Starting Over…..again. Part 5


VB70G. Sound Blankets Producers Choice* did as advertised”.

After a simple installation of 5 heavy duty hooks, all I had to do was hang the blanket over the window. After checking the sound level at the curb, in front of our home, we decided that the amount of transferred trumpet sound had been reduced by 90% which I feel is adequate for my taste as well as my neighbors. This sound blanket comes with one side white in color and the other black which worked for me very well. The Texas Summer sun will be warming the front of our house and the lighter color will help to reflect a little of the heat.

An interesting discovery was that not only did the trumpet sound lessen but also lessoned was the traffic noise from outside which will help when I’m recording.

As we continued to cruise our property lines, both my wife and I agreed that now most of the sound was coming from the exterior walls to the side in my room. Now that the windows have been quieted, it is now time to soften the sound being transmitted through the side walls.

One solution to this new condition would be to purchase two more blankets to cover these walls as well, but due to the cost of such an investment, I have decided to go another route. Check back and in our next post for we will continue to reduce the sound level from my room to what I hope is a 5% transfer level.

*VB70G. Sound Blankets Producers Choice- White-Black. Size 72×80 with Grommets. Single.
Subtotal $34.87
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FedEx Express Saver: $38.88
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Total $55.43

Starting Over…..again. Part 4


While still continuing to find a workable solution to my noise problem in our new house, it dawned on me to search the internet for remedies. Within seconds I had many suggestions as to how to deaden the sound transfer traveling through my large front windows. These choices ranged from foam to cotton, from fiberglass to cardboard and as I deciphered each claim, I narrowed my choices down to one constant fact; cotton seemed to be the best at deadening my sound. Before I shelled out an exorbitant amount of currency, I first had to be convinced that a cotton batting would fill my needs, so out came an old, heavy bedspread still being stored in one of our many moving boxes.

Within a few minutes, the bedspread was tacked to the upper molding around the window and my wife was again in our front yard checking the amount of sound transfer. To my delight, the cotton bedspread had in fact, lowered the amount of sound transferred through the window. With that information, I returned the internet to find the best cotton blanket I could afford. My choice was determined on silencing ability, materials used and customer evaluations of each product. I finally decided on a VB70G. Sound Blankets Producers Choice– White-Black. Size 72×80 with Grommets. Out came my check book and off went my money.

Our next post will evaluate my decision.

Starting Over…..again. Part 3

We succeeded with the practice mute in lowering the dbs. transferred to the outside of my house. Unfortunately, I hate playing with one stuck in my bell so we must move on to another alternative.

One highly recommended piece of equipment is the sE Electronics Reflexion Filter PRO Portable Vocal Booth which isolates your sound using a wrap-around partition with acoustical foam. After studying this product, I thought that I might be able to improve on the original design and out came some of the moving boxes currently lying around my garage floor.

After about an hour, I was able to construct what I thought might be a way to cut down on the volume produced during my practicing. Sound absorbent foam placed strategically within a box, surrounded by a yet large box seemed to me to be the solution, but after repeatedly sending my wife outside my window while playing, it was decided that my perfect solution fell miserably short of it intended goal.

My design was so bad, that my wife could not tell the difference between open horn and “boxed in” horn. DARN!

The next night was spent on line searching for alternative ways to reduce my noise level and in my next post; I will share with you still another brain storm of mine as we continue our search for the perfect sound deadening solution.

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.

What is a Flugel Horn and Do I need to own one?


The flugelhorn, also spelled fluegelhorn, flugel horn or flugelhorn has a long history in European countries but is relatively new to ours. Its popularity in the states probably dates back to the fifties through the use of such well known names in jazz as Shorty Rogers, Kenny Baker, Clark Terry, Chet Baker, Miles Davis, Freddie Hubbard, Lee Morgan, Nat Adderley and Art Farmer.

The purpose of the flugel was to give the player an alternative to the edgy, powerful trumpet sound. During the Bebop period (1945-1960) the trumpet was king, but when cool jazz started to gain a following in the music scene, the flugel was just the instrument to give the performance a less edgy tone. The flugel and cool jazz were meant for each other. If you have not listed to the flugel in the hands of an artist, I recommend that you listen to the examples listed at the end of this post.

