American Pride Part 2

Many commented on my first American Pride post and I thank you all for your support. There was one reader who missed my true intent for he interpreted my comments as being anti-America in nature. I can assure you that I have as much pride in our country as the next person and that was the reason that I wrote my article. I am proud of the USA and wish it to regain its place in the world market. My use of the video in the first post was to draw attention to the efforts in music of other nations and because of the one person who did not understand my reasoning for using a performing group from another country, I very proudly offer this video as an example of what is currently being done to educate our youth in the art of music in this country.

I apologize for running this post before my next article on multi-tracking, but I thought this would be a good time to show just how proud I am of the United States of America.

I have visited with these men earlier for they have been strong supporters of our sister blog trumpetensemblemusic.com for some time. I also want to point out that they are spearheading an effort to break the Guinness Book of World Records at an upcoming concert in their town. Please take note of the time and place for this event and if you are available to support them, either with your attendance and participation or in a financial way, they would greatly appreciate it.

Multi-tracking- Part 1 Using Click Tracks

We have had many responses to our post describing the use of the Audacity software and for that reason; I thought it would be time to discuss some of the advantages as well as the disadvantages of multi-tracking.

Multi-tracking is a technique where several recordings (tracks) are combined in order to augment instrumentation and add to the thickness of a recording. Some use the technique of over dubbing to fatten a sound and some use it to utilize a copied track for adding effects. I will first describe the use of multi-tracking in order to play duets, trios, quartet, etc. by you.

Milti-tracking one person in order to add parts.

The number of parts you are able to add to your original track or recording is only limited by your program and/or your computer. Audacity is limitless but some of the midi composing programs might be limited as in the case of Finale Song Writer which I use most of the time. Song Writer is limited to only eight tracks at one time.

In order to record over an existing track or channel, you will have to play back the original at the same time that you record the new channel. This is not new to most of you, but I have found a few tricks which has made my recordings much easier.

Using Click Tracks

A click track is what is needed in order to keep all of the parts lined up rhythmically and without it, multi-tracking is nearly impossible. In Audacity, or which ever program you are using, you first have to lay down your click track. In Audacity, you’ll find that at the top row under the title “Generate”/ Generate click track. Indicate the tempo you would like to record and if you’re recording something difficult, lower the tempo a little for after you have finished recording, you have the option of increasing the speed.
In the Beats per measure box, enter your time signature. If you are recording something with meter changes, (3/4, 5/4, 9/4) enter one beat per measure and you’ll be able to keep it all together during your recording.

If you are adding tracks to an existing midi file or composition you have sequenced in another program, you first have to bring that file into Audacity. To do this, go to Project/Import Audio. There you will be able to bring in your existing files to use as a basis for your over tracking. One hint you might find helpful is when you are doing your score from a sequencing program (Song Writer), add four or eight measures to the front of your composition and add notes to establish your tempo. What I do is enter a scale in the key of the composition i.e. CDEFGFEDCGC rest. This will line up with the click tract that you add in Audacity and it gives you an obvious countdown when you begin to record your part. The rest is there to make sure the introductory notes are not on your final recording.

One of the problems I have had while dubbing in parts is the problem with the headphone cord. No matter what I’m doing or where I am in my recording room, I always found my headphone chord rapped around something. I solved that with a wireless set of phones. Now I can walk around the room listening or place myself in a better location to record my instrument. My pair cost about $45 and is worth every penny of it. I can also put my playback on constant and listen to my playback anywhere in the house.

Interesting Video

With all of the fine trumpet players in the world today, it is a challenge to decide which ones to feature. Making my decision this time was much easier for I have a vested interest in this gentleman.

His name is John Hess and he was kind enough to send me this video which he recorded/performed and produced using one of my arrangements.

Sometimes it’s nice to pat yourself on the back as long as you can control your ego.

I was very impressed with John’s credentials and I hope you enjoy his video. I know I did and I’m sure Bobby Vinton would also.

Using Technology to Improve Your Trumpet Playing- Playing duets by yourself

Ensemble playing has many benefits including attention to pitch, better concept of time and a more musical environment. The problem arises when, at 10:00 PM at night, you decide to call a friend to come over and play duets with you and your only response is a loud click at the other end of the line.

Recording yourself playing one or two parts of duets or trios can be very helpful for it forces you to keep time and play in tune. I have used this practice routine for many years and have found it to be very beneficial. Below I will give some suggestions as to how you can use the practice and I’m sure many of you would be able to add to the list.

Simple Duets

If you have a tape or digital recorder the only other equipment needed would be a metronome to keep it all together. Place the recorder or microphone close to your metronome so that the recorded trumpet sounds and the metronome are of equal volume. In many duets, the first part has most of the melody so record the second part first. Record and play back to begin your ensemble rehearsal.

Simple trios

Trios will require a recording program such as Audacity, for multiple channels will be required. Audacity has the capability to “lay down” a click track so a metronome is not required. Head phones will be necessary in order to separate the play back sound from your new recording.

