How to Bridge the Gap Between Single Tonguing and Double Tonguing

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We have all run into this situation- The notes are too fast to single tongue and too slow to double tongue. This situation is usually referred to as “the gap”.

Normally players find that it is very difficult to effectively speed up their single tonguing when in fact they should learn to more effectively control a slower double tonguing pattern.

Trying to increase single tonguing speed tends to create tension and stiffness in your tonguing technique which is detrimental for increasing speed while, on the other hand, slowing down your double tonguing technique will create more relaxation in the tongue and is much easier to control.

Below I have included some exercises which will improve your ability to better cover this problem.

Download exercises here- Filling in the Gap

Shakes

Download exercise sheet- Shake exercise sheet

Download audio instructions- Shakes

The similarity between the lip (tongue) trill and the shake are remarkable. Everything that we had practiced to produce a tongue trill will now be applied to the technique of playing shakes. The only difference between the two is that in a lip (tongue) trill, you are changing notes through the use of the slight arch of your tongue, and in a shake; the notes are changed through the slight movement of the hand on your instrument.

I began this series explaining the effect of the hand’s movement on the instrument to produce a vibrato and when producing a shake, this same technique will be used. I also demonstrated the function of the embouchure in striving for the imposable note between the two harmonics when we practiced the lip (tongue) trill and this control will also be used when producing a shake. Now that we have developed the ability to comfortably play in between harmonics and move the instrument into and away from our lip, we can easily apply these techniques to produce a shake.

Explanation of goals for each of the following lines-

A– Center your pitch on the false fingered Eb and slowly and slightly push the mouthpiece away from your lip which will make the note slide down to the C with the same fingering.

B– Lower the Eb by pushing the mouthpiece away and strive to play the C high in pitch.

CAgain, try to shrink the distance between the two notes.

DContinue to strive for a note between the Eb and the C. The closer you can play the two notes, the easier the shake will become.

EThis is your ultimate goal. Sit on a D note half way between the upper and lower notes. This is impossible with the 2-3 fingering and as you increase or decrease the slightest pressure, the notes will move back and forth. Continue to work for the pitch half way between Eb and C.

F– Begin this exercise in tune on the Eb and as you increase speed by moving the mouthpiece in and out, lower the Eb and raise the C so that they are as close as possible to each other.

The amount of speed which you will be able to play will depend on how fast you move your instrument back and forth. Remember to lock your pitch to a note in between the two you are playing. Changing from one note to the other should require only a slight change in pressure.

Shakes are made much easier when alternate fingerings are used for the two affected note will most often be closer together. Try to use as many valves as possible to do a shake. If you are finding that you can start the first note and push away to get the second note, but have trouble sliding back up to the first note, you are probably applying too much pressure on the lip. Increase your pucker embouchure when you begin and strive to hit and stay on the note in between without changing your embouchure setting. With an increase in a more pucker embouchure and a more centered pitch, you should gain the sensation that even a puff of wind could send your two notes back and forth easily. This is what you are striving for.

Things to check-

  • Center your pitch between the notes you are playing.
  • Push more into a pucker embouchure so you have more meat under the mouthpiece.
  • Only slightly added pressure is needed to move the notes.
  • If you are finding it more difficult for the top note to speak, try setting your middle note pitch a little higher.
  • Don’t forget to take in a full breath each time you shake in the upper register.
  • Always strive for a BIG FAT sound on both notes.

Lip (tongue) Trill

Download exercise sheet- Lip-tongue trill

Download audio instructions- Lip Trill

Because of the nature of this topic, it required recorded examples in order for the reader to better understand the exercises. I have listed the most important instructions for each of the eight lines on your exercise page but most of your information will be better explained on the recording.

Explanation of goals for each of the following lines-

A– Center your pitch on the false fingered Ab and slowly relax your embouchure to slide into the F# with the same fingering.

B– Lower the Ab and strive to play the F# high in pitch.

CAgain, try to shrink the distance between the two notes.

