A curiosity question: What is the decibel range of the trumpet?

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by trumpet_man, Dec 23, 2009.

  1. trumpet_man

    trumpet_man Piano User

    Jan 17, 2008
    I was wonder how many decibels it would be if a person played the trumpet as soft as humanly possible, also how many decibels it would be if a person played as loud as humanly possible. Just curious. Someone like Nick Drozdoff who really knows his physics and his trumpet might know, but maybe others would have a good idea as well. Thanks.
  2. kalijah

    kalijah New Friend

    May 5, 2008
    Decibles would be a sound pressure level measurement at some point. So the measured level would be effected by the distance, the acoustical environment, the projection pattern of the trumpet and, of course the sound power of the source.

    In other words, a very soft note with the measurement very close to the bell could have more db than a loud note at some large distance.

    So you would have to have some fixed parameters to make a valid comparison.
  3. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    sound pressure depends on the distance from the bell as well as the density of the air.
    on the soft side, right in front of the bell I could imagine 20-30 decibels as being possible. In the late 70's I participated in an experiment for Crown. They brought out a new microphone model - the PZM. We were 4 trumpet players blowing into the mic. I don't remember the distance, but 140dB was measured. half as many players is 3dB less and half of that is 1 player with another 3db less - 134dB.

    If you look carefully, many symphony orchestras have plexiglass protection screens for the winds and strings in front of the brass section. In the big band, many of the trombone players are bald....................
  4. trumpet_man

    trumpet_man Piano User

    Jan 17, 2008
    Thanks, I should've said that the db is measured right at the bell.
  5. trumpet_man

    trumpet_man Piano User

    Jan 17, 2008
    Thanks. 140 decibels is insanely loud, I'm surprised that a trumpet can be played that loud at any distance.
  6. Glennx

    Glennx Pianissimo User

    Aug 16, 2009
    Rowuk is about right with a high end measurement of 130-140 dB. As a reference, keep in mind that the decibel scale is logarithmic (not linear) so 60dB is twice as loud as 50db; 70dB is twice as loud as 60dB, and so on. An orchestra playing fortissimo generally measures about 90+dB at 12th row center and 120dB is usually recognized as the threshold of pain.

    Audio measurements are always referenced to a distance of 1 metre from the source. Dusting off my sound recording studies from years ago, I think I recall that halving the distance from the source doubles the sound energy level and the perceived loudness...so moving closer to that bell of a very loud trumpet is going to expose you to some very high and potentially damaging sound levels.

    Wikipedia provides an interesting list of activities referenced to their sound pressure level in decibels here:
    Sound pressure - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    How loud can a trumpet play in terms of decibels? Depends on the player and the equipment used. Seeing & hearing Maynard in Montreal in the 70s convinced me that I wouldn't have wanted to stand too close in front of him; legend has it that Louis Armstrong was required to stand 30 feet behind the ensemble in the early days of recording (long before multi-tracking) because he was so loud.

    An interesting anecdote from my long-ago architectural acoustics professor at McGill University: he once invited in an acoustician colleague to test the hearing of all the 20-something university students in his senior acoustics class, but he only did so once. The students were too freaked to discover that almost every single one of them had measurable permanent hearing loss from adolescent/ongoing exposure to rock music - and certainly walkman headphones.

    The human inner ear is an incredible bit of organic engineering and is capable of amazing powers of discrimination: witness the years I playing trombone in big bands with 4-5 trumpet player bells literally mere feet from my head, and my hearing is still pretty good at age 54 (my wife's assessment notwithstanding). That said, I wouldn't willingly place my ears in the line of fire within a short distance of even beginner brass players. And those kids who rush up to the stage at rock concerts and spend time dancing in front of the wall of speakers? They're nuts!...and now partially deaf.
  7. mattc

    mattc Pianissimo User

    Dec 12, 2009
    In one big band I played in--mostly retirees, the entire reed section had hearing aids.

    Decades in front of trombones and trumpets can't be good for your hearing.
  8. Markie

    Markie Forte User

    Jan 4, 2009
    Clarksburg, WV
    Rowuk sez about trumpet decibles:
    I don't remember the distance, but 140dB was measured.
    Holy S*&^!!! That's louder than a chainsaw.
    Now there's a good reason to practice softly!
  9. trumpet_man

    trumpet_man Piano User

    Jan 17, 2008
    I'm in Physics right now and have been studying decibels, which is what triggered my curiosity. Decibels are logarithmic, but at increments of ten, they are 10 times as loud, not twice. So someone playing at an insane 140 decibels would be 10,000 times as loud as an orchestra playing fortissimo, which is hard to grasp. That would be comparable to a gunshot. Yikes. Who was it? Rashawn Ross?


    180 decibels in where said to be the death of the eardrum, 190 decibels in when sound waves are converted to shock waves. And 140 dB is right up there.
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2009
  10. hup_d_dup

    hup_d_dup Piano User

    May 28, 2009
    Tewksbury, NJ, USA
    Please re-read the reference that you listed. It said that an increment of 10 dB is 10 times as powerful, not 10 times as loud.

Share This Page