Two Essentials In Your Trumpet Bag

Now that you have your instrument and a few of the immediately required accessories, it is time to continue adding to your collection of great toys. The two pieces of equipment which I will address here would be your tuner/metronome and your audio and/or video recorder.

The importance of a metronome/tuner

It is essential that you own and use a metronome and tuner for these two accessories are vitally important to your success as a musician. If you play out of tune, no one will want to play with you. If you don’t know the tempo of a piece, you might be wasting time in your practicing. When I combine the tuner with the metronome, I am speaking of a device similar to the Boss Tuner & Metronome TU-80. Both this tuner/metronome instrument and the Korg are priced at $25 and would do a good job keeping you in tune and at the correct tempo. I have used my Boss for more years than I want to remember and have had no problems with it. The Korg on the other hand has a better consumer rating so you may be swayed to this unit. Although I could not find the dimensions of the two units, it looks as if the Boss is a little smaller. This might influence your decision. Boss fits in my shirt pocket easily and I doubt that the Korg would. Either way, if you don’t have one, you need to get one.

The importance of recording

We are involved with an art form which is based on sound. Also important is the visual perception while on stage. Because of these two important areas, I have divided this next piece of equipment in to two areas, i.e. visual recording and audio recording.

  • Video recording

When we perform, our audience is influenced not only by what they hear, but also what they see. Many times our perfect musical performance is marred by something on stage which detracts from the over all presentation. To illustrate my point, I will relate an occurrence which had a very profound affect on an educator. I was judging a jazz festival in Iowa and was faced with a very uncomfortable situation. The jazz band I was judging was very good but the director was distracting to say the least. This woman, to be politically incorrect, was huge. I had no problem with her size for this is something many people deal with. The problem I had was the fact that she –moved across the stage directing every entrance and ever note to the point of distraction, both to her band and the audience watching her. Even though the band was well rehearsed, the site of this large woman dancing and jumping up and down on stage ruined the performance. Finally I had had enough and questioned one assistant director of the band if they were aware of the problem I was faced with. He assured me that he had been mentioned this issue to the director but she was not concerned about the visual affect on the bands performance. The assistant director asked if I had any suggestions and I simply told him to video tape her programs and make her watch them. Later that year I received a message from the assistant director telling me that they had video taped her presence on the stage and after playing it for her to watch, she realized the problem and never over did her presence on stage again. How you present yourself to your listener can be as important as your musical performance, so consider using a video recorder from time to time to see what the rest of us see.

  • Audio recording

While we are involved with the mechanics of producing notes and making wide skips during our performances, we are many times unaware of how we actually sound. Sometimes when we hear recordings of our performances, we are shocked at what was actually played. To be a good musician, we must be truthful to our selves. Remember that when you ask your mother or mother-in-law what they thought of your solo, they are not going to tell you the truth. Tape recordings (sorry, old habits are hard to break). Audio recordings are the only truthful records of how you played. They don’t lie.

The price of Digital, hand held recorder has dropped considerably in the past few years and the quality has also improved. You should be able to purchase a reasonable good hand held, digital recorder for a price of  $100 to $300. One such recorder in the middle of that price range would be the Tascam

  • Combination video and audio recorders
  • If money is an issue and you would be content with something of lower quality and lower price, the best way to save money would be to find a deal on a video recorder which would work as an audio recorder also. Any time you try to do everything with one unit, you will have to sacrifice some quality and for that reason I am suggesting this possibility. Two years ago I purchased a JVC HD Memory Camera model GC-FM2 for video taping some of our concerts. When it arrived, I was most impressed. The HD video and image stabilizing features were better than I had hoped and as an added bonus, I found out that the audio recording quality was also impressive. If you check for sales on line you may be able to find a similar buy to what I found- Listed at $180.00, discounted to $92.00 and with a $10.00 coupon,- total price $82.00. Add in the memory which did not come with the recorder and you have a fairly acceptable recorder of both audio and video, AND IT IS SMALLER THAN MY TUNER/METRONONE. I love modern technology!

    How To Form Your Own Trumpet Ensemble

    The first question might be, “Why would you want to form your own trumpet ensemble”? That is a great question and some days I wonder myself. But with all the work and time spent on the ensemble, I still enjoy the group. Our quartet, the Branson Trumpet Ensemble, has been performing for over eight years and the enjoyment and excitement is still there. Fortunately I am working with three great players and the time we spend rehearsing and performing is one of the most enjoyable activities I have had while living in Branson, other than a few very big bass and one 36 inch Rainbow trout I caught a couple of years ago.