DContinue to strive for a note between the Ab and the F#. The closer you can play the two notes together, the easier the lip (tongue) trill will become.

EYour ultimate goal will be to sit on a note half way between the two. This is impossible and as you correct, even in the slightest way, the notes will move back and forth. Continue to work for a pitch half way between the two.

F– Begin this exercise on an in tune Ab and as you increase speed, lower the Ab and raise the F# so that they are as close as possible to each other.

The amount of speed which you will be able to play will depend on how slight a vowel change you are able to make. The amount of vowel change will depend on how close you are able to lock in between the two notes. You should be convinced by now that what you are doing is not a lip trill as many people think. Your lip has nothing to do with the rapid change in pitch for no lip could change position that quickly.

Lip (tongue) trills are made much easier when alternate fingerings can be implemented for the two affected notes will most often be closer together. This is very important also when, in the next posting, I will show you how easy it is to do shakes.

Stay tuned for the final posting in this series- how to play shakes, the easy way.

Vibrato

Download exercise sheet Trumpet Vibrato Basics

I mentioned in my previous post that I feel the best vibrato for trumpet playing is the hand vibrato. Some of the reasons I feel strongly about this form of vibrato over other techniques are-

1.      It does not interfere with the basic sound of the note.

2.      It is easier to control.

3.      It can be turned on and off much easier than other methods.

4.      Even though it might not be the best technique for other brass instruments, in my opinion, it is the best technique for the trumpet.

There are many inaccurate views about vibrato and the most glaring is the basic misconception that vibrato raises and lowers the pitch of a note. For years I entertained the thought that as you apply vibrato to a note, the pitch would go up and down as illustrated by singers using vibrato on a note. To make my point, sing a note and apply vibrato to that note. Notice that you raise and lower the pitch to produce a vibrato. It only seems logical that we would have the same affect when we play a note on our trumpet. Unfortunately this is what has been taught for many years by leading teachers. “The pitch goes up and down when you apply vibrato to a note”. This is not true! Many years ago, while I was doing some studies on tone quality and intensity, I came across a very interesting fact. When applying vibrato to a trumpet note, the pitch remains the same while the volume and intensity of the note fluctuates. In other words, the pitch did not go up or down. It actually got louder and softer as the vibrato was applied. My early tests with an oscilloscope showed that the volume of the note changed but the pitch remained the same, unlike a vocalist’s vibrato. With this said, we can now begin our first exercise to learn the technique called “hand vibrato”.

Begin in a comfortable, seated position with your “Trumpet Vibrato Basics” sheet in front of you. You will also need a metronome for this exercise. Begin by pinching your right hand’s first finger and thumb together on your lead pipe just this side of your first valve casing. Notice that I said “pinch”, for you need to have a good grip on your instrument. Set your metronome to 80 beats a minute in common time. With your horn supported in your natural left hand position and your new “pinched support” of your thumb and first finger on your lead pipe of your right, begin playing second line G from your sheet at an mp dynamic level. Note that in the second and third measures you have markings indicated on several of the notes. Where you see each plus, you need to bring the instrument gently into your lip. Add slight pressure on the plus marks and relieve the pressure where there are no markings.

Points to watch-

  • Think of playing through each line of music with a constant stream of air. Do not vary the air stream as you increase and decrease pressure on your lip.
  • Your increase of pressure will be very slight. Do not smash your face!
  • If you do not hear a change in your sound while you bring the instrument into your lip and move it away, you might be using too much mouthpiece pressure from the start. Try forming a more “pucker” embouchure (extend your lips more forward when you play each note).
  • If you still do not hear a change when you move the instrument, pinch your thumb and first finger more tightly together.
  • If this does not help, check your right hand for too much looseness. If you allow the wrist to flex, you will loss the action of the instrument.

“The ultimate goal in this exercise is to move the instrument very slightly into your lip as your hand moves the instrument into and away from your lip”.

