It’s No Wonder We Have Junk Horns on The Market!

I think all serous trumpet players will find this interesting.

I did several searches for a list showing the most popular and talked about trumpets on the Internet today and found this one……

The following was taken from one such “Most Popular” on the Internet lists… Hold on to your Bach, Schilke, Benge, Conn, Yamaha.

10 Best Trumpets
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And here are the 10 most popular researched trumpets on the internet…..

Legacy Intermediate Trumpet TR750 w/ Deluxe Con…

Hawk WD-T313 Bb Trumpet with Case and Mouthpiece

Cecilio 2Series TT-280N Nickel Plated B Flat

Le’Var BTRLV100 Student Trumpet

Hisonic Signature Series 2110L Bb Trumpet

Cecilio 2Series PT-280N Nickel Plated B Flat

Hallelu HTP-200 Bb Trumpet W/pro Case


Crystalcello CWD415 B Flat Lacquer plated
Crystalcello WD480 B Flat Lacquer Plated Pocket…


Good Trumpet Players Are Full Of Hot Air

No, this is not going to be another trumpet bashing article, although we sometimes deserve one. The amount of warm air you exchange through your instrument can be an indication as to how well you are playing. A great way to tell if you are playing with efficiency is to check the amount of condensation coming out of your instrument. The better you play, the more condensation is generated.

Why does water form in a brass instrument?

Most brass instruments (the exception being the Horn- incorrectly referred to as a French horn) are equipped with a water key which is used to quickly extract condensation from the instrument. The reason moisture (not spit) forms in all brass instruments is the fact that as the player forces warm air through the instrument, condensation forms on the inner walls of the instrument and requires the player to dump the moisture from time to time. Feel your instrument. It always feels cool to the touch. Cool tubing in a brass instrument will collect condensation on its interior as the player’s warm air is forced through.

What affects do high/low and loud/soft playing have on the air’s temperature?

The following exercise will demonstrate the effect of warm air and cool air on a brass instrument.

  • Position the palm of one of your hands close to your face.
  • Take in a deep breath and with your mouth fully open; slowly allow your breath to gently exit your lungs.
  • Did you notice the temperature of the air?

The temperature as it fell upon your hand should have felt warm. The reason for this is that the air was being forced to the hand in a large amount and at a slow speed. Now continue with this next exercise.

  • Again position your hand close to your face.
  • As before, take in a large amount of air but this time force the air out through a small opening at a fast speed.
  • What temperature was it this time?

This time the air felt cool on the palm of your hand. Two things had changed from the first exercise. In the first, the air was slowly blown to the hand and in the second, the air was blown in a fast, focused rate. When playing a brass instrument we constantly are changing not only the amount of air blown into our instrument but also the speed of the air. Warm air is used on the low range and cooler air is produce for the higher notes. The volume (this time I am speaking of decibels) also will result in a change in air temperature. Loud playing will reduce the temperature of the air through a small opening because of the increase in air speed and soft playing through the same size opening will comparatively decrease air temperature.

How are these differences affected by the level of musicianship?

This is a fact- “There is more water after rehearsals on the floor around the lower part players than the first part players”. I have checked band room floors many times and have found this to be generally true. As composers/arrangers we have found that when writing for trumpets, you need to consider many issues. First part players tend to play the most exposed parts and for that reason composers tend to give them more time to rest. Lower part players are playing less exposed and more often than not less demanding parts because of the lower register. Because of this practice, lower parts are given more sustained notes and phrases, generally in the lower range. In this lower register and with more sustained notes, comes more condensation to be expelled. Now that we have discussed a reason why lower part players dump water more than first part players, I will discuss another and completely different issue dealing with water dumping.

Does the amount of condensation indicate the quality of your playing?

My earlier section delt with the amount of condensation among the different areas within a trumpet section. I will now address a completely different issue. Within a single player, the water issue can be a helpful indicator as to how well you are playing. If you are playing at your most efficient level, you will need to open your water key more often than if you were playing in an inefficient manner. The more relaxed and open your air passage is, the warmer your air stream will be and consequently the more condensation you will generate. That is one indicator which will tell you when you are playing well. Many times students will complain that they are letting more water out of their instrument. This is good, not bad. This is what you should be striving for. The minor inconvenience of opening your water key should be celebrated for you are becoming more efficient in the use of your air stream. Any improvement in the use of your air stream reflects in a bigger, more relaxed tone. When I am playing my best, I will be saturating the floor with condensation.

