Top 5 vintage trumpet picks when you are on a budget

I see this question a lot from players who are looking to upgrade from a starting instrument, or want a back up instrument. As there are lots of opinions in regards to this – so I thought I would give my point of view on this as a player and someone who recommends instruments on a regular basis.

For the purposes of this I will talk about Sub $500 instruments (If you ask me the sweet spot is somewhere between $600 – $900 for a solid used instrument, this would also allow you entry level professional instruments).

A few points to start out:

  • If your instrument is a Yamaha student level instrument or equivalent you may not get much extra for you money. The Yamaha 232, 2330, 2335 etc. are built pretty well and offer a lot of bang for your buck. You might be better to wait and make the leap into the next price point.
  • Bottom line is you will be looking back in time – it won’t be common to find say a Bach Stradivarius in this price range unless you get really lucky.

Top 5 Options when you are on a Budget from my experience (Ranked in no particular order, and at the time of writing – Feb 2018)

Martin Indiana Trumpet: This is just a solid option in a horn. Look for pre 1958 versions of this horn as they used a lot of spare parts left over from previous models. (Be sure to check the slide action and 3rd valve piston action is particular as I have seen several with slightly warped valve casings which cause sluggish valves). The sound profile will be more suitable for Jazz, small group and band playing.

Olds LA Ambassador: These are currently on the rise – so may not stay sub $500 for long. Look for the Los Angeles on the bell and the rounded mouthpiece receiver. These were built at the same tolerances and level of care as the professional models and share several characteristics and parts. Look for the best condition you can find. If you need to repair then spares are still plentiful and inexpensive. These horns are also popular for lead pipe modifications, or the valves used as donors for frankenhorns/hybrids as they are robust and widely available. Useable in a variety of situations. One popular modification is to replace the leadpipe with a Bach 43 pipe. (I personally have not tried this – I have tried a Pilczuk pipe swap and saw large gains with that)

Conn 22B (The earlier pre-war versions): Another mass produced horn – but worth taking a look as these were the professional mainstream horn of their day in the 30’s-40’s but offer excellent buying. The key here is to look for good condition instruments – be sure to check valves for wear and tear and all slides are operational. If not, move on and look for another. A great option for an all-rounder from this list.

Blessing Artist (Pre 50’s): These horns barely scrape into this list, but the prices fluctuate quite a bit. In essence this is very close to the Super Artist (valve casing is different, all yellow brass. They are large bore and play with a big full sound. Would make a great small group/soloists instrument. From time to time in this price point you might find a tired Super Artist that needs work (I recommend you stick to the Artist)Holton Lewellyn Bb Trumpet: Often referred to as the ‘Poor man’s Committee’ – that title is thrown around a lot – but for this horn it does have the tone to back it up. These are excellent horns if you want your tone to be a little softer and more rounded (subject to mouthpiece choice and player of course). The only thing you need to watch out for on these early horns is that the mouthpiece receiver is not optimal for modern mouthpieces – so you have to adapt the mouthpiece receiver, or look at your mouthpiece shank and the gap.

So those are the top 5 vintage picks under $500. What are your thoughts, and do you have any suggestions as to what could make the list?

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