With the metronome set at mm= 80, begin playing the first line on your sheet. Remember to observe the dynamics for this is very important. Play the first line four times and observe the four measure rest on the next line. As you perform this exercise, get the feel of what the hand is doing to the sound of each note. Once you get the feel of the instruments motion on your lip, proceed to the next line on the note C. Notice that you will need to increase the speed of the metronome to 112. Different registers of the instrument will require different speeds for your vibrato and for that reason you will be practicing different notes at different tempi. When your C begins to feel more natural to you, continue with the next note (low C). Do not forget to observe the rests on your sheet. These rests will give you the opportunity to rest your lip as well as give you time to sit back and evaluate what you had just played. If you have not been able to hear any difference to your sound when applying pressure and relieving pressure, go back and review the section entitled “Points to review” which is listed above.

If you feel comfortable with your control of your vibrato at this point, continue on. If your hand and horn movement are still not controllable, keep working with your exercises until they have become second nature to you. To test your development, try playing the exercises without the metronome and begin to vary the tempo of the notes. Start very slow and gradually accelerate, then retard. If you are able to change your speed and still feel as if you have complete control of your hand and horn motion with a constant flow of air, then move on to the next exercise.

Begin at the top of your page but this time without the metronome. You will begin at about mm 80 as before. Think of a series of long notes tied together. Make sure that you apply the hand/horn motion to the best sounding note you can play. Remember that you are playing one constant note with the hand/horn motion applied externally to the note. Your lip remains constant as the mouthpiece moves in and out very slightly. Once this exercise feels natural and controllable, begin to apply the same concept to different pitched notes. Think first of these different pitches as one long, constant notes with increasingly faster pulsations. Begin each note with no vibrato, then slowly introduce one pulse followed by more increasingly faster pulses and as you reach the middle of the note, slowly decrease the speed of each pulse until you end your note with no pulses. Remember that the higher your note, the faster the vibrato and the lower your note, the slower the vibrato. To illustrate this point, try playing a low C with a very fast vibrato and a G above the staff with a very slow vibrato. Remember to check back often to the “Points to watch” section for helpful guidelines.

Now that you have conditioned yourself to be able to control your pulses, it is now time to apply it to your horn in a more practical manner. Due to the fact that we never perform with our thumb and first finger pinching the lead pipe, it is now time to move your right hand into your normal position on the instrument. Most often this would be a position with your thumb located below the lead pipe and between the first and second valve casings. In this position you should be able to reproduce the same effect on your sustained notes on the “Trumpet Vibrato Basics” sheet. Continue practicing on this sheet with your conventional right hand position and try to match the sounds you had with the pinch position. If you find that you have not duplicated the same effect, the problem is most often in the thumb of your right hand. You will only be able to regain the pulsing effect if your thumb is ridged. Any flexibility in this area will negate your control on the movement of the instrument. Stiffen your thumb and the effect should begin again.

Do I have to go to college to learn to be a good trumpet player?

Many times people ask, “Is it is necessary to go to a college or a university in order to learn to be a good trumpet player”? I will try to explore as many reasons why a college education can help you become a better player as well as point out alternative ways to accomplish the same goal.

Let’s first look at some areas where we can begin to reach our objective.

“I have just graduated from high school and I want to be a professional trumpet player, what do I have to do next”?

1. Military service

Now that you have graduated from high school, where do you go from here? One possibility would be a military service career. The advantages of military experience is very similar to that gained be studying at a university and I will list those advantages below.

1. Through your time in the service, you will be playing your horn regularly.

2. You will be expected to improve during your time in the service.

3. Contacts will be made which can be of use to you when you leave the service.

4. You should be exposed to better players than yourself.

5. Unlike college, the time you spend in the service will generate benefits and income.

6. Your wardrobe expenses will be cut substantially.

2. Free lance musician

Due to the fact that you will have to locate in an area which will support your ambitions, you will have to move to a larger area such as Los Angeles, Miami, Nashville, etc. You wouldn’t find a lot of work for a trumpet player in Waxahachie, Texas these days.

