Default Trumpet is in Bb rather than C

At least in America, orchestras use C trumpets (while jazz musicians usually use Bb).
Just thought it’s worth mentioning that maybe the default trumpet for Dorico should be the C and not the Bb, but feel free to disagree.

I’d be interested in other users’ thoughts about this, but here in Europe I feel reasonably confident in saying that B flat is more common than C for trumpets.

Whichever instrument you write for, the trumpeter will have brought the other one, and say “it’s alright, I’ll transpose it”.

Certainly at the moment the Bb is the default here. C’s are becoming more and more common, often with mixed sections. As composer I will write for one or the other for sonic reasons and expect the part to be played on the one I specified.

I’d say that about 95% of the work that I do here is with trumpeters who use a C trumpet. However, the B-flat has its place and it will be consciously used and I will sometimes write for it; on other occasions, the trumpeter will request one or the other. But trumpeters are notorious about owning a lot of specialized equipment. A few years ago, I realized that the three professional orchestras in Alberta had just hired brand-new principals, including us, so I designed a program with the Red Deer Symphony with all three of them as soloists in different combinations, (including each one playing a separate movement from the Haydn concerto!) Between the three of them I believe they used 14 horns!!

For me, I don’t mind so much what the default is, but I will reiterate, and hope that it will come to pass, that the transposition, (or lack of in this case) for trumpet in C must be shown on the score. Especially when it’s an atonal score: conductors aren’t mind readers! :wink:

It depends on the professional level (or lack thereof) of the orchestra in question. 90% of the amateur and semi-pro orchestras I write for use Bb trumpet and raise their eyebrows when they see a part for trumpet in C. They shrug and play it fine. It may very well be that most high-level professional orchestras are moving to C, but I still think the default for now should be Bb.

I will agree with L3B that C trumpets in community orchestras are an extreme rare sight; close to non-existant

I grew up playing the trumpet and learned, as nearly everyone does on the tubby B-flat. Progressing to orchestra playing was a progression to C trumpet. As a composer, I’ve been writing music for orchestras for decades and have never ever written a B-flat trumpet part for an orchestral work. That would be strange. Of course, they may play the part on whatever, but it will be mostly C horns unless there’s some particular reason to do otherwise.

Funny enough, I’ve heard an orchestral work (not my own!) being performed entirely on the wrong instrument because the part didn’t specify B-flat or C. The performers guessed and guessed wrong. No one noticed (conductor included) that the trumpet parts were a whole-step off. How is this not a viola joke! Let’s just say it made the work sound more “modern” than it already was.

I just realized that the 95% ratio I gave in my previous message is perhaps a little high because when we do classical rep and 19th century German rep - let’s say from Haydn to Brahms - we use Bavarian-made rotary valve trumpets in Bb. But of course, in terms of notation, they still have to transpose from whatever the part is written in. But still, the C horn is the go-to horn around here.

In my part of the music world, the default trumpet is in Bb.

Dealing mostly with Concert Band, Wind Band, School Band, Bigband and other jazz combos, Brass Quartets/Quintets all would have trumpets in Bb as the default.
Every once in a while a trumpeter could pull up a C, Eb or even D trumpet to play a solo in an “easier” key. But then they would fix the transposition from Bb themself.
If a trumpeter is playing in church sunday morning, (s)he would bring a C trumpet and read the top line out of the Choral/Organ book.

I think that when we have more score templates in Dorico, and the possibility to create/save our own score templates, the issue of default transposition of an instrument becomes less relevant.


It doesn’t matter what the default trumpet key is – Bb or C in any template is going to be wrong for half of the user base. That’s why it’s important that we can change instruments for the “players” in our scores quickly and easily.

Other than a few templates I’ve designed myself for specific small ensembles, no matter what notation program I’m using I’ve always found it easier not to use provided templates since they rarely match the ensembles I’m writing for exactly so I build my own each time. It’s not that lengthy a process and I can get exactly what I want.

The proper key of the trumpets, for example.