Check the floor around you and use the amount of water as a barometer (more accurately- hydrometer) to indicate your improvement as a brass player.

Playing On A Cruise Ship

I have been asked to share some information on playing on a cruise ship. I have not played on one myself but most of my friends in Branson do it regularly so from what they have told me, I will try to share this information with you.

The good side of cruise ship playing.

1. For a single person, it is a lot of fun.
2. The pay isn’t bad and the scenery is fantastic.
3. Living conditions on the boat are cramped.
4. The food is wonderful.
5. The shows are OK and lean towards the commercial side of playing.
6. Your opener and maybe one band feature is all the real jazz you will be playing.
7. Most bands use rhythm section and add horns in this order, sax, trumpet and finally trombone.
8. On the really big ships you may have a big band.

Now for the down side of cruise ship playing.

1. You will be in competition with very good and seasoned musicians.
2. When musicians loose their jobs around the country, they try to fill in with a cruise until another job on land opens.
3. Many times musicians are hired by word of mouth so if you are not a monster player or know someone, you will have a difficult time getting a gig.

Some suggestions that might help.

1. Get to know someone in the business who knows someone in the cruise field.
2. Take lessons from a trumpet player in your area that has contacts.
3. Work on the following areas in your playing-
• Sight reading
• Sight reading
• Sight reading
• Be able to play to an F above C at any time, fresh or tired.
• Have a great smile (I’m not kidding on this one)
• Learn a few standards you can jam to (in any key)

My last bit of advice.

I live in and play in the shows in Branson and when I came here 16 years ago, there were 15 trumpet players working full time. Now there are three of us. There were five but the trumpet players on the Branson Belle, our excursion boat on Table Rock Lake just fired them. The show “All Hands On Deck” (were I play) and the Show “Prince Ivan” are all that are left for trumpet players in town. Jobs are scarce and everyone who has had a job is now looking for a gig and most are pulling in favors for work on the ships. I don’t mean to discourage you on your interest in playing on a cruise ship, but you will be in competition with many seasoned players. Keep playing and at this time in the music business, college teaching still looks good even with the cut backs in education./ I taught 30 years at a leading university and played all the time. My retirement was outstanding and during these tough times for playing musicians, a DMA would be my suggestion for the future.

Here are 10 reasons most of our bands are playing out of tune- #3, #4, #5

Valve extension tubing
3. Tune your band before, during and at the end of every rehearsal!

The need to tune your ensemble at the beginning of a rehearsal is obvious but what about during your rehearsals and again towards the end. The more often you bring up good intonation, the more conscious your students will be aware of any changes in pitch.

Changes in room temperature can alter a once in tune ensemble and even the size of the instrument will affect the bands intonation. Think about the amount of air and the length of time it takes a warm breath to fully envelop each of the band instruments. We all recognized that warm air, as it travels through an instrument brings the pitch up on that same instrument. Cold horn= low pitch and a warm horn = a higher and more stable pitch as long as warm air continues to flow through the instrument. Now think of the time it would take the air blown through a tuba to begin to warm the instrument and eventually gain the proper pitch. Compare that now to the time required for the same warming for a trumpet. The trumpet is considerably shorter and because of that fact, requires much less time to warm up the air inside. This inconsistency will cause you to rethink your tuning process even within the brass instrument family not to mention the other instruments throughout your ensemble.

Most often these days, the few minutes given to tuning at the beginning of the band/ orchestra rehearsal is the only time given. Throughout the rehearsal, the importance of proper intonation should be reinforced in order for the students to realize that “once tuned” does not mean “tuned forever”. During every ensemble rehearsal and performance, every player must constantly check for any and all notes within the organization.

If more directors would also spend just a small amount of time towards the last few minutes of a rehearsal, this repeated exercise will make every student more aware of the importance of good intonation and eventually this reminder will carry through to every minute of a student’s playing.

4. If somethings sounds out of tune, fix it!

My reaction when hearing an out of tune note or chord is similar to resting my hand on a hot stove. It isn’t a matter of a slight discomfort, it’s more like “WHAT ARE YOU DOING”? As we become ever more used to perfectly executed recordings and television performances, we become more complacent as far as intonation. One must remember that almost all of these perfect performances are usually attributed to many painful hours checking and tweaking out of tune notes during the recording and after the recording to make every recording perfect. Life is not like that. We make small mistakes as well as large mistakes and there are no electronics to save our performances when it is done live.

