When you think about brass instruments, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind? For many, it is probably a trumpet or a slide trombone, but not for me. I can only play one brass instrument (so far) and it’s the pocket trumpet, and although I initially bought it for a bit of fun, I’ve become very good at the instrument over the years.
Pocket trumpets always get a lot of hate from classical musicians, with people claiming that they are just a gimmick and that there is no practical use for them.
This is such rubbish! Whilst I must say that I’ve never been invited to play the pocket trumpet in a classic orchestra, I jam with it in my local jazz café all the time, and the particular pocket trumpet that I own sounds fantastic.
So, with so many people thinking that pocket trumpets are just a gimmick, there must be a reason for this, right? There is indeed a reason, you need to choose your pocket trumpet carefully, and that is exactly why I have written this guide on how to find the best pocket trumpet. Read on if you are ready to get started with the world’s smallest brass instrument!
The Eastar Pocket Trumpet B Flat Standard is my favorite example of a pocket trumpet. It has all the most important things and it won’t break the bank.
Is the Pocket Trumpet a Gimmick?
As I already mentioned, I have come across a ton of musicians that claim that pocket trumpets are nothing but a gimmick. Perhaps it might be something that you will find in your Christmas stocking this year, play a few times on boxing day, only for the instrument to gather dust in a corner thereafter.
There is certainly an element of truth to this – pocket trumpets are relatively cheap, cute, and there is an undeniable comedic value to walking around with one. For this reason, people often buy pocket trumpets with novelty and comedy in mind, and whilst that is all great, it is entirely possible to purchase a pocket trumped that sounds great.
So, my answer to this question is a resounding “no!” The word gimmick suggests that there is no real use for the pocket trumpet, that it will just provide some cheap laughs and then it shall be forgotten.
This never happened with me, I’ve used my pocket trumpet tons of times in both casual and professional musical environments, and I believe that this is proof enough that these cute little instruments are not gimmicks.
What Makes a Good Pocket Trumpet?
If you went into a music store intending to buy a pocket trumpet as a novelty gift, you would probably search for the cheapest option available.
Well, much like any other instrument, this isn’t going to get you a high-quality product, you need to spend some time looking at the details. If you’re feeling a bit clueless about this, don’t worry, because I did all the research about this years ago. Read on to hear my advice on what makes a good pocket trumpet.
If you’re in the market for a genuinely high-quality pocket trumpet, you’re in luck, because they’re pretty cheap. Whilst regular high-quality trumpets could put you thousands of dollars, pocket trumpets are unlikely to cost you much more than $300.
It’s an excellent budget instrument for any traveling brass musician, but this is not an instrument that you want to cheap out on.
In my opinion, you should hit the maximum price with this purchase. You’re talking about the difference between paying $50 for a novelty pocket trumpet and $250 for a genuinely beautiful-sounding instrument. I sure know which one I would choose!
Choosing the Right Size
When you think of the words “pocket trumpet”, size is very much one of the first things that come to mind. The name suggests that it must be small enough to fit in your pocket, but is this the case, and what should the exact size be?
You may be surprised to know that unless you are looking for a novelty instrument, the size does matter when it comes to choosing a pocket trumpet.
The clue is in the name really – you will want to find a pocket trumpet that is small enough to be convenient to carry around in your pocket but doesn’t get carried away – any smaller, and the quality of your pocket trumpet will suffer. You should be aiming to find something that is between 9.5 to 13 inches in length, including the bell and mouthpiece.
Although size is important, remember that your brass technique will ultimately come up on top. If you are inexperienced with blowing techniques on brass instruments, it won’t matter what size your pocket trumpet is – you won’t be able to get a good resonant tone out of it.
Pick the right size and apply good technique, however, and you will be surprised at how powerful the sound of a pocket trumpet can be!
