An Interesting Dilemma


I pride myself as a very competent second chair trumpet player. Making this confession does not come easily for declaring that you are comfortable being a “second chair player” is against all trumpet player’s egos. But, as I told Mr. Bobby Shew one day, “we are the players that make you guys sound good”. Be sure to read my earlier post entitled “How To Become A Better Second Chair Trumpet Player”.

Last season I was playing the lead chair in our show The All Hands On Deck Show and
I enjoyed it immensely. Our show reopened this month and we were fortunate enough to add one of my best friends and former lead trumpet player from the Les Brown band to join us so that I could play the jazz solos in the show. Mr. Doyle Miller and I have been playing together for many years and the change would be great for the band. I have never performed with a more similar style of trumpet player as Doyle. With this said, I will now share with you the dilemma we are facing in hopes that someone out there can come up with a solution to this situation.

Here is the problem-

It is my job as the second trumpet to keep the volume between the two trumpets as balanced as possible throughout the show. We have no problem at all in the middle and lower range but when the lead part gets up to the high C and above range, the lead trumpet part begins to increase the edge of its tone. This is not any problem when the second part is playing in interval of a third or even a fourth below the lead part for it also begins to increase in its edge. The problem we are facing now is that most of the second parts are written mostly a sixth below which does not have the cutting power in that range. Some may suggest that the second player play louder which seems to be an easy solution but without the same edge to the sound, the second part would have to be uncharacteristically much louder than the first part. We have tried to equalize this volume situation with separate mikes, different mike and mike placements but the unbalance still continued.

Our problem stems from two conditions-

1. By voicing the second part an interval greater than a fourth, the tone quality of the two trumpets is drastically different.

2. Without re-scoring the book, I see no way to even the volume between the two instruments in wide range differences.

I have tried playing the second part on a more edgy mouthpiece and this only distorted the volume balance in the middle and lower range. The placement of the mike was raised to be more omnidirectional to cover both trumpets but this also failed to improve the balance. I have also tried playing with my backup trumpet which has a smaller bore and a more brilliant sound and found no improvement.

If any of you can come up with a solution to this problem, it would be greatly appreciated. Until then, I will be doing my best to “make the first chair player sound good”.

Bruce was a member of the faculty at the University of Northern Iowa, School of Music in Cedar Falls from 1969 until his retirement in 1999. He has performed with many well-known entertainers such as Bob Hope, Jim Nabors, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, Anita Bryant, Carman Cavalara, Victor Borgie, the Four Freshman, Blackstone the Magician, Bobby Vinton and John Davidson.