Update on the “THE PERFECT PERFORMANCE CHAIR/STOOL”!

ChairFew people have realized the importance of my recent discovery of the perfect item of support for every musician. But don’t let that upset you for most people do not understand many of the things I do or say. Ask my wife.

This is an update to my first post on the perfect stool/chair and not only do I still believe the benefits of this stool, I have also broadened its virtues to something even more of you may not try or understand.

After switching to my backless chair, I have noticed several changes in my life.

1. My posture has improved.

2. I have less back pain issues.

3. I have lost one inch around my waistline.

Did I get your attention on the last advantage?

Now I will share with you something I didn’t expect and how I was able to remove a full inch around my waistline.

As most of you should know by now, I am a strong advocate for the “rest as much as you play” technique. During my short resting periods it seemed to me that these rests were moments of wasted time and you should also realize by now, “I don’t like to waste time”.

Several weeks ago, while practicing, I began to do some rocking back and forth while playing. Gradually this action formed into a regular routine and I began to realize that my periodic back pain had disappeared. A few weeks ago I realized that my trousers seemed to have enlarged around the waistlines. After checking, I found that I had lost one full inch around my waist.

To more fully explain what I was doing, I will list several important steps which could help you improve your trumpet playing and at the same time strengthen your abdominal and lower back muscles.

How to improve your trumpet playing and at the same time improve your muscle tone.

• Start with a stool (no back support)
• Sit far forward on the stool
• Both feet flat on the floor and evenly spaced in front of you
• Sit as straight as possible on the stool
• Set a metronome for the most comfortable tempo to play Clarke’s Technical Study #1
• As you play the first exercise, slowly rock forward on the stool
• Keep your trumpet level with the floor while you are playing
• Slowly rock back as you rest an equal amount of time as you played
• Repeat as you play the next line
• Keep your back straight at all times
• Do not lean too much forward nor too much backward each time
• It is a good idea to loosen your belt or any restrictive material around your waistline
• Begin the first day with no more than five minutes of this exercise
• As your muscles begin to tone, increase a little each week, not each day

Other benefits of this exercise include the following

• Sustaining the weight of your instrument in front of you will tone you biceps
• Watching your music as you rock forward and back will improve your eye site because of the constant refocusing your eyes have to do
• Movements forward and back will help to tone abdominal muscles which are very important to trumpet players
• This same motion will improve gastro intestinal functions for better health

Very important issues when doing this exercise

• Check with your physician before trying this if you have back issues beyond the norm
• Do not rock more than 10 degrees forward or 10 degrees backward
• During the first week, do not use this exercise for more than five minutes
• Keep your instrument level with the floor
• Keep your instrument in the same position resting as you do when you are playing
• If you begin to sweat, you are doing too much and cut back on the time

Warning! On our last concert I was seated very close to the edge of the stage with a two foot drop. Through the whole concert I was concerned that I might scoot too far over and finish the concert on the floor.

Chet Baker at His Best

Chet Baker

Chesney Henry “Chet” Baker, Jr. (December 23, 1929 – May 13, 1988) was an American jazz trumpeter, flugelhornist and vocalist.

Baker earned much attention and critical praise through the 1950s, particularly for albums featuring his vocals (Chet Baker Sings, It Could Happen to You). Jazz historian David Gelly described the promise of Baker’s early career as “James Dean, Sinatra, and Bix, rolled into one. His well-publicized drug habit also drove his notoriety and fame; Baker was in and out of jail frequently before enjoying a career resurgence in the late 1970s and ’80s.

At about 3:00 am on May 13, 1988, Baker was found dead on the Prins Hendrikkade, near the Zeedijk, the street below his second-story room (Room 210) of Hotel Prins Hendrik in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, with serious wounds to his head. Drugs were found in his hotel room, and an autopsy also found these drugs in his body. There was no evidence of a struggle, and the death was an accident. A plaque outside the hotel memorializes him and the room he was staying in is named “The Chet Baker Room”.

Baker is buried at the Inglewood Park Cemetery in Inglewood, California.

