Legacy Superchops – A Piece Of Trumpet History

In recent years the name Jerome Callet is most closely associated with way of playing the trumpet commonly known as the Tongue Controlled Embouchure. This method is also known as Superchops and even True Power Trumpet Fitness (as taught by Ralph Salamone). Superchops is also the name that Callet gave to his latest line of trumpet mouthpieces, since around 2010, which are based upon Harry James’ actual double cup mouthpiece, his own backbore/throat design and a classic Calicchio rim and blank. The most recent mouthpieces, the 1S series, are based upon Charlie Shaver’s incredibly small cup diameter and echo a little of Jerry’s older designs (such as the JAZZ) in that respect.

Without doing a bit of digging few people discover that Jerry first began using the term Superchops in the 1980s to define his trumpet method as taught at the time. On the surface the Superchops embouchure was very different from the TCE system. Finding good information about the topic has taken years of searching and I can now explain how although it seems that Legacy  Superchops is different to the TCE system, many of the core principals are the same.

In summary, Legacy Superchops:

  1. Places heavy emphasis upon correct sound, teaching that a major cause of brass players’ issues are caused by their desire to spread their sound for reasons such as trying to hear themselves play, trying to blend with others or simply trying to “make a dark/warm sound”.
  2. Is a resistance based embouchure system (often referred to as a closed-lip system). This means that the flow air is resisted by the embouchure, resulting in greater air compression and less need for large quantities of air. Primarily this method is taught by correcting the student’s lip movements so that they can correctly control the release of pressurised air. Only when the lips correctly resist air can the player use all of their body strength in playing.
  3. Advocates articulating by striking the lips through the teeth with the tip of the tongue. This results in a free, open tone and vastly improves note centring and intonation.
  4. Encourages playing with relaxed mouth corners and an open jaw at all times.
  5. Discourages tongue arching (or using vowel sounds such as ahh, ooo or eee) saying that the tongue must lie flat in the mouth after each attack so that it does not cause resistance at the top of the throat. Vowel sounds and tongue arching are also known to cause incorrect stretching of the lips and closing of the jaw.

With the recent passing of Jerome Callet, a long-time pupil (and previous web developer) is currently helping Jerry’s wife (Yumiko) to sort through much of his materials and we are of the opinion that his teaching materials should be in the public domain. In this spirit the VHS tape that accompanied Jerry’s 1987 book Superchops has been uploaded to YouTube. The video features Jerry giving lessons to a number of pupils, explaining the technique and playing along with some exercises. For those who’ve never seen or heard Jerry play this footage is pretty rare. Towards the end the video also has some examples of professional players demonstrating orchestral repertoire and a jazz group with the late Nipper Murphy.

Many people who subscribe to Callet’s later methods dismiss the value of learning about this older technique. Believing that the TCE, the instruction on the MasterSuperChops DVD, or True Power are superior, they ask why one would learn this technique rather than the modern method. I believe, however, in saying this that two important points are being missed.

  1. Accessibility: Many people have tried the TCE and failed to make it work. This can be for a number of reasons including a lack of quality instruction being given by those who have mastered this manner of playing. Some proponents report that learning the correct movement of the lips as taught in Legacy Superchops was what enabled them to be able to consider learning to use the tongue in the forward position. Also, in the interest of producing strong, capable brass players, this system may be all that somebody needs to trigger a massive increase in their ability.
  2. Of greater importance is that even the methods that Jerome Callet was teaching in the 1970s and 1980s is new modern thinking, based upon more research and testing, than that which the majority of brass teachers today understand. Watching teachers squirm when you mention embouchure or ask them how to improve range is in some ways funny but in more ways sad. In the UK at least (and in other countries too according to my online pupils) the vast majority of teachers don’t actually teach brass players how to play their instrument. Instead they feed their pupils music from an exam syllabus and blame failure on lack of practise. If given the option of a teacher who knows this “old” method compared to one who doesn’t then I know which I’d choose.

Here you will see the video mentioned above, and below that a link to the book which you can have in exchange for a valid email address. Enjoy!

[purchase_link id=”1991″ style=”button” color=”orange” text=”Download” direct=”true”]

Click the button to download the accompanying text book. This is a free book that Jerry would give away at trumpet conferences and not the version that you would have had to pay for.

Experiments in Einsetzen

The first time I ever saw a brass player using an einsetzen embouchure was in a brass band in the early 1990s. I was only fourteen years old and our brass band was on tour in Germany. A member from another band was helping us out on the tenor horn and this guy set his mouthpiece in a very strange way. In all of his playing he played with the mouthpiece positioned inside his bottom lip and the bottom lip protruded outside the rim of the mouthpiece. It worked for him, although he didn’t play very taxing music. At the time I just thought of it as little more than a curiosity; little did I know that hundreds of years ago it was one of the ways that people learnt to play the french horn, or that twenty years later I’d be teaching people this very technique, albeit with completely different intentions.

To me, in recent times, the einsetzen embouchure is thought of as being a part of the Tongue Controlled Embouchure system. It was first written about (in modern times for the trumpet at least) in the book Trumpet Yoga by Jerome Callet, the first edition of which was published in 1971. I have written my own book on the subject titled Exploring The Double Pedal Register and I recently set myself the challenge of writing a further sixty exercises to accompany this book. In doing so, and through teaching the technique, I have learnt a few things about how to describe the way that the einsetzen embouchure works for trumpet and how it can benefit embouchure development. Over the years I have also spotted a number of examples of various accomplished and famous trumpet players playing notes with this embouchure setting. Although this shows their awareness of it being possible I doubt that they use it much or teach it to any of their pupils. If that were the case then everyone would be talking about it in the same way that there’s hype over leadpipe playing, for example.

This post isn’t going to go into much depth about how the einsetzen position is normally used as I have already written multiple times about that. This link and this one are to posts or pages that explain that idea in greater detail. There are also videos of Bahb Civiletti demonstrating playing from double pedal C (C2) to double high C (C7) on one of those links.
For an explanation of the note numbering system in this text please refer to this post about defining the range of the trumpet.

The purpose of this post is to discuss if the system can be taken further. As it is used by the TCE system we only play seven notes in the double pedal register. That’s one note for each fingering and they serve to extend the harmonic series of each fingering with an einsetzen/ansetzen movement. You can, however, play as much as a fifth higher as a few pupils of mine have discovered the first time they try to play a double pedal C. Often this is the result of trying to maintain the same sensation in the lips even when using a different type of embouchure (which is not what you are supposed to do at first!!). You can also extend the range downward in pitch as far as triple pedal C (C1). In both instances of expanding the range you do not have the use of valves on your side. When playing the usual C2 down to F#1 the length of the sound wave is twice as long as the length of tubing you are playing on and as a result some overtones are excited properly. When the wavelength does not relate to the notes you are playing then they are more difficult to produce and do not sound as good either. It is for this reason that I would normally argue that there is no good reason to practice playing other notes with the einsetzen embouchure, but for the sake of experimentation I wanted to establish what is possible using a standard B-flat trumpet.