Many of the shows in Branson as well as other active live music areas rely on pre-recorded tracks to improve a production. If you have not realized that this is often done, then you probably get upset when you actually hear a clam or mistake in a show. The reason for the use of tracks is simple. You shouldn’t hear any mistakes. Another advantage of tracks is that even with a substitute musician; the show still goes on and sounds the same. Now we come to the realization of “lip–synching”. I will reserve the right to address this at a later date.

Now back to playing in tune-

When I hear an ensemble land on a chord which is obviously out of tune, my first reaction is, “Why are you going on”? If something is out of tune, fix it at that time. The more often a director passes by an obviously out of tune note or chord, it gives the student the misconception that it doesn’t matter and is less important than everything coming next. Intonation is as important as the correct fingering of a note. This makes as much sense as correcting a missed played note at the start of a rehearsal and failing to remind the same student every time he/she misses it throughout the entire rehearsal. An out of tune note is equally harmful as a wrong note!

If you hear an out of tune note, don’t go on and hope it will correct itself for I guarantee you it will not improve without an adjustment by its player.

5. Learn which notes tend to be out of tune on “every instrument”.

When addressing this problem, I have more sympathy for most of the band directors for this requires much more study and understanding than just isolated notes from various instruments. Some generalizations can be made for out of tune instruments such as the three valve brass instruments. Most educators remember from their high and low brass classes that the more valves you put down, the more out of tune the notes will become. This is a very general statement but does cover many of the intonation problems we have with valved, brass instruments.

I have worked with band directors who have done their study on out of tune note tendencies on all of the instruments and I hold them in great respect for this acquired knowledge takes a lot of time and energy to collect and remember. In most cases, these directors are the better educators and front the very best bands in the nation. So…. If you want to improve your bands performance ability first start to improve your own knowledge and ability to recognize which notes could be out of tune on ALL of the instruments in your band/orchestra.

I would like to suggest that you also read my posts called

Valve Slide Conversion Rings- The Solution to Low D and C# intonation Adjustments


Revisiting Valve Slide Conversion Rings- The Solution to Low D and C# intonation Adjustments

Here are 10 reasons most of our bands are playing out of tune- #2

Stop relying on your electronic tuner!

Too many directors have continued to rely on the little tuning box and have forgotten or possibly never learned to used their ears.

That statement reminded me of a Faculty Brass Quintet clinic we were giving in a small town in Iowa. One of the members of our ensemble was illustrating how we began our rehearsals and performances by first tuning up. We proceeded to play our tuning Bb and began making the appropriate adjustments to our instruments. When we asked if anyone had any questions, a very shy student spoke up “Do you tune just by listening”?

At the time we found that somewhat humorous but through the years it seems to sum up one of the problems we have in our schools today; we reply too much on the tuner! We have completely forgotten how to use our ears to identify proper intonation.

The band director’s usual defense for this practice is that “it takes too much time out of our rehearsal to tune the student’s instruments”. That makes as much sense as an art teacher excusing an art student for not preparing his/her canvas before starting a painting. Before one begins to produce art, he/she must first do the preparation to insure the final product is worthy.

If you are interested in learning a simple yet effective way to tune your ensemble, I strongly recommend you read and practice what I have called “Visual Tuning”. When tuning my Jazz Ensemble at the University of Northern Iowa, it took me no more than two minutes to tune every member in my 19 piece band! So don’t tell me you don’t have time during your rehearsals!

To understand this revolutionary method which has been strongly endorsed by leading authorities in the field of applied cybernetics*, visit this post and learn how you can become a better director by learning and practicing the technique of “Visual Tuning”.

Visual Tuning


Here are 10 reasons most of our bands are playing out of tune- #1

1. You can’t tune your band to a tuba!


Why Are We Still Tuning Our Bands To A TUBA?

Scientific Proof- “Tuning to a tuba can be hazardous to your band’s intonation”

Continued Discussion on ““Tuning A Band To A Tuba”

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

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


SAA_0954_cSashaArutyunova2014_1600pxWEBEarlier, I posted an article describing a fantastic brass quartet which I introduced as “Possibly The Best Quartet- Period”. Photo taken by Sasha Arutyunova

After posting my material, I was lucky enough to get in contact with this ensemble and they agreed to answer a few questions I had about their group.