I want to send out a special thank you to my new friend
Higor De Paula Costa
from São Paulo, Brazil
who shared this video with us.

How To Arrange Music For Your Trumpet Quartet

Download exercise sheet here- Hymn for trumpet ensemble arranging assignment #1

Play musical example here-Quartet Hymn arrangement

Before we start, I will assume that you do play trumpet and understand the ranges, both high and low of the instrument. Because of the limited range of the trumpet, this will be the first issue I will address when explaining a simple approach to arranging for a trumpet quartet.

What would be a comfortable range of notes to use when writing for a Jr. High trumpet ensemble?

Even though the trumpet is capable of playing notes below the low F# and is also capable of playing notes above second line C above the staff, for our purpose, we will confine our written notes to low G and G just above the staff. It doesn’t matter how high you write your arrangement, what does matter is how your player will perform your notes that count. If you know that your first part player is capable of playing an F above high C, then you may want to extend his/her part up to a high C or possible a D. Just because they can scream high notes in the band room, it doesn’t mean that they can do it at the end of a concert in front of an audience. Never write to the highest, fastest, longest, loudest level for you need a little in reserve for good performances.

Where can I find music to arrange?

I would suggest if this is your first attempt at arranging music for your new trumpet ensemble, there is no better place to start than in a Hymnal from a church. Most everyone has access to one and the chances are good that you will need to do some arranging for your next church gig. How many times have we been asked to play along on the hymns as the congregation sings but have no music to play? The organist usually suggests that we play the melody. Now THAT’S CREATIVE! After studying this post, you will never go back to just playing the melody again, unless your lazy and if that is the case, you shouldn’t form a trumpet ensemble in the first place.

Your first arrangement for your new trumpet ensemble.

I have used a well known hymn for our example but any hymn could have been used. In your recorded example, it starts with the piano playing the first time through the hymn. After the piano has completed the first time through, the first and second trumpets come in playing the first eight measures of the hymn. The melody is in the first part and the second trumpet is playing a combination (first measure from the alto part- second measure the first note from the bass and the second note from the tenor- third and fourth measures from the alto- fifth, sixth measures from the bass- measure seven uses a sustained Eb from the alto and ends on the alto note in the eighth measure). The third trumpet plays the melody to the end of the verse and the fourth trumpet plays a combination of the bass and the tenor notes to the end. Variation #2 begins with the melody in the second trumpet and the first trumpet plays the alto part up an octave to give the impression of an obbligato part. By putting a couple of trills in, the verse takes on a completely new feel. Your audience will be very impressed with you arranging ability by now. Be sure to ask for your credits to be included in the church service program. Variation #3 has an antiphonal effect as the first and second trumpets play call and response with the third and fourth parts. Variation #4 would work as a closer for it starts with a single trumpet and every four measures another player is added. The last four measures bring in the fourth part which is doubling the first part an octave lower.

In less time than it would take you to drive to the church for the rehearsal, you could have had this arrangement completed and ready to perform. If this seems complicated, relax and go through it again. One thing you must realize is that every note that we used, was already in the hymnal. Every note was taken from material already on the page. I changed very few notes to make this work. Notice the affect brought about by sustaining repeated pitches. When instruments play hymns, they shouldn’t repeat notes. Repeating the same note makes the arrangement sound choppy. Sustaining repeated notes smooth’s out the melodic line of each instrument. The only exception would be the melody line and even in this hymn, there would be no need to repeat the third beat of the fourth and the twelfth measures.

I encourage you to do several hymns in this way and experiment with your own ideas so that when the organist calls and wants you to play along with the congregation, you can rock her/him off  her/his organ bench with your own brass parts.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW IN ORDER TO IMPROVE YOUR TONE QUALITY (PART #4) Over Adjusting When You Play

3 GsOne of the most common offense to the trumpet occurs when a player over compensates when playing notes. When I speak of overcompensating I’m directing my criticism to mainly the embouchure area.

