Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 15 of 18

Thread: Advice for the trumpet newbie?

  1. #1
    Multi-instrumentalist Charlie F.'s Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    Sherman Oaks, California
    Posts
    929

    Advice for the trumpet newbie?

    I've recently come closer to realizing my dream (one of them, anyway) of becoming a part-time street musician by beginning to learn the trumpet. As such, I have a few questions.

    1. Can any trumpet players out there recommend some good instructional books for this instrument, aside from the one I'm using right now (the Mel Bay Trumpet Primer book from 1977)?

    2. How many hours a day should I practice? Is six hours good enough?

    3. The mouthpiece I'm currently using is an inch wide, and the rim and bore are about 1/8 inch wide. Should I switch to a mouthpiece with a narrower rim?

    Thanks in advance.
    "It's better to spend money like there's no tomorrow than to spend tonight like there's no money." -- P.J. O'Rourke
    ______________
    Multi-instrumentalist: Drums, piano, guitar, upright bass

  2. #2
    Just play your ass off!
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Posts
    200
    Quote Originally Posted by Charlie F. View Post
    ...my dream (one of them, anyway) of becoming a part-time street musician...
    Quote Originally Posted by Charlie F. View Post
    How many hours a day should I practice? Is six hours good enough?
    You're kiddin', aren't you?
    "When you don't know what to do, then do nothin'" (Miles Davis)

  3. #3
    Multi-instrumentalist Charlie F.'s Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    Sherman Oaks, California
    Posts
    929
    Quote Originally Posted by monk View Post
    You're kiddin', aren't you?
    I'm sorta half-kidding about being a street musician. I would never do it unless I REALLY needed the money.

    I wasn't kidding about the practicing, though. I'm still not too familiar with the ins and outs of the trumpet-practicing regimen. Judging from your comments, I guess I should be practicing a bit more. Glad I could make you laugh, at least.
    "It's better to spend money like there's no tomorrow than to spend tonight like there's no money." -- P.J. O'Rourke
    ______________
    Multi-instrumentalist: Drums, piano, guitar, upright bass

  4. #4
    Jazz Artist, Author EdByrne's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Location
    Western MA
    Posts
    6,939

    Brass Concepts

    Quote Originally Posted by Charlie F. View Post
    I've recently come closer to realizing my dream (one of them, anyway) of becoming a part-time street musician by beginning to learn the trumpet. As such, I have a few questions.

    1. Can any trumpet players out there recommend some good instructional books for this instrument, aside from the one I'm using right now (the Mel Bay Trumpet Primer book from 1977)?

    2. How many hours a day should I practice? Is six hours good enough?

    3. The mouthpiece I'm currently using is an inch wide, and the rim and bore are about 1/8 inch wide. Should I switch to a mouthpiece with a narrower rim?

    Thanks in advance.
    Excerpted from one of my books:

    CHAPTER 13: Brass Talk

    Trumpet

    The trumpet is a very unforgiving instrument. In general, you are consistent only when you play every day. Every additional day missed beyond one puts you commensurately more out of shape. D.S Reinhart used to say, Miss one day& you know it, two days & your friends know it, three days, the world knows it. Moreover, I find that for every day I miss it takes that many days to get back to 100%. While you are still developing your embouchure, it is even more critical to play daily. These are the unfortunate facts of life for brass players. Make sure that you do a comprehensive warm up every day also.

    I once saw an interview with Dina Shore & Doc Severnson, in which she asked him, So how is it to play a trumpet, Doc? He said, Well Dina, it's a little like falling in love with a snake: No matter how good you treat it, you still never know what it's goin' to do.

    I always have to be careful with my chops, & when I'm not I pay dearly. I still have a sore throat from practicing upper register chromatic double tongued 16th-note lines the past few days. I had to take a break from that--but rather than laying off I just practice something else that uses different muscles.

    How you sound to yourself & how your chops (& the rest of you) are acclimated to it is a different matter. It's the likely suspect, at any rate. I'd go back to basics for a minute (& don't panic): relax, breathe deeply, play some long tones, & listen to yourself. Take care to break often--every few minutes at 1st. Know that the snake will come back, but you gotta treat her gently.