As a proof of concept I wrote five exercises that demonstrate how you could play from G2 to C#1 using the most effective alternative fingerings. For any pitches above double pedal C I think you should generally play on open fingering as playing the note D2 on fingering 3+1 would require a lot of tension and forcing of the sound. Playing that same D2 on open is as simple as bending a C2 upwards in pitch and that same forcing is not necessary. As an exception to the rule I recognise that you could similarly play C#2 with the 2nd valve as this would be like bending a B1 upwards by a tone. For any pitches below double pedal G you can use a system of practicing the double pedal G (G1) on both the 3+1 combination and on the open tubing. Once this ability is established you can then use the valves with standard fingerings to aid playing chromatically down to triple pedal C# (C#1). Credit should be given here to Daniel Bray who first suggested playing the G1 on open fingering to me.

Here is a chart of the suggested fingerings:

The five exercises can be downloaded for free by using the following link:

[purchase_link id=”1880″ style=”button” color=”orange” text=”Download” direct=”true”]

Here is a short video of me demonstrating playing through these exercises and demonstrating that the fingerings work:

Although at this time the ability to play the complete double pedal register from G2 to C#1 may be of limited value for either music or embouchure development it is worth knowing how it should be done should anyone wish to take these experiments further. I will certainly continue to make videos of myself playing melodies in this range, using this technique and add any further information as it comes to light. It may be that this technique can be used in combination with technology for music creation and likewise I will post anything that I manage to create in that respect.

If you are curious about playing with an einsetzen embouchure in the double pedal register then please feel free to get in touch or buy my ebook from the Trumpet Planet Store.

~iii<0

Trumpet Guru Conspiracies Part 1: The Failing Student

Intro

This is the first of a short series of articles that are written partly tongue-in-cheek but also completely based in fact. It has been quite some years since I began devoting time to studying the world of trumpet pedagogy. My research consists of a few things: Reading trumpet history and method books, reading doctorate research (dissertations etc.), reading online forums and trumpet players’ websites, browsing the wayback machine to read websites that are no-longer live, talking with other brass players of all calibers from the seasoned professional to the seasoned amateur, taking lessons and practising ideas that many modern-day teachers are pushing. In doing this there have been a number of behaviours that I’ve noticed from a wide range of brass pedagogues and it’s these things that I’m going to write about in these articles.

Part I: The Myth Of The Failing Student

The myth of the failing student goes like this: John wants to play the trumpet. He seeks the help of the best teachers he can find but they all feed him the same traditional ideas. They teach using music and studies, telling John what to play but not how to play. Truth be told this is exactly how things are to this day. It’s not something that has changed since any of our gurus were failing to learn to play. Having been to a number of teachers John, driven by his failure, sets out to do some research and find out for himself how things are really done. John discovers that all of the best musicians he observes are playing differently from the things he was being taught! John writes a book and opens a teaching studio. A guru is born.

This story, or variations of it, has been told many times by many people and helps to attract failing players to a guru in the hope that by following their method they too can master playing the trumpet. It’s a good way to sell books and attract pupils. Because the ideas contradict tradition the guru can grow quite a following from players at all levels.

William Costello

This story comes from Costello’s article titled Only One Correct Way To Play Any Brass Instrument that was published in Metronome magazine in the mid 1930s.

“At the age of eighteen, I studied with a teacher who was credited with 50 years experience. After spending five years with this man I discovered the only theory his teachings were based upon was the altogether too common one of “I play the horn this way and so should you”. This finally awakened me and caused me to desert the old school straight and narrow and I turned to the right. This road led me right into swollen lips, cracked notes, poor intonation, useless mouthpieces, hours of meaningless practice, tired lips and if I struggled really hard perhaps I could squeeze out and F or G below high C. I tried system after system, teacher after teacher and finding so many abuses as well as abusers, I decided to turn to the left and make a thorough study in the hopes that some day I could openly challenge and refute the unscrupulous commercial teachers and systemizers and give to their victims a sound proved method – one which would apply to any brass man and not one which would have to be changed and altered to fit different individuals.”

Dr Donald S. Reinhardt

This story is quoted from an article by David Wilken on trombone.org

“Donald S. Reinhardt began his musical studies early, beginning with a six hole flageolet at the age of four and progressing from there to many other instruments. His first formal musical instruction began at the age of eight on violin, but his interest at that time was instead on learning to play the French horn. Instructors told him at this time that he would not be able to play the horn or trumpet because his front teeth were uneven and so he began lessons on the trombone.

While his initial progress on the trombone was good, it wasn’t long before he reached a barrier in his playing and was sent to another instructor to help him correct his problems. This teacher was also unable to help Reinhardt and he was again sent to another instructor. After eighteen teachers tried and failed to help, Reinhardt resigned himself to playing second or bass trombone since he did not have the required range to play the first chair.

One day an accident flattened the tuning slide of Reinhardt’s trombone. After being repaired the instrument was returned to Reinhardt with the counterweight still removed. When Reinhardt played on this front-heavy instrument his horn angle was significantly lower. Because of this lower horn angle the membrane of his lower lip had rolled in and slightly over his lower teeth and for the first time in his life Reinhardt was able to play a high B flat. With a little more experimentation he was able to work his range up to the F above this B flat.

This sparked an interest in how other brass performers played and Reinhardt began to study the embouchures of every brass player he could. Through the use of mouthpiece visualisers and later transparent mouthpieces he discovered that while some players produced their high notes in a manner similar to him, others played exactly opposite. Reinhardt had discovered the difference between upstream and downstream embouchures that became the basis for his approach that he would term the “Pivot System.” He would eventually identify four basic embouchure types with five subtypes and eight distinct tonguing types.”

Claude Gordon

Although the conclusion of this story is different in that Claude Gordon did not devise his own method but instead went on to study with Herbert Clarke, and later Louis Maggio, I feel it is worth bringing into the mix as Claude’s story will be relevant in further articles. It is quoted from Gordon’s book Brass Playing Is No Harder Than Deep Breathing.

