Historically (Hysterically) Important Advice for Cornet/Trumpet Players- Part #2

This is part #2 from the advice given in the duet collection Celebrated Practice Duets by Arthur Amsden.


fail to pour water through your cornet before beginning the day’s work; never mind WHY, just DO IT and note the benefit of this simple advice.

allow yourself to acquire a tremolo in your tone; nothing can be more objectionable than a cheap, shivery, trembling tone “a goat-stop” tone is a performers worst asset.

hold your instrument too high or too low, and by all means don’t hold it sideways, that’s an unmistakable sign that you’re a novice.

beat time with your feet, though the practice is often a help to beginners; if you have acquired the habit, try to discontinue it; it is entirely unprofessional.

forget, all Rules in music have their exceptions. Moral- learn the rules, and the exceptions will take care of themselves.

A FEW RULES; (having exceptions)
The higher you play the louder you play.

The faster you play the more staccato you should play.

Breath after long notes, tied notes, dotted notes and at the end of phrases.

Breath often- make sure of always having a “reserve supply” of wind.

When practicing for “accuracy”, apply the same method you would in approaching a wild beast that was crouched and ready to spring upon you- steady, careful and ACCURATE- you simply must “get him”.

For “speed,” you are simply “shooting at a flock of blackbirds”- it is of little importance how many or how few you “bag”, you are training your eye to “look ahead”.

Master a system of COUNTING TIME; use any means to this end; beat time with the foot, if you MUST, then tie them down after, so they won’t move; “left foot on first beat, right foot on second beat.” Hay foot, straw-foot,” the “down beat,” the “up beat” the “and beat,” etc. A good conductor will give an account for ALL OF THEM, and you “can’t lose him” if you have the same system mastered, and unless you have it mastered you are sure not to occupy his “first chair” very long.

“disfigure yourself for life” by forming an embouchure on the side of your mouth.

take too much stock in “lip ointments” and “get-lip-quick” formulas; nothing in all the world will make an embouchure but perseverance. Treat your lip muscles pretty much the same as a good jockey treats his horse-observe the he “warms him up” gradually before expecting the best that’s in him.

blame the instrument if it “sounds out of tune sometimes and at times appears to be all right;” YOU are at fault.

And one last bit of instruction which is without doubt the most important-

“Don’t fail to learn a trade in addition to your music; you can drop it at will should you find yourself adapted to make music your entire profession, while you will find it difficult to learn a trade after you are well past the amateur age”.

Historically (Hysterically) Important Advice for Cornet/Trumpet Players

On February 1, 1918 a wonderful collection of duets was published by Arthur Amsden which was titled “Celebrated Practice Duets”. We are indebted to the composer for sharing his compositions with us and if you are in need of a very large (70) collection of excellent duets of varying difficulty, I strongly recommend you purchase this collection.
A friend introduced me to this book and each week we play through it to keep both our chops up as well as our reading skills (thanks Doyle). This past week I shared my copy with another new trumpet friend (thanks Steve) and he asked me if I had read the list of “Do’s and Don’ts” at the beginning and I was embarrassed to say I had not read that section. Like most men, I never read the instructions when starting a new project. After reading these suggestions, I felt obligated to share them with you for we all need a little humor these days.
I am in no way condemning nor concurring with any of the following statements, just read it and enjoy these historic suggestions…….


puff out cheeks.

sacrifice tone for technique.

forsake the remote keys.

keep playing the things you are familiar with.

forget to play a few long tones before starting a job.

allow “high C” to be your “lord and master”.

pinch your tones, blow free.

retard your progress by smoking; if you MUST smoke, do it moderately and shun liquor and cigarettes as you would a rattle snake.

tire your lips by trying to see how long can you play without stopping; that’s “penny wise and pound foolish”.

practice seated, if you MUST, then sit up straight, expand the chest and hold your instrument properly.

forget your stomach; a “good lip” is impossible with a poor stomach.

fail to stand before a mirror frequently, that you may see yourself as others see you.

forsake an exercise because it contains intricate passages- they’re the very things you need most.

ignore expression marks, slurs, ties, etc.

forget your scales- never allow a day to pass without playing ALL OF THEM.

mislead yourself by practicing after your lips have become tired. Rest frequently.

allow the little finger to touch the instrument; let it “move in sympathy” with the 3rd finger, which is the weakest, a ring on

a cornet/trumpet, unless used sparingly, is an obstacle to progress.

