Taps is a signature sounded at military funerals and at the end of a day. It is very simple and memorable, with a somber feel. Most players choose to use a bugle to sound taps, though a trumpet is an acceptable substitute. It’s important to memorize the notes precisely, as sounding taps incorrectly is considered disrespectful.
Learn the notes used to sound taps. Taps only includes four pitches, and is only 24 beats in length. The easiest key in which to sound taps is G. In this key, the trumpeter holds down the first and third valve throughout, and the player’s embouchure is used to modify the pitches.
Consider learning taps in other keys, such as C and F. In the key of C, taps is sounded without depressing a single valve on the trumpet for the duration. Taps in C is generally considered more difficult than in G, due to the higher pitches required. If you must sound it in a key lower than G, sound taps in the key of F. For this rendition, valve positioning will be unique for each note.
Hold each note for a sustained period of time while respecting the rhythm of the tune. Taps shouldn’t feel labored or overly slow, but it’s very important not to rush it. Remain calm and maintain a somber, respectful mood while playing. It is much better to sound it a little too slowly than it is to play it quickly or accelerate the tempo as it progresses.
Consider having a second trumpeter echo your performance in the distance. This is a traditional way of sounding taps, and will create the illusion of an actual echo in the distance, adding to the somber, reserved mood of the performance. The second trumpeter can start roughly one measure after you begin taps.
Practice often so you’re ready for live performances. Something simple like taps is a great way to warm up your embouchure. When playing for an audience, or especially at a funeral, it’s important that you remain calm to properly respect the event.
Listen to a recording of taps, or watch videos of it being played. This will give you an idea of the proper pacing and rhythm.
Don’t try to add any personal flair to taps. It should be sounded in a precise manner without ornamentation or accenting.
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