In this guide, you’re going to learn how the trumpet valves work, how to read trumpet finger charts, and how to finger notes on the trumpet.
You’re going to learn how the valves direct the flow of air through the trumpet making it possible for us to play different notes as well as how to play the chromatic scale on the trumpet.
Let’s dive right in.
How trumpet valves work
The regular b♭ trumpet has three valves each with it’s own corresponding valve slide — the first valve has a first valve slide, the second a second, and the third a third.
Inside each of the valves, we have a little tunnels that go through it that control the passage of air.
When we don’t have any of the valves pressed down, the air simply travels from the mouthpiece, through the leadpipe, through the main tuning slide, into the third valve, into the second valve, into the first valve, and, finally, out through the bell.
Without any of the valves pressed down, the air completely bypasses the first, second and third valve slides.
When we press down the valve, what we’re doing is rearranging the position of those tunnels inside the valve so that the air can travel through the corresponding valve slide as well.
This increases the total length of tubing that the air travels through and gives us a lower pitch.
We’ll start with the second valve.
How the second valve works
Looking at your trumpet, you will notice that the second valve slide is the shortest of the three valves.
When we press down the second valve, we get a note that is a half step lower.
This is because pressing down the G increases the length of the trumpet by the amount of tube on the second valve slide lowering the pitch by a half step.
The note G, for instance, now becomes a G♭ or F♯. That’s one note on the piano down to the next note on the piano.
You can try this on your trumpet. Play a G long note and and press down the second valve.
How the first valve works
If you take a look at your trumpet, you will notice that the first valve slide is roughly twice the length of the second valve slide we just looked at.
When we press down the first valve slide, we’re going to get a note that is two half steps lower, or a whole note lower.
We are increasing the total length of the trumpet by the amount of tube of the first valve slide.
A long G, for instance, now becomes an F.
Again, try this on your trumpet.
How the third valve works
Finally, we look at the third valve. Notice that the third valve slide is roughly three times the length of the second valve slide.
So, when we press down the third valve, we are going to get a note that is three half steps lower.
This is because we are increasing the total length of the trumpet by about three times the length of the second valve slide.
The note G, for instance, now becomes E.
How trumpet valve combinations
The third valve alone is not a commonly used valve combination. It tends to be a little bit out of tune and doesn’t quite sound as good as the other valve combinations.
To make up for that, we can achieve the same effect — three half steps down — by pressing the first and second valves simulteniously.
If we continue along the same way, we can get a note that is four half steps lower by combining the second and third valve.
That’s because we are increasing the total length of the trumpet by four times the length of the second valve slide — once with the second valve itself, and thrice in the third valve.
We can get a note that is five half steps lower by combining the first and third valve.
That’s because we are now increasing the total length of the trumpet by five times the length of the second valve slide — twice with the first valve, and thrice with the third valve.
And then finally we can get a note that is six half steps lower by pressing down all three valves.
The Trumpet Chromatic Scale
What we’ve covered so far, including the open note, makes the seven descending valve combinations.
Why will need to stick out the third valve (using the third valve ring) when playing the first and third valve, and the first second and third valve combination. The reasons is because these two notes, D and C♯, respectively, are particularly sharp on the trumpet.
These are the only two notes, that you’re going to need to control the third valve slide for.
If we play all seven notes in succession, we get what we call the trumpet
The Finger Chart
piano, guitar, concert flute, piccolo, bass flute, chromatic harmonica, any instrument that has a piano-like keyboard, and any instrument that has strings.
trumpet, tenor sax, soprano sax, clarinet, bass clarinet, flugelhorn
C♯ / D♭
D♯ / E♭
D♯ / E♭
F♯ / G♭
F♯ / G♭
G♯ / A♭
G♯ / A♭
A♯ / B♭
A♯ / B♭
C♯ / D♭
I hope that helps.