Category Archives: Trumpet for Beginners

What Is The Difference Between New Orleans and Chicago Dixieland Jazz?


What Is The Difference Between New Orleans and Chicago Dixieland Jazz?

The quickest answer to that question would be 930 miles.

From a musical standpoint it is much more complicated and for that reason I will try to simplify it for you.

Traditional New Orleans style of Dixieland usually include these characteristics

• Strong marching band history
• Instrumentation which is more mobile (banjo, brass instruments, woodwinds, marching percussion (bass drum player, snare player, etc.)
• Strong emphasis on all four beats
• Generally a more ensemble approach to performance
• Use of solo performances is limited
• Literature generally derived from well known marches

Traditional Chicago style of Dixieland usually include these characteristics

• Smaller number of players (5-8)
• Instrumentation includes piano, drum set and many times acoustic bass
• Accents are placed on beats 1 and 3 (hence the term two beat)
• Ensemble playing is less important than individual solos
• Literature is derived from all forms of popular music including tin pan alley
• Individual players enjoy more attention than the band

The above lists are only part of many characteristics contrasting the two styles but with the information above, you should be able to recognize the unique styles from each other.

Notice that I have listed these as traditional characteristics for what was typical at the beginning of each, has now been mixed to the point that many Chicago style bands play in a traditional New Orleans style and New Orleans bands incorporate elements of a Chicago style. Even the word Traditional has it own meaning. When speaking of a traditional Dixieland band, we are generally referring to one with a New Orleans characteristic. The term “new” or “modern Dixieland” will refer to a Chicago style.

To illustrate a traditional or New Orleans style of Dixieland, please view this video-

Notice at the beginning the attempt of the band to simulate a marching ensemble. Each instrument was easily carried to the stage by its performer. Even the drummer marched in with his drum and the cymbals were played by the trombone player. Please take note that the drummer and the banjo player are both giving equal accents to all four beats in each measure as Traditional or New Orleans bands are known to do. Another important feature of this band is the absence of a piano player. The banjo in this band is functioning as, what will be in Chicago, the piano player’s responsibility. The spoken information shared on this video is also important.

A Chicago style of Dixieland is shown in this video-

This video of “When You’re Smiling” is typical of a Chicago rendition. Notice that the band opened with a vocal feature followed by individual players taking solos. Also present is a piano player as well as a banjo player. More time is spent featuring solos than we had in the previous recording. Notice also the “two beat” feel which is accenting beats one and three, differing from the even four beats in the first example.

While searching for examples of both New Orleans and Chicago Dixieland, I came across a video of one of the best known Chicago style bands and that would be the Dukes of Dixieland. This is a very interesting performance for it not only features the Dukes of Dixieland but also performing the same number is the Woody Herman band. As you watch the two group’s trade back and forth on the same number, notice the more aggressive solo playing of the Dukes compared to the structured and well rehearsed performance of the Thundering Herd.

Now enjoy the Dukes of Dixieland video

Wet or Dry- That is a Question

This question can mean different things to different people. To a mother of a new born baby, it has one meaning and to a city mayor, it might refer the drinking preference of his/her county. To a trumpet player still another and this is the person I will be addressing in this post.

What is a dry embouchure and what is a wet embouchure?

The difference between the two is the moisture content of the lip area while playing. A wet embouchure is one which has moisture (saliva) under the rim of the mouthpiece and between the lips and a dry embouchure lacks this moisture.

Is it best to play on a dry embouchure or a wet embouchure?

This question has been argued from the beginning of time and the final decision has yet to be made. The reason for this heated debate is the fact that many great players are successful with one and an equal number have chosen the other. Each lip condition has its own advantage and has been used successfully throughout the history of our instrument. I have seen debates from both sides of the aisle and will relate the logic of each.

The advantage of a dry embouchure

The advantage of playing on a dry embouchure is the fact that the player has added security. A dry embouchure player feels the mouthpiece rim is more anchored and less chance of sliding when there is no moisture between the lip and the mouthpiece. This choice is many times preferred by players who use excessive mouthpiece pressure. When an excessive amount of pressure is used, the introduction of moisture between the rim and the lip will cause the mouthpiece to move, thus complicating the players feeling of security. As an example of this problem, I will relate a first hand experience of this problem. While playing the Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey Circus during the summer in Iowa, the third trumpet player complained repeatedly of the heat. As we continued to play, his complaint grew into stark panic. What he was experiencing was complications to his playing style as the sweat continued to form on his lip. He was a dry embouchure player and as the heat increased, his playing ability decreased for his mouthpiece kept sliding on his lip to the point that he couldn’t comfortably play his part. No matter how many times he wiped his lips with his handkerchief, the problem continued. You might consider this example when deciding on which embouchure you prefer. Although this situation is not an advantage as my first sentence in this paragraph stated, it is very relevant to the discussion. That was a disadvantage of playing on a dry embouchure but the next is definitely an advantage. If you are performing outside in the middle of winter as I did at the Farm Progress Show in Western Iowa with the temperature hovering at 15 degrees, a dry embouchure can be your friend. In frigid weather or blowing winds, the dry embouchure has a definite advantage over the wet. For a wet lip player, the only solution is a generous amount of Chapstick and apply it often.

The advantage of a wet embouchure

The advantage of playing on a wet embouchure is the fact that the lips will begin to vibrate more easily with moisture lubricating the lips. Softer entrances are easier and the wetness will help make sure that excessive mouthpiece pressure is not exerted. This debate reminded me of an incident at our university when the great high range player Bud Brisbois was giving a master class to our students. The question was asked of Mr. Brisbois, “Do you play on a wet or dry embouchure?” His answer was quick and decisive, “Dry”. To demonstrate further to the student, he began to illustrate his choice. He picked up his horn and wiped the moisture from his lip, but before he placed his mouthpiece on his lip he licked his lips and proceeded to play. After he had finished, the same student asked him the same question and received the same answer. The student challenged the great player by pointing out the fact that before Mr. Brisbois played, each time he would lick his lips. The argument continued until finally another question was tactfully asked. Here was the great player telling our students that he played on a dry embouchure but each time he began to play, he would lick his lips. The question is still debated; did Brisbois (April 11, 1937 – June 1978) use a dry or wet embouchure? I have my feelings and so did our students that day.

As I have illustrated, there are advantages for playing on a wet embouchure as well as advantages playing on a dry. It is my strong opinion that a wet embouchure is the best but don’t forget to have your Chapstick with you at all times.

Some of My Favorite Trumpet Players

Today I wish to indulge myself. Through my life, many trumpet players have impressed me and for that reason I would like to share a few of my favorites with you. Today we will just sit back and enjoy history as written by a few gifted players. Because of the fact that this is a personal selection, I would be very interested in hearing your top picks for our trumpet hall of fame.

Maynard Ferguson

Allen Vizzutti

Bud Herseth

Louis Armstrong

Rafael Mendez