The acoustical design of the flugel is basically a conical construction and the trumpet is based on a cylindrical design. When comparing the two, you will find that the trumpet has the same tube diameter throughout most of its length which is the reason its tone is more focused than its closest cousin, the cornet. The cornet is in between the trumpet and flugel which is the reason the cornet is more mellow than the trumpet and the flugel is more mellow than the cornet. Conical instruments such as the cornet and flugel have increasing tube diameters from the lead pipe to the bell which makes the tone in each more mellow than that of the trumpet. This is the reason that the flugel is so popular with jazz musicians for it gives them an additional timbre to utilize during their performances.

Inherent in most flugel horns is the problem of intonation. Much time and expense has been given to the improvements in trumpets but because of less volume of sales, the flugel has continuously been lacking in improvements. This situation will improve only if the demand increases or we have a super star surface to bring back national recognition to the instrument as was demonstrated by the increase in popularity of the flugel shortly after Chuck Mangione, in the 1970’s. led the charts with his recording of Feels So Good.

If you are contemplating the purchase of a flugel horn, my first suggestion would be to find someone who has one and would let you play theirs or visit a music store which has one on display. Buying a flugel horn without trying it would be a very bad move for even though everyone seems to be interested in playing one, not everyone would have a use for one. Playing a flugel is different than playing your trumpet and many times players are disappointed with the tonal differences. The trumpet is generally bright as stated before and it takes some time to get used to the darker tone of the flugel. Where you plan to play the instrument should also be considered. If you are not a jazz musician, your use is more limited. I’m not saying that the flugel will not fit into the same circles where your trumpet is currently serving but if you plan to play lead in a jazz band, rock band or similar ensembles, the flugel will not do the job. As an inner ensemble instrument, it is ideal. To give you an example of where the flugel is best suited, listen to this arrangement of Over The Rainbow which was recorded with four flugels. Notice that even when the melody goes up to a written A above the staff, the tone is still rich and warn with none of the edgy qualities that a trumpet would exhibit in the same register.
The flugel is a very flexible instrument in an ensemble because of its conical character. When used with trumpets, the flugel takes on a character all its own as in this example of Begin the Beguine. The first and seconds parts are written for trumpets and the third and fourth parts are played on flugels. The trumpets carry the melody as the flugels play the repeated bass figure as well as filling in the harmony.

Here is another arrangement for two trumpets and two flugels- The Beer Barrel Polka. The fourth flugel plays the tuba’s roll as the third flugel is used to represent a French Horn which leaves trumpets one and two available for the upper two parts.

As I have shown, there are many areas the flugel can enhance a performance. It works well as a solo instrument as well as a harmonic instrument. If you are interested in hearing some of the best in flugel horn playing, visit the examples listed below.
In my next post I will assume that you have access to a flugel horn and would like more information on how to play it and that will be covered in my next post. Stay tuned for more information on the wonderful instrument called the flugel horn…

Here are a couple examples of some fine flugel horn playing-

Ed Trujillo

Melodic Flexibility- Revisited

An easier way to better playing

Download text and exercises here- Melodic Flexibility

When something is accepted as new, others may point out that this revolutionary concept has been around for decades. With this in mind, I would like to say that what I am describing is new to me and I would like to share it with you.

Several months ago, I became bored with traditional methods for improving lip flexibility and finger coordination. As an older and supposedly more experienced teacher of the brass, I had enough with the Clarke Technical Studies and every lip flexibility book available to me. Practicing these repetitive patterns was like trying to take a bad tasting pill every day. I knew the exercises were of benefit to my playing but I was also bored out of my mind with these monotonous patterns and for that reason I began writing my own exercises to fill the need for both finger and lip exercises and that was how Melodic Flexibility began.

What is Melodic Flexibility?

Melodic playing has always been the most important phase of any musician’s development. The melody coming from the front of our instrument defines our ability as a musician. If we are unable to demonstrate fine melodic skills, few will be interested in hearing us perform. To perform a melodic line musically requires many independent elements such as, an acceptable tone, intonation, flexibility, endurance, knowledge of key signature, dynamics and all the other elements of fine musicianship. Melodic flexibility would encompass every element of musical playing. Unfortunately the exercises we have repeated over the past history of brass playing have been far from melodic. Most of our lip flexibility books sound like primitive bugle calls and possibly the finest finger exercise studies (Clarke Technical Studies for the Cornet) is only slightly melodic in nature. Even though we respect the vast library of books dealing with both lip and finger development, how wonderful it would be to combine both the lip and finger development into one exercise and reap both benefits as well as save time in our practice routine. In my opinion, Melodic Flexibility succeeds in this venture.