“As a young player I was happy and never worried until I started to take lessons. I was studying with a fine player, but everything changed. I remember when he said “Keep those corners tight!!” and “Get that jaw out!!”. I had never heard these things before. In fact, I had never thought about the lip at all. I was dedicated, however, and practised hard, looking in the mirror, watching every movement. Finally I could keep the jaw out and the corners tight, but now I couldn’t play my high F any more. I also started worrying. Is my lip OK? Is my jaw out? Are the corners tight? All frustration began. I kept on taking lessons but played continually worse and worried more. Every time a good orchestra came though town, I would meet trumpet players and ask myriads of questions. The answers became a conflicting mumbo-jumbo of “Try this” or “Try that” or “Get this mouthpiece or that”. I had boxes of mouthpieces and could not play any of them. I was still playing professionally at 18 years of age, but not as well as when I was eight years of age. Some valuable things were learned, however. I had learned every wrong way to play that has ever been devised. From this I can truthfully say, “It is hard to play wrong and it is torture”.”

Jerome Callet

The following story comes from Jerome Callet’s book Superchops.

Jerome Callet, for the first twenty five years of his life, was a frustrated embouchure failure. The more avidly he sought to develop his embouchure, using the best teachers and most accepted methods of the time, the worse he performed.

In utter frustration, he decided to devote his life to finding out why no one could teach him how to develop a good embouchure, and indeed, whether it is even possible to develop a good embouchure. Perhaps he thought one has a good embouchure as a result of natural capability, body development etc.

His first assault on the problem was to study the chops of great players in photos of these artists while they were performing. He noticed that most of the great players were positioning their chops on the mouthpiece in direct contradiction to all the accepted embouchure methods!

More amazing, he found out that none of the world’s greatest trumpet players could teach their children to play!! The reason for this is that while they believed what was being taught to beginners was correct, they themselves played differently. As a result none of these artists, probably because they could not describe the “feel” that a proper embouchure gives, never had a child who amounted to anything as a performer!

From this beginning and after 30 years of research, Jerome in Superchops shares his findings with his fellow trumpet players in a wonderful combination of book and video.

Outro

As you can see there are famous brass teachers here of varying popularity. The methods that each of them went on to develop and promote were all quite different but one message remains constant. None of these teachers felt that the traditional approach to brass teaching was adequate and yet to this day the traditions that they spoke out against remain.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief insight into the world of the trumpet guru. If you have, then please feel free to comment below and share on social media.

~iii<0

How effective is my practise?

As an instrumental music teacher the subject of practise is one that I discuss almost on a daily basis with all kinds of people. Usually it’s with my pupils or their parents but it is a topic that comes up in social situations too. Maybe I’m chatting with someone about cookery, open source software or learning a language; eventually the subject of practising to learn new skills will creep into the conversation. I also tend to talk a lot about podcasts and YouTube videos as I can be quite an obsessive consumer of these at times. I find it quite mind-blowing how much you can passively learn over time just from listening to others talking about their passions and interests.

One YouTube channel that I’m a bit of a fan of is that of Mike Boyd. Mike constantly tasks himself with learning new skills and in the past few years has learnt over fifty-two new skills. These vary from the frivolous, such as spinning a ball on his finger or doing a wheelie on a bike, to more serious skills such as swimming a mile in freezing cold water. Mike, it appears, is a real master of mind and body… or is he? I think that if you were to ask him then he’d probably say no. What Mike seems to be master of is practise.

A recent video that Mike put out featured his wife Kim, who learned to juggle as a test to see whether or not Mike learns skills faster than the average person. You can watch this video here, but please remember to read the rest of this article… you haven’t gotten to the good bit yet!

This video really got me into thinking about how I describe the process of practise to people. I’ve done it in a couple ways in the past and neither of them have been particularly effective.

I’m not a fan of the traditional model of music practise that is sold to keen beginners when they take up an instrument. By that I mean getting your instrument and music out, standing in a room alone and repeatedly struggling to get better at the work you’ve been set for half an hour per day, every day. My modus operandi goes like this: I leave instruments and mouthpieces lying around in most rooms of the house. Whenever I walk into a room, get bored whilst sat at the computer, am forced to wait the labourious ninety seconds for the kettle to boil, etc., I pick up an instrument and I start to play. This way I do between five and ten minutes of practise repeatedly throughout the day. This is how I learnt to play when I was young and playing along to the radio in this way is how I learned to play by ear and later developed that into perfect pitch. Another way this system can work is to have a trumpet or cornet nearby when watching television. Whenever the adverts come on you can play for a few minutes. Working like this I would set goals to achieve in that short time and it’s a very effective way to add a little pressure to your mini practise sessions. I’ve told many of my pupils about this way of working. To date I’m only aware of one of them who has actually tried it. I know this because after six months his trumpet had been dropped and knocked off of tables so many times that it needed replacing… #facepalm.

Another thing that I’ve often reserved for more experienced players is simply describing how many hours of an average week I would spend playing my cornet or trumpet between the ages of twelve and sixteen. During that time I attended brass band rehearsals twice per week (four hours). I played in two bands at a Saturday morning music club (two and a half hours). I had a weekly lesson (half an hour) and a couple of lunchtime music groups at school (one hour). In an average week I was engaged in musical activities for a minimum of eight and a half hours before personal practise. And that’s an average week without concerts on the weekends or county brass band or concert band courses to attend. There actually weren’t very many of these minimal “average” weeks. Telling people this information rarely inspires them to try harder so these days I just save it for someone who needs a scare.

In Mike Boyd’s videos he places a counter on the screen so that the viewer gets to see how much time he has dedicated to practising his new skill. In the video above it took Kim just over four hours to learn to juggle three balls continuously for over thirty seconds. She did this over the course of eight days, which is an average of half an hour per day. If Kim were to have only spent ten minutes per day, six days per week, practising then it would have taken a month to achieve her goal. In all likelihood it would have taken longer because a basic familiarity with the task would have taken much longer to settle in her mind and muscle memory.

The problem with this comparison is that it isn’t simply one thing that you are trying to learn when you pick up a musical instrument. What if the skill that you are trying to master is playing one scale from memory and it requires four hours of continuous practise? Well, if you were to practise one scale at a time for ten minutes per day then you could learn all twelve major scales in a year. But after eleven months do you think you’d remember the first scale that you learnt to play? Maybe. (click this link to learn more about my method of teaching scales. There’s also a book about it in my store.)

Here’s another example: a student has an exam coming up in two months and they still cannot play the required music from beginning to end without stopping. If they practise for ten minutes per day, six days per week, then as far as playing time is concerned the exam is eight hours away. It is 9am, could they take the exam at 5pm and pass?

All in all I think there’s a lot of perspective to be gained from doing some simple maths relating to instrumental practise. It’s a great way of understanding how much work needs to be done but also a good way of allowing yourself to accept your limitations in terms of progress. Are you having trouble with double tonguing? How many hours have you invested in nothing but trying to improve it? Maybe you could learn it in four hours of dedicated practise. But something else that Mike Boyd does is research. If you’re struggling to do something on your instrument then it’s best to find out how others do it before you waste time practising the wrong way. It takes longer to over-write a bad habit than to form it correctly in the first place.