Here are my questions and their responses-

How did you all get together?

We all grew up in Seattle, Washington playing music in the public school system. ​Seattle has an incredibly ecosystem and history of music education and we were all lucky enough to be immersed in that community growing up!

Three of the members of the ensemble (Riley, Willem and Zubin) went to the same middle school and high school. Andy was at the cross town rival school.

​ We got to know each other through the scene, interacting at festivals, workshops and at clubs around town.

​After high school, ​we all made our way to New York to pursue degrees music conservatories. Two of us were at Juilliard and two were at Manhattan School of Music. It actually wasn’t until we got to New York that we formed the group.

We were the Seattleites in the big city. Zubin had been the first to arrive in NYC, so when the rest of us got there we found ourselves hanging out at his apartment all the time, eating dinner together, going to shows. Then one day, Willem had the crazy idea that maybe we could make music together, just the four of us.

It wasn’t that we set out to create a new body of music or new sounds. We were just four friends who enjoyed spending time with each other and happened to all play brass instruments. Sort of more like a garage rock band mentality.

How was your ensemble accepted when you first began working together?

​We’ve been extremely humbled and frequently surprised and by how favorably our music has been received in various circles over the years! As I mentioned previously, we simply formed the ensemble to make music with our friends and find an honest means of expression. ​We really don’t think in terms of genre distinctions, so often its difficult to describe what we do. We just do our best to get people in the room and share something personal, and that seems to really resonate with folks from all sorts of backgrounds. In addition to performing in traditional chamber music and jazz settings, we love bringing our music to people in unexpected places: house concerts, rock clubs, barns, farms, rooftops, art galleries and guerrilla fanfares. We’ve found that if we can just get people into a room to experience the music, none of the genre distinctions or conventions really matter.

Who does most of the arranging?

​Our arranging process if very democratic. Depending on the nature of the work, we might bring in a fully realized arrangement​ or a very basic sketch. But the work always evolves dramatically in the rehearsal process. We like to experiment with various configurations both orchestrationally and arrangement wise, with the rule that we must always try any idea that is suggested, and then let the composer of that particular piece have the final say.

Because we all improvise, we are always looking for ways to crack open arrangements and inject character and personality into things. That holds true when playing our own compositions and other repertoire.

On average, how long does it take to work up an arrangement?​

It​ can take months and months of experimentation to fully settle into a new piece. Often a piece doesn’t truly come to life until after we’ve toured it a bunch. There’s something about playing a piece in a bunch of different spaces for different audiences and feeling how it lives and breathes out there that really shapes the music. There are pieces we’ve been playing for four years, and we are still discovering new ideas and directions to explore with them. The music is constantly evolving.

How often did you rehearse at the beginning and how often are you rehearsing now?

Our rehearsal process has shifted with our personal lives. For most of our first few years, while we were all in school in NYC, we generally had two weekly rehearsals. Now that we’re all out of school, our schedules are far less predictable. One of us is based mostly in Seattle and we all have other commitments that take us out of town for periods of time. So, we generally schedule more intensive rehearsal periods, either leading up to a tour/recording session or to create a new body of work. In preparation for this last record we were able to have two separate dedicated two-week rehearsal periods: one outside Seattle to work on the compositions, and one at Avaloch Farm in New Hampshire to tighten everything up before the recording.

I noticed some unusually long phrases in your playing, are you all or some of you using circular breathing or is it done in the editing?

Riley will sometimes circular breathe, but not generally as part of the arrangements…I think I’ve only heard him do it in solos. And we don’t pull out breaths in editing; we may have ducked the volume of a few that were especially abrasive, but definitely didn’t edit to make it sound like we don’t breathe. So, unless I’m mistaken, we’re playing all those phrases in one breath.

In the recording “Interlude”- What electronics and effects were used?

For those interludes, Wayne Horvitz joined us for some late night jams on the form of his composition “Wish The Children Would Come On Home”. The electronics are him running his synthesizer through an effects board. I want to say he was using his DX7, but that could be wrong…definitely some rad ’80s digital synth tho. And the effects I think are basically just reverb/delay/distortion.

On “The Band with muddy”- were the repeated, muted trumpet notes recorded or punched in?

Haha a great magician never tells his secrets…

In “Barber Shop”- Was the trombone solo written or improvised. If written, what instructions were given?

The trombone solo was completely improvised. Wayne really pushed us to experiment with our solos and try different approaches and different thematic variations. I think we must have done three or four takes of the solo, and ended up choosing the one that felt the most cohesive.

