How to Play Trumpet

Simply put, a trumpet is played by blowing air through vibrating lips. Sounds simple enough, but there are more ideas, theories, and books about how best to accomplish this than there are actual trumpet players in the world.

How to Play Trumpet in less than One Minute

The number of ideas and theories on how to breathe, where to place the mouthpiece on your lips, how to buzz your lips, etc, etc, are endless. Despite the endless pool of advice from trumpet instructors, there is one truth they all share: It takes air.
In fact, there is no greater friend of a trumpet player than air. You have to breathe in order to produce air and you have to release that air in order to produce sound.

There is obviously a great deal of practice required to become proficient at playing music with the trumpet. The reason I say you can learn to play a trumpet in less than one minute is that air is the only thing that will ever help you produce a note. All of those other technical tools; fingering, tonguing, slurring, can never be heard without air.

Beginning trumpet players should spend their first minute learning that a trumpet is played with air, then spend the rest of their lives practicing how to use that air. There are a few trumpet method books that every player should have. But¬†remember,¬†How to Play Trumpet, starts with your attitude about air. Without it, you’ll never make a sound.

Trumpet Method Books

There are plenty of great books to help trumpet players practice the proper use of air, develop sound, build range, technique, and endurance.

Claude Gordon

Claude Gordon was one of the world’s greatest trumpet instructors. His teaching was centered around teaching brass players to use air and develop sound, power, and range. His books include Brass Playing is No Harder than Deep Breathing, Physical Approach to Elementary Brass Playing, and Systematic Approach. I highly recommend all of these books. Brass Playing is No Harder than Deep Breathing is the most well-written essay on air and trumpet playing ever written. His other books provide a daily practice regimen for trumpet players to develop their sound and range.


Claude Gordon was famous for his class and teaching of the Seven Natural Elements of Brass Playing: Wind Power, The Tongue, Wind Control, The Lips, Facial Muscles, Fingers of The Right Hand, The Left Hand. Claude Gordon literally taught thousands of great professionals how to play a trumpet.

Herbert L. Clarke

Herbert L. Clarke was a master Cornet player, known for great fingering and tonguing. His books are a reflection of the elements that went into learning his great technique.

Characteristic Studies and technical Studies are the two fingering and tonguing books that trumpet players will practice from every day of their lives. Like an athlete must run, exercise or lift weights every day to train, these tonguing and fingering exercises are designed to be part of trumpet players’ daily routine.


If you were a trumpet player stranded on a desert island with your horn and three wishes, the first thing you would want is your Arban’s book. Water and food would finish 2nd and 3rd. That’s how important the Arban’s book is to trumpeters.

The Arban’s, in fact, is the bible of all trumpeters. It has been around for over a century and no great trumpeter; Rafael Mendez, Maurice Andre, Doc Severinsen, etc., etc has not spent a lifetime practicing from this book. Arban’s is a thick book full of every element of trumpet playing; long tones, tonguing, fingering exercises, etudes, lyrical studies, songs, slurring, flexibility. You name it – it’s in Arban’s.