When most players attempt to reach a high note, the mindset is usually “give it your all” and when doing so, the player exerts too much energy to attain their top note. This became clear to me a few years ago when I watched one of our best trumpet players playing a show in town. I was amazed at how effortlessly he maneuvered among his notes; seemingly unconcerned with each passage. This observation was a mind blower for most of my playing has been a more aggressive approach and that is the reason I decided to analyze my approach to playing.

We all have been told to first get a good sound and then extend that sound into the upper and lower range of our instrument. Now stop and think about that statement. “Keep the good tone in all ranges”. That is not as easy as it sounds for as we progress upward to higher notes, most players sound tends to get smaller and tighter causing problems when we get to our top note. Part of the problem as I stated in our last post is that most players play with too small an aperture and too tight an embouchure.

So… How can we be sure that we are not over compensating as we traverse our musical universe? One way is to first listen more intently in our sound. And the best way to do this is to play chromatically through the complete range of our ability.

Assignment

1. Install the program Audacity on your computer

If you have another recording program OF QUALITY so be it. If you still do not have this program on your computer, what are you waiting for? I have mentioned the benefits of a stable recording program for several years now and my suggestions are not because I have any interest (financial) in this program, I feel that every musician should be able to not only hear their playing but should also be able to SEE their sound. So…again….get the program and put it into your computer.

2. Attach the best microphone you can afford to your computer.

If you really would like to expand you possibilities in recording I would recommend the setup our oldest son suggested to me (and he knows).
• Two Sure SM57 microphones
• One Tascam US 1641 Audio/Midi Interface

With this relatively inexpensive equipment you will be able to do everything I do when breaking down each element in playing the trumpet and in turn, learning more about how we produce good and bad sound.

3. Record yourself as you play a chromatic scale from low F# slowly up to F# at the top of the staff.
When I say “slowly” I mean a metronome tempo pf about 60 beats per minute. Play back your recording and listen to it several times. Does your tone remain consistent or does it diminish as you reach the top note? What we are trying to do is sustain the same sound on every note.

You may ask, “What is so special about playing a slurred, chromatic scale? The importance is this- when playing notes only a half-step apart, there should be no change in your embouchure. If you play a major scale, the amount of change has doubled between notes and if you play arpeggios, the change usually is much more dramatic.

Now repeat your chromatic scale but in this case, consciously make NO change at all between each note. If you are like I was, you have to override the natural habit of over adjusting and this is not easy. The habit of too much change is natural to all of us and beginning to rethink this concept is not easy. Play the scale very slowly and think of every note as you ascend. Force yourself to sustain the same feel and position as you go up. The reason we have different sounds in different registers is the fact that we make changes which are not needed. Once you have grasped this concept and start to begin to relearn your playing habits, you will hear a difference in your sound as well as an increase in your upper register. It changed the way I play and, as James Brown would have said “I feel GOOD”.

Final check list for a focused sound

• Firm corners
• Relaxed center in embouchure
• 90 degree angle with your horn and face
• Air flows directly from the lungs through the throat, mouth , mouthpiece and horn
• Aperture of lips is open to allow air to pass through easily
• Practice slurring a chromatic scale slowly to keep the sound consistent throughout the complete range of your ability.
• Record yourself often with your recording program in order to face the reality of your playing.
• Your tone should at all times have a “ring” to it which indicates a focused sound.

This finally completes my concept of a focused sound and what started out as a onetime post ended up as a few more than I had anticipated but when you think of the importance of a good sound, a little extra writing and a little extra reading is justified.

What You Should Know In Order To Improve Your Tone Quality (Part #3)

Lip openingWe have been very busy responding to your comments on the subject of improving tone quality and this makes me very pleased for all musicians should be concerned with their sound.

In this the third installment on the subject of a focused sound, we will be addressing two related and equally important elements in producing an impressive sound.

The first will be the size of the aperture between your lips and the second will be direction of the air stream through your instrument.

