Teacher Hub

How to... Choose the best beginner trumpet or trombone

Written by Tom Wild16/11/23

Plastic v Brass: Which material is right for you?

In the last decade or so, plastic versions of traditionally brass instruments have become increasingly popular, especially in schools, providing solid and low-budget alternatives to traditional brass models. Both plastic and brass have their own set of advantages, and these are important to consider when buying your first instrument…

Plastic pros:

  • Cost: when buying new, plastic models will usually be more affordable. This could be ideal for young beginners and schools looking to teach in large groups. For instance, pTrumpet models come at around £120-£160, considerably cheaper than almost all equivalent brass models. pBones are similarly affordable.
  • Easily transportable: Many young players have to take instruments to school on crowded trains or buses and may not have ideal places to store instruments once they get there. Plastic instruments are lightweight yet sturdy and durable enough to make them easily transportable instruments, and are supplied in padded bags.
  • Improved Technology: For a beginner, plastic models are almost technically identical to brass models, with the same fingering patterns, mouth positions, and size.
  • Customisable: They come in a variety of vibrant colours – a fun choice for youngsters!
  • Easy to maintain: Plastic instruments can be cleaned quickly and easily; ideal for whole class teaching when you have to quickly sanitise between lessons. Also, replacement parts are cheap and basic repairs, straightforward.

Brass pros:

  • Sound! Whilst plastic instruments are certainly good enough to learn the basics of brass playing, students with aspirations of swift progression may be better off starting on a brass instrument straight away. Brass instruments can produce more nuanced tones than plastic ones, and they tend to be smoother and more satisfying to play too!
  • Investment: Whilst a plastic instrument takes the same shape as a brass one, players who continue learning for a while will ultimately need to leave the plastic behind. In the long term, it may be more cost effective to skip the plastic step.
  • Looks: If you are learning with the aspirations of performing, either in ensembles or solo, you may be attracted to the more traditional and professional look of a lacquered brass instrument. For example, the Yamaha YTR2330 not only looks great, but guarantees excellent build and sound quality, a perfect combination for a serious beginner.

A word on cornets and Eb trombones:

  • Some beginners may choose to start on a cornet, which is smaller than a trumpet but played in the same way, at the same pitch. We offer a plastic pCornet or a brass Jupiter JCR-700 student model. More experienced players might end up using cornets in brass band or orchestral situations. For most individuals, I would recommend beginning on a trumpet instead due to its greater versatility. However, in classroom settings, the low price of the pCornet makes it very appealing.
  • Similarly, the Eb trombones are smaller than standard Bb tenor ones. For an individual starting one-to-one lessons, I would certainly recommend starting on a Bb trombone, but the Eb Alto pBone is fantastic for group beginner lessons, and easily the cheapest trombone in our range.

What is a trumpet/trombone ‘outfit’?

All beginner trumpet and trombone outfits at Chamberlain Music are supplied as an outfit with some essential items to get you started. Here are a few things that each outfit should include:

  1. The instrument itself…
  2. A case: This might be hard or soft (sometimes called a ‘gig bag’). Usually, larger cases will have a separate pouch to store sheet music or other items in, which can be seen in all of our Yamaha trumpet outfits.
  3. Mouthpiece. The thing you put on the end of instrument to blow into! Mouthpieces supplied will usually be from the same brand as the instrument, but if you prefer a different one, it will still fit in the bore (slot).
  4. For Trumpets, a cleaning cloth and valve oil. Most outfits, such as this Elkhart 100TR, will include these to help you maintain the instrument properly. For trombones, slide grease substitutes for the oil.

Additional accessories to consider

While the outfit provides the basics, some additional accessories should be considered before starting your first lesson.

