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”…..at 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.