, to the main body of the instrument.

Duncan Wilson playing rotary bass trumpet in C with the BBC Symphony Orchestra Basstrumpeter.jpg
Duncan Wilson playing rotary bass trumpet in C with the BBC Symphony Orchestra

Wagner wrote adventurously for his new addition to the brass section, exploiting open and muted effects, and extremes of range and dynamics. The bass trumpet is frequently featured in Der Ring des Nibelungen , playing solos in every register, as well as playing in octaves, unison or harmony with trumpets, trombones, and Wagner tubas. Its very distinctive timbre is easily identifiable and Wagner used this new and unique tone colour extensively. However, as with the Wagner tuba and the contrabass trombone, Wagner's other additions to the opera house orchestra for Der Ring des Nibelungen , the bass trumpet has not become a regular member of the orchestral brass and is seen rarely.

Trombone Type of brass instrument

The trombone is a musical instrument in the brass family. As on all brass instruments, sound is produced when the player's vibrating lips (embouchure) cause the air column inside the instrument to vibrate. Nearly all trombones have a telescoping slide mechanism that varies the length of the instrument to change the pitch. Many modern trombone models also use a valve attachment to lower the pitch of the instrument. Variants such as the valve trombone and superbone have three valves similar to those on the trumpet.

Wagner tuba

The Wagner tuba is an infrequently-used brass instrument that combines tonal elements of both the French horn and the trombone. Wagner tubas are also referred to as Wagner horns or Bayreuth tubas in English and as Bayreuth-Tuben or simply Tuben in German. The term Wagner tuba has been used in English since the 19th century and is standard today. Wagner's published scores usually refer to these instruments in the plural, Tuben, but sometimes in the singular, Tuba.

Timbre quality of a musical note or sound or tone

In music, timbre, also known as tone color or tone quality, is the perceived sound quality of a musical note, sound or tone. Timbre distinguishes different types of sound production, such as choir voices and musical instruments, such as string instruments, wind instruments, and percussion instruments. It also enables listeners to distinguish different instruments in the same category.

Other composers who have used the bass trumpet in the orchestra include Arthur Sullivan (in the opera Ivanhoe ), Richard Strauss (in the tone poem Macbeth and the opera Elektra ), Arnold Schoenberg (in the cantata Gurrelieder ), Igor Stravinsky (in the ballet Le sacre du printemps - fourth trumpet doubling bass trumpet in E), Leoš Janáček (in the Sinfonietta - two bass trumpets in B). György Ligeti used the bass trumpet as one of Nekrotzar's "Entourage" instruments in his opera Le Grand Macabre .

Orchestra large instrumental ensemble

An orchestra is a large instrumental ensemble typical of Western classical music, which combines instruments from different families, including bowed string instruments such as the violin, viola, cello, and double bass, brass instruments such as the horn, trumpet, trombone and tuba, woodwinds such as the flute, oboe, clarinet and bassoon, and percussion instruments such as the timpani, bass drum, triangle, snare drum, cymbals, and mallet percussion instruments each grouped in sections. Other instruments such as the piano and celesta may sometimes appear in a fifth keyboard section or may stand alone, as may the concert harp and, for performances of some modern compositions, electronic instruments.

Arthur Sullivan English composer of the Gilbert & Sullivan duo

Sir Arthur Seymour Sullivan MVO was an English composer. He is best known for 14 operatic collaborations with the dramatist W. S. Gilbert, including H.M.S. Pinafore, The Pirates of Penzance and The Mikado. His works include 24 operas, 11 major orchestral works, ten choral works and oratorios, two ballets, incidental music to several plays, and numerous church pieces, songs, and piano and chamber pieces. His hymns and songs include "Onward, Christian Soldiers" and "The Lost Chord".

Opera Artform combining sung text and musical score in a theatrical setting

Opera is a form of theatre in which music has a leading role and the parts are taken by singers, but is distinct from musical theater. Such a "work" is typically a collaboration between a composer and a librettist and incorporates a number of the performing arts, such as acting, scenery, costume, and sometimes dance or ballet. The performance is typically given in an opera house, accompanied by an orchestra or smaller musical ensemble, which since the early 19th century has been led by a conductor.


