Can Trumpets Play Chord? (Honest Truth)

can trumpets play chord
Written by Corey Morgan

Can Trumpets Play Chord? No, trumpets can’t play chord.

The different types of trumpets are able to play keys and notes, but no trumpeter has been able to play chord using the trumpet. This is basically because the trumpet cannot play chords.

So to answer the question, can trumpets play chord? No, trumpets cannot be used to play chords by a trumpeter or by a trumpet player.


The soul of music is in the sound that the instruments produce, as well as the sound that the vocalists produce as well. In this article, we are answering the question that surrounds the ability of trumpets to play chord. So the succeeding paragraphs will also show us why trumpets cannot play chords, what it means to play chords and what trumpets can do instead of playing chords.

What does it mean to play chords?

While we have already answered the question, it is necessary that we understand the concept of playing cords that is what it means to play chord. To play chords is simply to produce sound or music using more than one notes simultaneously, or to make music using or by simultaneously playing different notes or multiple notes.

This simply means that although these notes are more than one, and maybe multiple, they for a fact heard all at once they are being played—they are not heard one after the other, instead they are heard all at once.

For instance, if you are a music lover, and you understand the sounds of the various notes and keys, you will know the variant in having note G, note C, and note E play at once from when only one of the notes plays at a time, say only note C is playing or even just note G.

You will notice that former will eventually sound like one rich note, and not like a combination of separate notes, nor will one note sound after the other. The combination will be united and firm. Hence, any instrument that can play chords, will most definitely be able to play multiple notes or more than one note simultaneously to produce one melodious sound.

How can trumpets play more than one tone at once?

Having understood what chords are and the limitations it has especially with regards to playing chords, you can agree with me that there are some conflicting thoughts especially if you are beginner, or a listener, and this conflicting thought has risen within because you of hear rich notes from a trumpet player that sounds like chords. Well, those sounds are not chords because instruments made of brass like the trumpet are monophonic, and cannot play multiple sounds.

A few techniques or styles are employed by the trumpet players to produce the sound that you enjoy and think are chords.

The styles include the following:

  1. Split tone playing
  2. Humming into the instrument

1. Split tone playing:

Experts use this technique so much and very easy that listeners assume its end result to be chords. In the split tone playing technique, the lips of the trumpeter or the lips the person playing the trumpet vibrates at the level of various speeds.

So with this technique, more than one note is produced, The note that is been deliberately played by the person on the trumpet, and another sound that is about an octave away or even the fifth key away from the note that is been played.

It is a very audible sound that is produced at the same time with the note being played, there is no other trumpet anywhere playing to assist the first trumpeter, but then it is still not a chord as it is just the trumpeter being creative with the art.

People who love listening to the ensembles of instrumentals and that of Jazz might start to make some sense from these even though the trumpet players who is very good in his art plays this so well that it becomes unbelievable.

However, there is something quite ironical about playing the split tone with the trumpet. The irony of the matter is that most times the art of split tone playing is not always played out of the will of the person playing the trumpet. Apart from a few experts who are able to manipulate that, split tone playing often happens for a few reasons like the following:

  • Lip fatigue
  • Sore lips or bruised lips

Lip fatigue:

Just like fatigue is act of tiredness, a state in which a person is too tired to do anything at all, the lips too can be in that state of fatigue. So here is how the fatigue of the lips promotes the split tone playing. Because the lips are already tired and are fatigued, the state of lip tiredness causes the trumpet player to unconsciously tilt to an end the mouthpiece of the trumpet and then the lips begin to vibrate at different levels of speed, and the sound is produced as the lips vibrate.

Sore lips or bruised lips:

Sometimes the fatigue of the lips leads to sore lips, and in sometimes, the bruised lips leads to fatigued lips. Whatever may lead to what, the trumpet player also tilts the mouthpiece to an end, and then the pressure on the sore lips or the bruised lips is relieved as the mouthpiece is tilted, then the sounds are produced simultaneously as the lips vibrate at different levels of speeds.

2. Humming into the trumpet

This is another amazing technique employed by very experienced trumpet players. The trumpet player plays a note and at the same time hums or sings into the brass instrument, the trumpet precisely.

This requires a certain level of expertise because the trumpet player will have to hum or sing a note that is higher the note it is playing at the time to produce a sharp melodious sound, so singing or humming a note that is lower will definitely not the justice to music that is being produced as humming or singing notes that are lower often leads to distortion.

However, a lot of trumpet players do not know how to hum a higher note or sing a higher note while playing the trumpet. A few steps have been recommended as being able to help beginners and generally trumpet players who do not know how to play while humming.

Here are some of the steps.

Step 1:

Practice buzzing your lips while humming without the use of the trumpet

Step 2:

Buzz your lips and hum, or sing into the trumpets mouthpiece; just the mouthpiece.

Step 3:

Attempt playing a note using an open tube, then sing or hum along as well.

Step 4:

Practice repeatedly.

However remember that although more than one note is produced, it is still not a chord.

Read here also to know if trumpets can play bass clef

Is there a way chords can be produced?

Again, we have over time stated that trumpet cannot produce chords because the trumpet cannot play multiple notes at the same time. There is a trick that trumpeters often pull, it is called arpeggios. The trumpet players manipulate the rich sounds of chords by playing this chord as arpeggios.

Arpeggios or an arpeggio is a kind of chord in which the musical notes are produced but are not heard at once, instead are heard one after another. During this process, one cannot tell that the chords in its normal sense are not produced because of the technique employed in it.

An arpeggio is mostly used by the trumpet players who compose classical music, they are employed as a major part of the music composition and melody. Some of them also use broken chords during their composition, especially in utilizing the style of counter point composing.

So when these are being played during the composition of the music, an arpeggio is heard and is also taking into note to be a huge part of the line of melody.

In addition to these, an arpeggio can be used during a jazz ensemble. In this case, another instrument provides the melody required for the song, while the person playing the trumpet or the brass instrument player creates an arpeggio to back up the melody from the other instrument.

This is best achieved in the ensemble of jazz, which is why the trumpeter is able to pin point the chords and highlights the chords as arpeggios while adding texture to the music, as well as adding a pattern of rhythm to the music.

Are trumpets able to produce the required chromatic scale for an arpeggio?

The tube of a brass instrument like the trumpet can make notes from the basic note’s harmonics. For clarity and better understanding, harmonics are the total multiplications of the basic frequency in the tube especially when a trumpeter or someone playing a brass instrument plays a particular note.

With this in mind, it then means that the amount of notes that can be possibly played by a trumpeter or by a brass instrument player is basically determined by the length of that particular tube. So the length of a tube for an arpeggio can be limited by the length of that tube.