All pocket trumpets will look quite similar, it’s that shiny metallic aesthetic that makes people feel like the instrument is genuine. However, did you know that not all pocket trumpets are equal in terms of material? As the instrument category suggests, you should be looking for a pocket trumpet that is made out of genuine brass, but not all brands do this.
Many of the pocket trumpets that you will find on the market are made from stainless steel. This is OK – stainless steel pocket trumpets still sound pretty good, but it’s not as good as real brass.
However, most alternative metals will not be sufficient at providing a resonant pocket trumpet tone, and plastic alternatives are not going to sound good enough (unless of course, you are looking for a gimmick).
Stick to a legitimate brass pocket trumpet, it’s only going to put you back an extra $100 or so, but trust me – you will notice a huge difference in terms of the resonance and amplification.
The last thing that you will need to consider when purchasing a pocket trumpet is the features. There are various things that you will need to consider here, including features that are attached to the instrument as well as external accessories.
The first feature that you should look out for on any pocket trumpet is valves that work smoothly. Due to the small nature of pocket trumpets, many brands cheap out when it comes to the design of the intricate mechanisms of the instrument, rushing the valves and resulting in squeaky and uncomfortable valve action.
Sadly, there’s no real way to test this out if you’re purchasing online. I would recommend that you thoroughly read through the reviews, or even better, test the pocket trumpet in a music store near you!
Another important thing to consider is to pick a pocket trumpet with a spit valve. This is a mechanism that will isolate spit from your mouth that may accidentally get stuck inside of the pocket trumpet whilst performing.
This may sound insignificant, but the water in your saliva can cause the internal mechanisms of the pocket trumpet to rust, and this will be detrimental to the sound. Spit valves ensure that this inevitable saliva can be separated and ultimately emptied, increasing the longevity of your pocket trumpet.
Last but not least, you should consider accessories when purchasing your pocket trumpet. Sure, pocket trumpets can fit inside your jacket pocket, but ideally, you are going to want to have a case to protect it from dust.
Furthermore, pipe cleaners could be useful if your pocket trumpet does not have a spit valve, and a mute may be an additional add-on depending on your play style. Think carefully about which of these accessories you need, and look online for deals that include them as bundles.
My Top 3 Pocket Trumpet Recommendations
So, you should now realize that pocket trumpets aren’t just novelty gift ideas – they’re genuine instruments that can pack a serious punch for a reasonable price, as long as you do your research.
Now that we’ve explored exactly what you should look for in a pocket trumpet, let’s move on to some examples of pocket trumpets that I have trialed and tested. I tried out around ten when I was initially buying one for myself, but here are the three that I found the best value for money.
Stagg WS – TR245
The first pocket trumpet that I wanted to recommend is the TR245 from Stagg WS. This is a prime example of the quality and care that you should look for when it comes to buying a pocket trumpet, and you should show this product to anyone who says they are a novelty instrument.
I first encountered this when my friend purchased one for an orchestral road trip, and I was super impressed by the seamless stainless steel valves, the smooth sliders, and the surprisingly rich tone.
It’s an all-around great option for your first pocket trumpet, but I must say that it is pretty expensive at around $300.
Sure, it does everything that you need in terms of a pocket trumpet, fitting perfectly in a jacket pocket and producing a fantastic output, but in my opinion, there are better pocket trumpets for a more reasonable price. Still, it’s certainly worth taking a look at!
- A very rich tone considering the small size
- Valve and Slider action is on point
- Gorgeous polished aesthetic
- The mouthpiece needs a bit of use before it feels comfortable
- Quite expensive for a pocket trumpet
Merano B Flat Black
The next pocket trumpet on my list is the Merano B Flat Black, an awesome-looking bit of kit that fits in a much lower budget range than the previous Stagg WS option. I’ve never managed to get my hands on this trumpet as it always seems to be sold out, but I’m a huge fan of Merano’s products and I just know that it would be a good bit of kit.
