Which Trumpet Should You Buy?
The short answer:
If you have $1,900-$2,500 buy a new Yamaha YTR-8335 or a 8335R Silver (find deals and don’t pay more than what I listed)
If you have $1,000-$1,900 buy a used Bach Stradivarius Model 37 (preferably silver) or if you can find it a Yamaha YTR-8335 or 8335R with silver or lacquer
If you can only spend approximately $400 and you are patient you can find a used Olds Ambassador (preferably a Fullerton or LA model) online.
Can’t spend at least $400, rent from a store for about $25 a month until you can.
The long answer:
There are many different types of trumpets. For this topic I am going to talk only about Bb trumpets as the vast majority of students I work with will not need anything other than a Bb trumpet. The trumpet I will list are not all the trumpets that are suitable. There are many more brands that would work. This advice is my bias taking in consideration the price, value, durability, and suitability for students.
There are so many options, it feels nearly endless. Besides which trumpet brand with what options to buy, there are many other things to consider, such as price, size, metal, durability… the list goes on. Hopefully this info helps sort these things out and gives you confidence when deciding from your options.
What is your price range?
There is a very wide range of trumpet prices. You can find an $80 trumpet on amazon (not recommended) or buy a $20,000 from specialty makers. Again for the sake of this topic I will be talking about what my average middle school/high school or recreational adult would use. In my opinion, the price range for anything quality starts around $400 (certain brands only, see brands below). If you cannot afford $400 you are better off renting (see renting options below). You need not spend anything above $2,500 to buy the best quality Trumpets.
Let me be clear, not any $400 brand trumpet will do. In fact there is only one brand of trumpet I would recommend for that price (see below).
Used vs New
There is nothing like a new shiny and perfectly working instrument. The pride of ownership feels extra special and you know you’re getting a perfectly working instrument. However, not all brands are created the same. Great instruments (certain brands) do not age if they are taken care of, but they do depreciate fairly quickly. So if you are patient and willing to do a bit of research you could end up saving a thousand dollars by buying used. If it’s the right brand, it can play just as well as a new instrument, but may have some cosmetic wear.
Some tips for buying used:
1.) Make sure you buy with a return policy.
2.) Have your teacher/coach check out the link before purchase.
3.) Have your teacher/coach play test it for you, if possible before purchase or before the return policy is up.
4.) Make sure there are no leaks, holds compression, valves work, and no red rot or corrosion in the lead pipe.
I have bought used instruments off of Craigslist, Ebay, wwbw.com, dillonmusic.com, and from horntrader.com. Some were duds and others were incredible deals. I am amazed at what some of my students’ parents have found online.
Brands and Options
What is right for students in middle school or high school? There are so many options to consider it’s mind boggling. I do this for a living and have dedicated my life to this. I have MANY trumpets for different situations. I also have specialty instruments that were built for a specific purposes. So without going into incredible detail I will give you my suggestions. Most students in middle school and high school will want a trumpet that is appropriate for what they do in band. This is likely a concert band, marching band, jazz band, or pep band. For these students you will want an “all around” instrument that does everything well. So you understand what I am talking about, one example of an instrument that might be inappropriate for most high schoolers would be something trumpet musicians call a “commercial” or “lead” trumpet. This type of trumpet was made specifically for piercing high tones to be played in a jazz big band. Your director may not appreciate the limitations of the instrument. It is for this purpose that I would recommend an all around playing trumpet that can do everything well. The brands listed below are amazing instruments designed to do everything. I personally play these instruments and recommend them to my students as they are a great price and will stand the test of time.
Something that is worth mentioning, I do not get paid to recommend any instruments, unlike other music stores or dealers. My recommendations come from my experience. I see over a hundred trumpet students every week. I hear and play what they are using. I deal with the instruments that fall apart, wear out, leak, among other difficulties. In my opinion there are no other instruments that are built to the quality than the ones listed below. Sure you could purchase other brands but my experience is they don’t stand the test of time and you actually spend more money trying to fix them. Not to mention some brands will eventually limit the student and their progress. Again, these are not all the trumpets that are suitable. There are many more brands that would work. This advice is my bias taking in consideration the price, value, durability, and suitability for students.
My first and only recommendation: Yamaha YTR8335 or 8335R silver. I prefer the 8335R. Approximately $2,500 new
Buying used- Make sure to read tips on buying used.
My first choice: Yamaha YTR8335 or 8335R silver or lacquer $1,500-$2,000
My Second choice: Bach Stradivarius Model 37 silver $1,000-$1,800
Cant afford options above? Or want a great marching horn? A not so well known option is an Olds Ambassador. These used to be played by professionals back in the day. They don’t make these anymore but are readily available online. These things are built like tanks. I own five of them. You can find them for as low as $200 and they play better than any intermediate models I have played. Of course they are used and their conditions vary, but if you’re patient and can find a good one you won’t be disappointed. The real gems were made in Fullerton and LA.
Beginner vs Intermediate vs Professional
My opinion is that no one should purchase a beginner model. They aren’t great horns and it just doesn’t make sense economically. There are great rental options out there in which your rental payments can be used as credit to make store purchases. Also, if you are a beginner, renting a horn will take care of the accidents beginner students usually have when handling an instrument. Im my opinion it is a big waste of money to purchase a beginner model.
Intermediate models are ok but tend to require a lot of maintenance, the exception being Yamaha brands. Anything Yamaha tends to be great quality. My personal opinion is that you can find used professional model instruments that may not look great but play on the pro level and will last forever.
Professional model horns are built really well and play to the highest level. A great high school trumpeter would definitely benefit from one of these horns but this doesn’t mean that a middle school student shouldn’t consider these as well, for a number of reasons. Do you plan on playing in high school or later? How responsible are you or could you be with the care of your instrument? If you are looking for a trumpet in middle school, financially speaking, it may make more sense to buy professional model horns, that is if you can care for it. This is especially true if you are patient and can buy used.
Other things to consider
Most students in high school play in a marching band. Marching is terribly rough on instruments. Most students who play on a professional model trumpet also have their “marching trumpet” for rehearsals. Then they would play dress rehearsals and concerts on their pro horn. If I had more influence I would recommend to all my students to purchase an Olds Ambassador for their marching horn and not march their new pro horn. They are built like tanks! My experience with watching students ruin their pro horns in marching season is that it is always more costly to repair new pro model horns, not to mention it devalues the horn when damaged. It is more cost effective to have a “beater horn” for marching season. Another benefit to having a beater horn is that you don’t need to rent while the other is in the shop. Shop time sometimes takes 4 weeks these days.
Silver vs Gold vs Lacquer
I personally prefer silver plated. Cosmetically it looks good and is appropriately priced. Lacquer coated is cheaper, around $100-$200 less, but wears out really quickly and doesn’t look great over time. If you care for your instrument lacquer can be just fine. On a high high high level of playing you will be able to tell the difference in sound between the three. It then becomes a preference. For this reason I don’t recommend Gold plating to anyone who isn’t a professional as it is more expensive. But for most middle and high schoolers I recommend silver because it looks better and lasts longer.
I'll add that often times students think they have a gold instrument when it is actually lacquer.
One more thing
Make sure you are buying a Bb Trumpet. They make C, D, Eb, G, A, Piccolo, Rotarys, Cornets, Flugals, Pocket, Herald, Natural, Flumpet, Slide, Plastic, and other trumpets. Mostly likely you want the normal Bb trumpet.