Due to the length of this list, I will have to continue in the next post. To give you just a taste of what’s to come, here is one of the more humorous…….

“Don’t fail to pour water through your cornet before beginning the day’s work; never mind WHY, just DO IT and note the benefit of this advice”.

Continuing Discussion on “Why do the bands still tune to the tuba”?

More on our continuing discussion on “Why do the bands still tune to the tuba”?
Sound as if only one person has an opinion on how a band should be tuned. Or maybe he/she is the only one with the courage to voice his/her view?
Again, my comments are in bold type and the comments are in regular type.

“Oh yes, a couple more things”…

“The tuba is the foundation of most chords in band music”,

The tuba has usually the lowest note of the band but when trying to get a chord in tune, my focus first goes to my section (trumpets) who are sometimes doubling the tubas note several octaves higher than the tuba. I seldom concern myself with the pitch of the tuba for it is so far from the lowest trumpet and even the lowest trombone it is inconsequential.

“you can complain all you want but if the bottom note isn’t in tune, the upper harmonics and higher brass have nothing to rely on”.

I think you are overrating the importance of a tuba in this case. If the upper instruments are in tune, an out of tune tuba will be much less a problem. As an example, have an oboe tune flat to another oboe. Have a tuba tune flat to another tuba. Which pair of instruments would you want to be in the same room with?

“You never tune to a triple high C on trumpet do you”?

I don’t even like being in the same room with a trumpet playing a triple high C!

“Why are most women on woodwinds and most men on brass? Gender stigmatization”.

Even though we are again off the subject, I agree with your observation.

“Unless you look at, say any band before 1950 or even some European bands today, where men were only allowed to play (except for the few all-female jazz bands/orchestra during the early 1900s).
“When kids are in high school boys want to play the trumpet and trombone, because if they chose flute or clarinet … well you know”…

I’m sorry, I don’t know and if you do, don’t be surprised if you are accused of sexism after that comment…….

“Girls have it easier because they don’t have the same stigmatization to play a certain instrument”,

OH REALLY! Obviously you have not read my post entitled ” Sexism- Is It Still Present In the Trumpet World.

yes they play most often the woodwinds because all the boys are playing the heavier, larger instruments (like having the lung power for the tuba or holding up the trombone and having the reach for 7th position). Men are simply larger (on average) than women.

Oh where do I begin?

1. Yes they play most often the woodwinds because all the boys are playing the heavier, larger instruments”

My thought on that is that the females play the instruments they are attracted to, not on how much the instrument weighs.

2. “(like having the lung power for the tuba”

Please read the history of the world renowned tubbiest with the Chicago Symphony, Arnold Jacobs. Mr. Jacobs did quite well throughout his career on a collapsed lung.

3. “or holding up the trombone”

Take the time to research the number of female trombonist in the leading symphony orchestras as well as service bands, shows, stage shows; not to mention the increasing number of college and university trombone instructors around the world.

4. “and having the reach for 7th position)”.

Can you say “F’ attachment?

” Men are simply larger (on average) than women”.

This is true. “But women are smarter”.

I would like to thank our contributor again for standing up for his/her convictions and I’m sure that we both are still holding to our own opinion. It is not his/her intent to sway me, nor is it my intent to change his/her view. The point of all of this is to hold with your truths and if no one can change them through civil discussion, so be it.

What are your thoughts on this topic?
Take the plunge as our friend has and send us your opinion.

Recent comments on the topic “Why Do Bands Still Tune To The Tuba”?

More on our continuing discussion on “Why do the bands still tune to the tuba”?

