Often referred to as the trumpeter’s bible, Arban’s Complete Conservatory Method is the most used and most referred to trumpet book ever written. Written in the late 19th century, it is now in the public domain and available for free several places online. However, I strongly recommend purchasing a copy because it actually works out to be cheaper than printing the book yourself.
In the mid 1990’s when I was trying to price my own books, I made a spreadsheet of all the books I owned. I compared the number of pages to the total price of the book and determined a per page price and then sorted them all by the result. Guess which book was at the top of the list (the least expensive per page)! The Arban book was the best priced book by a large margin.
I do recommend the Complete Conservatory Method to all trumpet players but I also believe that everyone who uses this book should remember when it was written. It is not a modern method and very much of what we need as trumpet players today is absent from its pages. Not only that, there have been many major developments in trumpet pedagogy over the last hundred years. There are better, more efficient methods today that cover issues Arban never had to confront in his lifetime.
I know that makes it sound as if I am trying to steer you away from purchasing the Arban book. Please don’t misunderstand. I believe every serious trumpet player should have and practice the Arban book. It is so much a part of what it means to be a trumpet player that the idea of becoming a great player without it seems almost impossible. I’m just saying that your work in the Arban book will never be all inclusive so don’t make those kinds of assumptions (as many other players have).
I once had a student who asked me why I was so much against using the Arban book. He has misunderstood some things he heard me say. I have never been against using the Arban book. Arban’s method played a very important role in the development of my own method and I have always acknowledged this fact. My only complaint about the Arban book has been against using it as a status symbol. When you buy the Arban book, it should be to practice it, not to tote it around to show everyone you own an Arban book.
One other thing to keep in mind about the Arban book is that, contrary to what its title indicates, it is not a method. The Complete Conservatory Method is actually a collection of several different Arban books into one title. It is not something you can just pick up and practice and expect to learn how to play the trumpet from it. The Arban book requires you to take lessons so your teacher can help you practice the things you need to practice in the proper sequence. Alternatively you can purchase or find online for free a guide or companion with practice suggestions.
The Arban Complete Conservatory Method is a good book that is well worth the price.