The trumpet is a member of the brass family of instruments. The brass family is often divided into four groups: the horns, trumpets, trombones, and tubas. Most of the time, when people refer to this instrument, they mean the B♭ (B-flat) version, one particular member of the group. The group also includes E♭ and B♭ bass trumpets; trumpets in the keys of B♭, C, D, and E♭; the A and B♭ piccolo trumpet; cornets in B♭ and E♭; and the B♭ flugelhorn.
As a group, these instruments form the soprano voice of the brass family. B♭ trumpets are the best known instrument of the group. Originally confined to military settings, today they are used in both orchestral and band settings, including concert and marching bands, and jazz groups.
In the history of the instrument, there are three major types: the natural (valveless) trumpet, which resembles a modern bugle and was popular during the Baroque period; the valve trumpet, based on the instrument in F and first used in the mid 1800s; and the modern trumpet, which is in a higher register. Though someone who says that they play the instrument without specifying which type probably is referring to the B♭, professionals often have a C or D trumpet as well, and choose between the two to suit the work they are performing.
The instrument has a brilliant sound, typified for many by its role in fanfares and battle calls. It is used in music as diverse as ragtime, big band, and mariachi bands. The sound may be shaped by the use of a mute, such as the straight mute, cup mute, or harmon mute, which covers the bell of the instrument. Effects similar to that of a mute are created by using the hand over or in the bell or by using a plunger, a felt hat, or by playing into the stand.
Specialized information written in the music can call also tell the performer to create special effects. These are most common in jazz, and include the smear, the doit, the fall off, the plop, and the turn.
Famous pieces include Johann Sebastian Bach’s Brandenberg Concerto No. 2, Georg Telemann’s Concerto in D Major for trumpet, and Joseph Haydn Trumpet Concerto in Eb Major. There have been many famous players, including Maurice André, Louis Armstrong, Herb Alpert, Dizzy Gillepsie, Miles Davis, and Wynton Marsalis.