Trumpet in Rock Music – A History

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


The trumpet has been a staple in rock music since the genre’s inception. In this blog post, we trace the origins of the trumpet in rock and explore how it has evolved over the years.

The trumpet’s place in rock music

The trumpet has played a significant role in the development of rock music, both as a solo instrument and as part of the brass section. Early rock and roll hits such as “Rock Around the Clock” and “Tutti Frutti” featured prominently placed trumpet solos, which helped to set the stage for the instrument’s later prominence in the genre.

In the 1960s and 1970s, the trumpet became an increasingly important part of the rock sound, thanks to the contributions of players like Herb Alpert, Lee Morgan, Morrissey Mullen, and Clifford Brown. Trumpeters began to experiment with extended techniques such as growling and plunger-muting, which added a new level of expressiveness to the music.

As rock music evolved in the 1980s and 1990s, so did the role of the trumpet. Players like Miles Davis and Freddie Hubbard continued to push the boundaries of jazz-rock fusion, while Wynton Marsalis brought a distinctly New Orleans flavor to bands like The Rolling Stones and Paul Simon. In more recent years, trumpeters like Nicholas Payton and Terence Blanchard have continued to find new ways to integrate their instrument into the ever-changing world of rock music.

The trumpet in rock music: the early years

The trumpet has been used in rock music since the genre’s early years. Rock and roll artists such as Little Richard and Chuck Berry used the instrument to create a signature sound that was both unique and distinctly “rock and roll.” In the 1960s, the trumpet became a staple of British Invasion bands such as The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. These bands incorporated the trumpet into their music in a way that was both original and influential. The Beatles’ use of the instrument in their song “All You Need Is Love” is often cited as one of the most important uses of the trumpet in rock music.

The 1970s saw the rise of glam rock, a subgenre of rock music that was characterized by its flashy visuals and bombastic sound. Glam rock artists such as David Bowie and Queen made use of the trumpet to create a sound that was both over-the-top and unforgettable. Queen’s hit song “We Will Rock You” features a famous trumpet riff that has become synonymous with the band.

The 1980s saw the rise of hair metal, a subgenre of heavy metal that was characterized by its use of catchy hooks and sugary melodies. Hair metal bands such as Bon Jovi and Def Leppard made extensive use of the trumpet, often using it to add an element of sophistication to their otherwise rough-and-tumble sound. Bon Jovi’s hit song “Livin’ on a Prayer” features a memorable trumpet solo that helped to make the song a global smash hit.

The 1990s saw the rise of alternative rock, a genre that was characterized by its dark lyrical themes and abrasive sound. Alternative rock bands such as Nirvana and Pearl Jam made use of the trumpet on occasion, but it wasn’t until Radiohead released their groundbreaking album OK Computer in 1997 that the instrument became truly prevalent in alternative rock. OK Computer features several tracks with prominent trumpeting, most notably “Paranoid Android,” which is widely considered to be one of the best uses of the instrument in any genre of music.

The trumpet in rock music: the 1960s

The trumpet began to make its way into rock music in the early 1960s. Beatles producer George Martin was one of the first to utilize the instrument in a rock context, using it on tracks like “Got to Get You Into My Life” and “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” The Beach Boys also made use of the trumpet on their 1966 album Pet Sounds, which featured horn arrangements by collaborator Paul Horn.

The use of the trumpet in rock would become more widespread in the late 1960s and early 1970s, as artists like James Brown, Sly and the Family Stone, and Santana began to incorporate it into their sound. Jazz-rock bands like Blood, Sweat & Tears and Chicago also made use of the trumpet, helping to bring the instrument further into the rock mainstream.

The trumpet in rock music: the 1970s

The trumpet had a resurgence in popularity in the 1970s, appearing in bands as diverse as Blood, Sweat & Tears, Boston, Chicago and Earth, Wind & Fire. In contrast to the previous decade, when the trumpet was mostly used as a solo instrument, the 1970s saw it being employed more as part of the overall sound of the band. This was partly due to the success of jazz-rock fusion bands like Blood, Sweat & Tears and Chicago, who were able to cross over into the mainstream with their blend of jazz and rock. The use of the trumpet in rock also became more common with the rise of funk music in the early 1970s. Bands like Parliament-Funkadelic and Sly and the Family Stone began to experiment with using brass instruments in a rock context, giving birth to a new subgenre known as funk rock.