The most important things are motivation and enjoyment. Enjoyment can even be used as motivation! I always tell my pupils that it’s fun to be good at something and you get good by setting goals. So, what are you going to learn this week?

A Testament to Somerset Music’s Past

Last week I had the pleasure of being hired by Glastonbury and Street Musical Comedy Society to play in the band for their performances of Barry Manilow’s Copacabana. I always enjoy playing for a musical and this one featured a proper lead trumpet book for me to sink my teeth into.

Although it’s not frequent for me to write about my gigs this one is of particular note for reasons beyond the music itself. On my way to the band call I was thinking about who was playing in the band for the coming week. It sprang to my mind that this band (full list below) featured three generations of musicians from the Somerset area. Luke Holman, the Musical Director, is an ex-pupil of mine from my teacher training days. He has recently graduated from RNCM and will be heading off to London to finish his studies next year. He was also taught by one of the wind players in the band, Kat Stevens. Both Kat and I were taught/conducted by Kieth Thomas, the trombone player, when we were young. He was my first brass teacher and also got me involved with both the Strode Saturday Morning Music Club and Somerset County Youth Concert Band. Another wind player in the band was Jamie Phippen, who conducted the Centre of Somerset Youth Jazz Orchestra, which I played in as a teenager. Jamie and I still regularly gig together with Kat in the function band DT8. Paul Denegri has been head of brass at Wells Cathedral School since 1986 and as well as being my teacher for three years he introduced me to the paid music scene around that time.

When pressed for a quote on the subject Luke said: “It’s a privilege to conduct your musical ideas in front of the teachers who encouraged you to explore those musical ideas in the first place.”

The reason I think this is of particular significance is that not only is it a real testament to the Somerset Music education infrastructure of times gone by, but it is also quite unlikely to be possible in the future. Unfortunately music education isn’t what it used to be, particularly in schools but also in community music projects. There are vastly fewer brass bands in Somerset than there were twenty years ago, the Saturday-morning music club in Shepton Mallet, which was responsible for the development of many of my peers, doesn’t exist any more because of funding cuts. On top of that, and more importantly, is that there is no-longer subsidy for instrumental lessons in schools. To the best of my knowledge and a quick check on the current Somerset Music website, they don’t even employ peripatetic one-on-one instrumental teachers any more. The closest thing is Whole Class Ensemble Tuition.

When I was at secondary school my teacher had a full timetable in both of the schools of mine that he attended, as well as other schools that I didn’t know about. Being a peripatetic music teacher was actually a viable career path. Nowadays it is down to enterprising self-employed musicians who want to teach to approach schools themselves and try to inspire children to take up instrumental lessons. Even in schools where I’ve had a number of pupils the school doesn’t or cannot provide orchestras or bands for them to play in and will not pay me to do it. Because of the lack of community music projects the children don’t get any ensemble experience and in a very short time parents realise that their lessons are both expensive and pointless. When I was fifteen years old I was playing my cornet for eight hours a week before personal practise. A single twenty-minute lesson per week is not going to produce the same results, and nor is WCET in my humble opinion. After discussing WCET with a colleague I can only conclude that it would be a great addition to a pre-existing infrastructure but that statistics show that by itself it is not an effective way to produce musicians in the longer term.

What at first seemed like an overwhelmingly positive article soon descends into a depressing snap back to reality. There are a lot of hard-working professionals around that want nothing more than to inspire the next generation to take up music for the immense proven benefits of its learning but with vital parts of the infrastructure gone, and the talk of GCSE music disappearing from some schools altogether, things are looking pretty bleak. Whatever the solution is to getting these people together and paying them a wage that reflects both their expertise and hard work, it has yet to be found or seriously discussed in a public forum. I’ve found myself in a position where I’m now earning more money from playing the trumpet than teaching it. I don’t even know whether I’m comfortable with that being the case but after the decade of poverty brought on by giving priority to teaching I’ve had enough.

~iii<0

All views stated above are my own and not reflective of those belonging to any mentioned parties.
Full list of band members:
Luke Holman, Musical Director
Nigel Dodge, Bass
Jonty Hedges, Drums
Matt Holmes, Keys
Mark Shelvey, Keys
Gill Lawson, Keys
Jamie Phippen, Winds
Kathryn Stevens, Winds
Jennifer Campbell, Winds
Keith Thomas, Trombone
Paul Denegri, Trumpet/Flugel
Myself, Trumpet/Flugel

Defining the range of the trumpet

Intro

For the most part the purpose of this article is as a reference. A lot of trumpet players love to talk about high notes. But there is also a lot of discussion about how to define these notes. At what point is it acceptable to start using terms like “Double High”? Is “High A” the one that sits a tone above the treble staff, or an octave higher than that? Some people believe that there is already an accepted terminology and that others just don’t know it. All I’m going to do here is explain the terms that I have gravitated towards from talking with other players for a long time and explain why I’ve come to these conclusions. My intention then is to stick to this formula in further writings, in my teaching, and general discussions.

System 1: Scientific Pitch Notation

Scientific Pitch Notation is a system based upon a standard 88-key piano. Although different manufacturers of electronic keyboards have produced instruments that recognise this system differently, the original system recognises the middle C on a piano as “C4”. All tones that ascend from this point until the next C are also designated with the number 4, for example the standard tuning note in an orchestra would therefore be A4. The following graphic shows how the transposed range of the trumpet would look when following this system. Now that it has been explained I will use it as a reference for the rest of the article.

I have included the F#3 as it is the lowest note on a standard trumpet, and G6 for reasons I’ll explain…

System 2: Supers, Highs, Pedals and Doubles

Having a numbered system is really nice if you want to be specific, but it’s not really what people use in every day conversation. “Did you know that the Michael Haydn Concerto goes all the way up to G6 on a nat? That’s like a Bb6 on a modern-pitch Bb trumpet!” said nobody ever. So instead we tend to use terms like “high”, which has exactly the opposite problem. What many would call a “High A” is an octave lower than the note I would think of upon hearing those words. So who gets to decide? Well I think that Maynard Ferguson was a pretty good authority on this matter and so I would stick with his answer to the question: C7 is called “Double High C”, for the octave descending from there the notes are “High” and below that they’re not. Therefore a G6 is known as High G, not Double High G and an A5 is not and should not be referred to as high, ever. Thanks Maynard.

When I was a teenager I played in a few big bands and the terminology that was used was slightly different. I think that it’s almost an exclusively British term, as I’ve seen in online discussions that people in other countries deny the existence or validity of the term (and often quite rudely), but we used to call notes above D5 “Super”. It made it sound like a real achievement to be able to play a “SUPER F“. I haven’t heard this in many years and so wonder if it’s still used.

