Starting Over…..again. Part 2

The problem I am currently facing is that the room I am now practicing in does not contain the noise (volume) at which I practice.

As mentioned in our first post on this subject, the large windows are wonderful for viewing my front yard but fall far short for containing my practicing which became evident from a comment my new neighbor made when we first moved in.

My first thought was to rummage through our still packed boxes to find my practice mutes. Nothing does more for reducing the sound in a small room than a good practice mute. And nothing does more for ruining your attempts at a big sound!

For most of the week I have diligently practiced with that #*#%$@! practice mute sticking out of my bell and as you can see from the photo, even our Yorkshire terrier seems to enjoy the adjustment to my volume. Everyone seems to enjoys the almost silent sounds; almost everyone. I hate it! Trumpet players work most of their lives for just the right sound and now in my declining years, I am forced to compromise my ultimate goal in order to fit into my new community. LIFE IS NOT FARE!

I have tried and owned several practice mutes and the Yamaha Sound System mute is still my favorite so the volume has been successfully lowered but the ultimate sound sucks. As I continued this week to blow my ears out, fighting the tremendous back pressure created by the mute, I began to envision other ways to get the volume under control and at the same time reduce the resistance and increase the tone.

I have begun to design an alternative to the practice mute and as I get closer to the finished product, I will keep you informed.

No product can truly be developed without scientific proof of success and for that reason; I will be measuring my volume inside the room as well as the volume outside in my front yard.

Stay tuned folks for my continued search for the best way to lesson my volume without losing your mind.

New Flow Studies Material- Part II

Slider-Woman-Hat-FinalIf you have played through my material from my last post, some may find the tempi too fast. If you like the concept and would like a slower tempo, I suggest that you read an earlier post called “Using Technology to Improve Your Trumpet Playing- Using an Audio Recorder” where I describe how you can download a simple and free app. which will enable you to do your own recordings.

When comparing my exercises with Mr. Cichowicz’s etude on page 9 of his booklet, you can see a strong similarity. Obviously his material stressed long flowing lines with constant slurs. This, I believe was his focus when compiling his booklet and it is also mine when using scales, rather than melodic etudes. “You might as well learn your scales while you are improving your tone, range, air control, etc”.
Page 9TFS

Using Technology to Improve Your Trumpet Playing- Using an oscilloscope

Visualizing Your Sound

Many times I am asked , “Who do you think has the best trumpet sound?” Some would say Clifford Brown, some would offer the name Maurice André, Bud Herseth or “Bix” Beiderbecke. Everyone has an opinion but the real question should be, “Why do they have the sound we strive for”? Some say the secret to a good tone quality lies in the equipment used and some believe that the resonating chamber in each person is the reason. Whatever the reason and whoever you are speaking of, one thing is a known fact, through technology, we can easily SEE the difference in good and bad trumpet tone and with simple equipment, time and the desire, we can improve our tone quality. Continue reading to find how you can accomplish this improvement overnight.

Required equipment-

• Computer
• Microphone (internal or external)
Audacity program

Getting your recording program to work.

• Read the instructions
• Read them again
• Call the service number for help

How to use your recorded signal.

I will assume that you have installed your free Audacity program and have been able to see your recording on your screen. Viewing an audio signal is amazing for all those jagged peaks and valleys will be helpful for you to actually SEE your tone on the screen.

Exercise #1- Producing and recording your best sound.

• Play your best sustained note into the microphone as you record your playing.
• Again, on a second track, play with the worst sound you are capable in the same manner.
• Cut out a representation of both tracks (about two seconds of signal) and save them/ or cut out the beginning and end sections you are not going to use.
• Take the magnifying tool and enlarge the signals as much as you need. You can use the photo at the top of the page as a guide.
• Notice the difference between the two images. The best tone will be represented as extended high peaks and the poor tone will have more of a mushy look to it.

Now you know what a good tone looks like and what a poor tone looks like. So…what do you do next?
You have illustrated the difference, visually what the two look like and now we need to move one step further to reach your goal of the most beautiful sound made by man/woman.

In order to make your next move, you will have to acquire an oscilloscope. You may ask, “What is an oscilloscope?” At the beginning of this series, I used a picture of an oscilloscope as the opening photo. Check back if you are not familiar with the term and as you look, I’ll wait here for you……

….Welcome back.

The reason you will need an oscilloscope is that even though you have seen the difference in tone quality on the computer screen, using an oscilloscope will make it possible for you, through the process of bio-feedback, to practice widening and improving your tone. The image that you captured in your Audacity program gave you information at that moment in your recording. What we want to do now, through the use of an oscilloscope, is give you a visual indication of your tone in real time.

Exercise #2- Playing into an oscilloscope.

• Read the instructions
• Read them again
• Call the service number for help

Exercise #3- Using Biofeedback to improve your tone quality.

• Play your best note into the machine.
• Notice how the signal widens as you increase your volume.
• Generally the more overtones you are able to produce, the higher the peaks become.
• Do not confuse increased decibels with improved tone.
• Keep your volume the same as you change your embouchure.
• Most often, a more relaxed embouchure will produce more overtones and consequently a bigger sound and an increase in decibels.

Continue for ten or fifteen minutes and mentally absorb what you are doing. Each time you play a note into the machine, you are given a visual readout of what your tone has registered. Once you understand what is going on between you and the oscilloscope, begin to widen your range of notes and apply what you have learned in the middle register.

I first began using the biofeedback exercise in my own playing. Then I began letting my students play around with it. In a very short time, each student was able to open their sound to the point that everyone could hear the difference. Each student gained a bigger, more centered, richer tone, using less effort.