The bass trumpet is usually notated in the treble clef. The bass trumpet in C sounds one octave lower than written, the bass trumpet in E sounds a major sixth lower than written and the bass trumpet in B sounds a major ninth lower than written. Wagner's transpositions include bass trumpet in E, E, D, C and B, though players often have parts for the bass trumpet transposed into C to play on the C bass trumpet. [3]


Cy Touff was one of the few jazz musicians to play the bass trumpet and while the bass trumpet is usually played by a trombonist, British trumpeter Philip Jones performed on the bass trumpet while employed by the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Johnny Mandel is perhaps the best-known bass trumpeter from the jazz world.

Salsa musician and trombonist Willie Colón plays a Getzen bass trumpet and can be heard improvising on the Fania label recordings Maestra Vida part 1 La Fiesta, Siembra Buscando Guayaba, Cruz and Colon Zambullete, Doble Energia Cuando Tu Quieras and Canciones Del Solar De Los Aburridos Tiburon.

Leonhard Paul of Mnozil Brass (an Austrian-based brass group consisting of three trumpets, three trombones and a tuba) plays bass trumpet regularly with the ensemble, incorporating its use in many different styles. Up until late 2006, he played a traditional rotary valve bass trumpet made by Gebr. Alexander of Mainz. Now he plays a totally redesigned bass trumpet by Schagerl.

Jazz trombonist Elliot Mason, who plays with Wynton Marsalis's Jazz at the Lincoln Center Orchestra as well as leading his own bands, regularly plays the bass trumpet.

Rashawn Ross, trumpet player touring with the Dave Matthews Band, who has also performed and recorded with the likes of Usher, Ludacris, Maceo Parker, Robert Randolph and Roy Hargrove regularly plays bass trumpet. His equipment includes a silver-plated Getzen bass trumpet and a Mount Vernon B flat trumpet made by the Vincent Bach Corporation.

See also

Other trumpets:

Related Research Articles

Brass instrument class of musical instruments

A brass instrument is a musical instrument that produces sound by sympathetic vibration of air in a tubular resonator in sympathy with the vibration of the player's lips. Brass instruments are also called labrosones, literally meaning "lip-vibrated instruments".

Euphonium brass instrument

The euphonium is a medium-sized, 3 or 4-valve, often compensating, conical-bore, tenor-voiced brass instrument that derives its name from the Ancient Greek word εὔφωνος euphōnos, meaning "well-sounding" or "sweet-voiced". The euphonium is a valved instrument. Nearly all current models have piston valves, though some models with rotary valves do exist.

Pitch of brass instruments

The pitch of a brass instrument is determined by its vibratory length, which determines the fundamental frequency of the open instrument and the frequencies of its overtones. Additional pitches are achieved by varying the length using the instrument's valve, slide, key or crook system. The fundamental frequency is not playable on some brass instruments. The table provides the pitch of the second overtone and length for some common brass instruments in descending order of pitch. This pitch is notated transpositionally as middle C for many of these brass instruments.

Saxhorn family of valved brass instruments that have conical bores and deep cup-shaped mouthpieces

The saxhorn is a family of valved brass instruments that have conical bores and deep cup-shaped mouthpieces. The saxhorn family was developed by Adolphe Sax, who is also known for creating the saxophone family. The sound of the saxhorn has a characteristic mellow tone quality and blends well with other brass.

Tuba type of musical instrument of the brass family

The tuba (bass) is the lowest-pitched musical instrument in the brass family. As with all brass instruments, the sound is produced by lip vibration into a large mouthpiece. It first appeared in the mid-19th century, making it one of the newer instruments in the modern orchestra and concert band. The tuba largely replaced the ophicleide. Tuba is Latin for 'trumpet'.

Baritone horn low-pitched brass instrument

The baritone horn, or sometimes just called baritone, is a low-pitched brass instrument in the saxhorn family. It is a piston-valve brass instrument with a bore that is mostly conical but it has a narrower bore than the similarly pitched euphonium. It uses a wide-rimmed cup mouthpiece like that of its peers, the trombone and euphonium. Like the trombone and the euphonium, the baritone horn can be considered either a transposing or non-transposing instrument.