    Why start a trumpet ensemble?

    If you are fortunate enough to be performing regularly in your area, you might not understand the need to form an ensemble. If you enjoy practicing by yourself each and every day you also may not need the experience of good ensemble playing. But if you are like most of us where the jobs are not all that frequent and you need to stay in shape for those intermittent gigs, playing in a chamber ensemble might sound interesting. Our concerts usually require one rehearsal before our performance so we are not burdened by many hours of rehearsing. When we rehearse, we get the job done as quickly as possible so that there is time left to share stories and do what trumpet player enjoy best, talking about our selves.

    Why did we decide to form a trumpet ensemble rather than the more common brass quintet?

    A brass quintet is by far more popular than a trumpet ensemble but what I was interested in was the opportunity to write for trumpets. Brass quintets are much easier to write for because of the different tonal qualities as well as the more extended range of the instruments but I saw the need for quality arrangements for trumpet chamber groups. There are a lot of trumpet players in the world that do not have access to quality trumpet ensemble literature. There is a large amount of difficult music written for college level players thanks to the attention given by the International Trumpet Guild for college level groups. But when I searched the internet for arrangements which would suit the average high school player,  I found very little material worth performing. Most of the trumpet ensemble music was written in the 1940’s and were all named after flowers. If you have been around for any length of time, you know this very dated and uninspiring library. If you were a band director and wanted to send your Jr. High students to contest, forget it! There was nothing worth performing. So with this in mind, I decided to write trumpet ensemble music which could be performed by the average Jr. High group as well as the average high school group. Music of this level was also just what I wanted for my ensemble for all of the arrangements could be performed with the minimum amount of rehearsal time or could even be sight read at the concert. We do have some kickers in our book but most are high school level arrangements.

    Why form a quartet?

    Our group originally was formed as a quintet with one player performing on a bass trumpet. We encountered two problems with this instrumentation 1. Bass trumpets do not play in tune, and 2. The Bass trumpet player moved to California, with the bass trumpet. There were additional problems with five members in the ensemble. The availability of five trumpet players became a problem at times. If you form a trumpet quintet, you will have to have an additional two players on call in case  one of your regulars has a conflict. That would mean that to regularly stage a trumpet quintet, we would have to have seven players on your list to play. That was not a practical number of players to have to coordinate. If you have a dependable quartet, you would only need one or possibly two names to call in an emergency. I have found this very workable.

    What will you be loosing with a trumpet quartet rather than a trumpet quintet?

    With four regular players you will be loosing a little in the harmonic structure as well as adding more playing time to the four players in a quartet. The  limited voices in the harmony can be solved by careful voicing of the arrangement and the loss of one player means that you have to be very careful not to work your four players to death. As the arranger for our group, let me say that the fifth part adds a great amount of time also when writing and printing music. Organizing the library for five players was much more work than working with a quartet.

    Are there many good trumpet quartet arrangements available?

    You should be able to find at least two dozen acceptable trumpet quartets on the market and each will cost you from $10 to $25. There are some very fine arrangers/composers writing for four trumpets but most are difficult arrangements and for that reason I have offered more user-friendly materials which would better suit the public school crowds. The price of my arrangements is more reasonable also ($1.00 to $20.00 for each arrangement). You can visit this site at Trumpet Ensemble Music, com.

    Your first few gigs will most likely be for your friends. If you are a student in high school, this might be the beginning of regular rehearsals of your group which would make preparing for contest much easier when that time comes each years. Most band directors will be supportive of your venture and there are always churches in need of live players. And I don’t mean only at Easter time. Weddings are also good opportunities for actually making money.

    If you are only interested in playing in a trumpet ensemble to make money, you might be interested in what I told my ensemble at our first rehearsal, “If you are expecting to make a lot of money playing in this group, please let me know now so I can find someone to replace you.” Trumpet groups do not make a lot of money but there are more important things in life than making money.

    Kanstul Instruments

    Kanstul Musical Instruments, Inc., located one mile east of Disneyland in Anaheim, California manufactures a complete line of brass musical instruments renowned worldwide for their quality and sound. Founded by legendary music executive and artisan Zig Kanstul and managed by his sons Jack and Mark, this family business is an inspirational “Made in America” success story, living up to their company slogan, “Nothing Resonates Like a Kanstul.” For information and factory tours visit

    The Kanstul Flugel Horn owned and played by one of the members of my Branson Trumpet Ensemble is the best Flugel I have ever played!

