How To Add Emotion To Your Performance

We, as trumpet players are at a great disadvantage when it comes to expressing emotion in our performances. When we listen to a fine vocalist, we are impressed with the passion the song brings but when we perform the same song on trumpet, we fall short. Why does this happen? The difference is in the use of the words. If the same vocalist would substitute numbers or letters for the text, the trumpet and voice would be on the same playing field and I would tend to believe that the trumpet would win in a contest of emotions for we have more power. So how can we tap into this emotional store house so that the trumpet would be able to add more excitement to every performance?

Have you ever performed the Lord’s Prayer on trumpet? If you have, you realize that we can utilize words to our advantage. As the trumpet begins to build in the section “for Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory for”… the syllables ev-er, you should have everyone in the audience in the palm of your hand for as you were playing the phrase, everyone in the room was singing the words to themselves. On playing the word for..ever, you had just experience the power of the word over the power of the note. I have been using this word power with my students for years and have seen some miraculous changes in their ability to play with more feeling and emotion.

Many years ago I was working with a Jr. High student who performed with the same excitement as wet tissue paper. Everything I ask him to do he did and to no avail. During one of those uninspiring lessons I asked him to go home and write words to the notes he was preparing in his contest solo. The next week he returned and when asked him to play his solo, he began. The sound and excitement was overpowering. I was shocked and amazed and I asked him what he had done during the past week. He reported that he did as I had instructed (which was also a shock) and had placed words where the notes were. I asked him what the words said and with a sheepish grin, he began to describe a fireplace, two glasses of wine, and a couple in front of the fire place. I stopped him at that point and wondered how old he really was. Before substituting words, this young man was only playing notes. After the substitution he began to play with more feeling, and what a remarkable change that was. From that point on I began to instruct my less musical students to use the word substitution method. I use it myself and to give you an example of how this can be done I have selected the following material.

How to get the most out of the second movement of the Haydn Trumpet Concerto.

I am using the first four phrases of the Haydn for most trumpet players are familiar with the music. This movement begins with a slow melody which to me seems to tell a story of sadness and grief. To select the appropriate words you first have to put yourself in that frame of mind. I would begin the story as being told by a single, old man, alone in a empty room. In his hand is a picture of his aged wife who has recently passed away. Stay with me folks, I have not lost my mind, yet.

Now we will build the word picture for our solo.

“Oh, how I miss you my love, my wife. So long we were lovers through all of our lives.

Life has less meaning without you at my side for you are not with me and my sorrow I hide”.

This in no way illustrates fine poetry but you should be able to grasp the intent of the exercise. Emotion can be more completely expressed with words than with musical notes and if words are attached to notes and the performer tells the musical story with these substitutions, more feeling will be imparted.

As an added benefit, by substituting words for notes it becomes much easier to memorize your music. The text tends to pull you along through the story.

This approach as I have indicated earlier has had a great impact on my playing as well as my students performances and I hope it can be helpful in your performances as well.

I Can’t Get Air Through My Horn!

This is a very common concern for many young players and the solution is very simple. If your instrument was working before you oiled your valves and then after oiling them your instrument will not allow any air to be blown through it, you either have one or more of your valves in the wrong valve casing or your valves are incorrectly positioned in its own valve casing.

Solution to your problem-

Check to see if your valves are in the correct valve casing-

Check on each of your valves for a stamped number. Usually they can be found on the upper section of the shiny part that you push into the valve casing. Each valve’s number will tell you which casing it should be placed in. i.e. first valve in the first casing, second in the second and the third in the third casing. If your valves are in the correct casings, then you need to find out if each of the valves is in the correct position within each valve casing.

Check to see if your valves are in the correct position within each valve casing-

Most modern valves have one or two alignment extensions which are to slide into corresponding slots in each valve casing. Sometimes the valve is inserted into the casing incorrectly and the holes in the tubing will not line up with the holes in each valve which causes the air to be stepped-up as you blow into your instrument. The quickest and easiest way I have found to indicate which of your valves need to be rotated is blow air into your instrument as you one by one depress your valves down. The valve that sounds different from the others will be the one that needs to be rotated. Sometimes you may have two or even all three valves incorrectly positioned and you will have to continue the blowing and turning until your problem has been corrected.

This is one of the most common problems beginning player have so remember this solution so that you can help another trumpet player in your section later this year.

For additional hints of trumpet problems, you might be interested in this post-

Help! Emergency Trumpet Repair Tips

What is a Schilbach?

In everyone’s life, there are things which we hold dear. It might be a sunset shared by a loved one. It might have been a soft touch from a very special persons hand upon yours. But to a trumpet player, it’s always that perfect trumpet. This is where my story begins.

Early in the 1970’s I purchased what I thought would be my first and last C trumpet. Unfortunately, we did not get along very well. I expected more out of my new Bach CL 229L than it could offer me. And being the true hearted Schilke advocate that I was, a trip into Chicago to visit Mr. Schilke was required. When I asked if I could trade my new Bach in for a new Schilke C, his response was true to the gentleman’s nature, “Why would I want one of those things”? I was very disappointed until he pointed me into another room and began to show me a trumpet he was completing for another player. It was a Bach but several modifications had been made to it including rounding out the oval tubing in the final bend in the bell, replacing the original lead pipe with a new Schilke pipe and converting the conventional bell to a tunable bell. Mr. Schilke handed me the horn, closed the door and said nothing. I put a mouthpiece into the bare brass trumpet and instantly fell in love. It took me no more than two minutes playing the instrument to know that I wanted that horn. Unfortunately I was not able to leave with that one but Mr. Schilke assured me that he could build another just like it in fact there were a few changes he would make on mine that were not done on the original Schilbach. I left his shop with amazement and wonder. Would mine be as good? Could it even turn out better? All that night I had visions on semiquavers dancing in my head.

When my new Schilbach arrived at my office, I was elated with my decision to convert the Bach. The horn was and is fantastic. Intonation problems were substantially improved even to the point that on fast passages the top E and Eb could be played with the conventional fingering. It performed like a finely tuned sports car. I was in love. Now on to faze two. While warming up in a practice room somewhere in America getting ready to play on a Festival of Trumpet program at one of the International Trumpet Festivals, I noticed Mr. Gerald Endsley from Tromba Press warming up next to my room. The extra number of lead pipes on his horn caught my eye and I began visiting with him on the sensibility of such a move. By the time we had finished our conversation, I was sold on the concept and started planning phase two of my trumpets life.

As soon as I got back to the university, I made a call to my good friend Merlin Grady from Grady Instrument Service, Inc., or as well call him, Merlin “the magician”. Merlin’s magical repairman ability is such that he could build a trumpet out of old chicken parts. I called Merlin and explained to him what I wanted done. I still had the original Bach lead pipe and tuning slide so all he had to do was figure out how it would all go together, and he did. Having two lead pipes with accompanying tuning slide makes it possible to have two different trumpets at your disposal. Using the Schilke lead pipe and tuning slide gave me a Schilke sound and response. Placing the mouthpiece in the Bach lead pipe and tuning slide gave me a more compact, Bach sound. Now I had the best of both worlds, plus better intonation than either a Bach or a Schilke.

My Schilbach will be the last trumpet I sell and the only reason I might sell it will be because I will be too old to pucker. Our love affair is still going strong and now in our trumpet ensemble (the Branson Trumpet Ensemble) I’m constantly looking for literature that will allow me to pull it out, oil it up and live the dream again.