Buying Music in a Tight Economy- Part 2

My second recommendation for purchasing music on a budget might seem more expensive than expected. The price may seem high but the importance of the book far out weighs the cost. I would consider the H. L. Clarke Technical Studies for Cornet to be the second most important book written for the cornet/trumpet. Of course, the Arban Complete Method for Cornet would be the most important document. Every trumpet player has been subjected to some of the most difficult fingering exercises known to man from these pages and we all have gained from them. The most famous would be line #31 from the second Study which introduced us to the complexities of trying to play in the key of B below the staff. At times I have wondered if my fingers would fall off trying to negotiate that line with accuracy and speed. To this day I still run through it from time to time.

What benefits are gained from this book?

Although this book was written to help develop finger technique, many other benefits will be developed-

  • Gradual increase in range
  • Increase in flexibility
  • Finger coordination
  • Mastery of keys
  • Increased breath control
  • Improvement in slurs
  • Gradual increase in range

Gradual increase in range– Each exercise begins at the lowest range of the instrument and very gradually ascends to the top of the trumpets practical range. Most material for the trumpet at the time this was printed tended to limit the player to the note high C. This continuation into the higher notes is very valuable to the younger student. It is very helpful to actually see the notes above high C when developing the upper register. Even the Arban Method was guilty of this limitation. Although the notes above high C are not included until page 24, there are plenty of exercises from High C up to G above High C.

Increase in flexibility– Every exercise includes slurred scales and arpeggios which is the bases of good flexibility. Dynamics are also indicated and tend to be on the soft side throughout; another important element when practicing flexibility exercises. My personal favorite flexibility exercise is the seventh study.

Finger coordination- As I stated before, the second study is one that can be practiced every day and you will still need to develop some of the keys such as #29, 31 and 33. In these lines, you are required to coordinate difficult fingerings which include our weakest and least coordinated third finger. Through regular practice you will gain both of these abilities and hopefully gain the same amount of control and speed as the other exercises.

Mastery of keys- This book takes you through the entire major and minor keys and although the exercises sometimes become tiring and uninteresting, they all will help you to become an accomplished mover of the valve.

Increased breath control- The author has carefully notated the breathing expectations throughout the book. One particular etude will always remain in my memory; Etude V. One day I noticed the suggestion at the top of the etude which read, “Play the entire page in one breath”. This was the challenge that I was waiting for. For a solid month, I worked on the fingering so that I could play the etude with the suggested breathing challenge. I eventually was able to play the entire page in one breath so the next step was to try to play it twice in one breath. Once I had that down, I was ready to impress my teacher at that time. I began my lesson as usual with small talk and local chit chat and eventually got around to mentioning that I had read that the fifth etude was to be played in one breath. My teacher shared with me the fact that none of his students were able to do the page in one breath. I casually mentioned that I thought that I might be able and that perked his attention. I took a deep breath and proceeded to play down the page, start at the top and continue to the middle of the page before I had to stop for a breath. As I remember to my best recollection, my teacher stood up, walked out of the room, knocked on the studio next door, and proceeded to rave over the fact that one of his students had just performed the fifth etude one and one half times in one breath. I guess he was impressed. The rest of the lesson was filled with praise of my recent feat of ability. I never told him that I had set him up by practicing for a month on the piece and while he was talking and just before I started to play, I was hyperventilating to the point of almost passing out. Isn’t it great to have those kinds of moments and still have the memory to remember them?

Improvement in slurring- Every exercise is slurred. There are suggestions for single, triple and double tonguing but for the most part, everything is slurred. I am a strong supporter of massive amounts of slurring for I have seen that constant slurring tends to open your throat and thus open your sound. In addition to the open throat, you will also play with your tongue lower in the oral cavity which also improves your tone. Slurring also promotes a more gradual approach to embouchure change and thus improves endurance.

Gradual increase in range- Every exercise raises your notes by one half step. This is very important when you reach your highest notes. The small increase in range is controllable and your expectations of success are also predictable. A sudden and radical jump in range induces bad habits such as great amounts of embouchure change.

Even though this material is relatively high in price, the benefits far out weigh the initial cost. Take care of this book for you will have it around for a long time.

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.