The trumpet in rock music: the 1980s

The trumpet first made its appearance in rock music during the 1980s, thanks to artists like Bruce Springsteen and U2. The instrument added a new level of excitement to the music and quickly became a popular choice for rock bands. Trumpeters like John Bonham and Miles Davis became household names, and the trumpet quickly became an essential part of the rock music landscape.

The trumpet in rock music: the 1990s

The trumpet became an increasingly popular instrument in rock music during the 1990s. It was used in a wide variety of genres, including alternative rock, indie rock, punk rock, and ska.

One of the most influential bands to feature the trumpet was New York-based indie rock band The Walkmen. The band’s 2003 album “Bows + Arrows” featured a number of tracks with prominent trumpet parts, including the single “The Rat.”

The popularity of the trumpet in rock music continued into the new millennium. It was featured prominently on albums by popular artists such as Beck (“Guero,” 2005), Arcade Fire (“Funeral,” 2004), and Yeah Yeah Yeahs (“Fever to Tell,” 2003).

The trumpet in rock music: the 2000s

The trumpet made a comeback in popular music during the 1990s and 2000s, appearing in rock, pop, hip hop, soul, funk, disco, and house music. The late 1990s saw the rise of “slack key” guitar playing in Hawaiian music, which utilized many techniques borrowed from rock guitarists such as bending strings and feedback. This style of playing was later adapted to the electric trumpet by players such as Jon Hassell and Nils Petter Molvær.

The trumpet in rock music: the 2010s

The trumpet began to see a resurgence in popularity in the 2010s with indie rock and alternative rock bands. In 2010, Arcade Fire’s “The Suburbs” won the Grammy Award for Album of the Year, and the band’s trumpet player, Jeremy Gara, was prominently featured on the album. That same year, Broken Social Scene released their album “Forgiveness Rock Record,” which also prominently featured a trumpet player.

Other notable indie rock and alternative rock bands that have featured a trumpet player at some point in their career include Vampire Weekend, Sufjan Stevens, Arcade Fire, The National, LCD Soundsystem, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and Passion Pit.

The trumpet in rock music: the future

Though the trumpet has been played in rock music since the genre’s inception, its use has varied greatly throughout the years. In the early days of rock, the trumpet was used mostly as a solo instrument, providing Lines that could be heard above the rest of the band. As time went on, however, and rock began to incorporate more and more elements of other genres, the role of the trumpet changed.beginning to play a more supportive role in the overall sound of the band.

In recent years, we have seen a renewed interest in the trumpet in rock music. This is likely due in part to the increasing popularity of funk and soul-influenced music. As more and more bands begin to explore these genres, we are likely to see even more interesting and innovative uses for the trumpet in rock music. Who knows what the future holds for this truly unique instrument?

The trumpet in rock music: a final word

The trumpet has been used in rock music since the genre’s inception, and its role has been both versatile and significant. As a lead instrument, the trumpet can provide both melodic lines andblast out chords, either to drive a song forward or to provide a counterpoint to the guitar. It can also be used for soloing, either with or without distortion.

The trumpet’s place in rock music was cemented by players like Chuck Berry, who used the instrument to great effect on his early hits like “Maybellene” and “Roll Over Beethoven.” The Beatles also employed the trumpet on several occasions, most notably on their 1968 hit “Hey Jude.” In more recent years, the trumpet has been used by acts like U2, Guns N’ Roses, and Rage Against the Machine.

While the trumpet may not be as prevalent in rock music as it once was, it remains an important part of the genre’s history. Trumpeters who are looking to make their mark on rock music should study the great players who came before them and learn how to use the instrument in new and innovative ways.

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