More complex ensembles

Again, the Audacity program will enable you to stack as many parts as your computer can handle. In addition to the added number of parts or tracks, the program will enable you to add special effects to your original recordings which will improve even the worst sound in the world. CAUTION- once you get to this point in your practicing, you may find that you are spending more time with the toys than you are playing your instrument.
Using your recordings to improve your endurance and range
This section is very important for it can change your outlook on practicing. You can use prerecorded etude material as well as ensemble material. I developed this concept while preparing for an upcoming bout with the Ringling Brothers Circus many years ago. I needed to improve my endurance so that I would be able to live through a week of the circus in Iowa. If you are not aware of the old days of circus playing, you only need to know that it is constant and more constant playing with the mouthpiece buried into your lip. Follow the instructions below and you will be able to build more endurance than you thought possible.

How to build “King Kong” Chops

• Set your recording equipment up to record one part and a metronome.
• Start with an easy book of etudes- First Book of Practical Studies for Cornet and Trumpet by Robert W. Getchell works great.
• Record the first line along with a metronome and rest through the second line with the metronome continuing.
• Record the third line and continue for one-half hour.
• The next day, record the Second Book of Practical Studies for Cornet and Trumpet or finish Book 1 in the same manner (play a line and rest a line).
• The third day, restart your first tape and play the lines that you rested two days before.
• The fourth day, play your second taped session.

This is the procedure that you will be using. You record the first line of an etude book and the next day you play the even number of lines. Some of the benefits you will experience are an increase in your ability to sight-read because of the added amount of material covered, your increased attention to counting for you will need to come in at the correct time on each line. Additional advantages include increased attention to: pitch, intonation, tone and attacks for you are constantly listening to yourself in each play back line. Those are some of the musical advantages- and now for the physical advantages.

• By resting every other line, your lips have a chance to “rest as much as you play”. This is very important when building endurance.
• As you become more comfortable with these first two etude books, you will have the urge to increase the difficulty of your material too fast. It is better to increase the difficulty of your material at a slower pace in order to sustain your comfort zone while playing your material. If the material is too challenging, your tension and consequently your enjoyment will suffer. It is better to extend the length of your session than to increase difficulty of the etudes at this point.
• After you have become comfortable with your material, drop back to your first recordings and start building the amount of time playing to increase your endurance. If your goal is to increase your upper register, you can continue at this level of difficulty and add higher etudes but be careful not to increase the range too quickly. This is where most players start to lose their comfort zone. Add to the difficulty slowly and be content with slow, but steady improvement rather that quick improvement and pain and suffering that follows.

You might ask at this time, “Just how long and how high should I continue with this method”? That will depend on your time available and your goals of achievement. As I mentioned before, I started this method in order to prepare myself for the circus. When it finally came to Waterloo, Iowa, I sailed through the shows with ease. The week before we were invaded by the elephants, I was going into my office at 8:00 AM to begin my routine of “play a line, rest a line” and continued this method for the next four hours. You may not be that persistent or even have that much time to practice, but I share this in order to illustrate how much material and time can be utilized.

There are few absolutes when speaking of methods for improvement in trumpet playing but the practice of “play a line, rest a line” is as close to that as I have been able to find.

Using Technology to Improve Your Trumpet Playing- Measuring your volume

Trumpet players are famous for loud playing and a few are capable of playing soft. But what is loud and what is soft when trying to improve your control of your instrument.

If you have ever had the good fortune or misfortune of playing trumpet in a rock band, you may have experienced the high end of the decibel meter.

If you have ever played trumpet in a small chamber ensemble, you will have participated in the other end of the scale. The loud volumes usually can be found in the Music Building at the University of North Texas and the diminutive volumes are necessary when performing with the old sweet bands of the past. Your ability to perform at both extremes is important in your complete development as a trumpet player. But, many times we forget the extremes and live our lives in the mf to f life style.

In order to measure your volume extremes and be sure to practice your volume control in all situations, you need a visual measurement of where you are on the volume scale.

To most players, a simple volume meter on your recorder would seem to be the answer, and for the simplest reading, this will work fine. But you need to know that visualizing your volume on a small meter across the room may not be the best answer.

After cruising the Internet this afternoon, I came across a very impressive, inexpensive (free) and effective download from Orban world-class professional broadcast technology.

In a very short time, you will be able to set up your computer and be sending those meter bars back and forth across your screen. And after you have finished playing with all the buttons, switches, you will need to get down to the basics of improving your volume and control at your extreme volume levels.

Rule #1

Practice material you are not currently performing.
If you are playing with a big band, playing shows, you might think about spending some time playing at the soft level for awhile. If you’ve a member of an orchestra playing only Mozart for the past season, be sure to crank it up a little on the decibels.

Rule #2

Practice different styles (dynamics. tempi, ranges, etc.) from what we have been doing regularly.
If you practice in a small room or apartment, chances are very good that you have developed a fine volume from p to mf. Now it’s time to wake up the neighbors.

Rule #3

Watch your meter and believe what it tells you.

If you are going to develop your soft playing, DO NOT EXCEED THE LEVEL YOU HAVE ESTABLISHED TO LIMIT YOURSELF TO.

If you need to build your loud playing, PEG THE METER AT THE POINT THAT YOU HAVE SELECTED TO PUSH YOURSELF.

In a short amount of time you will realize how narrow your volume has become and through visual feed back, you will start expanding your usable volume in both directions.