Weekly Trumpet Tips 5/29/12

The Shadow

Welcome to Weekly Trumpet Tips:

Please always feel free to respond / comment on any of the tips listed in these weekly posts. Your input may help clarify details for someone else!

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Here Are your Weekly Tips:

Tip #1 – Myth’s, Legends, & Ways to Efficiently Practice Improvisation!

During my opportunity to spend time with jazz saxophonist Ed Calle in late March, we swapped stories about playing as kids, etc.  I told him that where I grew up, it was as though there was a divisional line drawn in the jazz trumpet players…

Line A:  You’ve got chops, so we’re going to show you how to play lead trumpet.

Line B: Your range is a bit weak, here’s the solo book, some Aebersold recordings, and all the scales, etc., etc.

Ironically, Ed agreed as he’s run into a lot of other players that were in the same boat.  Improvisation for me, has always been my achilles heel and I’ve never been a loyal practitioner… until about a year ago when I finally decided – enough screwing around, time to get down to brass tax (no pun intended).  Here are a couple of things that I’ve been shown that will at first seem like the long way around, but will in the end save you lots of frustration, time, and energy.

As I’ve written before, I was shown a video by Victor Wooten via YouTube.  He was discussing in a clinic the use of the chromatic notes… the one point that resonated with me loudly was – you can play any note (even the out ones) as long as you do it with great time and great feel!  Check out Woody Shaw if you don’t believe me!  So your first step is to actually play with an Aebersold track (or any rhythm track of your choice).  Start by playing JUST the tonic chord tone… but play varying rhythms with that note.  So for instance, if you are playing over a G Blues (AKA F Blues), play 4 bars of G, 2 bars of C, 2 bars of G, then the turn around… all the while playing just tonic notes.  Start with quarter notes and eighths… then move into triplets, sixteenths, drag triplets, and combinations.  Find the poly-rhythm’s… make everything “FEEL” good.

You’re taking care of 2 things at once… you’re learning rhythms and how to make them sound effortless at a certain tempo range – AND  you’re picking up on the chord changes.  As you improve, expand into adding “piano voicing.”  Many jazz piano players comp chords using the 7th, 3rd, and the 5th notes of the scale being shown… or they can use the 3rd, 7th, and the 9th.  By using JUST these notes, you’re actually getting away from the less harmonically interesting notes (tonic, 5th, etc.) and you’re expanding your harmonics.  Shape lines using the rhythm patterns from the first step, and now just use those 4 notes listed above… it’s challenging at first!

I’ll discuss more ideas on this as the weeks fly by!

Tip #2 – Holes In the Armor of Time!

When we started these weekly tips several years ago, the one thing that I promised myself that I would do without fear is use my own weaknesses, practicing and growth as examples, tips, and “what not to do’s.”  That’s pretty much why I have an endless amount of material to write about.  Rhythm, timing, reading, etc. is no exception…

I was fortunate enough to have a great example in the family that basically is the reason that I play.  I first saw my Uncle play trumpet (at least that I can remember) when I was VERY young… maybe 5 years old?  Sorry – it’s been a couple of years since, so I tend to have a hard time remembering things back past 2 days or so.  🙂  My uncle was also my very first teacher… the unfortunate side of things was that we lived 120 miles apart, and I really only got to see him on holidays as a young cornetist.  So I had private teachers early on that were not strict about rhythm, timing, etc.  For some reason or another, I became very good at playing back what I heard.  A sort of interpretation of what I was seeing… but you couldn’t call it reading.  I would follow the notes, but not necessarily the rhythms.  It wasn’t actually until I got into college that this got addressed.  By then, I was addicted to range, and that’s all I wanted to work on.  The rest for me, as they say, is history.

Now that I am older, wiser, and ready to do the work that I should have done 20 – 25 years ago, I have spent countless hours with a metronome… hence last weeks tip – “You CAN Teach an Old Dog New Tricks!”

The interesting thing to me is, the better my rhythm, time, and reading get, the more I can clearly see that I am not the lone wolf howling this sad tale in the valley!  I have had MANY students (children and adults) with absolutely NO concept of time or rhythm… and as I improve even further, it amazes me as to how many “rhythm” players there are with weak to no concept of steady time.

So my final tip for today is PRACTICE with a metronome!  Whether you’re reading from Arban’s, Clarke, or Charlier, use a metronome!  If you’re working on improvisational lines, use a metronome!  Don’t rely on your left or right foot to keep you steady!  As annoying as that “click, click, click can be, it will sure up your concept of tempo’s.  As you want to improve technique and speed, use a metronome… most will go up to 200 or more… in cut time that pushes you past the 400 mark.  Most will say – that’s pretty fast “Speedy!”

“Let us not be content to wait and see what will happen, but give us the determination to make the right things happen.”

Horace Mann
1796-1859, Education Reformer and Politician

Have a GREAT week!