As with both traditional lip exercises and finger exercises, Melodic Flexibility requires repetition. The difference between the traditional and my exercises is that Melodic Flexibility is based on well known and/or recognizable melodic patterns. When performing a melody which is known to you, it is more like reading a story than just pounding out short, repetitious patterns. A melody has a beginning, middle and an conclusion. Traditional patterns have no plot, no story and are consequently boring. Each time I play an exercise from the Earl Iron, “27 Groups of Exercises” or the Walter Smith “Lip Flexibility” book it is like taking short jabs to the face. I know they are good for me, just as medicine is good for me, but these patterns are as far from music as anything could get. The same is true for the finger development exercises. After playing every day out of these books for most of my life, I have decided to stop. For me, Melodic Flexibility is a better way to spend my time.

How to Begin Melodic Flexibility

By combining the basic concept of repetition used in traditional methods with well known melodic phrases, I feel every musician would gain more in a shorter amount of time by using this approach. I am not here to sell my method for the concept is so easy anyone can develop their own material and begin experiencing the benefits. If you have a program such as Finale, Finale Songwriter or any similar music writing software, you are ready to begin.

You first need to decide on a simple four measure melody which is limited to a range of about an octave. In your exercise sheet, I have used the song “Humoresque”. This melody was ideal for it demonstrates a perfect melodic curve, beginning low, extending up an octave and eventually returning to the original starting note. One characteristic which must be in every song that you select is the element of familiarity. The selection of melodic material must be known to the performer for it is the known melody which replaces boredom with enjoyment while practicing. Notice that the melody begins in the low range. By starting low, the player will be able to relax and deliver a full, rich, warm sound. This is very important. The melody is then repeated up one half step. Notice that this is beginning to look very similar to the Clarke Studies with one big difference- the player is now performing a recognizable melody. By playing an actual melody, the player is drawn from the first note to the last in a musical fashion; not being forced to just bang valves down. How far you continue upward by half steps will be determined by the goal set and the limits of each player. Do not exceed the comfortable upper register of the player for discomfort is not what we are after at this point.

Once you have reached an upper register which is still comfortable to perform, it is now time to retrace our path back down to the low register. To do this we will now start a new melody. This time I have chosen “Happy Birthday” for our example. Begin in the upper register and descend back to the lower register. The reason for this is to let the embouchure gradually begin to relax. This “start low, work up, return to low concept” seems to work best for the gradual increase and decrease of your embouchure’s work load gives the lip a pattern of work and rest which is very beneficial in gaining both strength and flexibility. Pay close attention to the measures indicated for resting. Make sure that you “rest as much as you play”.

Slurring your material can not be stressed enough at this point. I have found that the more these melodies can be slurred, the more the air is allowed to flow through your instrument. The more slurring you do, the more relaxed your air passage will become. I have noticed that through the use of slurring, my tone quality has improved substantially. I am aware of more overtones in my tone than ever before. These additional overtones are good examples of an embouchure working more efficiently. As you practice these exercises, listen to the quality of your sound and if you experience more volume with less effort, you are beginning to use your air and embouchure more efficiently.

Gradually Increase the Work Load

Once you have established this basic concept, then you need to move on to more advanced levels. The example I have included at this point is the first phrase in an old melody called “Nola”. I was amazed at the difficulty of this simple melody. Even in a comfortable key, you may find this a challenge. While playing this tune, notice that your concentration is directed to the melodic line more than to the key or fingering. Let the melody draw you through the notes. Keep thinking melody, not pitches, key or fingerings. Concentrate on the melody for by doing so, you are forcing yourself to play music and not just playing notes. There is nothing melodic about the Clarke Technical Studies. Those exercises are just that, exercises. This melody on the other hand is music.

The Eventual Goal

Once you have become at ease playing the four measure melodies, then it would be time to increase the length and difficulty of the songs. In my next example I have used the melody to “The Nearness of You”. Because of the added length of the phrase, you will be required to use all of your air and take in additional air to complete the melody. The reason for this is to have you get used to longer phrases and also force you to use up all of your air and quickly refill your lungs to finish the example. This is a wonderful exercise to learn how to quickly fill your lungs.

The Many Benefits from the Practice of Melodic Flexibility

  • Improved desire to practice
  • Improved ability to play in all keys
  • Increased playing efficiency
  • Increased lip flexibility
  • Increased finger control
  • Improvement in tone quality
  • Improved embouchure strength
  • Increased upper range
  • Decrease in practice time

If you have had experience using this concept, or a similar routine, I would be very interested in learning from your observations. By working together, we all might someday be able to be better musicians.