    Check out this recent video promo and visit their web site when you have time.


    Simplifying the Trumpet Embouchure- Part 5 What you need to practice to build strong chops.

    Long Tones!

    Some may find this too simplistic and some may find me too arrogant.

    There are many benefits to being old; one is the lack of concern with criticism.

    The reason I have been so narrow focused in my conclusion is that focusing your embouchure muscles in an isometric condition is a fast way of developing strength in your trumpet playing embouchure. Long tones do exactly that!

    For decades I have used and taught a very simple (sometimes boring) warmup exercise which focused on the embouchure muscle development through isometric muscle application. This long tone warmup was used up to the last five or six years and was eventually replaced with a chromatic warmup, used to increase my high range playing. It wasn’t until recently that by replacing the long tone warmup with the chromatic warmup, I realized that my range had increased and at the same time my endurance had diminished. Ooops!

    If you analyze the action of each warmup, you may see that a long tone exercise forces the lip muscles to compete with their opposing sets of muscles and in a chromatic warmup, the sets of muscles are in a constant state of readjustment. Each octave scale acts as a very elongated slur from the bottom note to the top note and requires an equally slow adjustment back to the first note. So, chromatic scales work on your lip flexibility and the long tones incorporate muscles in a static, lip strength building exercise.

    Below I have included my original long tone warmup along with helpful instructions. While you are using this warmup, constantly feel and visualize the sets of muscles we have studied and evaluate each set’s function as far as what its purpose is and what its opposing set of muscles are doing. The whole area affected by these muscles should be firm. The only exception is the orbicularis itself which should remain relaxed and flexible at all times. If you are in doubt as to what area I am speaking, cup your hand as if you were forming a claw, place your middle finger under your nose and where the other fingers and thumb make contact with your face will be the area you want to focus your attention on.

    Long tone instructions-

    Before you start, be sure that you have formed the proper embouchure by feeling the isometric firmness in the sets of embouchure muscles “around” your lips and especially in the firm corners.

    1. Remain on each note for five seconds (watch the second hand on a clock).

    2. Always take a full breath before each set of notes.

    3. Do not overblow. A dynamic of mf to f is plenty.

    4. Be sure to rest the full fifteen seconds after you play.

    5. If the last series of notes (G-E-C) tires you, stay on the second set (E-C-G) for another week or two.

    6. Be sure to use your embouchure and air to play the higher notes not by applying extra mouthpiece pressure.

    7. Listen to your tone. The more overtones you have in your sound, the better.

    Longtone Warmup

    In our next post, I will show you how to recognize the richest, most full sound when you play.


    How could three horrifying tragedies befall one city within such a short period?

    Fifty lives were taken by a deranged gunman, an innocent child taken from his parents and a talented young girl senselessly gunned down in the same city.

    We may never understand why the innocent are taken as evil continues to grow in our world.




    “Death and sorrow stains the earth where joy and bliss once stood.

    These lives are gone for reasons known to only One, who could.

    The more we see deaths shadow form across our land each day,

    the more we feel the loss of life and bow our heads to pray”.

    You can download this arrangement of “Orlando” for a brass quartet free of charge at-

    Free Sheet Music “Orlando”- Brass Quartet (tpt.1,2, tbn.1,2)

    Simplifying the Trumpet Embouchure- Part 4 Finding the Correct Aperture Size and Shape

    It matters not that your embouchure muscles are positioned and set correctly if you do not have a proper opening for the air to pass through, making the lips vibrate properly.

    So, how can you be sure that the opening or aperture is correct due to the fact that it is not visible to the eye? That is a more important question than most people think.

    How to be sure your lip aperture is correct for playing trumpet-

    1. Can you start a note without tonguing it?

    You should be able to start any note simply by moving the air through the opening in your lips. Sounds simple but many players find this difficult if not impossible. If you are unable to accomplish this, you need to evaluate the size of the opening. In most cases, if the opening is too small, the lips are not positioned to freely vibrate. On the other hand, if the aperture is too open, air passing between your lips will not allow the lips to vibrate also.