After working in my studio one summer at UNI, I got to the point that I could add so many overtones to my sound that it actually became painful to the ear. It is possible to exceed the use of overtones and begin to develop a tinnier, disturbingly edgy sound.

Disclaimer- The information posted above is from my own experience and in no way should it be used as a guide for the selection of any particular oscilloscope.

Before you purchase, beg, borrow, steal or rent a unit, seek advice from someone who knows the difference from one unit to another. The oscilloscope I used is the same model as the one on our first post. You can find many units on EBay but before you make your purchase, be sure that it will function properly in this situation.

Brass Players Obsession To Find And Keep “The Sound”

We will begin by replacing the word “sound” with the definitions “tone quality/color” or “timbre”. When approaching something as complex as a brass player’s concept of his/her “sound” we must first set accurate parameters for this discussion.

“In music, timbre (/ˈtæmbər/ TAM-bər, also known as tone color or tone quality from psychoacoustics) is the quality of a musical note, sound, or tone that distinguishes different types of sound production, such as voices and musical instruments, string instruments, wind instruments, and percussion instruments”.

Now; on to the topic which will occupy the next series of posts from your humble correspondent.

Here are 5 reasons why brass players are more concerned with the quality of their sound than non-brass playing musicians?

1. Brass players are more involved with the actual generation of their product than other musician (excluding singers, of course).
2. Brass players tone quality is directly affected by the condition of their lip rather than the condition of a string, reed or drum head.
3. Playing a brass instrument is much less forgiving than other instruments (excluding singers, of course).
4. Brass players are basically insecure (excluding lead players, of course).

Brass players and singers are very unique for they are completely in control of all of the physical elements required to produce their product. It is true that in the case of brass players, their selection of equipment will have some bearing on the timbre of the tone but more basic than one’s equipment, the physical makeup and function of these elements are what we will be addressing in this and our following posts.

A brass musician’s never ending search for and retention of that perfect timbre on their instrument seems to occupy many players’ minds and for that reason we become shaken by any fluctuation from that perfection. There are many blessed performers who may never be concerned with this struggle and I applaud you for your God given talents, but for most of us, each day begins with the question, “I wonder what it will be like today”? To better understand this daily dilemma, I will try to identify as many variables as this over-worked, advancing in age individual can muster.

As we address this constant struggle of “I wonder what it will be like today”, it is my wish that we all become more confident that tomorrow will bring us closer to that perfect “sound” (tone quality) each and every day.

Next Installment- What Is The Perfect Tone?

A More Interesting Way to Learn New Music

When setting into the task of learning new music, we usually put the sheet music on the stand and continue to bang out the notes until we learn it or start bleeding from the chops.

Next time you are faced with this sometimes boring task, try this approach and see if it works for you.

I have selected this exercise as our example for it is an exercise one of my beloved grandsons needs to learn for his school; but the concept can be applied to any new music you undertake.

Printed sheet music- #102 – Trumpet in Bb
Practice track at 80mm
Practice track at 100mm
Practice track at- 120mm
Practice track at- 140mm

To utilize this example, start the track at the slowest tempo you are able to play perfectly and gradually increase the speed until you have it mastered.

10 Advantages with this method-

1. You are listening to the melodic line at all times.
2. You are resting as much as you play.
3. You are forced to see the notes at all times in order to know when to reenter.
4. You should be able continue practicing indefinatly for you should not tire.
5. You are forced to keep time and be aware of the eighth note beats.
6. When playing with the midi trumpet melody, out of tune notes will be obvious.
7. By playing and resting each measure you are resting will give your brain a short rest which will eventually increase you power of concentration.
8. By constantly viewing so many notes, your sight reading skills will improve.
9. Resetting your embouchure every four measures will improve your embouchures accuracy.
10. It’s more interesting!

Note- If you have problems hearing the click track, just adjust your left and right fader for I recorded the midi trumpet and piano in one channel and the click track in the other.

Also- I’m sure everyone would have chosen better chords, but who cares. It’s only an example! LIVE WITH IT OR TURN IT OFF!

Transcriptions and Record copies Made Easier

We have had a few questions about an easier way to transcribe solos and copy arrangements off recordings and I will share a few tips which will make this laborious and time consuming process a little easier.

Start with our old friend Audacity or any other recording program which is able to reduce digitally the tempo of your recording without changing the pitch.

Step #1.
Record the solo or arrangement and save.

Step #2.
In the Edit draw down, select the “all” feature.

Step #3.
From the Effects button, click on “Change Tempo”

Step #4.
In the Change Tempo window, move the slider to the left until you reach 50%.

Step #5.
Click on OK and wait.

Step #6.
Now that you have your solo or arrangement slowed down to half the original tempo, highlight the first four measures of the material.

Step #7.
Work on this section by repeatedly clicking on the “play” button.

Step #8.
Continue by four or eight measure segments until you have completed your copy.

By slowing the original material down to half speed, you should be able to figure out the notes more easily. On more complicated and more rapid material, slow the tempo down even more.

As If We Dont Have Enough Valves Already!

David HickmanProfessor David Hickman is a very well respected trumpet teacher as well as a fine trumpet player. His newest project has been working with Clifford Blackburn to develop and make available a new five valve trumpet. In this video he demonstrates the versatility of this new horn and explains its use for simplifying fingering and improving accuracy.

I nexus pheromone find it amazing that he is able to remember which set of valve combinations needed to be used in each example. To the average trumpet player this might seem a bit over the top but you have to realize that playing in an orchestra is not the same as playing at the American Legion on a Friday night.