  1. Metronome: Although most players will use an app on their phone, some may prefer the analogue nature of a physical metronome.
  2. Tuner: Without repeating the same point as above, a physical tuner can help reduce digital distractions.
  3. Instrument stands: We offer both trumpet stands and trombone stands. A stand provides a safe and convenient place to rest your instrument when not in use. These are particularly useful if you go for a brass model. However, you should ALWAYS clean and pack your trumpet or trombone away in its case at the end of every practice session or lesson.
  4. Music stand: An adjustable music stand is essential for holding a sheet music at a comfortable height, promoting proper posture from the start.
  5. Slide grease: This is particularly useful for trombonists, but trumpeters should have some too. It will help keep the instrument working smoothly.
  6. Cleaning kits: The insides of brass instruments naturally get quite dirty, so its important to take care of them with regular cleaning. We offer both trumpet and trombone cleaning kits.

Choosing the best beginner model

Trumpet plastic models:

The flagship model is the pTrumpet plastic Bb trumpet. Lightweight and easily portable, this pTrumpet is an authentic musical instrument, capable of making a very full and focused sound. The construction of the instrument is extremely solid; it will take knocks and scrapes that would severely damage a brass trumpet. If you want something which plays slightly more smoothly and feels a bit more traditional, you could stretch to a pTrumpet hyTech. This is a Metal/polymer hybrid and, crucially, comes with a metal mouthpiece.

Trumpet brass models:

Jupiter JTR-500Q

This product is our teachers’ choice for a beginner trumpet. It is a high-quality student instrument and comes at a very reasonable price point too. The JTR-500Q series has taken key attributes from the award winning JTR-408 student model and re-designed certain aspects to make the 500 series more functional and ergonomic. The design of the instrument encourages good playing habits and helps to produce a large, rich sound right from the early stages of learning.

Yamaha YTR2330

Yamaha is probably the leading authority on beginner trumpets, and their products are of a reliably high quality across the board. The TR2330 might be their most basic model, but it is more than good enough as a learning instrument and will continue to satisfy the needs of a strong intermediate player too. If you are looking for outfit with a hard case, the YTR3335 is an excellent alternative, albeit at a higher price.

John Packer JP051

If you are set on getting a brass trumpet but don’t want to overspend, the JP051 is a reliable instrument for a beginner. It is less than half the price of the cheapest Yamahas and provides affordable quality for a young learner. However, intermediate players will likely want to move on from this instrument somewhat earlier than they might with the Jupiter and Yamaha alternatives.

Trombone plastic models:

The pBone plastic tenor trombone is the best bet here. It is a full size instrument and gives you all the things a trombone should have. The body of the instrument can withstand plenty of knocks and the slide is efficient and easily lockable. The pBone is sure to bring a sense of fun to any practice or performance.

Trombone brass models:

John Packer JP031

This offering from John Packer is comfortably the most affordable of our range. This model is specially designed for beginners, with a medium bore that offers maximum versatility with little resistance, and a large bell with a bell ring as standard for strong and reliable sound projection. With an attractive gold lacquer finish, it is ideal for an entry-level trombonist looking for a solid starting point.

Elkhart 100TB

This is one of a number of our beginner trombones which come in the £330-£400 range. Its lightweight gold lacquer body and basic design make it easy for a learner to pick up and play, and this instrument will last you longer than the JP031, partly due to its better quality, and partly due to its durable construction. The tuning slide is made from cupronickel, a durable metal alloy renowned for its strengthening elements and resistance to corrosion. Overall, a very good instrument for a keen learner.

John Packer JP133MLR Bb/F trigger

For students with serious long-term aspirations, the JP133MLR offers greater technical learning opportunities. It comes with a trigger that changes the pitch of the instrument, enabling more versatile, free-flowing playing. This might be useful if you are eventually looking to join orchestras or learn towards tricky solo repertoire. The JP133MLR is certainly a solid investment for a serious beginner.

Alternatives

Of course, there are further alternatives to these models. Elkhart do a solid range of beginner trumpets (such as the 100TR), which are a small step up from the JP051 and more affordable than the Yamaha range.

In terms of trombones, the Yamaha YSL354E and the Jupiter JTB710RQ are both good options for someone looking to invest in an instrument geared towards the intermediate level.

Conclusions

It is key to decide what you’re looking for in a trumpet or trombone. Deciding on your budget and having a good idea of your learning goals will help. Along with the considerations and recommendations above, this should help you find the instrument that is perfect for you!