Breaking into the scene in any large city has it’s own problems also. The best way to get “connected” in a new area is do what we all did, find the most respected and working trumpet player in the area and start taking lessons from him/her. You need to be seen as well as heard in order to get started in a new location. Usually your new teacher will, if he/she likes you, will begin to give you the jobs they don’t want to play, ie. out of town, no money, bad band, etc. In the beginning you will have to take every job offered to you in order to prove yourself. This is what they mean by “paying your dues”. Gradually you will start working your way up the ladder until you are able to make a living. In order to accomplish success in this area, you will have to be proficient in reading, improvising and even possibly singing. You will be expected to be dependable, always showing up a half hour before every gig and own at least one black suite and a white shirt. Make sure you own every trumpet mute  invented even though you will seldom use them in a real band. If you are to play with what we call a “sweet” band, ie. Guy Lombardo type, bring all of your mutes and practice every style of articulation.

3. Classical music

There are several areas in the classical music field where you might start your career and your selection will first be determined by your desire and ability. If you have a strong desire to play in a professional orchestra, you will need to prepare yourself with the knowledge of the literature, the style of the many different periods as well as related issues such as transposition and the ability to play trumpets of various keys. The availability of trumpet positions can vary considerably. If you expect to perform in one of the major symphonies immediately out of high school, you will be very disappointed. I’m sure that it has happened but without a well established reputation, your chances are very slight. Positions in major symphonies are many times decided before the audition is announced.

4. Starting Your Own Business

There are many advantages as well as disadvantages in starting your own business. Most advantages deal with your independence, possibly larger income and the control of your own destiny. Disadvantages would include large expenses, endless hours of work, having to count on musicians showing up on time or even showing up and constantly promoting your ensemble or service. For the right person this can be very rewarding. If you are an out going personality who can charm anyone into anything and you are willing to take risks, go for it. If you are on the more reserve, shy side, forget it. You will not succeed.

5. Going to a College/University

As I mentioned earlier, your time spent and contacts gained in military service are very similar to those achieved in a college or university setting. Some additional benefits to a college education would include-

1. A broader exposure to music literature and history.

2. More personal contacts in the music field.

3. A degree which might be of benefit to you if your performance career does not work out.

4. Your education in many different areas will be a benefit to you in life.

In closing, I would like to stress to you that even though many TV show personality will tell you “You can do and be anything you set your mind to”, chances are they have never played trumpet. Making a full time living playing trumpet is tough and can be a real struggle. If you are talented enough to reach the top of the pile, your career may be only a bar fight away from ending. You may be able to play a quadruple high X, but if the economy falters, you may be replaced next week by pre-recorded tracks.

Just remember one thing, “Keep practicing”.

Cheap Trumpets- Are there such things?

Trumpets on Clearance
Photo Credit: roland on Flickr

Many people are in need of information on what trumpet would best suite their needs, whether it be for their child or for their own use. For that reason I have previously posted information on selecting a new instrument. This posting was written to help the individual who may not want to buy a new instrument and would like to know where and how to look for a used instrument. There are several areas one could search for a trumpet and I will try to list these areas as well as cover the advantages and disadvantages of each source. In order to best serve my readers, I have spent time searching as many locations as I can to find out which would be the best place to look for the purchase of a used trumpet and these are my findings.

Pawn Shops

The online pawn shop can utilize search engines like Google, articles from around the web to give them further information about the demand for a product, and more to the point, the price of the product if it were bought new. Using these resources, an online pawn shop will determine how much the item is worth and then pay a certain percentage of this to a customer for immediate use.

