Weekly Trumpet Tips 3/17/15

Trumpet Shadow

The Shadow

Welcome to Weekly Trumpet Tips:

(1) Mutes & Horn Damage

(2) Confusing Messages From Trumpet Teachers!

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Tip #1 – Mutes & Horn Damage

I learned a valuable lesson yesterday that I wanted to pass along as I’ve NEVER had this happen before but have heard about it from other players.  Here’s the scenario…

I was subbing for a buddy yesterday in the theatrical performance of “Anything Goes.”  It’s basically a mute fest – between cup mute, straight mute and some harmon.  Some of the mute changes are relatively quick.  At one point, I had to switch to cup mute, but as I was playing I could feel it slipping out, so I did a panic grab and twist (as I have a million times in the past).  We got to the end of the piece, I set my horn down and started looking ahead… but something caught my eye.

KF Bell Damage

My bell has two creases twisting around the outer part of the bell (as you can kind of see in the photo).  Apparently I had twisted the mute hard enough to do this… there is no other explanation for it as the bell never got knocked, set down hard, etc.  While this is easily fixable by a qualified brass technician, it still bothers me as my equipment is something I work very hard at taking care of.

This particular bell is bronze and it a lighter / thinner bell for lead playing.  I think that is what contributed to the damage happening.  The biggest take-away for me is to make sure that you have mutes with good cork / gripping material and that you can place them in your horn easily without having to use force.  IF you feel your mute slipping out during a performance, hold it until you have a chance to re-secure it properly.

So once again, this is something that I’ve heard about, but never experienced for myself… and I don’t plan on doing that same thing again!  Hope this first tip saves you from potential damage…

Tip #2 – Confusing Messages From Trumpet Teachers!

I have learned as a trumpet player, student and teacher that communicating with others in a clear concise way so that each individual understands the message is the BIGGEST task each teacher has to deal with!  There are times that I must change the delivery of my message so that the person I’m communicating with understands what I’m saying.

I learned this when I started asking Maynard Ferguson questions about “how to play high notes.”  Immediately he would start answering me with air, proper use of air, etc.  That was all well and good and believe me, I took lots of notes on it.  But it didn’t answer my question at that particular moment because I was TOTALLY confused about my lips / chops.  Each time I would ask a question about lips and what they are supposed to do, he’d turn his answer back to air by saying, forget about the lips.  As my clarity started to grow in this topic, I gained an understanding of why he would never focus on my lip questions… they really are meant to just vibrate (flap in the breeze).

So as I’ve taught lessons, I decided that I needed to be EXTREMELY clear with my approach – leaving no missing information that could cause “guess work” for the student.  That’s what usually gets us in trouble in the first place.  For example, when I was first told to get the Schlossberg book, the only instruction from my teacher was “work on this exercise.”  There was no “how to” included in that.  So, I guessed… POORLY!

So this weeks second tip is for students and teachers alike…

Students, be very clear with your questions and look for a teacher that communicates in a manner that you understand.  IF you find yourself having to guess or constantly ask for clarification, then there could be a break-down.

Teachers,  Make sure that you leave no room for guess work… make sure the student has a clear picture of what they are supposed to do and how to do it.  When it comes to working on chops, range, endurance, improvisation, etc. there is a lot of missing information that we as “seasoned” players can take for granted.  Really spend time thinking about how you can describe what you easily do to someone who is learning and have them really understand the message.

All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.

– Walt Disney 1901-1966 Businessman, Filmmaker

P.S.  Here’s a video of a performance I played lead trumpet in… full string orchestra and vocals.  Enjoy…


Have a GREAT week!