    2. If I can’t see the size of the opening, how can I tell if it is too wide or too small?

    Stick the tip of your tongue between your lips and into the cup of your mouthpiece. By placing the tip of your tongue into the mouthpiece, you are able to “feel” the size of the opening. Before you old school purists start yelling that you should never stick the tip of the tongue between the lips, please take note-

    “I am not advocating that you tongue with the tip in the mouthpiece or even between your lips!


    By extending the tip of your tongue into the cup of your mouthpiece, you will have a very good idea as to how open the aperture is between your lips. I have been using this trick most recently when I finished the spring season of a show in town and took a couple days off to get away from the horn. When I restarted practicing, I noticed that I was having problems with notes closing on me above the staff. After a day of analyzing my problem, I began to thrust the tip of my tongue into the bottom of my mouthpiece and discovered that I was starting my notes with an opening much too small.

    If the aperture size between your lips is too small or too large, all the strength in the world will not compensate for this error.

    Simplifying the Trumpet Embouchure- Part 3 Now That We Know Which Muscles Are Used To Play Trumpet, How Can We Better Use Them?

    Not to be concerned with-

    Buccinator ( compress cheek against teeth connected to orbicularis oris)
    Don’t even worry about these unless you have bulging cheeks when you play.

    Zygomaticus minor (used to pull lips back and smile)
    An embouchure with an exaggerated “smile” effect will thin your sound and thin the meat under your mouthpiece which can be uncomfortable.

    Depressor labii inferioric (draws lower lip down and slightly lateral)
    Unless your chin is bunching up, don’t worry about these muscles.

    Mentalis (elevates and protrudes the lower lip)
    These muscles are outside the area we will be focusing on.

    Area to be concerned with-


    Zygomaticus major (used to pull lips back and smile)

    Depressor aguli oris (depress corners of lip)

    Levator labii superiorus (raises the upper lip)

    Orbicularis Muscle (Kissing muscles)

    Risorius (laughing muscle from corners outward)

    The muscles which are primarily involved with the trumpet embouchure are, as you can clearly see, are situated at the corners of the players mouth.

    To quote the ever popular Doc Severinsen “It’s all about the corners, man”.

    The proper embouchure for playing a trumpet can be described as an isometric war between the sets of muscles which function to move the corners. In other words, these muscles are all contracting against their opposing sets of muscles in order to firm the corners without moving the corners.

    Located between these waring muscles is the Orbicularis Muscle which is our vibratory area under our mouthpiece cup. What we need to have happen in a proper trumpet embouchure is firm corners with a relaxed area under our mouthpiece to vibrate freely.

    To get the feel of this tug of war, simply pronounce the syllable “dim” and firm the corners of your lips as you sustain the “m” sound. Notice that the center of your lips is relaxed while the corners are firm. The firmness is created by the isometric tension of your opposing sets of muscles in the corners of your mouth.

    Simplifying the Trumpet Embouchure- Part 2 What Facial Muscles Are Involved When Playing A Trumpet?


    Buccinator ( compress cheek against teeth connected to orbicularis oris)
    Depressor aguli oris (depress corners of lip)
    Depressor labii inferioric (draws lower lip down and slightly lateral)
    Levator labii superiorus (raises the upper lip)
    Mentalis (elevates and protrudes the lower lip)
    Orbicularis Muscle (Kissing muscles)
    Risorius (laughing muscle from corners outward)
    Zygomaticus minor/ major muscle (used to pull lips back and smile)


    The following was prepared by Tim Taylor, Anatomy and Physiology Instructor

    “The muscles of the head and neck perform many important tasks, including movement of the head and neck, chewing and swallowing, speech, facial expressions, and movement of the eyes. These diverse tasks require both strong, forceful movements and some of the fastest, finest, and most delicate adjustments in the entire human body.

    The muscles of the face are unique among groups of muscles in the body. While most muscles connect to and move only bones, facial muscles mostly connect bones to skin.
    These muscles, including the zygomaticus major and orbicularis oris, pull on the skin to produce a seemingly infinite number of facial expressions and to move the lips and cheeks during speech and eating.

    Producing the body’s ability to close the mouth, bite, and chew food, the muscles of mastication move the mandible relative to the rest of the skull. These muscles, including the masseter and temporalis, elevate the jaw forcefully during chewing and gently during speech”.

    To better visualize the placement and function of these muscles, visit the following site to better understand what we will be discussing in our next post. Be sure to click on the 3D animation…….it’s awesome!

    Also be sure to zoom in if you have the courage…..