    But where did that slang come from? It's probably some kind of metaphor. Now I’m thinking about dog licks & chops. I've always thought of the chops being teeth (they chop the meat), rather than the lips. Regarding its use among musicians, I do know that early jazz brass players used the term as we do today. It may even go back much further in classical music, too. By extension, in jazz it came to mean your overall form on any instrument (keeping your chops up), along with your axe, crib, chic, cat, pad, & wheels (all 1-syllable metaphors).

    Long Tones

    The key to tone & pitch on any wind instrument is long tones, & listening to how you sound while playing them. Play 1-8v scales up & back down at qn = 60: (in Bb) Keys of C, C#, D, Eb, E, F, F#, & G. Put a lot of air through the horn—not just into it.

    Embouchure

    Proper embouchure development on a brass instrument is essential. If you are placing the instrument incorrectly, you could be developing the wrong muscles & tendons, which will cause unnecessary problems for you down the line. You must set up correctly right from the start, so you can focus on the music, rather than correcting embouchure problems later. Try not to miss a day: This is the window for problems to begin.

    Slurring

    Take each & every 2 adjacent notes in the harmonic series. Start 1st position (open, no valves depressed), then take each through the 7 positions (0, 2, 1, 12, 23, 13, 123).

    Tonguing

    Play a m. of 16th notes in 4/4, starting on your lowest note Low E on trombone (F# on a Bb instrument). Continue doing this at qn = 80 on the metronome. Go up chromatically to at least concert high C.

    Puffing Cheeks

    Keep your cheeks in when playing a brass instrument. It takes practice to develop the particular muscles that enable you to do this. You needn't get intellectual about it: If you stick with it, you will gradually be able to do it. It is better for endurance & overall range—& especially consistency.

    2 of the basic bibles of brass playing are: The Arbans Book & the Clark's Technical Studies. The former is for all basic technique (slurring, tonguing, etc.), while the latter is primarily for finger coordination on valve instruments. There are many others, but I would begin there.

    Learn all triads & M & m scales in all 12 keys—without books. This will also be useful in improvising.

    Address the 4 basic types of exercises, whether from a book or not:

    1. Long tones (for tone, embouchure development, pitch & endurance)
    2. Slurring (lip trills—for flexibility)
    3. Tonguing (legato & staccato)
    4. Fingering coordination

    Fingering

    Play the chromatic exercises in the 1st couple of pp of the Clark’s Technical Studies. They focus on chromatic runs spanning the interval of an + 4th, beginning with low F# up to C—& back down. Keep doing the same thing, but a ˝-step higher each time.

    Breathing Exercises

    Constriction in the throat is almost always a result of improper or inadequate air support from the diaphragm. If you are not pushing an ample supply of needed air directly from your diaphragm, you will instinctively try to control the air at the top by pinching your lips & especially your throat.

    Ground Rules

    Stand almost erect, with the knees slightly bent & shoulders back & down.

    Put both arms behind your back; hold both hands together with a pencil or ruler.

    Think of your mouth & throat as the neck of a balloon, your diaphragm as the bottom of the balloon: The bottom fills 1st.

    In timed breathing, you need more air quantity for longer & lower phrases, more air pressure & less air quantity for higher & shorter phrases.

    A good metaphor is that of the weight lifter: 1st lift the weight to chest level, at which time the breath is expelled, while the knees remain slightly bent. Next, after a brief release of tension in the diaphragm, comes a complete breath, which is expelled while the weigh is pushed above to full reach over the head.

    NEVER lift your shoulders.

    NEVER hold your breath: Rather, time the expulsion to the instant the complete breath is achieved. The metaphor here is the golfer, who begins the downswing at the instant the club reaches its apex—unlike the baseball batter, who holds the bat in wait for the ball.

    Exercise #1:

    Purpose: To Increase Lung Capacity & Steady Air Flow

    1. Push all air out of your lungs.

    2. with your lips pinched, AS SLOWLY AS POSSIBLE, very gradually inhale until the diaphragm & entire related physiology is filled with air.

