Gear Talk

In this issue’s column, you can get answers to a few common questions about selecting your ideal instrument.

Question: What is the difference between student and pro model horns?

Answer: The differences between student and pro horns are subtle but significant: complexity of tone, secure slotting of notes, more refined intonation.

Improved design and manufacturing capabilities means that most instruments produced today by a reputable company are eminently playable, so for a player just starting out, a good student horn will do fine for quite a while.

A Yamaha student trumpet, for example, shares many of the characteristics of the pro horn, thanks to the design philosophy of vertical integration.

Intermediate models exist, but at that point, I recommend taking another step up the ladder. A used pro horn is an excellent option if you don’t mind sacrificing a bit of shine. Brass instruments can actually improve over time, particularly in the hands of a good player.

Question: How do you assess a new horn? Does the playing style (lead, jazz, classical, etc.) have a lot of bearing on your choice?

Answer: Aside from smooth mechanical action, two things I look for when trying out a new horn are clarity of sound and evenness of scale, e.g., whether each note sounds and feels like the notes next to it. The application doesn’t play much of a role in my choice.

I play two main trumpets currently. One was designed for a classical player, and the other was designed for a lead player. I’ll happily use either horn in any situation.

Question: Do you change horns often? Is there an adjustment period when you get a new horn?

Answer: I like changing horns from time to time as it causes me to reassess and adjust the way I play. Every horn is unique, particularly in tone quality and in the placement of notes. When trying out a new horn, I’m likely to miss notes (even more than usual) as I search for the center slot of each pitch, where the note feels secure and the sound is resonant. I have to learn to work with the horn, rather than fight it.

About the Author

Chase Sanborn is a jazz trumpet player based in Toronto. He is on the faculty at the University of Toronto and is the author of “Brass Tactics,” “Jazz Tactics,” “Tuning Tactics” and “Music Business Tactics.” Chase is a Yamaha Artist. Visit his website at Questions about all things brassrelated can be sent to

About author

Chase Sanborn

Jazz trumpeter Chase Sanborn is a Yamaha Artist and an assistant professor of jazz at the University of Toronto. Chase is the author of a series of educational books and videos on playing music. His most recent is “The Brass Tactics 6/60 Routine”. Visit Chase on the web at Also visit