We need to arrange several pop rock songs. The band has vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass, drums and keyboards. In addition, we add a trumpet. Do you have any idea, method or example of how to play the songs with the trumpet?

  • 1
    There are few if any pop rock songs which can directly use a trumpet, i think you would have to make an arrangement specifically for your trumpet
    – jclozano
    Sep 23, 2012 at 15:31
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    Being a cornetist, I've always wondered this also. I play the violin part in some Skillet songs with my cornet, but it's not quite the same.
    – Luke_0
    Sep 23, 2012 at 17:08
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    sorry i don't have a good answer to this. if it were me i'd be tempted to just get everyone together and send a couple of hours jamming it out, and move forward based on how well it seemed to 'gel'
    – jammypeach
    Sep 23, 2012 at 19:39
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    Are you familiar with these rock bands that featured trumpet? Look them up. Chicago. Blood, Sweat and Tears. Cake. Sly and the Family Stone. The Who (on the album "Quadrophenia"). Fleming & John. Sun-60. Some "fusion" work by Miles Davis. Also reference Chuck Mangione (that was fluegelhorn, actually).
    – user1044
    Sep 24, 2012 at 0:51
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    Typically, a single wind or brass instrument would get solos. Perhaps you can, in some cases, re-inforce part of a guitar riff, however, you'll risk sounding like a deficient horn backing section. If the band is serious about adding wind/brass, you should consider getting either or both a (tenor) sax and trombone. This will allow you to make more background arrangements, and the arrangements can continue even when one brass has a solo. Apr 21, 2014 at 17:38

7 Answers 7


I suppose with a cornet you'll have the ability to add something extra in for texture, so something like finding the main melody line in the song, whether it be with guitar or vocals have the trumpet follow this line to emphasise the line and it could offer a massive difference to the sound and feel of the song depending, you should try looking at reel big fish, they get away with a trumpet


I think the answers so far spend too few consideration on the fact that we're talking here about a single trumpet added to a standard rock ensemble. Sure, there is lots of pop/rock music with brass and wind, but that is actually quite different from only having a single trumpet.

Typically, a single wind or brass instrument would only be truly capable of some solos. In some cases you might be able to mimick a full horn section and re-inforce part of a guitar riff. However, with a single trumpet, it is going to sound very thin, and you'll risk sounding like the rest of the horn backing section is on sick leave.

If the band is serious about adding wind/brass, you should consider getting either or both a (tenor) sax and trombone. This will allow you to make more background arrangements, and the arrangements can continue even when one brass has a solo. If that is not an option, I fear the trumpet will be confined to playing an intro or a solo here and there, maybe a couple of accents on a hook.

  • Louis Armstrong?
    – BobRodes
    Apr 21, 2014 at 21:28
  • @BobRodes You mean, because Armstrong has this enormous track record playing a single trumpet in pop-rock bands? :p Apr 21, 2014 at 23:32
  • Nope. I mean that styles don't define musicians, musicians define styles. Ask any music executive.
    – BobRodes
    Apr 22, 2014 at 13:22
  • @BobRodes Ok. But in defining this style, there is a concrete challenge to somehow make the single trumpet not sound too thin when in a backing role. Or, as I pointed out, be satisfied to give the trumpet only solos. I'm certainly not an expert re Armstrong, but a lot of the stuff I heard from him, the trumpet is either solo in a very small jazz ensemble, or it is a jazz ensemble with a horn section. It's probably ignorance on my part, but I don't see how he could be an example for this particular question. Apr 22, 2014 at 14:09
  • I also think that there is a big difference between how a brass section and a single trumpet is applied, and that the answers focusing on the former are not so useful concerning this particular question. Apr 22, 2014 at 16:38

There are some good examples. Have a look at Less Than Jake's song, Gainesville Rock City:

You need to arrange the songs so it works, but rock music can definitely cope with non-standard instruments.


There are several examples of bands with horns (including trumpets). Going back a few decades two of the most prominent would be "Blood Sweat and Tears" and "Chicago." There's also the 70's band "Tower of Power." How about the Beatles ("All you Need Is Love")? The one-hit-wonder band "Alive and Kicking" with "Tighter, Tighter."

Good luck!


First question is what do you want the horns to do? Just back up the band--as in a a typical horn section?

If this is the case, the horns typically add support to the chord changes--so, you could try having the horn notes mirror the root and harmony notes of the individual chords. Many many R&B tunes are based on a I-IV-V progression--and the horns support as indicated (harmonizing against the chord changes)--and for the refrain, they typically walk down in a V-IV-Flat III-Root sequence (not necessarily single whole tones down.

If you want the horns to carry melodies, that is an entirely different question, and I think whether a horn would sound good doing that really depends on the piece--a lot of music sounds good w/ backing horns, but not necessarily w/ horns carrying the melody--just my 2 cents


Put it through some effects, like an octave lower-er or something that makes the sound very reverberaty / echoey. That way you can add ambience or texture without distracting from the rest of the composition and layers.

Check out the band Cake, they do a great job adding horn skillfully without using any sort of effects.


I have played trumpet for years, and am currently playing trumpet in a band. Trumpets have a wide range of styles they can do, so don't be afraid to experiment. Trumpets are very good for in the background or the occasional solo, but can do more than that as well, so it really depends on the song itself, and the player. If the trumpet player likes going fast and high, then its easy to give them solos and complex rhythms and that will sound fine. If they don't really like being in the spotlight, that's a bit harder because trumpet is a very attention-grabbing instrument but a quiet background is possible.

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