    3. At the point that you feel completely full, reverse the process—without delay, expelling all of the air AS SLOWLY AS POSSIBLE, still with pinched lips.

    4. Repeat this process—after a brief release of diaphragm tension.

    Exercise #2:

    Purpose:

    1. To focus air stream

    2. To learn to feel the push from the diaphragm, while keeping an open, relaxed throat

    Stand the same way as described above.

    Hold a small piece of paper to the wall.

    Take a complete breath, filling up from the diaphragm upwards—chest filling last.

    The instant you are filled to capacity, expel the air with pinched lips directed towards the paper on the wall as you remove your hand from the paper.

    Strive to keep the paper pressed to the wall with your focused air stream for as long as possible. Concentrate on how your body feels while doing this, in particular the push & timing of the diaphragm’s function, & keeping your throat out of the process.

    Losing Braces

    It shouldn't take long to get used to not having braces. Indeed, it will be much easier & less painful to play after that. If you use Vitamin A & D ointment on your lips for the transition, although a little tiring it will allow your mouthpiece to slide into the most natural place for your embouchure. Keep in mind not to strain as your embouchure develops. When your lips are tired, take a brake—or stop for the day. It's important to know how to read how they feel.

    Washing a Brass Instrument

    The inside of a brass instrument is bare brass (mixed with some cheaper alloys). Since it is not plated there, it easily becomes discolored in places, especially when exposed to moisture &/or temperature change. Do this periodically:

    1. Take it apart.
    2. Soak it (Let it sit for a 1/2 hour.) in luke-warm water mixed with dish detergent.
    3. Plunge it out with a trumpet cleaning snake.
    4. Rinse with clear luke-warm water.
    5. Lubricate the parts that have exposed brass with Vaseline.
    6. Apply oil to the valves. (Throw out the oil they gave you. Only use Al Cass Fast valve oil.)
    7. Re-assemble.

    Brass Poisoning & Chapped Lips

    Lip Rash is 1 of the most obvious symptoms of Brass Poisoning. To avoid this condition, do not use an unplated (bare brass) mouthpiece. Do not share your mouthpiece with another. Wash it off every day before using it. It is unlikely that you would get brass poisoning, but on the other hand maybe your body chemistry rejects having any kind of metal mouthpiece on your lips; it is, after all, applied with 40 lbs of pressure.

    If you have Brass Poisoning & it persists, I'd advise getting a Plexiglas mouthpiece. That would definitely help, & they are not affected by temperature, which also could cause irritation. Apply Vitamin A & D Ointment to your lips. I recommend using this daily for while: It is the best medicine, & it also protects your lips. Even use it while playing for the duration of the irritation. It temporarily makes it harder to play, but has the added side benefits of building endurance, securing your embouchure placement, & preventing chapped lips.

    Bare brass is corrosive. There are sorts of bacteria & other bad stuff, as evidenced by the ever-darkening brown color it develops. For some it's not a problem, but if your body chemistry is sensitive towards allergic skin reactions, it wreaks havoc.

    Chapped lips are most often caused by wet lips in cold weather, & sometimes from unconsciously wetting the lips while out in the cold, or going out in the cold right after practicing. Sometimes illness (especially flu) or shock will cause it also. I've also found that I'm more prone to chapped lips when I've taken a day or 2 off the horn: I rarely get it when I play every day, which is usually the case.

    The best thing for chapped lips is Vitamin A & D Ointment (or Vaseline, which doesn’t taste very good). Do NOT use Chapstick. If these conditions aren’t looked after, they can become severe, causing splitting. (I feel like an MD, but believe me, I've been through this many times, so I've learned the hard way how to avoid these conditions.

    Brass Growing Pains

    Brass instruments are unforgiving. In general, you are consistent only when you play every day. Every additional day missed beyond 1 puts you commensurately more out of shape. Donald S Reinhart used to say, Miss 1 day & you know it, 2 days & your friends know it, 3 days, the world knows it.