1. Aperture size and shape.

How often have you thought about the size and shape of the opening between your lips as you play a note? I have to admit that until recently this was not at the top of my “activities for the day” list. My attention to this area of my trumpet playing began more than a year ago as I watched one of the million videos on YouTube that claimed to be able to solve all of your trumpet needs in 30 seconds. The author of this instructional video was pontificating on the benefits of some high note methods and one statement he said caught my ear. His said this “I always have my students begin a note without tonguing in order to make sure their lips are apart”. This was something I had not thought about and I began practicing his suggestion. Halleluiah! I was one of those players who started each note with my lips touching in the center. Gradually I began playing with my lips so slightly apart and several improvements became apparent.

5 advantages of having my lips slightly apart while I played.

1. Soft notes speak more easily
2. Wide slurs became much more consistent and connected
3. The higher register improved
4. My tone became more full and rich in timbre
5. I began to put much more air through my instrument

When checking to see if you are leaving a space between your lips, just start playing your music without tonguing any of your notes. Take a deep breath, and blow. Too many times we get into the bad habit of counting on a strong tongue attack to get the lips moving. By starting your notes with just the air you will soon realize how much we have become addicted to the tongue attack. The amount of time it will take you to be able to use air rather than your tongue will vary among players. Some will already be doing it correctly and some may find that this may take some concentration to be able to play with an open aperture at all times. If you find this foreign to you, just think how much you will improve as it becomes natural to you.

With a more open aperture, your tone will open up to a more resonant sound and moving from one octave to the next will be more connected and easier to negotiate.

You will also realize that your volume (decibel) will increase and you will not have to work as hard. Soft entrances will be more secure and your stock portfolio will increase dramatically. “Sorry, I just wanted to see if you were paying attention”.

2. Direction of air stream

How many of you are up streamers and how many are down streamers? When we speak of up and down stream we of course are referring to the direction and angle of the horn past your lips. “For most players” the horn should be positioned at a 90 degree angle to your face.

Thousands of years ago when I began to play trumpet we were taught the “Pivot System” which was promoted by Donald Reinhart. As I became older and more wise I began to rethink my view of this system and have eventually restricted its use to only the notes below the staff. This revelation started to form as I watched and listen to one of the great trumpet players of our time, Mr. Don Thomas, from the Dallas, Texas area. During one of our jingle sessions, I observed Don as he was asked to repeatedly play an F above high C. Time after time this trumpet master popped off every one with pin point accuracy, never missing one. As he continued to demonstrate his accuracy, I noticed that his embouchure remained the same regardless of what octave he was playing. This demonstration of effortless playing remained with me for many years and slowly I started to realize that the best players seemed to change very little in the embouchure as they moved from one octave to another. On the other hand when I moved around the instrument, my embouchure looked as if I were reciting the alphabet. That is when I decided to limit my use of the Pivot System.

As I searched through my collection of videos to illustrate my point, I came across this video of a friend of mine by the name of Bobby Shew. Mr. Shew performed with my jazz ensemble while I was teaching at UNI and that concert is still talked about. As you watch the closeups in the video, pay close attention to Bobby’s embouchure. This is the best example I can share with you on what to do with your chops as you play. This is Mr. Efficiency at its best! Oh, and Carl Saunders isn’t bad either.

Review

Keep your lips apart.

Blow straight out into and through your horn.

Our next topic in this ever enlarging post will deal with the issue of “Over adjusting” while you play.

Christmas Is Near So Spread Some Cheer. I’ve Got Something You Need To Hear!

1I just love Christmas time and you all know that in Branson, the Christmas season begins in October.

Recently a good friend shared his concern of a need in our trumpet world he thought I might be able to address. His concern was the lack of quality solo tracks which could be used when performing in retirement homes and other similar establishments during the Christmas season. He mentioned that the literature for a solo performer was very limited and was especially true for a trumpet player. Even though many people will try to convince you that a solo trumpet is heaven’s answer to musical happiness, I strongly disagree.

A solo trumpet only sounds acceptable when playing taps!

After searching my sources, I tended to agree with him and I set out to save the world of this horrid infestation.