Which Comes First, Technique or Musicality?


This question is much like the chicken or the egg issue. Which should be taught first? One camp believes that without technique, nothing can be played and the other camp asks the question “what good is technique if it isn’t musical”. Both have their cases and in this post I will try to bring the two sides to a happy mid point.

Most of my early teaching was geared to the technical approach but as I increase candles on my birthday cake I must admit, all technique can have its disadvantages. One student who stands out as the most gifted technician on his instrument was without doubt the least musical that I have ever worked with. When assigned an extremely difficult solo or etude, this student would go home and the next week would come back and perform it perfectly. It didn’t matter how difficult the material was, within the week he would have it down. Unfortunately it would also be one of the most technically perfect and unmusical performances you would ever hear. On the other hand, I have had students who could bring tears to your eyes with the most heart wrenching performance of an assignment and miss half the notes. Could there be a happy middle ground in our quest for the perfect approach to musical playing? I do hope so and from what I have recently discovered, the answer may be within reach.

Last week I decided to arrange a composition which was far from the norm for my trumpet quartet. I decided to try to arrange the Second Study from the Clarke Technical Studies for Cornet book. This most recognized collection of finger busting patterns is one which proved to be a challenge. I found the repeated pattern to have a Baroque feel and that is how I decided to portray it. By the end of the day, it was arranged, printed and recorded. I was very pleased with the way it sounded. After recording and listening to the playback, I noticed that it began to have a life of its own. After many years playing these notes, I finally started to think of the melody as a melody rather than a finger exercise. Musical articulation and a new approach to the dynamics began to replace the boredom which I usually encounter while dutifully banging down my valves. Shorter phrases within the four measure melody began to surface. This perked my enthusiasm so I began to arrange other studies.

Shortly after posting the second study, I began to receive E-Mails of support from my readers. One such comment stated, “That….was….incredibly…beautiful”
This comment was an inspiration to me for my thinking was now substantiated by others. The technical can also be musical. After several orders for the Second Study arrived, I began writing arrangements for other studies. When considering the Fourth Study I was reminded of one of the comments which described my previous attempts as being beautiful. I had never considered Clarke’s book to be beautiful but after reading through the Fourth Study, I began to see the beauty in this pattern also. I then set out to arrange an even more musical version of Clarke’s material. I have included this arrangement for you and hope this will give you some thought as to the value of a more musical approach to the technical side of trumpet playing.

In closing, I must say that arranging Clarke’s Fourth Study changed my approach to technical practice. I have discovered another level of musicianship which is also reflected in my performances. Some may say this revelation was a religious experience, some may say that I finally got smart. I do know that each time I listen to my quartet arrangement of the Fourth Study; I ask myself, “Where did that come from”?

Listen to example-

The Clarke Technical Exercises written for a trumpet quartet are availabe as a set of #’s 1 through 5 at….

trumpetensemblemusic.com

The Perfect Lesson Plan #3- High School Player

At this level of development, the expectations and requirements are similar to the Junior High student with a few exceptions. Foremost at this level is the added amount of performing such as in jazz bands, concert bands, marching bands, all-region and all-state tryouts and as well as solo/ensemble performances. At this juncture, the player needs foremost to continue to gain playing techniques as in Junior High but needs additionally to be aware of the condition of his/her lip at all times. Too many players run into lip problems at this level which can easily be avoided. I have listed below a few situations where the player must be aware of and prepare himself/herself for these situations.

Sore lip

If too much mouthpiece pressure is placed on the lip, the player may actually bruise lip tissue which is not helpful when playing your instrument. To make sure that you are not exceeding the normal pressure on your lip, be sure to read the following posts-

How to Identify and Deal with Excessive Mouthpiece Pressure- Part 1

and

How to Identify and Deal with Excessive Mouthpiece Pressure- Part 2

Stiff lip

This is a very common problem with players for the more they practice, the more the embouchure can gain strength and at the same time lose flexibility. If you are not sure that you are suffering from this problem, the symptoms are these.

1. Airy sound
2. Difficulty with soft dynamics
3. Takes longer to warmup
4. A constant uneasy feel about playing

The solution to your problem may be found here-

How to Combat “Stiff Chops”

Do You Ever Suffer From Stiff Chops? Part #2

Final “Stiff Chops” Post………. (for now.)