When going below the note F#3 we venture into the range of pedal tones. Pedal C (C3) is on the diagram above and Double Pedal C is an octave lower than that (C2). Theoretically Triple Pedal C (C1) is down there too, but so far my practice has only allowed me a reliable Double Pedal Db. Sometimes adding a semitone to your range is harder than a perfect fourth!

The only other terms that get used a lot, which I believe cause genuine psychological issues and resulting problems in playing are the words “top” and “bottom”. “Bottom C” is an understandable term: it’s one of the first notes that brass players learn, it is written at the bottom of the treble staff and there isn’t a lower pitched C that is generally used in music. However, “Top C” is not only inaccurate, but it puts a ceiling on perceived playable range of the instrument. When you consider the idea that we become confident in our ability to play a particular note by knowing that we can play above it, this wouldn’t be possible if there were actually a limit to how high one could play. I have found when teaching that when people don’t know what notes they’re playing, whether obscured by transposition, or playing harmonic patterns by ear, that they can play higher than any note that they think of as a limit because habits, both psychological and physical, don’t kick in and ruin everything. Admittedly I exist in a strange self-constructed environment of brass-playing elitism, but the last time I heard somebody say “Top C” I did a double take and spent hours wondering how my perspective has become so skewed.

Here is a chart of common names for notes, and often-used alternatives:

System 3: If I ruled the world

Those who know me would say that it goes without saying that I’ve come to use a system of my own for this topic. Being pedantic and daydreaming as I am I’ve found that when talking about technique that being able to refer to different registers of the trumpet is particularly useful. However, using C as a reference point doesn’t actually work very well. I want things to be uniform and so if I were to call notes below C4 the bottom register, and then notes above G5 the high register then we end up with one register only spanning a fifth and the next spanning a twelfth. I can’t deal with that, so we need to change the point of reference. If you use the note G as the upper and lower limit of each register then not only does it mean that each register can be an octave in size (more or less, allowing for an extra semitone in the low register), but also that it quite accurately defines different levels of development and reflects how we use different playing techniques for mastering each register. With this in mind I would propose the following:

Altissimo is a term that is used with other instruments and has been used a few times in reference to brass too. I think it is particularly suiting for the range over G6 as the way that notes are produced above that pitch is not that same as in the high register. In fact it is more similar to how notes are played in the pedal registers as the instrument is behaving as a megaphone rather than a resonator. The point of rarefaction for setting up a standing wave in the tube has moved too far beyond the end of the bell for a player to feel and slot notes and for many this is experienced as a ceiling in developable range. If you are interested in this topic then I would recommend the following article [click] by Dr Richard Smith, or the scientific explanation in the beginning of Kristian Steenstrup’s book Teaching Brass.

Ending

I hope you’ve enjoyed my thoughts on this topic, and my attempts to write a shorter article. If you have anything to add then please feel free to comment below or get in touch. Like; Share; Reference; Please Subscribe… all of that!

~iii<0

Two exercises from Trumpet Yoga

Trumpet Yoga was one of Jerome Callet’s first books, the first edition was released in 1971. Outlined in the book is how one can develop their embouchure by holding the top lip in an unfurled position, which you discover through the use of double pedal note exercises using an Einsetzen-type embouchure. The second edition was published in 1986, strangely only a year before Superchops, which seemed to describe quite a different system. I don’t actually believe that there was an awful lot of difference from the resulting embouchures that would come from following either of these systems, but instead it shows a change in the focus of Callet’s instruction. Superchops was generally more focused upon how the lips move over the top teeth as you play across the range of the trumpet, although this idea is already mentioned in the second edition of Trumpet Yoga. Superchops also included some of the ideas, such as spit-buzzing, that later lead the the system that many refer to as TCE (a name thought up by Bahb Civiletti whilst working on the Trumpet Secrets book). I can’t avoid plugging my own book at this stage (click here) because its purpose was to make the information from Trumpet Yoga available again to the trumpet community.

As part of the process of writing Exploring The Double Pedal Register I took some time to re-write the text fromTrumpet Yoga. The reason for this was twofold. The text in that book is not actually very easy to understand because it often drifts between different topics within each paragraph. As well there are a few mistakes that you wouldn’t notice if you weren’t familiar with the system. I also wanted to make sure that I completely understood what Jerry was after back then, and how it compared to more recent ideas. I took the time to sort every sentence into categories so that you have a set of instructions relating to lips, air, jaw, tongue and method. I was pretty surprised in the end at how complete the instructions are when presented in a way that is easier to digest. It is my impression that Superchops is not so complete but I do intend doing going through the same process with that book too so I’ll report back once that is done.

The bulk of the method is based around the warm-up and lip conditioner mentioned above. Following that there are a number of exercises and melodies that will help a player to practise their upper register. Jerry makes it very clear that when working on this material your focus should be on tonal centre and perfect intonation. Hidden in the text besides the Einsetzen/Ansetzen exercises are couple exercises that I would like to share here as I think they are interesting and players may find them helpful.

The way that Jerry described breathing in Trumpet Yoga was much more similar to how some more traditional pedagogues may approach the subject. Whereas in his more recent work he puts a lot of emphasis on the avoidance of overblowing, stating that you only need about a third the amount of air that most would, in the earlier days he taught that you should “fill up as low as you can in the abdominal area … with a conscious effort towards more wind power”. Another key statement is this: “On intake of air the abdominal muscles are loose and relaxed. On exhale, abdominal muscles should be as firm as possible”. This shows that he had identified the role of the abdominal muscles in compressing air, an idea that wasn’t discussed much in the 1970s. Even today in some circles people with insufficient knowledge allude mysteriously to air support without even saying so much or even suggest the opposite action, mistakenly believing that the diaphragm has something to do with exhalation.

The first exercise is intended to teach you to identify the correct sensation for abdominal firmness. Lean backwards slowly until you are facing almost straight upwards. In this position notice how the abdominal muscles are stretched and firm. Try playing in the middle register whilst slightly leaning backwards and listen for how this effects quality of tone. Only do this for a short time so that you do not cause yourself injury! Once you are familiar with the feeling of firm abdominal muscles you should aim to use this as a means to generate air power. In his video Got High Notes? Lynn Nicholson mentions how he leans backwards slightly as he plays for this very reason. Interestingly I have also heard of a very similar exercise being used by clarinet players which involves holding a steady long tone whilst leaning forwards, backwards and rotating to both sides.