My friend has returned to voice his/her opinion on this topic and I applaud him/her. Seldom have I seen so much passion for a cause as this person exhibits. It is refreshing to exchange ideas in a civil manner and I do hope others will join in on this topic as my new friend has.

And now to the continuance of our discussion on our topic- “Why do the bands still tune to the tuba”?

Our visitor’s comments are in normal type and my response is in bold type.

“Why tune to the tuba? Because it’s the most stable instrument. Say you’re playing outside in 40* F weather, like Minnesota during the early winter months. People start to blow into their instruments to warm them up. A trumpet is a grand total of 4.5 to 5 feet long or so and a clarinet is something like 2 feet long. These instruments take very little time to warm-up and consequently very little time to cool down”.

You’re correct.

“A BBb tuba on the other hand is 18 feet long (or thereabouts). It takes on average between 20-45 minutes to warm these suckers up. Yes the valve tubing is relatively short in comparison to the total body length, but the open tones rely soley on the open bugle (duh). Once the tuba is warmed-up is takes about the same amount of time for it to cool down”.

You’re almost correct.

When we say that we are warming up our instruments, what we are actually doing is warming the “air” in our instruments and if you think it takes 20-45 minutes to warm the air in a tuba….get serious! Please include any substantiating information to the contrary and I might believe your assumption. Using your time frame, it would be imposable to warm the air in a tuba without blowing into it constantly.

“So you’re band – like a marching band using sousaphones – is on the field for halftime or pregame. Everyone has warmed up and tuned, and are now standing at attention. Let’s say their waiting on a procession of people or for the sideline/aux percussion to set up. The sousaphone players have their mouthpieces still on their faces but their instruments are still quite warm, where as the trumpets and clarinets have their instrument held in front of them and are already cooling down”.

You’re way off.

I assume were are grouping tubas and sousaphones in the same group even though the reaction of fiberglass to air and air inside a brass instrument may react to the outside temperatures differently. Your reference to the tubas keeping their mouthpieces on their lip makes little difference in keeping the tuba warm. Take a look at the other end of the tuba, wouldn’t you think you would have to stuff something in that end also to keep it warm?

“You see the problem”?
As soon as the band starts playing the trumpets and clarinets are flat, but the sousaphones and large/longer instruments are relatively stable, maybe a smidgen more flat than they were 10 minutes ago, but not to the extend that they have their tuning slides all the way in. So what does the band sound like? Bottom end is in tune, but the top end is horribly flat because their instruments haven’t been able to hold the heat like the large brass”.

To be perfectly blunt, bands performing in cold temperatures are “ALWAYS OUT OF TUNE” no matter what they tune to.

“Sure, most instruments are made sharp so that you can pull out the main slide to bring it in tune. But if the instrument is short, it’s tuning fluctuates more often when compared to a longer instrument, simply because it’s a smaller instrument”.

You’re correct.

“That’s why the band tunes to the tuba”.

Your departure into the problems of marching bands playing in tune was fun but now let’s get back to the issue.

“Of course looking at the orchestra, the tuba rarely plays in most classical music (because it wasn’t invented until the mid 1800s). Here, the clarinet (or oboe) or trumpet makes the most sense to tune to because of how often it plays. If the orchestra tuned to the tuba, on some piece the tuba only plays one movement or comes in after a couple hundred measures – the rest of the orchestra has been playing, but the tuba has been sitting around (cooling down).

Great, now we’re into the history of the tuba.

“That’s why the orchestra doesn’t tune to the tuba”.

No, the reason that the orchestra tunes to the oboe has nothing to do with when the tuba was invented or how often it plays with the strings. The reason the orchestra tunes to the oboe is the same reason the bands should tune to the clarinet, it lays better in the hearing range of the majority of players as well as having a more similar sinusoidal curve to the majority of the orchestral instruments, the strings.

Well this is going to be interesting. Stay tune for more excitement folks and if you have a feeling either way on this topic, voice your opinion. No names will be posted so take your best shot.