    Moreover, I find that for every day I miss, it takes that many days to get back to 100%. While you are still developing your embouchure, it is even more critical to play daily. These are the unfortunate facts of life for brass players. Make sure that you do a comprehensive warm-up every day also.

    Straining

    There isn't much you can do in 1 day to rectify a chop problem such as strain or swelling. In the long run, you need 1st to try to diagnose what caused the problem. For example, in your anxiety over a gig, you may over-practice the day(s) before—without even realizing it. The 1st things you need to do are: Rather than lay off the instrument, just back off a bit, take longer breaks, & avoid the extreme registers. You also need to re-evaluate your warm-up routine.

    While ice will take swelling down, as soon as you start to play again your lips will swell right back up. Therefore, I never bother to use ice. For me it just makes things worse, since the ice & the rubbing will make my chops raw—in addition to whatever else is happening. Remember to take a lot of breaks. Above all, listen to you chops: If they tell you that they are tired or sore, they are. Sometimes you just have a bad chop day & it makes no sense, since you believe you've been doing the best things. However, there often is no such logic: If you're sore, believe it & back off!

    If you have an embouchure problem due to improper placement, practice with Vitamin A & D Ointment on your lips. This is tiring at 1st, but it will cause the mouthpiece to slide around until it finds the best placement for your physical facial dimensions. It's just growing pains. Common sense will rule. Listen to how your chops feel, & then go from there; & re-evaluate your warm-up routine, since this important activity is essential to this discussion.

    Equipment Obsession

    Many of the studio brass players on the NYC & LA scenes are crazed over mouthpieces & other equipment, obsessing over the minutest dimensions. I use a stock Bach mouthpiece that every classical tenor trombonist uses. The equipment has to work, to allow you do what you have to do. Beyond that, it's all up to the individual. Getting a special mouthpiece, for example, to make high notes easier is not the answer. Moreover, use the biggest equipment that works for the versatile purposes you need to address, since that allows for the fullest sound quality.

    Sticking Valves

    Al Cass Fast is a very good oil, & carefully cleaning the trumpet is a good preliminary test of whether or not the problem is with grime or the valves themselves. Take a close look at the valves: If the nickel plating is worn off, the instrument is basically a lost cause. You can have it re-plated, but it's not usually very effective a solution. If the plating looks good, bring the instrument into a good craftsman to re-align the valves.

    Finger position is also a factor. When warming up on a valve instrument, concentrate on keeping your elbow raised, & your fingers rounded, centered on the pearls of the valves. Avoid letting anyone else use the instrument—even momentarily, since this can really mess up the action. The valves tend to break in to the touch & angles of stress of a particular person’s action. If you do not play this instrument daily, make certain that it is nonetheless always lubricated.

    The Growl

    It takes some energy & effort to learn to growl on a wind instrument. Start by being able to growl without the horn, by vibrating the tissue in the back of your mouth. Imitate the classic growl sound. After you get that, begin to apply it to your instrument. It is done exactly the same way: The horn only amplifies it. You will, however, have to mess with it a while until it comes through. Then you'll still have to do more until you're comfortable with how it FEELS to produce that sound.

  5. #5
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Posts
    2,524
    Isn't Arban's Trumpet Method the essential book for trumpet, or has it been superceded???


    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0825803853

  6. #6
    Jazz Artist, Author EdByrne's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Location
    Western MA
    Posts
    6,939
    Quote Originally Posted by pele_trane View Post
    Isn't Arban's Trumpet Method the essential book for trumpet, or has it been superceded???


    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0825803853
    yes. pele, I did list it above.

  7. #7
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Posts
    761
    6 hours seems a bit extreme to start off with.