The second exercise is an isometric exercise for the lips. There are many forms of isometric exercises that are used by brass players. Most of them involve some kind of tool, such as a Warburton P.E.T.E., a pencil, or in some cases a mouthpiece. Bahb Civiletti recommends the use of a device that he calls Monster Chops (click for video), you can learn about from on his website. Depending on how you are trying to develop your facial muscles the intentions and instructions for the exercises may differ. For this exercise unroll both lips as much as you can (this is not the same as a pucker, the corners of the mouth do not move inwards and the chin should not be pulled flat), push the jaw forwards and close the teeth, push the lips together feeling the inner red part of the lips in contact with each other. Hold this squeeze for ten seconds at a time. It is easy to over-do isometric exercises so take it easy! When you are familiar with this sensation you could try it with the jaw open and pushing air through the unfurled lips. I believe that adding articulation to this isometric exercise may have been what first lead to developing the spit-buzz technique that has become an essential part of learning the Superchops system.

Admittedly both of these exercises are a little odd, but I have had use from them both. At the end of the day a lot of what we do as brass musicians could be seen by most as pretty strange. Although neither of these exercises would form a part of Jerry Callet’s current teaching, it is (for me at least) interesting to learn more about the history of his innovations.

As always please feel free to comment below, click Like and Share on social media, get in touch using the link above and enjoy learning about the trumpet!

Introducing my first ebook!

Regular followers of my blog will be aware that over the last few years it has really changed from its roots as a simple means for me to share idle thoughts and clips of recording experiments into a way for me to explain my somewhat alternative view on trumpet playing techniques and equipment. My most popular posts to date are the ones about Vincent Bach’s mouthpieces, the difference between trumpets and cornets and understanding Jerome Callet. I feel that a few of the gems have slipped by but this says a lot about how my views are alternative – if I were after a huge read count then I could write a lot of generic articles and have the most boring trumpet blog on the web…

A short while back I wrote a slightly ranty post about why I felt I should write a trumpet instruction book and I received quite a bit of positive feedback. Whilst that book has been started I have also been very busy in the last few months since I began teaching people the Tongue Controlled Embouchure over Skype. This has lead to me writing a series of exercises to give to my pupils when addressing development and awareness of their embouchure.

Another thing you may know about me is that over the last five years I have been quite an active member of the Trumpet Herald Forum (actually much less-so in the last six months for reasons explained here). I have spent many long hours reading through almost fifteen years worth of conversations about the Jerome Callet’s various methods and notes from lessons as his ideas developed during this time. The general views that this has lead me to are these: 1) Very few people can get what it’s all about because the information is insufficient. 2) There are not enough quality recordings of good professional brass musicians that use Callet’s techniques. 3) Because the ideas are contrary to many current brass teaching methods people aggressively deny their viability. I see the third of these as being the biggest problem and it is obviously a result of the first two. Seeing as I have the knowledge and experience to tackle these issues it has become a bit of a mission for me to try to take them on and so far I have begun in four ways.

  1. Last year I created the TCE-UK website. It is a factual, mostly static, website that exists for the purpose of explaining the Tongue Controlled Embouchure and attracting those interested to my other work.
  2. This blog has been operational for some time, and there are a series of posts that explain my philosophical approaches to playing and teaching.
  3. I recently began a new channel on YouTube. Although it is still in its infancy the idea is for it to be an informal collection of videos that show me practising and problem-solving using the TCE. The intention is for the videos to be unedited and contain explanations of how I use the TCE and associated exercises to improve my trumpet playing.
  4. I have written and self-published the first of a series of ebooks on the topic.

The fourth of these bullet points is the reason for this blog post. I would like to introduce you to my first ebook titled “Exploring The Double Pedal Register“. The purpose of this book is to share some of the ideas and a brand new set of exercises based upon Jerry Callet’s 1970s book Trumpet Yoga. Specifically these exercises focus on learning and using both the Einsetzen and Ansetzen embouchures as a way to develop your tone, power, range and endurance. I use these exercises every day as a part of my warm-up and doing so makes the process very quick and easy. I have opened a store on this site where you can purchase this ebook using PayPal. For any further information on this topic please be sure to read all of the linked posts, pages and videos in this post and as always feel free to get in touch.

And I would encourage you to VISIT MY STORE.

Do you know why?

Introduction

In recent months I have been teaching pupils about the Tongue Controlled Embouchure over Skype. This has been a really valuable experience for me as a teacher because it has enabled me to refine resources and see how a number of people respond to using them over time. For those that I am teaching their fees pay for three things. Access to resources without cost, the lesson itself, and a summary email in which I write in greater detail about the concepts that we have covered in the session. Something else that I’m gaining from the experience personally is affirmation that these techniques really work. It isn’t only that I happened to have stumbled across an esoteric method that works for me but I have taken this knowledge and managed to package it together in a way that is really helping people to improve their trumpet playing technique. That’s a good feeling.

A subject of conversation that tends to come up with some pupils fairly frequently is the one of how this information compares to the more traditional approaches and whether similar benefits would be found from practising any set of progressive exercises. Specifically there are three techniques that keep arising and those are to be the subject of this post. Since my switch to TCE I’ve adopted a pretty hardcore means to trimming down aspects of trumpet practise to make sure I get the most out of it. I have a simple rule that governs what I believe to be a no-nonsense strategy: If you’re practising a technique and don’t directly observe improvement to some aspect of your playing within two weeks you’re either doing it wrong or it doesn’t work.

Having this strategy means that you need to have a pretty fixed idea about the definition of improvement. At my stage of playing I keep an eye on a few things, in this order:

  1. Quality of tone
  2. General ease of playing
  3. Maintenance of or improvement in range

I actually think that these few things are all linked so I know just from listening whether I’ve upset the balance, or improved it.

With that in mind I invite you to ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do you know why you play pedal notes? What are they actually doing to your embouchure, and how is this benefiting your playing?
  2. Do you know why you practise bending notes off pitch centre and how (or if) it is improving your playing?
  3. Do you know why you buzz on the mouthpiece? Do you realise that in physical terms mouthpiece buzzing is not the same as playing your instrument and the ways that it could actually adversely affect your embouchure?

Mouthpiece Buzzing

This is a topic that is a little over discussed already. To date the trumpet community is still pretty divided on the topic. So far as I can see there are basically three opinions:

  1. Good: Buzzing is completely invaluable, Bud Herseth used to do it an hour a day, therefore so should you.
  2. Bad: Buzzing causes problems like too much lip tension and overblowing. It is also not the same thing as when you play the instrument.
  3. Ugly: It’s pointless. Don’t do it.

In a masterclass with trumpeter Jim Watson I remember him once saying that he wouldn’t waste time practising anything that he wouldn’t need to do on stage. The attitude would eliminate the need for mouthpiece buzzing, and echoes the thoughts of some other popular schools of trumpet pedagogy. Those who support buzzing believe that you are refining both your aural skills and your embouchure co-ordination. Some also use mouthpiece buzzing as a way to improve breath control.