Endorsement from a happy pawn shopper:

“Sometime around 1993, while on the road on business, I stopped into a pawn shop in Augusta, not really expecting to find anything. They had a mid-late 80’s Model 37* lacquered Bach Strad that had a few minor dents, but otherwise pretty decent. The price? $200!
I put on my usual “poker face” as I looked all over the store at OTHER things . .all the while hoping that no one would come in and snatch it up until I finished my “bluff.”
My heart was beating pretty bad, as I asked ’em about other things I really wasn’t interested in. Then I got to the Strad and said, “My son needs an old trumpet to play, what would you take for that old dented trumpet?” “Oh, we’ll take $150 for it,” they said. I replied, “Nawwww, it has some dents in it.” I then made my “offer” . . . and GOT ‘EM DOWN TO $125 ON THAT STRAD! . . . then bought it without playing in or anything!
THE BEST PART . That ol’ “ugly duckling” Bach turned out to be incredible . . . one of those “1-in-a-100″ Strads that would slot accurately well past double C and play effortlessly!!!
I spent only $25 getting the dents out . . . then another $250 getting it prepped and silver plated (at Andersons). It was the best Bach I’ve ever encountered . . . and now was beautiful too, so it became my main horn. I later put a gold trim kit on it and a custom Pilczuk pipe that opened it up to Triple C.”

As indicated by the excitement in this owner’s voice, his purchase was a big success. Searches through local pawn shops can in some cases uncover a real buy. This is what we all hope will happen and in some cases; it ends with a happy ending. However in most cases, the shop owner is more knowledgeable about his trumpet than you are which gives him a definite advantage in the transaction. If you know the history, reputation, condition and realistic price of an individual trumpet and you are good at bargaining, the pawn shop might be the place to look. For most people, when searching for their first instrument, the advantage will most often be in the shop owner’s favor. My suggestion would be to stay away from these stores if you are not comfortable with your knowledge of the instrument.

Sam’s Club

Discount stores are now offering everything from banking and barbershops to baby beds to basketballs. The “all inclusive” stores are contributing to the end of specialty shops as the economy continues to decline. We will all begin to lower our quality expectations as we search for the lowest price on every item. This is apparent in the current trumpet offerings in discount stores today. Imports from third world countries are now the norm in many of our stores across the country. Imports from China, Japan and other countries are flooding the market. To the untrained observer, there appears to be little difference between the low cost import and the high priced manufactures’ offering. The most glaring difference is the price. I address write about what to consider when buying a trumpet.

Endorsement from a happy Sam’s Club shopper:

“This is a great beginner trumpet. The case is great and better than the usual black plastic. Way cheaper to buy this than rent”.

Music store rental programs

Most school systems endorse local music stores who offer instrument rental programs to both students and adults. Usually local band directors will advise music stores on which brands and quality they will prefer. Music stores know the value of satisfied customers for most beginning level instrument will eventually be upgraded to more professional horns and they would like the sale on these as well. I have included one such music stores which is located in Springfield, Missouri and the opening video explains their rental policy.

http://www.palenmusic.com/t-rent_online.aspx

How does our (their) plan work?

  • No required deposits. Our agreement is simply month to month. Cancel at any time.
  • Great monthly rental rates
  • Director recommended instrument brands
  • Maintenance and replacement plans give you peace of mind
  • Expert repair staff on-site at each location
  • Weekly road service to school with free delivery
  • Apply payments toward purchase or step up to an advanced instrument!

The renting process is a very good way to see if your child or you would eventually want to continue playing the trumpet without the expense of purchasing an upper level instrument.

Music Stores

Music stores usually have in stock used trumpets which have been taken in trade. I have found that the asking price is usually on the high side and seldom have I found a real steal on their shelves. They also know much more about the instruments than you do.

eBay Classifieds

The popularity of eBay is well known to most people and is another source for the purchase of a used instrument. These entries were collected from the eBay used instrument section and will give you an accurate representation of used trumpets offered this afternoon. Most listing are accompanied by photos and if there are no photos, don’t even consider buying the instrument.

Craig’s List

My comments made for eBay classifieds also applies to Craig’s list. Don’t buy what you can not see. As more families deal with their financial problems, we will continue to see instruments hitting the classifieds. The seller is facing the reality of selling to make money but from the buyers stand point, it opens additional opportunities for good deals on instruments.

Goodwill and Salvation Army

The chances of finding a trumpet for sale at a Goodwill location would be very slim. If you have a friend who works at such a store, you might ask them to be on the lookout just in case one would wander in.