    The MAIN things I can tell you to do:
    -Don't worry about "screaming" or "screeching" or whatever other word you use to describe really high notes. Some people try to get the high notes before they're ready, and then they hurt themselves. I know someone who did that, had to go through I think 3 ambature (NO clue how to spell that word, sorry) changes. Every ambature change (where you change where you put the trumpet on your mouth) is like picking up a new instrument. Your muscles aren't developed for that position, so you have to strengthen a completely different set of muscles.
    -Scales
    -Focus on tone and intonation, don't worry about speed, just make sure that you get every note to sound as best you can
    -This goes for every instrument, don't practice by TIME, practice by GOALS. Goals are way more important. If you spent 6 hours of practice, without having a goal, you would have got more out of your time if you slept for those 6 hours. When you practice, have a goal like, "play the first half of this song" or "be able to hit a G". If you accomplish those goals in 5 minutes, decide whether that's good for the day, or if you want to accomplish something else.
    "Play the whole song" or "hit a G sharp" just keep accomplishing goals until you feel that you are done. But every now and then, rambling does do good for the soul, just pick a scale and have fun. Lately that's all I've been doing, and it's been helpful (I've stumbled across a lot of new fills and ideas). Just make sure that it doesn't become a habit.

    Good luck on your adventure, I've always wanted to play trumpet, but don't want to divide my practice time (or torture my family).

  8. #8
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Posts
    2,524
    Quote Originally Posted by EdByrne View Post
    yes. pele, I did list it above.
    Sorry, Ed, I think we posted at around the same time..

    In any event, let me say, if I had failed to do so, I have the greatest of all respect for brass players. I wanted to learn the trumpet initially, and I quickly found that I had after a few days of playing, completely mastered the "avant guard" aspects to trumpet, i.e., I can make it sound like a dying beached whale in its final death-agony induced throes".

    But having masted such avant guard aspects, I proved unable to produce an "A 440" to save my life.

    So, I promptly gave my trumpet away and moved on to another instrument in due course.

  9. #9
    Jazz Artist, Author EdByrne's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Location
    Western MA
    Posts
    6,939
    Quote Originally Posted by pele_trane View Post
    Sorry, Ed, I think we posted at around the same time..

    In any event, let me say, if I had failed to do so, I have the greatest of all respect for brass players. I wanted to learn the trumpet initially, and I quickly found that I had after a few days of playing, completely mastered the "avant guard" aspects to trumpet, i.e., I can make it sound like a dying beached whale in its final death-agony induced throes".

    But having masted such avant guard aspects, I proved unable to produce an "A 440" to save my life.

    So, I promptly gave my trumpet away and moved on to another instrument in due course.
    agreed, Nav. ya do havetabe kindofa masochist to be a brasser.

  10. #10
    Multi-instrumentalist Charlie F.'s Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    Sherman Oaks, California
    Posts
    929
    Well, after some careful deliberation, I have decided that trumpet is most definitely NOT the instrument for me. The main reason I decided to quit playing trumpet is because I understand that it's a very unforgiving instrument, as Ed said; you have to practice every day to even hit the right notes, and quite frankly, I just don't feel like expending that much energy at this point in my life. It's not because I'm lazy or anything like that, it's just that I've got more important things to focus on right now; I still have a month and a half left of high school, and a book report and science project to think about! I can't take time away from things like science projects and homework to practice an instrument that I probably won't be able to play right half the time anyways.

    Of course, any time you learn to play another instrument, it's certainly a learning experience, and from this little episode, I started to respect trumpet players about three times as much as I already did, particularly Miles (you know the one), Freddie Hubbard, and Arnie Chycoski (of Rob McConnell's Boss Brass). For those guys to be as good as they are on trumpet and be able to hit those high notes--and do it with taste!--is quite an amazing accomplishment indeed.

    I'm still open to learning other instruments, though. I think maybe an alto or tenor sax would suit me better. As I read on another thread, with a bit of practice, you can be able to play scales in a relatively short amount of time. I really think that that's the best situation for me right now (aside from picking up a vibraphone, marimba, or xylophone, which are also pretty high on my list of instruments to learn).

    So, to all who replied to this thread to give tips on my trumpet playing, thanks again, and I'm sorry that I couldn't really put them to good use. Hopefully, another aspiring trumpet player will see this or any other "beginner's" trumpet thread and use these suggestions to their advantage (that is, if they have the time and patience required to play the instrument well).