Continuing to improve your basic playing ability will be a continuation of the same material suggested in the Junior High Lesson Plan with a couple additions.

Continuing to improve high range

Once you have gained higher notes to your satisfaction, you should now continue to apply the higher range you have gained and to do that, I suggest that you begin playing through etude books which incorporate these higher notes. To do that, I suggest that you move over into some of the better woodwind etude books such as the following

Expanding Your Upper Register

You might be interested in the following melodic material which will improve your practical high range-

Second Book of Practical Studies for Clarinet

Selected Duets for Clarinet Vol. 1

Rose 32 Etudes

Improving Your Sight Reading Ability

Improve Your Sight-reading- On Line

Tips for Improving Your Sight Reading

Developing your Jazz improvisational abilityPatterns for Jazz

Vol. 2, Nothin’ But Blues: Jazz And Rock (Book & CD Set) (Jamey Aebersold Jazz Play- a-Long)

Learning To Transpose

Sachse 100 Studies“>Sachse 100 Studies

The Perfect Lesson Plan #2- Junior High School level player


At this point in your advancement as a trumpet player you should now be able to play with a good tone, know all of the fingerings used on your instrument and have a decent range (a solid A to the C just above the staff) and a reasonable amount of endurance. At this point in your advancement, you will be performing regularly in a large ensemble (usually a concert/marching band) and will be starting to think about performing solos as well as small ensemble music. Within this post I will try to cover some of the more advanced expectations you will be facing and some suggestions as to the material and the implementation of that material in your regular practice sessions.

How much should I be practicing each week?

By now you should feel comfortable practicing an hour a day and again I suggest that you practice six days a week and rest one for the same reason I suggested it for a beginner in our earlier post.

What should I be practicing?

At the Junior High level, you should include the following areas to cover in your practice period-

Warm-up material
Lip flexibility exercises
Scale exercises
Range exercises
Melodic material
Finger exercises
Endurance material
Contest material

Each of these areas should be included in your hour of practicing. I will give some brief ideas as to what and how each of these categories should be implemented.

Warm-up (5 minutes)

Beginning to get your lips working is very important and should take at least five to ten minutes at the beginning of your practice session. Some players find benefit playing long tones, many players feel that slow lip flexibility exercises work the best for them and still others favor pedal tones. Whichever your choice, make sure that you start softly and with short exercises. Be sure to continue the “Rest As Much As You Play” method for this will assure you that your lips will continue to feel good at all times.

Lip Flexability Exercises (5 minutes)

The best book I have ever used for better lip flexibility is this one……. 27 Groups of Exercises by Earl Irons

Be sure to follow the suggested instructions offered in the book. Doing a couple of these exercises each day will help gain better tone as well as lip flexibility. Usually five minutes on these exercises would be enough in each of your practice sessions.

Scale exercises (5 minutes)

The very best book for studying scales would be the Arban Complete Conservatory Method for Trumpet

Every major scale is covered completely with many variations for each key.

Range exercises (5 minutes)

My favorite method would be without question..
Systematic Approach to Daily Practice – Trumpet
https://www.amazon.com/O4702-Systematic-Approach-Practice-Trumpet/dp/0825832888

Follow the included instructions and be sure to read the opening statements for they are also important to your advancement.

Melodic material (10 minutes)

Included within the pages of the Arban method are many short melodies which will be helpful to develop tone, phrasing, intonation as well as the general control of your instrument.

Finger exercises (5 minutes)

Your development in finger coordination is vitally important for clean and effortless playing. There is no better method on the market than the Clarke Technical Studies

Endurance material (5 minutes)

Again, the Characteristic Studies at the end of the Arban method will be very helpful to increase your endurance. Remember to implement the “Rest as Much As You Play” routine otherwise you will actually decrease your endurance as you practice.

Contest material (10 minutes)

More progress will be made if you isolate one section (8-10 measures) and spend all of your time on that during this period of your practice than to try learning the complete material. Start with the most difficult section (usually it is the darkest area because of the faster note runs). Try to master short sections one at a time and eventually you will be able to put it all together before contest.
The best advice I can give you for truly learning your contest material would be to memorize it! If you dedicate your time in memorizing, you will be better prepared for your performance.
Spending 50 minutes a day adhering to this routine will make you a better player because, like an all inclusive daily vitamin, it has everything in it that you need to advance.