I will be posting a series of trumpet solos which can be performed in such an environment as he described. Not only are these arrangements workable as a solo, they also include a second part which I arranged for my Grandson who recently began playing trumpet in his school. Students at this level are, at best, able to negotiate about one octave and trying to write for this level of player had its own problems. But…. As most of you know, I love a challenge.

Each solo is bundled with a solo part, a very simple second part and a very fine accompaniment which includes strings!
If any of you are in need of solo tracks for a Christmas festivity, these will fill your needs. If you have a son/daughter starting trumpet and you would like to play a duet at your family gathering, this is the ticket. If you are like me and have a grandchild starting to become the greatest trumpet player of all time (as I am). This is a must have collection.

Anyone interested in this collection, check out my blog-

trumpetensemblemusic.com

At the present time I have these songs scheduled to be available at my site…

Grownup Christmas List- Trumpet Duet /w tracks 11/6/14

Christmas Time Is Here- Trumpet Duet /w Solo Tracks 11/8/14

Ding Dong Merrily On High- Trumpet Duet w/Solo Track 11/10/14

Additional arrangements will follow.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night….

“Concentus Trumpet Ensemble”- Our New Friends From Portugal

trumpet ensemble photoSeldom do I run across an ensemble as well-rehearsed and uniform in concept as this outstanding trumpet sextet.

Each member is a gifted individual and to have such a singularly thinking and performing ensemble is extremely unique.

I have asked Mr. Costa to share with us some information about the ensembles history and I think you will be impressed with the level of musicianship these young men have achieved.

Hi, we are the “Concentus Trumpet Ensemble”.

We are a Portuguese trumpet sextet, and we all met at ESMAE, the University of Music and Arts of Porto, Portugal.

The members of “CTE” are Carlos Leite, Ivo Silva, João Sousa, Leonardo Costa, Rui Vidal and Sérgio Pereira.

One day we were all in a room practicing and someone asked, “Why do we not do a trumpet ensemble? We can do concerts, competitions, have fun playing together and play new music”. We started to look for music and started rehearsing. I admit that the beginning was not what we expected. We didn’t have good music to play but when we got better music we started to sound better. At first it was not what we wanted and we started to realize that each rehearsal got better. Now we realize that we are learning to play as a group and it is easier because we know each other and the music just flows.

We have been together since 2013. Since then we have done some concerts and competitions, and we have played in some summer festivals. Our most important activity was the collaboration with the great Portuguese composer Jorge Salgueiro, were we recorded all of his trumpet repertoire for display in his website and he wrote for us a new piece called “Concentus”.

We love to play all kinds of music; from fanfares to tangos, classical to jazz and modern. Our biggest problem is finding music and long ones for the competitions because we only play repertoire for six. We have never given up in our search and we have some good pieces for six. We also do some arranging and we are always looking for good music.

As a group, our dream is to be able to visit the world playing and having fun. As we do concerts and we are invited to festivals we are starting to make our dreams come true. We do all we can to play in places that we can receive recognized for our work. It is difficult to be recognized in Portugal, especially if you are a Trumpet Ensemble, but we also have the will to change that mentality.

You may have asked yourself, “Why Concentus?”

This name took us some weeks to discover. One day we decide to name our group but we did not know a good name for it. Then one day, during a rehearsal, our music history professor entered the room and said, “You were playing so loud that I almost couldn’t teach my class. But you were sounding so beautiful that I didn’t want to disturb you”. He asked us for our name and we told him we had been thinking of a name for weeks. Then he said, “why not Concentus? Concentus is a Latin word that means blending voices in harmony. Why do you not try that one?” Since then we are the “Concentus Trumpet Ensemble”.

We have a page on Facebook if you want to visit. It is Concentus Trumpet Ensemble and we have videos there as well. If you want come there and do the comments you like, we are open to all suggestions.

We want to make one special thanks to Bruce Chidester, for giving us the opportunity to participate in his blog and for all his activity helping the music for trumpet ensemble.

Check them out and add a LIKE to their site.

We wish these young men the very best and we will be watching as they continue turn the whole world on to Trumpet Ensemble Music.