Auctions and Estate Sales

The only way I know of finding a trumpet at these sales is to check the local newspapers. This can be very time consuming as well as unproductive. If you happen on one, you need to be very couscous for they will have a cash only, no return policy.

Friends and Relatives

Many times you will come across someone who used to play trumpet that has no use for it any more. In most cases you will be able to purchase or even be given the instrument free. In this situation you will be obligated to use and perform on that instrument even if it turns out to be a “lemon”. Be couscous when accepting anything free.

In closing I would like to say that for buying a used trumpet, you should consider Craig’s List as well as eBay classifieds for real buys. Also be advised that the more information you possess, the better your chances of getting a good deal rather than getting a bad deal. Remember, “Let the buyer beware”.

Where did you get your used trumpet?  Let us know your experience when buying a used Trumpet by adding a comment below.

Buying Music in a Tight Economy

When money is short and every cent must be carefully spent, we all need to shop wisely when making purchases. For that reason I have begun to search for the best deals when purchasing trumpet study material. This first suggestion was easy for me for I consider this book as one of the best written and most helpful books to be printed. My first contact with this publication was early in my trumpet playing days for this was the material used for all state tryouts and we were all expected to own a copy. While searching for great buys, I was shocked to see the price of this old war horse. I checked through all of the other offerings and found that Selected Studies was at the very bottom of the price range. There were a couple less expensive but they did not offer the quality or the amount of material that this book contains.

Features of the Book

  • 13 Advanced Etudes in Major Keys
  • 13 Advanced Etudes in Minor Keys
  • 6 pages of Scale Exercises
  • 6 pages of Velocity Studies
  • 1 page of Cadenza Studies
  • A total of 76 pages

The Advanced Etudes

One of the great benefits of this collection is that you will be reading well written etudes in all of the major and minor keys. Each advanced etude is complete and and makes for a pleasing study to prepare. Each could be used as an unaccompanied solo because of the contrasting elements in each etude. Most of the style is taken from earlier periods for the book was originally copy righted in 1953. Each etude is written in a cornet style with very Romanic melodic lines.

The publisher was extremely careful to indicate every articulation as well as dynamic changes. The player will gain great insight into musical styling through these carefully notated additions. Many musical figures have been added such as grepetti, trills, mordents, etc. and the publisher has indicated several was to perform each of these markings. Contributing composers to this collection include Gallay, Bohme,Pietzsh,Duem, Salomon,Gatti,Fedorow, St. Jacome, Bagantz, Garibaldi, Arban and Chavanne.

In addition to some beautify written etudes, you will also have available finger, flexibility, scales (both major and several forms of minor, chromatic and whole tone) and articulation (single, double, triple tonguing and slurs) studies. As an added bonus the last page includes three cadenzas which are seldom addressed in most of our etude books today.

From the stand point of quality, amount and diversity, this book will serve you well, and only set you back $6.95. What a deal!

Help! Emergency Trumpet Repair Tips

emergency
Photo Credit: Ben Sparks on Flickr

Disasters and near disasters seem to always happen at the worst times and for that reason, I thought I would share some quick fixes for occasions such as these.

Your second valve will not go down

Have you ever had this happen? The count off begins “ONE, TWO, ONE TWO THREE FOUR”. And you discover your second valve won’t go down! It has happened to me and it is not a pretty sight. After the panic has subsided, you look down the page to see when you can rest and get it working again. Panic again! You have no rests for the next three years! Your brain races feverishly for an answer, then you realize you’ll be OK. This piece is written in the key of Eb concert and there are no F#’s or B’s so you are home free. Every note with 1st and 2nd fingerings can be played with your third valve. That low Ab and the low Eb can be played third valve with the third slide extended. PIECE OF CAKE!

Stuck Trumpet Mouthpiece


Although this is much less a disaster than the first situation, it does mean that you can’t put your horn in the case when you leave the theater. A mouthpiece can get stuck because of many reasons. I remember one time in Iowa when we were playing the Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey Circus and the third chair player got his mouthpiece stuck because he had used too much mouthpiece pressure playing his part. I wonder what his horn would have looked like if he were playing the first part.