    P.S. Interestingly enough, I first started trying to play the trumpet about 10 years ago, using the same trumpet (B-flat Cadet horn of indeterminate year) and instruction book. The results of that attempt were pretty much the same as they are now.
    "It's better to spend money like there's no tomorrow than to spend tonight like there's no money." -- P.J. O'Rourke
    ______________
    Multi-instrumentalist: Drums, piano, guitar, upright bass

  11. #11
    trumpet tpt1's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2004
    Location
    New York City
    Posts
    5,841
    Quote Originally Posted by Charlie F. View Post
    Well, after some careful deliberation, I have decided that trumpet is most definitely NOT the instrument for me.
    Charlie, you have made a very wise decision.

  12. #12
    Jazz Artist, Author EdByrne's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Location
    Western MA
    Posts
    6,939
    I was afraid that I helped too much.

  13. #13
    Long time Jazz lover!! Radar's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    Rochester NY
    Posts
    78
    Charlie,
    I'm sorry to hear your hanging up the trumpet, I don't think you'll find sax or some other instrument easier. They all have their quirks to overcome. You'll do your share of squeeking and squacking on sax too. It sounds like you want to learn an instrument in a hurry, that isn't necessarily the best tactic to learn. True that you should try to practice everyday, but you don't need to do six hours a day to learn or improve. 1/2 to 1 hour a day will give you progress toward your goal. If you can't find time to sit down and play for 1/2 hour straight pick the horn up and blown some long tones, do some lip slurs, etc for ten minutes if that's all you have that day.

    I would say do what you can between now and the end of the school year, and try again to get going again over the summer. Finding a teacher would also help you alot, if you don't already have one. You can develop a lot of bad habits in the beginning that are hard to break if you don't have some knowledgeable guidance.
    Multi-instrumentalist: Keyboard, Guitar, Drums, Trombone, Bass

  14. #14
    Banned User
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Posts
    926
    I have played a number of instruments in my life.

    None have been as rewarding as the trumpet.

    I would whole heartedly encourage to try again. You don't need to practice 6 hours. In fact, when you start out, you wouldn't be able to. Afterwards, it is hard to stop.

    Rent a horn. Pick it up now and then. Play long tones. Start learning some scales. Start learning some tunes. Start learning some solos. Start to jam with records. Take it easy. never play when you are tired. Don't strain. Play as much as your body says you should play. don't worry about it not sounding good. In no time it will begin to sound good.

    Playing brass is like no other instrument in the world. Only other brass players will understand what I'm talking about, but there is a reason why people fall in love with that snake. Because nothing else is as good, as satisfying, as close to singing as brass.

    Everything else is second best. And I really truly believe that.

  15. #15
    Registered User Johnny Murgatroyd's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Posts
    852
    At the end of his autobiography Miles Davis describes the trumpet as a "sacred instrument". There is a very strange feeling when I play the trumpet, which is a little difficult to explain. Something about the way that it takes so much air, and the way that the entire instrument, which is solid metal, mysteriously seems to give way (almost turn to liquid) when you play it right. And afterwards, your lungs feel like you've been breathing sea air or been sailing. Your blood feels oxygenated.


    If I'd have known how hard it was to play the trumpet (January 2007) I would never have picked it up. But now I find it hard to stop playing! Practising every day is sort of a compulsion.

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •  




Support the All About Jazz website and forum. Make a donation today!



Download the Jazz Near You iOS app

Download the Jazz Near You iOS app - Free!

Never miss another jazz concert again! Jazz Near You is a simple yet powerful way for fans to discover who is playing where and when. Access local jazz events by date, by distance, by venue, by musician or by festival; map to venues, set reminders, and get detailed information about musicians. Jazz Near You is your complete guide to jazz music near you! Download it now.



Visit All About Jazz at Twitter   Twitter Visit All About Jazz at Facebook   Facebook Use the All About Jazz content widgets on your website or blog   Widgets Subscribe to the All About Jazz RSS feeds   Feeds


All About Jazz | Jazz Near You | Jazz Musician Directory | Jazz News | Jazz Photo Gallery