Having spent a lot of time doing this myself I wouldn’t really deny that people could benefit in these ways from the practice, but in recent years I have come to believe that buzzing on the mouthpiece can have negative consequences too. The famous American teacher Bill Adam advocated the practice of buzzing pitches on the lead pipe. Because there is a column of air in the lead pipe your lips are vibrating in sympathy, more similarly to when you play the whole instrument. In order to keep this true, however, there would only be about four notes that you should play on the lead pipe and many who buzz in this way are bending things all over the place by trying to play scales and melodies.

This is the problem with mouthpiece buzzing in general. Because of the length of the tube there is no pitch centre. Therefore your lips cannot vibrate in sympathy with the column of air and it is necessary for you to tense the lips and overblow for any tone to be produced. If this approach lines up with your understanding of how to play the instrument then your stamina and range are going to be quite seriously restricted. It’s basically a brute force approach to playing.

The Buzzing Book by James Thompson describes how buzzing on the mouthpiece will enable a player to develop their aperture and air control in order to enable them to play in pitch centre, but considering that there is no pitch centre without a length of tube this seems to be a bit of a contradiction. Whilst reading through this book for research I stumbled across a pitch-bending exercise that I once saw a student practising as part of their warm-up. When I asked them about it they couldn’t explain why they were doing it or whether they felt that it helped them to play better. I would argue that even the uncertainty is reason enough to stop doing it, but this person was not my pupil so I only hope that our conversation provoked them to quiz their teacher for further details. Many of the exercises in Thompson’s book are recommended that you play first on the mouthpiece and then on the trumpet. I’m sure that they can help people by increasing awareness of how it feels to play the instrument when doing these exercises but I also think that many are confused into believing that there is an esoteric muscle development or tissue manipulation that will improve their sound and other aspects of playing over a long period of time. Personally I just don’t think that’s true.

There are other methods of buzzing without the instrument such as free “loose-lip” buzzing, spit buzzing and Lynn Nicholson’s Rimpet/HMH. These are also interesting techniques, but I’d go way over my word-limit if I started on about all that!

Pitch Bending

Pitch bending is the process of playing a note and then using the embouchure to force the pitch away from the resonant centre until you reach the pitch of a different note. As a brief co-ordination exercise it can have value in teaching people to hear and feel what it is like to play in tune verses playing out of tune. However, as part of daily practise I think that it is pretty detrimental. I’ve heard it said in a lecture that note bending “trains the fine muscles in your lips to improve control and tone”. I’d love to know exactly which muscles they are. In fact I’m very confident that no such muscles exist and this was somebody’s attempt to explain something they don’t understand by talking nonsense until everybody listening is in such awe of their “knowledge” that they submit to believing that they just aren’t experienced enough to understand.

Consider the idea that by bending notes off pitch centre there are two things that need to take place:

  1. You are forcing the lips to work against the physics of the instrument.
  2. In order for the lips to vibrate contrary to the resonant frequency (pitch) of the air column you need to blow more air.

Even without my critical analysis of the technique please answer me this question: Why would you want to dedicate time and effort to improving your ability to play out of tune with a bad sound? Do people not have enough intonation problems without them spending time cultivating the ability?

As with the mouthpiece buzzing, these sorts of exercises can help somebody to hear and feel what it is like to play on pitch, but as a mundane routine without measurable improvement I cannot see any longer-term advantage. Many people are promoting the idea of wrestling the instrument under control as though it’s a battle of player vs trumpet. None of the world’s best players think that way.

Pedal Notes

As you may have seen in a previous post of mine playing pedal notes is a part of the TCE practise routine. However the method that I teach is vastly different from those you see in the school of Louis Maggio, Claude Gordon or James Stamp. These, the more traditional advocates, define pedal tones as including pitches moving chromatically downwards from the trumpet’s lowest available pitch and spending time cultivating a strong pedal C, among other things. I’ll spare you all the rant about why I believe pedal C to be a pointless venture as I’m sure you could find it elsewhere in my writings, but we do need to think for a minute about how these pedal notes are produced.

The first step to playing pedal notes is to find the first pedal note, F. This is first achieved by playing a low F-sharp and bending it downwards by a semitone. Once this “lip position” is secure then you have to fight the instrument to produce this same pitch on the “correct fingering”: just the first valve. When you were playing the F on all three valves you were only bending the pitch off centre by a semitone. When you play it with only the first valve you are now bending the note off centre by a Perfect 4th. When settled with this procedure you can keep adding valves to find your way chromatically down to pedal C-sharp. The pedal C is a whole different beast because you are actually bending a pitch, which is an octave lower than the low F-sharp, upwards by a tritone. It is hard to do because your lips want to vibrate in sympathy with the air column at a pitch an octave higher (i.e. low C). Anyway… we now have enough information to see that yet again the general theme here is forcing the instrument to produce notes off-centre, working against how the instrument is designed to function and in all likelihood overblowing as a means to grapple it under control.

What it really brings into question however, is why people believe there to be benefit to doing these things. When you play pedal notes in the traditional way the instructions given are often pretty strict about maintaining the same embouchure as you descend. Whereas with einsetzen/ansetzen exercises the player discovers a balanced lip position, develops efficient use of air and learns how to play across their range with minimal mouthpiece pressure. There don’t appear to be any detailed justifications for the traditional method at all. Is that why people are divided about whether or not we should bother doing it? There’s just no evidence that it works. There is often illusion to relaxing the lips and aligning the jaw, but both of those things are contradicted when you consider that tradition approaches to playing also advocate tight mouth corners and tongue level (using the tongue level to manipulate pitch results in movement of the jaw). Jeff Smiley has a section in his book where he describes how many mistake cause for effect when coming up with playing techniques. However you should strive to make up your own mind. Apply the strategy above and see whether or not you see measurable short-term improvement.

Conclusion

So there we have it… if nothing else this post is intended as food for thought. Even if it serves no purpose than to force those who take a different approach than me to consider and justify the reasons that they practise these things then that justifies me taking the time to write it. But it would be really good if some readers can take the time to honestly look at the time and effort you put into your maintenance routines and ask yourself:

“Are these exercises actually making me into a better player? Have my tone, power, range and endurance been the same for a decade or more? Do these exercises help me at all? What would happen if I were to just stop doing them?”

With information about modern approaches to playing being freely available online I believe that it’s only a matter of time before we realise that much of the teaching techniques, gimmicks and accessories that we used in the twentieth century were just a stepping stone to what we have now and that players can just stop wasting countless hours in the practise room cultivating destructive skills and instead spend the time playing challenging music.