The black aesthetic is very stylish, and the B Flat tuning is convenient for jazz performances. Most importantly though, the intonation, machining, and overall tone are supposed to be pretty decent considering the $150 price tag. I’d love to hear this up against the Stagg WS, because I’ve heard that they sound pretty similar.
The final thing I want to mention about this pocket trumpet is that it comes bundled with two useful accessories – a music stand and a Merano MT-60 tuner. This makes the cheap price tag seem even better value for money, it’s honestly quite impressive and not to mention convenient.
I’ve always preferred musical instrument brands that bundle their products with necessary accessories, the last thing you want to be doing after purchasing an instrument is to be searching online for further essential purchases!
- Very reasonably priced at around $150
- Sole intonation, tone, and machining considering the price
- An aesthetically pleasing black finish
- Comes bundled with a music stand and tuner
- Some people prefer a traditional metallic finish to the black finish of this pocket trumpet
- Most people compare it similarly, but some believe that it does not sound as good as the Stagg WS
Eastar Pocket Trumpet B Flat Standard
The final pocket trumpet that I wanted to list was the Eastar Pocket Trumpet B Flat Standard.
I have always been a huge fan of Eastar – they excel when it comes to designing affordable yet high-quality brass instruments for beginners, and they are not afraid to compete with some of the bigger and more expensive brands. This particular pocket trumpet is the best beginner example I have found.
To begin with, the price tag is at a very reasonably $200, it comes with a spit valve to prevent the gorgeous metal design from rusting, and the engineering is fantastic. The bore and bell size ratios have seemed just about right whenever I have used this pocket trumpet, resulting in a seriously high level of amplification considering the small overall size of the instrument.
The overall design and craftmanship are spot-on for the price, but I have always been swayed by the finishing touches of a glorious bundle – a cleaning pipe, a case, gloves, and lubrication oil. It’s easily my top pick on this list.
- A good mid-range price of ~$200
- Comes with a spit valve to prevent rust from saliva
- Very high levels of amplification
- Gorgeous tone
- Bundled with several useful accessories
- Does not include a music stand or tuner
- The bell and bore are slightly larger than usual, making the instrument slightly less pocket-sized.
I hope that this guide to finding the best pocket trumpet has been useful to you! To round things off and get to any final unanswered questions, I’ve prepared the following answers to these frequently asked questions. I hope they help you out!
Answer: Whilst the pocket trumpet is often considered to be a novelty instrument due to it being a miniature version of a trumpet, many brands produce high-quality versions that stand up as legitimate brass instruments.
Answer: The key difference between regular trumpets and pocket trumpets is size – regular trumpets are much bigger, and as the name suggests, pocket trumpets should fit in your jacket pocket for easy travel.
Answer: When purchasing a pocket trumpet, you should ensure that it is made out of good quality metal, suitably sized for traveling with, has a spit valve to prevent rusting, and have excellent functionality in terms of sliders and valves.
Answer: You can pay anything from $50 to $500 for a pocket trumpet, but I would recommend that you look to spend around $150 to $250 to find something that is of high quality without being a complete rip-off.
I hope that this guide to finding the best pocket trumpet has been useful to you! Pocket trumpets can be fantastic instruments to learn if you buy them from the right brands, and don’t let anybody tell you otherwise.
As long as you do your research and find something that is appropriately priced with sufficient features, I think you’ll have a tone of fun with the instrument. My favorite example of a pocket trumpet such as this is the Eastar Pocket Trumpet B Flat Standard. It ticks all the boxes at a decent price, that’s everything I need in a pocket trumpet!
The most important thing to consider is whether the pocket trumpet brand you have found is legitimate. Are they a real brass instrument company, or are they a toy brand selling novelty pocket trumpets?
If it’s the second, you should avoid it, but if it’s the first then go for it! Choose one made of good quality metal, excellent intonation, a spit valve, and great valve and slider maneuverability, and you’re on to a winner.
Good luck on your pocket trumpet journey, and I hope you enjoy playing the instrument as much as I have done over the last few years!
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