In “Love, Love, Love” were the changes from the original (Piano) form made by the composer or did you all decide on playing the coda the first time and then repeating the A section and then end? Was the time signature change your idea also? I noticed Mr. Horvitz’ original piano version is in 4/4 and you were in 3/4.

The arrangement of this piece was done by one of our trombonists, Andy Clausen. The change in the time signature was completely his idea, although some elements of the arrangement, including the form/structure of the piece, were decided upon as a group.

In “Waltz From Women of Tokyo”- What are the time signatures during the middle section?

The time signature through most of the piece, as the title indicates, is 3/4. However, the middle section has a shift to 4/4, and then there is an improvised section following that shift which does not have a meter.

In the recording of “Home- Folk Song- the Bass trombone ostinato sounded impossible. How were you able to do it? Also, “Bitchin’ trumpet solo!

The trombone ostinato was played by both trombone players, with the lower trombone playing the “booms” (the downbeats) and the higher trombone playing the “chucks” (upbeats).

“Wish the children would come home”- What nontraditional effects were used in the opening? How was this notated?

It’s funny that “Wish the Children” is the title track, because the piece is almost completely improvised. After long days and nights of recording every other track, Wayne got out his electronics and we jammed on “Wish the Children” until three or four in the morning. The piece opens with us playing the fully notated tune – an eight-bar loop – with Wayne improvising above it. Everything after that was improvised, and we used moments from the alternate takes as interludes throughout the album.

“The Store, The Campfire”- Why was the Major 7th sustained at the end and not resolved to tonic? Is there a hidden meaning?

Good question! I’m not sure if Wayne has some hidden meaning in there – in the original recording from Wayne’s album “Film Music 1998-2001,” the final chord isn’t resolved either. The only element we added was the final trombone pedal, which we used as a recurring theme throughout the piece.

How did you link up with Prof. Horwiz?

Wayne has been a huge mentor and influence to us, both individually and as an ensemble. We all studied with him growing up in Seattle, and when we formed as a band four years ago our first show was at his club in Seattle, The Royal Room. I’d even say that his dedicated belief in us as a band from day one helped convince us that we weren’t crazy for starting a brass quartet. Eventually, he approached us with the idea to play an album of his music, and it was a natural fit.

If you have not heard this amazing young ensemble, be sure to follow them on

and their Web Page

Band Directors! Learn to Tune Your #%@&*%$# Bands!

87654ca3c887cfa611a2912e414a67a3“I have had it with out-of-tune bands”!

The more I listen to concert bands, the more I get upset and wonder where we have gone wrong in instrumental music.

As my readers have learned, I am a very patient yet sometimes out spoken person. I try to understand other opinions and give most people the benefit of the doubt but in the case of poor intonation in most of our instrumental music programs today, I have had it!

I have decided to face the reality that the instrumental programs for the most part in our country have failed our students when it comes to acceptable intonation and because of that realization, I have decided to place the blame where it belongs, and that is on the band directors themselves!

The number of directors capable of recognizing out-of-tune players in their bands is pitiful! It’s no wonder our students can’t play in tune; their directors have no clue either. The fault lies with our tin eared, “don’t have a clue” directors. If you think I’m upset with this condition, I am. I have been awake most of the night and now it is 5:30 am. I have been a passive bystander long enough and now it is time to ruffle a few (or many) feathers.

Here are 10 reasons most of our bands are playing out of tune

1. You can’t tune your band to a tuba!

2. Stop relying on your electronic tuner!

3. Tune your band before, during and at the end of every rehearsal!

4. If somethings sounds out of tune, fix it!

5. Learn which notes tend to be out of tune on “every instrument”.

6. Do not be satisfied with “close enough”!

7. There is no such thing as “tuned at the factory”.

8. Acceptable intonation takes practice, so practice it yourself!

9. The word “pitchy” has become a standing joke, but there is nothing funny about it in music education!

10. If you don’t teach these kids proper intonation, who will?

I am serious about this national problem and for those who may say I am generalizing for including “all” directors in this epidemic, please reread my careful use of the words “most” and “many” before you start sending in your opinion.

I will continue this rant in following posts with my suggestions in each of these 10 areas.
I am very sorry (actually I’m not sorry at all) for the anger I have bestowed upon you this morning but I’m tired of intonation mediocrity!