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I am kind of a beginner (and a self-learner) on the piccolo trumpet. I have seen people playing the instrument's fourth valve with their right hand little finger, and others with their left hand index. Is there a reason to choose one over the other, is there a configuration which definitely provides more endurance or agility in the long term?

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Depends on the way the instrument is constructed. Most piccolo trumpets, especially ones with piston valves, are designed for the valve to be played with the fourth finger of the right hand:

Piccolo trumpet with 4 piston valves

You can see that the 4th valve is even offset a hair to make it easier to reach.

Some rotary valve piccolos have extra spatulas that are operated with the left hand:

Rotary piccolo trumpet with 5 spatulas

Picture from http://www.trevorjonesltd.co.uk

I'm having trouble finding a picture of a 4-valve picc with the 4th valve played with the left hand, but I know I've seen it. It's the same principle as a euphonium's fourth valve:

4-valve euphonium with left hand 4th valve

The thing about piccolo trumpets is that they're so small and the tubing is so tightly wrapped that there's often no comfortable way to hold them. So while I'm normally a stickler for holding an instrument properly, I think there's nothing wrong with operating a picc's 4th piston valve with the left hand. I say let it be a personal choice.

  • Many thanks for this useful response. My instrument is a Yamaha 6810, the first one you pictured. Although the fourth valve is offset, I don't find it obvious (from a comfort/anatomical point of view), that it should be played with the right hand, but it is of course an invitation to do so. In order to complete your display, you can add the Yamaha 9825 (data.yamaha.jp/sdb/product/image/main/raw/y/ytr-9825/…), whose fourth valve is a rotary one, clearly to be played with the left hand. – Eusebius Sep 24 '15 at 11:12
  • Also, Ibrahim Maalouf's custom trumpet has a fourth valve intended to be played by the left hand (novaplanet.com/sites/default/files/imagecache/page_mea/articles/… culturebox.francetvinfo.fr/sites/default/files/assets/images/…), but it is not a piccolo trumpet, the fourth valve is for quarter tones. – Eusebius Sep 24 '15 at 11:15
  • That yamaha's fourth valve isn't a true fourth valve though. It just extends the third valve. – MattPutnam Sep 24 '15 at 14:42
  • Bear in mind that many players (including myself) prefer to use the first finger of the left hand for the fourth valve. It depends upon many factors, including the wrap of the horn, the size of your hands/fingers, etc. – Randy Howard Jan 16 '16 at 0:02
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Not being a trumpet player but a guitarist, I could be wrong however, I'd imagine people use their pinky finger to build up strength in that finger, as usually your small finger will be your weakest (the same is true for guitar, people do exercises to build up finger strength the same way).

I'd imagine it's also a comfort thing, so unless an actual trumpet player can correct me, I'd say try both and see what's best for you but remember to build up your finger strength regardless of how you play!

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The first three valves work just as a normal trumpet, and will be pressed with index, middle and ring fingers. The fourth valve is generally to produce a pitch a fourth below, so doesn't get used as much, although you may find tuning (intonation) better by using that in combination with other valves. It's somewhat like pressing valves one and two gives a note like just pressing valve three, but sometimes one combination is more in tune than the other. Either way works, but I feel that using only one hand will be better in the long run, while the left steadies the instrument. You may find after a while that you can use either, so keep your options open!

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