Franquin, transposing trumpets, Bahb Civiletti & the TCE

Recently I’ve been reading a little about the old French trumpet player and pedagogue Merri Franquin. In 1912 he invented a four-valved trumpet in C. The fourth valve worked differently from the standard three in that it raised the pitch of the trumpet by a tone – like a backwards first valve. The purpose of this valve was twofold. First of all it enabled the player to play a trill on any note using this valve; and secondly it addressed the tuning issues on the low D and D-flat. The advent of the movable valve slides (credited to Theo Charlier in 1900) solved this issue in a mechanically simpler way and combined with many players seeing the new trumpet as a “cheater’s instrument” (where have we heard that before?!!) it never gained widespread popularity.

Something else that was common at that time was trumpets with a A/B-flat transposition key. You can still find these instruments on eBay and lying in cupboards but unfortunately they’re rarely in good playing condition.
Today I dug out one such trumpet in a school that I teach at. It’s a small bore instrument with fixed valve slides and a crumbled bell. It’s quite a leaky trumpet at the tone it produces is pretty fluffy as a result. An interesting thing is that because of the bore size it fits nicely into my model “long trumpet with a small mouthpiece” preference that I mentioned in my previous post about mouthpieces.

To show how this works I made a short video of me playing an excerpt of Telemann’s Trumpet Concerto in D that you will find below. The video doesn’t have any talking on it so I will give a  short explanation here:
In a lesson with Bahb Civiletti last year he suggested to me that in order to gain the accuracy, centered pitch and stamina for baroque music I should practice all piccolo pieces on the standard B-flat trumpet. To many this will sound ridiculous, but playing with the Tongue Controlled Embouchure allows me to do this without the physical effort that most use to play in the high register.
In this demonstration you will see me play an excerpt from Telemann’s concerto, ascending to an F above Double C on a century-old, worn-out, leaking trumpet in A.

For more information about the Tongue Controlled Embouchure visit http://tonguecontrolled.info/

For more about Bahb Civiletti visit http://tce-studio.com/

Enjoy! ~iii<0

My Visit To Stomvi

In the first week of September I took a trip to the Stomvi factory in Valencia, Spain. I was long overdue a new trumpet (the subject of another upcoming blog post). This is the story of that day.

I had exchanged a few emails with Vicente Honorato in advance so when I arrived at the factory I was already expected. I was shown to a practise room in the recently renovated section of the building and then stood while people covered the table in front of me with instruments, bells and tuning slides. I was then left to my own devices.

I had a list of music to play on my laptop and had allowed myself to bring three mouthpieces with me (Warburton 4M/KT, Austin Custom Brass TA-Lead and Jerome Callet Superchops 3). The instruments I’d been left were:

  • Titán 27/1
  • Titán 27/3
  • Titán 25/3
  • Master (27 Copper, 27 Bellflex, 25 Copper, 25 Bellflex / 1,3 / Heavy and Titanium trim kits)
  • VRII (a.k.a. Velociraptor), standard weight.

You may be wondering what all these numbers mean, so here’s a quick explanation:

The point of the Master trumpet is that it comes with interchangeable bells and leadpipes. The bells are the same size at either end, but the number refers to the its shape. The 25 bell has a more gradual flare and the 27 flares more like an exponential curve. Each bell is then available in silver-plate copper or gold-plate Bellflex. Bellflex is Stomvi’s proprietary brass alloy which gives the instruments a rich colourful tone. The no.1 leadpipe has a more open taper and no.3 is tighter. There is also a 23 bell, that is normally sold as the smaller option for trumpets in C – I chose not to test this option.

The Titán trumpets come in one piece, but are made from the same bells and leadpipes as the Master. Whereas the Master has a tuning bell and once-piece leadpipe that goes all of the way to the valves (in the way that Schilke suggested is the best design for a leadpipe in this article), the Titán has the more traditional style tuning slide but has the option of being rounded or half-square to adjust the feel.

After a bit of playing I was offered the chance to go on a free tour of the factory. This was a great opportunity that I’m glad I took. There are no cameras allowed in the factory so I cannot share any photos of that. We were shown all of the machinery and workstations where each part of the instruments are made. Various processes that I had read about or learnt about on the repair course last year I saw for the first time and it is much clearer to me now how these things are done. The processes that I found most interesting were the making of valves and bells. I was overwhelmed by the care and attention that went into every little step of hand-building every part of every instrument that Stomvi sells. I genuinely don’t believe that this is possible for larger, better-known instrument manufacturers and is one of the reasons that I am so happy with my choice of Stomvi. This is not a paid endorsement – I am not sponsored by Stomvi; I just believe in their work.

The rest of my day was spent playing various trumpets with various styles of music. Most of what I played was from the Trumpet Evolution book by Arturo Sandoval, 36 Études Transcendantes by Theo Charlier, and various pages from The TCE Training Manual by Bahb Civiletti. It didn’t take me much time to set aside the Titán trumpets – not because they were bad in any way, but because the Master was better suited to my needs.