Removing a stuck mouthpiece can be a serious problem and a professional repairperson could be required, but for the less drastic removals, try this-

  • Place the mouthpiece in the jam of a WOODEN DOOR and a WOODEN DOOR JAM. Please take note that I said a WOODEN DOOR and a WOODEN DOOR JAM. If you use a metal door and door jam, you will ruin your mouthpiece.
  • Close the door SLIGHTLY on the mouthpiece.
  • Next tap the mouthpiece receiver (metal around the mouthpiece) LIGHTLY with a wooden or plastic item (screw driver handle works).
  • If mouthpiece does not come out, place the mouthpiece receiver under WARM water for a few minutes and the repeat the previous steps.
  • If this does not release the mouthpiece you will have to find a repairman with a mouthpiece puller.

Water Key Spring Broke

I don’t know how those things know when to break but it is always before a concert. Make sure you have a few rubber bands in your repair kit. If you are playing a Schilke or a Yamaha, it is a simple repair. Double up the rubber band and slip it down your tuning slide onto the water key. If you are playing an instrument that has a brace in the way, like a Bach, get it on there any way you can.

This is only a temporary fix for if you leave the rubber band on for any length of time, the moisture will get between the band and your horn and will eventually tarnish the area. I remember one student many years ago who played in one of my jazz bands. Every rehearsal he would show up with a cigarette stuffed between the water key lever and the tuning slide. I think he played that way for several years. HE WAS NOT ONE ON MY STUDENTS.

You just “oiled your valves” and now you can’t get air through your horn

Don’t panic. The fix is quick and easy.

  • Blow air into your horn.
  • As you continue to blow air, press down each valve.
  • The depressed valve that changes the sound will be the one that has not been seated properly and needs to be rotated.

You just “washed your horn” and now you can’t get air through it

Most often when this happens, the valves have been inserted into the wrong valve casing.

  • Take all three valves out and check the number stamped on each.
  • Replace them in the correct valve casings.

Every time you push your valves “down” they make a clanking sound

  • Replace the pads under your finger buttons (seen from the outside of the horn)

Every time your valves “come up” they make a clanking sound

  • Unscrew and remove the finger button on the offending valve(s)
  • Remove the upper valve cap under the finger button
  • Replace the felt pad under the upper valve cap

Sometimes your valves won’t go up and down smoothly

Join the club! Sticking valves (a temporary but still frustrating occurrence) are usually caused by one of three situations, 1. The valves are dirty and need to be cleaned, 2. The valve casing has been damaged, and #3.  The valves could be worn out. Cleaning is a simple solution in case #1. Case #2 usually requires the services of a qualified repairman. The third condition will in most cases require a repairman also but before you take it in to the shop, try this trick-

  • Remove the sticking valve
  • Wash it thoroughly with warm, soapy water
  • Dry it off completely
  • Take a Qtip or a ball of cotton and apply a thin coat of RainX to the valve
  • After it has dried, buff it with a lint free cloth
  • Re-oil the valve and replace it in the instrument

I have had very good results with this process especially on older or cheaper horns. I do not suggest this process on a top line instrument but if you are fed up with sticking valves on your favorite horn and want to try it, let me know how it works for you. I have no problem using it on older horns but have not tried it on my bread and butter horns.

You have trouble getting the inside of your mouthpiece really clean

Next time put some tooth paste on you mouthpiece cleaning brush when you clean it. Make sure that you wash it out completely before you put it in your horn. You don’t want any paste to get into your valves.

You can’t remove a valve slide

  • Run the end of a cloth (hanker chief will work- remember those things? I keep mine in the same drawer that I store my eight track tapes) through the bend in the slide and extend it to the middle so you can grasp both ends
  • Pull gently on the cloth and hopefully this will pop the slide out
  • If this does not work, put some penetrating oil on it and let it set overnight and try again the next day

When I replace my valve slides after cleaning, I make sure that I don’t shove them all the way in. I usually leave a space the thickness of a piece of paper. If I get in the situation where the slide becomes stuck, the small opening will allow me to more easily get penetrating oil in and it also gives me the options of either pulling the slide out or pushing it in.