~iii<0

A Follow-up on Tone, Cornets and Mouthpieces

The purpose of this post is a brief follow-up on some previous articles. It’s a bit of a rant, but in this case I feel it’s necessary.

I have recently seen some people discussing one of my posts on an internet forum and there are a couple of things that I would like to address. The post in question is titled Trumpet vs Cornet, and why it’s important. If you haven’t read that then click here to have a quick look. Some people had expressed confusion about a statement I had made in terms of cornet embouchure and because I was happy with the blog post at the time of publishing I don’t want to re-write it. What I’ll do instead is give a less formal summary of the main point in that article to make sure that it is clear.

First of all it is worth me pointing out that this is my opinion, and it is also more of a philosophical point than one describing an instrument’s limitations. I must stress, however, that this is an opinion that I have developed over a period of twenty-five years as a performer on both the trumpet and the cornet, seventeen of which I have been a working professional player in a variety of genres of music. I am also a specialist embouchure and technique teacher who works with people around the world. I write these things because I am trying to help people to improve their understanding of the instruments they play so that they don’t waste decades trying to smack a square peg into a round hole. I genuinely believe that somebody can improve their playing instantly by changing their ideas because I have done exactly that. The vast majority of people out there discussing trumpet playing on the internet are sharing old, dated concepts and they are very defensive of these ideas. I have worked on my playing with really forward-thinking teachers who have decades of experience proving that traditional trumpet teaching simply does not work for the majority. Now that I’ve said this piece I will leave it up to you to decide whether you wish to take notice of what I have to share and good luck to you if you don’t.

In the Trumpet vs Cornet article my main points were these:

  1. Modern trumpets and cornets are more similar than different and one of the main ways to distinguish between them is the mouthpiece. Despite that fact, players love to use the same type of mouthpiece for both and as a result limit their abilities on both instruments.
  2. Taking a historically informed approach to performing on these instruments has lead me to believe that whilst it is the correct decision to switch to a shorter cornet (E-flat soprano being the most common) to facilitate playing with finesse in the high register it is not the correct thing to do on a trumpet.
  3. The tonal qualities of these two instruments should be noticeably different to a non-musician. The cornet was designed for lyrical chromatic playing in the low and middle register and in contrast the trumpet should sound brilliant and strident. It is those qualities that facilitate playing well in the high register on the trumpet but it does require far greater embouchure control. Simply switching to a shorter instrument makes a strong embouchure seem unnecessary, but you’re really just hiding from your problems…
  4. Many players out there make a great cornet sound on the trumpet and wonder why they cannot play well in the high register. This is my answer to that question.

Point 4 on this list brings us full-circle back to the issue of appropriate mouthpiece selection. And that in turn brings up the issue of correct tone concept.

The sound that a brass instrument produces is a composite of the fundamental pitch and a series of overtones above it. When a player makes an effort to play with a “dark tone” they are effectively putting a premium on the fundamental pitch and killing off the overtones. This is making the sound less resonant. Also, if there are no high overtones then they are not available to be excited and therefore producing high pitches on the instrument is much more difficult. Whenever a trumpet player starts chatting with me about blending with trombones I always ask them when they last heard an oboe player talking about making their instrument sound like a bassoon, or a violinist trying to sound like a cello… Even in the homogenous sound of a brass band it wouldn’t work if the soprano cornet was trying to sound like a flugelhorn.

Generally people believe that there is a trade-off to be had between having a pleasing sound and being able to play well in the high register but I believe this to be a misnomer. Something that I mentioned in my article about mouthpieces was that as a general rule those who favour large mouthpieces really struggle to produce a good tone on something smaller, but the opposite is rarely true (In his book The Balanced Embouchure Jeff Smiley writes about this being a byproduct the embouchure’s ability to “focus”). I think that at this point in time there are so few people that use really small equipment to play classical music that there simply aren’t enough use cases for comparison, however there are plenty of experienced professionals out there talking about this idea. There is a pretty widely-discussed article by Jens Lindemann on the topic, and also there have been recent podcast interviews with people such as Mark Gould and Jim Pandolfi when the subject of players not understanding trumpet sound comes up. As a final example, here is a quote from an article by Mark Van Cleave on the same subject:

It is unfortunate that many players and teachers automatically go for the wide/deep cups to produce a big fat orchestral sound. It is interesting to know that some of the players that DEFINED the orchestral sound such as Harry Glanz played a Bach 6C through out his career in New York. and Adolph Herseth won his job in Chicago playing a Bach 7B. Herseth went to a larger cup later in his career in order to accommodate scar tissue that he had developed due to an automobile accident he had in the early 50’s which severely injured his chops. Funny thing… Shortly after Herseth made the switch to a larger mouthpiece (for physical reasons), orchestral players in Boston and New York began to go larger as well. I can’t help wonder what THEIR reasons were.

So anyway… Just to top all of this part off I think I should also point out that all of my statements here are in reference to using an instrument in its most common setting. I am capable of producing the same range of notes on a cornet as I am a trumpet, and I can play the same range of notes on a Schilke 24 as I can on a 6A4a but I wouldn’t be able to practise baroque concertos on a standard B-flat trumpet (which I do) if I were using a Bach 1C for everything (which I don’t) and nor would I be able to produce an appropriate sound in a salsa band. I never need to play above high C or D on a B-flat cornet so I’m going to pick equipment that helps me sound best on a lyrical cornet solo. It’s all about making informed choices and realising where you got your information from.

If a guy in a shop is telling you that something is a “Best Seller“, is that just because he told the same thing to the last fifty people that walked through the door? The biggest brass retailer in the south-west of England only stocks mouthpieces that players traditionally buy – that’s why people only buy those mouthpieces from them… if they want something better they go elsewhere. Never listen to a salesman for specialist equipment advise because their area of expertise is sales, not music. There are great players who also sell equipment, but they can always demonstrate why they’re telling you something. Ask for a demonstration. If somebody cannot show you why their advise is correct then it probably isn’t.

Finally I should be addressing the fact that I was accused of historical inaccuracy. When I make statements on this blog I back them up with quotes and references to books. I go out of my way to find examples of the ideas I share being discussed by those in both the traditional and alternative pedagogical circles. I even pride myself on this fact. I always make a point of inviting people to comment on my blog posts and would welcome questions from the genuinely curious or even those who disagree if they’re willing to engage in rational conversation. If there are errors then I am more than happy to edit or retract statements I’ve made. It was the ability to admit that I didn’t know enough that put me on the path of learning that has resulted in this blog being possible.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. I hope that my thoughts on the subjects addressed are now clearer. If in doubt please comment below, get in touch via contact button.

~iii<0