My use case is a bit different from most. In my freelance work I could be playing with a rock band one night and a choral society the next morning (this happens more often than I’m happy about!). Whilst both of these could be achieved with the same middle-of-the-road instrument, that instrument would not be ideal for either situation. As a professional player I see my sound as my calling card and making a compromise on this is not really acceptable, particularly if I am spending €3000 on a new trumpet. With the Master you have effectively four instruments in one, and this made it the ideal choice for me. Unfortunately this wrote off the option of buying the VRII trumpet as well.

The Velociraptor trumpet is a special beast. It’s described as a great all-round trumpet, but I couldn’t shake the idea that it is really intended for commercial music. Attacks are super clean and the projection is outstanding, literally. I noticed that whatever I played on this trumpet was a noticeable degree louder than the others. That means it is more efficient. In the Stomvi catalogue the VRII is listed as Polybore, which means that the bore size varies throughout the instrument. In the past I owned a trumpet that was designed for orchestral playing and I struggled playing other styles of music on it. I feared that this trumpet would present me with the opposite problem and backed away. There are some video clips of me playing the Velociraptor and I think that in future I would consider a VRII for my next trumpet.

So, overall the point of this blog post is to share the videos that I made that day. Once I had homed in on the Master as my choice of trumpet I had to try the various configurations and decide which parts I wanted to take away with me. Part of the advantage to actually going to the factory is that I had a wider range of options for parts than if I’d bought this trumpet from a dealer. I chose to buy the 25 and 27 bells both made from Bellflex brass. I found that they had a warmer sound than the silver-plated copper, and that generally I could control the intonation more easily. I noticed afterwards, when editing the videos, that the clips of me playing with the copper bells and titanium trim kit have a few split notes and duff articulations that just didn’t happen with the heavy trim kit or brass bells.

After I bought my trumpet I had a chat with Luis Martínez Martínez (Trumpet player, Brilliant Magnus Quintet) about all of the instruments that they are developing at Stomvi. He showed me a four-valved Titán Cornet in B-flat and said that you can order an instrument in any standard key with four valves and explained how Stomvi believes that this will change the way composers will view trumpets in future. It’s an interesting idea, and I’m glad to be alive at a time when there are so many innovative instrument designers trying new things.

Disclaimer: Although I am generally happy with my playing in these clips, it needs to be pointed out that I was switching mouthpieces and instruments every few minutes for hours on end… This is really confusing for the face and because of that my co-ordination and consistency wasn’t what it usually is. I’m sure that by the standards of most it sounds just fine, but for the sake of the critics out there: this is not an accurate representation of my best playing.

As always, please comment below and share as much as you like. ~iii<0

Trumpet in G Project

Image above: A dismantled Soprano Bugle.

A couple of months ago I decided to dismantle and re-assemble an old Soprano Bugle that had bought on eBay in 2007. At first things were going well. I removed some dents, rebuilt the tuning slide, patched over a hole using a small copper ring and added an Amado water key. When it came to fixing the bell I realised after reshaping it that it was beyond repair. For reasons unknown to me it rings and buzzes in ways that it shouldn’t. As it happened I had a spare old trumpet in the garage and so I took the bell from that and put it onto the body of the bugle. To my surprise this bell made the old instrument sound much better so my project evolved into something else.

After making this trumpet I wrote a long list of reasons why using a lower-pitched trumpet in G is a good idea and I think I may refine and publish that at another date. When I started to write that blog post it turned out that I needed a series of other blog posts to already exist to explain the concepts that I mentioned in the list. That’ll just have to be a work in progress for now.

Since making this instrument I have tried playing a wide variety of music on it. I practised Bach’s B minor mass for a few days. Music written for trumpet in D or C end up in comfortable keys (G or F major respectively) when transposing on a trumpet in G. Upon realising that I needed to build my stamina a bit I began instead to playing from a French horn tutor book. I was transposing in a way such that a written middle C would be played as the 3rd available open note, thus meaning that the fingering would be the same as in the tutor book. Essentially this is how you would read music for a natural trumpet in G (a high key for a natural trumpet and not an instrument that existed historically), except you also have the facility of the valves to add chromaticism. Doing this really helped to develop my ear for this instrument as well as develop some familiarity with the harmonics being closer together at the lower pitch.

Below: some photos of the finished instrument.

UMSV7396In the last few days I have made some recordings of myself playing some orchestral repertoire using this trumpet. I don’t believe it would be appropriate to play music written post-1900, but anything before then is fair game. I chose the Leonore calls by Beethoven, because they are ideal for instantly hearing the different tonal qualities of this trumpet, and I also chose excerpts from Chabrier’s España, which has parts for both  B-flat Cornet and Trumpet in F. I played the trumpet parts on the trumpet in G and the Cornet parts on the trumpet in B-flat (my Rudy Mück). I hope you enjoy listening to them. As always I welcome comments. ~iii<0

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I used GarageBand for these recordings and a Shure SM57 microphone.

Trumpet Fantasy

Last year a friend and colleague of mine wrote this piece of music and we made a recording. Seeing as I haven’t posted it on here yet I think it’s about time that I do.
The piece is called Trumpet Fantasy by Matthew Dury.
Update: the sheet music for this piece is now available for purchase. Click here for more detatils.
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To hear more of Matt’s compositions head over to his new website! http://www.newsongmusic.co.uk/