I’m sure there will be some of you who also have tricks which have helped you and/or your students through the years. If you have some hints, please send them so that we will be able to help others. Fill out the comment section at the bottom and send it on.

Do you have any Emergency Repair stories or Tips?  Add yours in the comments section below.

Trumpet Accessories for Beginners

trumpet accessories
Photo credit: brillisbeasty on flickr

Accessories which are designed and sold for the trumpet player can be as endless as fashion accessories available to women. Each is professed to be absolutely essential for a good performance. And in the same way some fashion accessories in women are useful and sometimes just stupid, so it is true in the trumpet world.

In order to simplify the many offerings, I will divide them into two categories – “must have accessories” and “nice to have accessories”.

“Must Have” Trumpet Accessories for Beginners

  • Trumpet cleaning kit- Most manufacturers include a cleaning kit with the new instrument. This kit will contain the following items- a trumpet snake (a long, metal spring with brushes attached to each end), valve oil, slide grease, a mouthpiece brush, a valve cleaning brush, instructions, and a polishing rag.
  • Trumpet Mute The beginning student will be expected to own and use a mute which is inserted into the bell and changes the volume as well as the tone of the instrument. Composers indicate muted sections with the word “mute” and indicate the removal of the mute with the word “open”. Even though there are numerous types of mute available, only the straight mute will be required for the younger player. Most music stores will have the straight mute manufactured by the Humes & Berg company and this will work well for the beginner for it is a good, serviceable mute. Usually the more advance players will upgrade to a higher quality and more expensive mutes.

“Nice to Have” Trumpet Accessories for Beginners

  • Jo Ral Grime Gutters – If, after playing for a long period of time the oil from the valves begins to drip on your lap this will prevent it from soiling your cloths. It is an attachment that slips over the bottom of the valve section and catches the excessive oil.
  • Leather Specialties Special Trumpet Hand Guard – Hands perspire and perspiration can affect the surface of your instrument. Most people have no problems as long as the surface of the instrument is washed periodically. For those like me, the acid in the system can eat into the surface and create premature wear. This attachment is wrapped around the contact points were you hold the instrument.
  • Brasswind Silver Trumpet Protector Bag – This soft bag is used to protect silver plated trumpets from minor scratches while being stored in its case.
  • Bach Instrument Polishing Gloves – This is just an easier way to polish a trumpet
  • Yamaha Professional Cleaning Cloth – If your trumpet is silver plated, get it and use it.
  • Bach 1800B Mouthpiece Spray – This is used to keep your mouthpiece smelling fresh and clean.
  • Yamaha Lacquer Polish – A regular coat of polish will prolong the appearance of lacquered instruments. Most furniture polish will work as well.
  • Woodwind & Brasswind Leather Mouthpiece Pouches – Mouthpiece protectors do exactly what they say they do but in most cases, the young student will either have his/her mouthpiece in the horn or stored in the case so a pouch, although appealing, is not essential.
  • Herco Trumpet Spitballs – When these were first introduced, we all had to have them. The concept is this- between regular, full cleanings, you placed one of these small, barrel shaped, cleaner impregnated foam into your lead pipe and blow. In an instant, it would be forced completely through your trumpet and taking with it all of the “crud” that had accumulated since the last cleaning. Great idea! On one of our brass quintet tours, one member of our group demonstrated it to our young audience. When we returned to campus, we had threatening mail from our host director saying that at the beginning of his next rehearsal, every brass player had inserted one in their horns and on beat one of the first number, pelted him with dozens of these projectiles.

As you can see from the products I have listed, only a younger player should be interested in adding them to their collection. For my more advanced friends, I will be reviewing the newer products which would appeal to their needs such as gig bags, hard cases, weighted valve caps, pressure node enhancers, etc.

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Leave a comment below if you have any other suggestions or questions about must have trumpet accessories for beginning trumpet players.