Tenor horn

The tenor horn is a brass instrument in the saxhorn family, and is usually pitched in E. It has a bore that is mostly conical, like the flugelhorn and baritone horn, and normally uses a deep, cornet-like mouthpiece.

Contrabass refers to several musical instruments of very low pitch—generally one octave below bass register instruments. While the term most commonly refers to the double bass, many other instruments in the contrabass register exist.

Contrabass clarinet largest member of the clarinet family of musical instruments

The contrabass clarinet and contra-alto clarinet are the two largest members of the clarinet family that are in common usage. Modern contrabass clarinets are pitched in B, sounding two octaves lower than the common B soprano clarinet and one octave lower than the B bass clarinet. Some contrabass clarinet models have a range extending down to low (written) E, while others can play down to low D or further to low C. This range, C(3) – E(6), sounds B(0) – D(4). Some early instruments were pitched in C; Arnold Schoenberg's Fünf Orchesterstücke specifies a contrabass clarinet in A, but there is no evidence of such an instrument ever having existed.

Serpent (instrument) musical instrument

The serpent is a bass wind instrument, descended from the cornett, and a distant ancestor of the tuba, with a mouthpiece like a brass instrument but side holes like a woodwind. It is usually a long cone bent into a snakelike shape, hence the name. The serpent is closely related to the cornett, although it is not part of the cornett family, due to the absence of a thumb hole. It is generally made out of wood, with walnut being a particularly popular choice. The outside is covered with dark brown or black leather. Despite wooden construction and the fact that it has fingerholes rather than valves, it is usually classed as a brass; the Hornbostel-Sachs scheme of musical instrument classification places it alongside trumpets.

Bass saxophone Wind instrument in Bb

The bass saxophone is one of the largest members of the saxophone family—larger than the more commonly encountered baritone saxophone. It was the first type of saxophone exhibited to the public, when Adolphe Sax presented a bass saxophone in C at an exhibition in Brussels in 1841. The modern bass saxophone is a transposing instrument pitched in B, an octave below the tenor saxophone. The bass saxophone is not a commonly used instrument, but it is to be heard on some 1920s jazz recordings; in free jazz; and in saxophone choirs.

Ophicleide type of wind instrument

The ophicleide is a keyed brass instrument similar to the tuba. It is a conical-bore keyed instrument belonging to the bugle family and has a similar shape to the sudrophone.

There are many different types of trombone. The most frequently encountered trombones today are the tenor and bass, though as with other Renaissance instruments such as the recorder, the trombone has been built in every size from piccolo to contrabass.


The saxtuba is an obsolete valved brasswind instrument conceived by the Belgian instrument-maker Adolphe Sax around 1845. The design of the instrument was inspired by the ancient Roman cornu and tuba. The saxtubas, which comprised a family of half-tube and whole-tube instruments of varying pitches, were first employed in Fromental Halévy's opera Le Juif errant in 1852. Their only other public appearance of note was at a military ceremony on the Champ de Mars in Paris in the same year. The term "saxtuba" may also refer to the bass saxhorn.

The trombone is a musical instrument from the brass instrument family. Trombone's first premiere in jazz was with Dixieland Jazz as a supporting role within the Dixie Group. This role later grew into the spotlight as players such as J.J. Johnson and Jack Teagarden began to experiment more with the instrument, finding that it can fill in roles along with the saxophone and trumpet in Bebop Jazz. The trombone has since grown to be featured in standard big band group setups with 3 to 5 trombones depending on the arrangement. Even today the trombone is still growing in popularity with groups and in music with different techniques being attempted and brought up. The trombone is not easy to play for left handed people, although well known trombone player Slide Hampton was a professional player that used a left-handed grip and style. A person who plays the trombone is called a trombone player or a trombonist.


  1. "Brief Description - Vienna Symphonic Library". Retrieved 2019-06-02.
  2. "The Bass Trumpet- A Brief Overview". Musika Lessons Blog. 2016-04-20. Retrieved 2019-06-02.
  3. Trent Hamilton (2014-12-29), The Bass Trumpet - Discussion and Demonstration , retrieved 2019-06-02