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What Is a Digital Trumpet?

By Erik J.J. Goserud
Updated May 23, 2024
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Trumpets are among the oldest instruments available and are the highest register in the brass family. Digital trumpets are electronic devices that use prerecorded sounds to imitate a real trumpet. Some of the major digital trumpet devices include but are not limited to keyboards, midi devices, and recording software plug-ins.

Almost all digital keyboards have built-in trumpet effects. Keyboards are the best digital trumpet device for live performances. The trumpet will be one of many channels on the prerecorded settings list. The user can choose from a variety of brass sounds. Each key on the keyboard will represent a different trumpet note at various octaves. Digital keyboards are affordable new and can be purchased used for substantially less, but a keyboard stand is rarely included.

Midi devices are another way to achieve digital trumpet sounds. These are usually modified keyboards that run into a Mac or PC via a standard USB connection. They commonly include rotary knobs, long-throw faders, and snap back buttons. These devices are more expensive than keyboards, and higher-end models can pinch a budget. Musicians purchase them at major music retail outlets and online sources as well.

Drum pads are a prime midi source for digital trumpet sounds. These pads consist of four to 12 squares that can be triggered by striking them with a drumstick. There is often a range of prerecorded trumpet sounds, ranging from a B-flat trumpet to a traditional C orchestra trumpet. They work similar to a keyboard to trigger sounds but have far fewer trigger points.

Used music shops are a great way to acquire a digital trumpet. These stores almost always have used keyboards and midi devices in stock. They will not sell used recording software but will sometimes carry it new.

Studio recording software often comes with prerecorded packages of sounds. Trumpet sounds are almost always included in these packages. A digital trumpet can be played via notes on a keypad, but it is better to have a musician’s keyboard plugged into the computer to trigger the notes. These can be connected via USB or firewire cable.

Lately, an MDT, or Morrison Digital Trumpet, hit the market. The MDT resembles a traditional trumpet, but because it is completely electronic, it offers musicians many more options in terms of sound. For example, the MDT offers a range 10 octaves, and musicians can choose to use alternate sounds, such as a clarinet, saxophone, or guitar.

A main benefit to the digital trumpet is that the musician does not have to be a trumpeter to achieve trumpet sounds for their performances or recordings. Many studio musicians prefer to use digital trumpets for a quick resolution to finding brass sounds. The sound quality, however, is generally not as good or authentic as a true trumpet sound.

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