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Range suggestions abound online, divided by skill level, resonance, and so on. Range is also a big part of trumpet culture: how do trumpet players flex on each other? "I can play higher than you."

However, I've only seen one chart specifically for composers, giving prudent range limits for starting a line. For example, a trumpet part whose first note is C6 is at best a very advanced part, and more likely just a badly-written one. The thing is, I don't remember what this chart said, and can't find it.

Are there reliable suggestions for how high (or low) a brass part can start on, without approaching the note from below? How much does this depend on skill level?

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  • There’s the first note of the Star Wars theme, which was written to be played by professionals. I think skill level is absolutely a factor, although I’m not much of a brass player. This question is a lot like a resource request, which would make it off topic. That said, the best way to understand writing well for trumpet is to study and listen to existing literature, make friends with trumpet players, and buy yourself a plastic trumpet and take some lessons. Sep 13 at 13:54
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    For trumpet ranges, see What Notes does Trumpet play?.
    – Aaron
    Sep 13 at 13:56
  • @Aaron this is more specific than just "what's a trumpet's range." There are Google results for days about that, as I said in my first paragraph. I'm specifically looking for advice on the range that's reliable to produce without using approach notes.
    – JAF
    Sep 13 at 14:19
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    @JAF Did you read the answer? It specifies ranges for trumpet players at each level of ability.
    – Aaron
    Sep 13 at 15:34
  • Surely there is enough info about range and skill levels. But that is about the players. What about your compositional purpose? Do you mean to write virtuoso? If not, it seems obvious to keeps things well within a comfortable range. Aaron's linked answer covers general curiosity. Sep 13 at 22:09

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It depends totally on the trumpet player's skill level, and experience. A seasoned player will hit just about any note playable, cold. So where does that leave us?

For beginners, an octave and a half is attainable, probably hitting any note straight. So, it's really going to depend, greatly, from a composer's point of view, what level player in an orchestra the material is to be aimed at. They may be capable of a (slightly) bigger range, but also bear in mind the quality of those higher tones.

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I'd say the most useful thing you can do here is to know your ensemble (or the ensemble you are writing for). Even terms like "beginner" or "intermediate" have wildly different interpretations. I've seen "beginners" who are in their third year of study struggle to play a one-octave scale. Other "beginners" play every day and work with a private teacher and can double this range in fairly short order.

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There are certainly 'safe' starting notes and 'only ask for this if it's an important feature' ones. The definitions will vary. Asking an elementary player to come in on anything written above the stave is asking for disaster. A good band or orchestra player will be OK up to high C (but as said, don't ask him to unless it MATTERS to the arrangement). A jazz band lead trumpet can go a 5th (or more) higher than that, particularly as he probably won't be expected to hit it 'clean', but write for the player!

Here's a notorious 'first note' for trombone players (note the clef). C isn't all that high. But look at the context!

But it's musically worthwhile. Unlike the high F later on, which could easily be taken by a horn.

enter image description here

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  • Good points re this trombone part, but was it played on an alto or tenor trombone? I think that difference is important to take into account, as playing that note on an alto is easier than on a modern tenor due simply to the mouthpiece
    – nuggethead
    Sep 18 at 12:15
  • Often played on an alto in today's professional orchestras. And the tuba player in at least one of London's 'big 5' has taken to bringing an ophicleide when appropriate! But it's still a high note.
    – Laurence
    Sep 18 at 14:55

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