How To Hold A Trumpet: With Pictures

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You just got a trumpet! Congratulations! The trumpet is a magnificent instrument that is challenging and rewarding. Let’s get started on the right foot (hand?) and learn how to hold the trumpet.

How To Hold The Trumpet, Step By Step

thumb in of 1st valve

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#1 The trumpet is meant to be supported and held with the left hand with the thumb on the front of the first valve, notice the thumb is hooked slightly around the 1st valve of the instrument

left hand holding trumpet from opposite side perspective

#2 The fingers of the left hand wrap around the three valves with the tips of the fingers wrapped around the valves on the other side.

left hand holding trumpet

#3 The ring finger of the left hand should go into the ring that’s on the far side of the valves (if you have one, some beginner trumpets don’t have one). Notice how the ring finger is in the ring on the 3rd valve slide.

thumb in between 1 and 2 valves

#4 The right hand’s thumb tip is to be put in between the 1st and 2nd valve, and the index, middle, and ring fingers of the right hand are to rest lightly on the 3 valves while being gently curved.

pinky finger resting on hook

#5 The pinky finger of the right hand is to rest lightly on top of the hook that’s on the main bore of the trumpet

Note: The entire weight of the trumpet should be in your left hand, your right hand should only be pressing the valves and not holding the trumpet. The reason is your embouchure.

Holding the Trumpet Technique

After you’ve formed your embouchure, you lightly press the trumpet to your lips to play.

The little bit about holding the weight of the trumpet with your left hand is very important because if you are holding the weight of the trumpet with your right hand it’s very natural to put more pressure on your lips.

One subtle bad habit that can encourage excessive pressure is to put your ring finger inside the ring on the main bore instead of on top of it.

pinky hooked
This is a bad habit: notice how the pinky is inside the hook

Just this little habit can get you in the habit of pulling the trumpet with your right hand toward your face.

You can also apply too much pressure with your left hand–you should hold the trumpet firmly but not put too much pressure against your lips.

So, that’s how to hold the trumpet and some technique guidelines, let’s talk about how to hold the trumpet with one hand.

Straight Fingers Or No?

This kind of depends on the person, but the general advice is that you should have a slight bend in your fingers, not too bent, but not to play with the middle of your fingers either–the tip of your fingers have the most agility and do not push the valves in such a way as to cause excessive friction.

Here’s an example of playing with fairly straight fingers:

straight fingers on valves
Playing with straight fingers… you generally want to avoid this—and what will happen is commonly the player will play with the middle of their fingers which applies unwanted torque on your valves.

And here’s an example of curved fingers:

curved fingers on valves
Here is a view with the fingertips directly on the valve buttons with the fingers gently curved.

Things To Avoid

  • Try not to put your right pinky in the hook unless you are holding the trumpet with only the right hand, such as when you are holding a plunger mute or something like that
  • Don’t use your right thumb to hook between the bores of the trumpet so you can avoid the temptation to apply too much pressure.
right thumb between two bores
When holding the trumpet normally, avoid hooking the right thumb in between the bores of the instrument as you see here

How To Hold A Trumpet With One Hand

Let’s say you need to hold the trumpet because you need to hold sheet music with your left hand (during pep band practice), or because you’re putting in a mute with your other hand, or even if you don’t have another hand to play with (if you want to see examples of more one-handed instruments, check out our article, here).

How To Hold The Trumpet With Just Your Right Hand

Remember that ring on the right side of the trumpet on the main bore? Now it’s time to use that–in fact the hook is essential.

When you’re holding the trumpet normally, you let your right pinky rest on top of the hook or ring on the main bore,

But, to hold a trumpet with one hand, you follow the following steps:

  1. Place your right ring finger inside the main bore hook/ring.
  2. Let your right thumb go in between the 1st and 2nd valve and also let the main bore rest in the crook of your thumb and palm.
  3. Let the entire weight of the trumpet rest in your right hand. It’s a bit more awkward to play, but this is how it’s done.
  4. You can now let go with your left hand.
right hand holding the trumpet with the thumb between the two bores and the right pinky in the hook
Here’s how it will look to hold the trumpet with just your right hand. Notice how the two bad habits that I mentioned earlier work together so you can support the entire weight of the trumpet

How To Hold The Trumpet With Just Your Left Hand

Although this isn’t normally required, there may be cases where you need to play your trumpet but you need your right hand for something else, such as if you managed to break your fingers in PE or something like that.

In that case, follow these steps:

  1. Hook your left thumb between the bore of the bell and the valves.
  2. Hook your left pinky in between the bore of the bell and the valves
  3. Line up your left index finger with button 1, your middle finger with button 2, and your ring finger with button 3.

This isn’t a comfortable way to play, but it will get the job done.

PIC of me playing with just my left hand

What Are the Trumpet Finger Rings For?

So, we just learned what the hook/ring on the main bore of the instrument is–it’s meant to help the player hold the trumpet with the right hand in case they need the left hand to do something else.

What about that left ring? Well, it turns out that the left ring is not for decoration.

Due to the design of the trumpet, there are certain notes that are a bit sharp when you play them. Two of them notably D4 and C#4 (source). To fix this problem, the slide for the 3rd valve can actually be extended by pulling out the 3rd valve slide by pushing on the ring where your left ring finger is.

fingerings for C4 and D4, 123, and 13 respectively
D4 and C4 are pesky notes because they are a little sharp without pulling out the 3rd valve slide.

Many student trumpets have dings making it impossible to expand the 3rd valve slide. If you can’t open yours, don’t force it–it just has to be that way unless the dings are worked out of the trumpet.

This is a difficult technique, and you shouldn’t worry about it if you are just starting out. As you get to be more advanced in your playing, you should practice pushing out the 3rd valve to improve your intonation for D4 and C#4.

How Do You Hold the Trumpet If You Have Small Hands?

If you have small hands it can be difficult to grasp around the valve casing, especially for long periods of time–but in that case, it’s okay to modify.

Instead of grasping the trumpet with your thumb wrapped around the front of the 1st valve, you can wrap your fingers around the back of the valve casing with your thumb parallel to the valves. Here is a picture of what that would look like:

left hand with trumpet and thumb held parallel to valves
How you would hold the trumpet if you had small hands–notice how the thumb is nestled in between the valves.

Peter Mitchell

Founder of this website. Lover of sound, music, hot sauce, and technology.

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