Keyed trumpet

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Keyed trumpet
Keyed trumpet in G by Franz Stöhr, c. 1830
Keyed trumpet in G by Franz Stöhr, c. 1830. St Cecilia's Hall, Edinburgh
Brass instrument
Other names
Classification brass
Hornbostel–Sachs classification423.211
(chromatic labrosone with keys and cylindrical bore)
Inventor(s)Anton Weidinger
DevelopedLate 18th century
Related instruments
  • Alois Doke
  • Josef Riedl
  • Franz Stöhr
Modern replicas:
  • David Edwards
  • Egger

The keyed trumpet is a cylindrical-bore brass instrument in the trumpet family that makes use of tone holes operated by keys to alter pitch and provide a full chromatic scale, rather than extending the length of tubing with a slide or valves. It was developed from the natural trumpet and reached its high-point in popularity around the turn of the nineteenth century, but waned with the invention of valves in the 1820s and the subsequent emergence of the modern valved trumpet. It is rarely seen in modern performances.

The keyed trumpet has raised tone holes in the wall of the tubing similar in construction to the later ophicleide or saxophone, closed by keys with pads. The experimental E keyed trumpet was not confined to the natural notes, but was chromatic in all registers of the instrument.[1] Before this, the trumpet was commonly valveless and could only play a limited range of “harmonic” notes by altering the lip tension and embouchure. These harmonic notes were clustered in the high registers, so previous trumpet concertos could only play melodies at very high pitches.

There is also some discrepancy over who created the E keyed trumpet, as it is claimed that “the Viennese court trumpeter, Anton Weidinger invented the keyed trumpet”[2] though elsewhere it is insisted that although “the invention of the keyed trumpet has been ascribed to the Viennese, Anton Weidinger, who is said to have constructed it in 1801... the instrument itself is older than that, as Haydn's concerto was written five years earlier.”[1]


Due to its physical characteristics (bore, bell, historical mouthpiece), the keyed trumpet is closer in tone to the natural trumpet than the valved trumpet. It was once said to have sounded like a "Demented Oboe... despite Haydn's efforts, the keyed trumpet had no real success- the explanation may be that the holes detracted from the brilliant tone of the instrument.”[1]


J. Haydn – trumpet concerto

In 1796 Joseph Haydn wrote his Trumpet Concerto for Anton Weidinger and it was performed on 22 March 1800 at the Imperial and Royal Court Theatre. The piece begins with the broken triads and fanfare motifs common to trumpet music of the time (perhaps as a jibe to the audience who had come to see this exciting new kind of trumpet), but follows with chromatic runs and diatonic melodies not possible on the valveless natural trumpet.

The highest note in the Haydn trumpet concerto is high concert D, or high E on a B trumpet, or a high B on E trumpet for which it was written.

J. N. Hummel – trumpet concerto

Like Haydn, Johann Nepomuk Hummel wrote his Trumpet Concerto for Anton Weidinger. It was written and performed in 1803 to mark his entrance into the Esterházy court orchestra in 1804, following Haydn. There are places, primarily in the second movement, where Weidinger is believed to have changed the music because of the execution of the instrument. It is unknown whether this was in agreement with Hummel.

See also[edit]

  • Natural trumpet for more information on the keyed trumpet's predecessor
  • Piston valve for a description of more modern trumpets and how they work
  • Trumpet for a more detailed history on the trumpet's evolution through time


  1. ^ a b c Geiringer, K and Geiringer, I (1982) Haydn: A Creative Life in Music, p. 324-325
  2. ^ Warburton, A (1867) Analyses of Musical Classics: Book 2. London, Spottiswoode, Ballantyre and Co Ltd

External links[edit]