Department of Energy Argonne National Laboratory Office of Science NEWTON's Homepage NEWTON's Homepage
NEWTON, Ask A Scientist!
NEWTON Home Page NEWTON Teachers Visit Our Archives Ask A Question How To Ask A Question Question of the Week Our Expert Scientists Volunteer at NEWTON! Frequently Asked Questions Referencing NEWTON About NEWTON About Ask A Scientist Education At Argonne The Shape of Trumpet
Name: N/A
Status: N/A
Age: N/A
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: N/A

I am a student ho is doing a research on the shape of trumpet and its relationship with sound wave. Especially, the effect of bell and the mouthpipe. If anyone knows the secret of these questions

As a resonator, so to speak, a trumpet is a closed end pipe. Think about it. As soon as you put your lips up to the mouthpiece you have closed off one end of the pipe. According to standard acoustic theory a closed end cylindrical pipe will produce only the odd multiples of the fundamental pitch of the pipe. Obviously this would exclude octaves, which follow powers of two multiples of the fundamental pitch of the pipe. Now this is obviously not the case for a trumpet. Its overtone series follows all of the integer multiples, which includes the octaves. If a trumpet is a closed end pipe how does this happen? It is not cylindrical! Okay, trumpets are often called cylindrical bore instruments, but that is misleading. Only a small section of any trumpet is truly cylindrical. In fact most modern trumpets have gently tapered leadpipes. Now, of course, the most non-cylindrical part of the horn is the bell and mouthpiece. The fact that these sections are tapered so greatly changes the acoustics of the so-called cylindrical overtone series. More and more partials, as they are called come into existence as the taper of the mouthpiece and bell become more significant. In fact, the simple addition of a tapered mouthpiece to a cylindrical pipe can make it sound bugle-like. For more information see the July 1973 edition of Scientific American. There is an excellent article in there by the late Arthur Benade on the Physics of Brasses. It is quite technical and accurate. Also, look into the writings of Dr. Thomas Rossing from Northern Illinois University. He is considered one of the foremost experts on musical physics. Chapter Two: There is a gentelman on this bbs system who is a brilliant brasswind machinist , designer, builder and guru. His name is Wayne Tanabe. Try contacting him through his mailbox on this system. Because he will be looking at this subject a little differently he might be able to give you some insight into your question.

--Nick P. Drozdoff--

Click here to return to the Physics Archives

NEWTON is an electronic community for Science, Math, and Computer Science K-12 Educators, sponsored and operated by Argonne National Laboratory's Educational Programs, Andrew Skipor, Ph.D., Head of Educational Programs.

For assistance with NEWTON contact a System Operator (, or at Argonne's Educational Programs

Educational Programs
Building 360
9700 S. Cass Ave.
Argonne, Illinois
60439-4845, USA
Update: June 2012
Weclome To Newton

Argonne National Laboratory