If you want to teach yourself to play a brass instrument, the best thing you can do is to get a proper teacher. The second-best thing is to get a good book and dedicate yourself to going through it slowly. Here’s a list of books to teach you to play the trumpet, from beginning to advanced players.
Mitchell on Trumpet
Mitchell on Trumpet* is a lesson book that’s good for the very beginner and comes with a DVD for playing along. It’s a useful step-by-step guide that slowly levels up. There’s also a Book 2*, Book 3*, and Book 4* to this, so this will keep any learner busy for a while.
Harold Mitchell’s good reputation as an educator might also come from the fact that he originally taught Herb Alpert. (Listen to Herb Alpert* if you don’t know who he is!)
100 Progressive Lessons for Trumpet
David Hickman’s 100 Progressive Lessons for Trumpet* is another beginner’s book that takes you on a fun ride with many good melodies, while also teaching the fundamentals.
Every lesson is covered on two pages and contains a famous tune, a technical study and two contrasting etudes. It’s spiral-bound for easy handling, too, which you will come to appreciate once you get a study book that’s not spiral-bound.
Rubank Elementary Method – Cornet or Trumpet
Another widely used book is Rubank Elementary Method*. Certainly a classic, if a bit less exciting and without a CD for playing along.
The book contains scales, arpeggios, technical studies, articulation studies, solos and duets, the latter of which indicates that you’d likely want this to go along with actually lessons by a teacher. The pacing is also not great in this one, but it’s alright.
The Jazz Method for Trumpet
If you’re interested in jazz in particular, John O’Neill’s The Jazz Method for Trumpet* will serve you nicely. This also comes with a CD and it takes you slowly from the very beginning to more advanced stuff.
Books for Advanced Players
Arban’s – The Trumpeter’s Bible
Arban’s Complete Conservatory Method for Trumpet* is generally regarded as the trumpet bible and a book you should own if you’re serious about your craft. It’s chock-full of exercises, scales, and pieces to keep you busy for a long time.
This might be a bit hard for a total beginner, but definitely something to work with to get better. You’ll want to get the spiral-bound edition that lies flat, as it will make practicing a lot easier. Unfortunately that means deciding between the older (spiral-bound) version of the book and the and newer New Authentic Edition*.
If you’re set on starting with Arban’s anyway, even though you’re not yet at intermediary level, you might want to consider getting the companion course that goes with it.
Knevitt Complete Collection
If you want to train something specific on your horn, you’ll also do good to consider anything by Bill Knevitt. You can get the Knevitt Complete Collection over at qPress, but you can also get individual books for certain areas.
Examples are the Method for Developing the Upper Register on Trumpet or The Truth About How to Play Double High C. Beginners can take a closer look at Getting Started Right on Trumpet.
The Embouchure Builder
The Embouchure Builder* by Lowell Little is a good book for warm-up exercises that will help you build a good embouchure. It’s a thin and cheap book, but if you dedicate yourself to it, it can take you far with your flexibility and tone.
Herb Alpert – Jazz Play-Along
If you want to make practicing fun, a good play-along book and CD can be a good motivator. If you’re a fan of Herb Alpert, you can try out his Jazz Play-Along book*.
This will help you learn to play jazz and keep the rhythm. It comes with different ways of playing along, either with a melody cue or with choruses for soloing. You can also remove the bass part. All these different tracks are there to help you learn and become more versatile.
Lead Trumpet Book
The Basie-Nestico Lead Trumpet Book* is another great choice for lead trumpet players. It doesn’t come with a CD, but it goes with the album Straight Ahead* by Count Basie & His Orchestra, which you can buy on vinyl, CD, or instantly on MP3. It’s good stuff that’ll motivate you to practice!
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