The trumpet is popular, the cornet is gaining in favor and now we need to push the flugel in our country.
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-
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….
On one day you are playing Brahms in an orchestra and the next you are playing Kenton in a club and the choice of sound is becoming a problem. One requires a soft and gentile timbre and the other a more edgy tone with an increased high range. One solution would be to change trumpets for each situation but at the cost of instruments today, who has that kind of cash. Another possibility would be to attempt to color your tone with your existing equipment but you will find this is only an act of desperation. This scenario was exactly what I was facing this past year. Performing classical music on the same mouthpiece I was performing our show in Branson was becoming a problem until I remembered my pair of Purviance mouthpieces resting securely in my endless collection of unused mouthpieces.
Switching mouthpieces for some people can be a problem because of the different size of the rim. The rim is the only section of a mouthpiece to contact the lip and because of this fact, changing rim dimensions, to some people is not possible with confidence. Because of this issue, the Purviance mouthpiece manufacturing company decided to offer two very fine mouthpieces with identical rim size and contours to their customers. And this was the beginning of the Purviance 4* and 5* mouthpieces. Each mouthpiece had the same size rims but the cup, shoulder, throat and backbore were different to accommodate two different playing situations; namely orchestral and commercial settings. The 5* produced a darker and more broad sound and the 4* just the opposite; a more edgy and focused tone. The more shallow cup and tighter throat and back bore on the 4* also helped to increase the players upper register required in a more commercial setting.
To some players, switching back and forth from a darker to a brighter mouthpiece may not be an issue, but for those forced to change tone in two different setting, the use of identical rims on two different mouthpieces may be worth looking into.
Shortly after the Purviance (two mouthpieces/ same rim size) offering came the removable rim. Removable rims meant that you could play on exactly the same rim and change the lower section to match the tone and range requirement. This was an even better solution for now you could keep your comfortable rim and change your tone as easily as changing your socks each day. Every mouthpiece manufacturer began offering removable rims in their catalogs and the trend took off like Maynard Ferguson playing “MacArthur Park”. Several of my fellow section players opted for this possibility and have stuck with it throughout their career.
One must face still two more decisions when performing on interchangeable rimed mouthpieces; whether you want your rim plated in silver or gold. This decision is something only the player can make for some players can tell the difference in feel and sound and to others, no difference is recognizable. To me, I can’t tell the difference and go with the silver every time. I will admit that a silver mouthpiece with a gold rim looks “way cool”. Also, people think you must know a lot to have something that different even though most people choose them because they look prettier. Another possibility of rim change would be more radical than just gold or silver. You may opt for a rim fabricated from something other than brass. Rims are offered in nylon, plastic and wood, just to mention a few. The thought of a nylon or plastic rim while performing with the Floyd Warren Orchestra at the Farm Progress Show in the middle of Winter in some unforgiving town in Iowa does sound more appealing to my now that I think back to that miserable job as the snow was blowing around us on a makeshift stage dressed in parkas with wind chill at 10 below zero!
I have reviewed the options of only the changing of rims but to add to the confusion, you also have the choice of changeable rims, cups, throats and backbores. If these weren’t enough choices, realize the possibilities if you wanted nylon rim, stainless cup, wood backbore in silver gold and polyurethane varnish!
No matter which option you decide, the possibility of “same rim/ different playing situation” may be in your future.
As you can see (read) from my two earlier posts on the tallents of this young man, I was very impressed and predicted that his future as a forward moving and thinking musician was something everyone should pay attention to.
I was correct in my prediction as you will see from his continued success in the music world.
Be sure to read or reread my two previons postings on Victor before you read this most current followup.
Victor Haskins is a visionary, world-class trumpet and electronic wind instrument (EWI) player, improviser, composer/arranger, bandleader, and educator.
Victor Haskins has worked directly with a diverse cross-section of masters of improvised music, including, but not limited to, Craig Handy (Herbie Hancock), Roger Lewis (Dirty Dozen Brass Band), Lonnie Liston-Smith, Jason Moran, and Phil Wiggins.
Victor brings a one-of-a-kind, unique spirit and perspective to all that he does in life. This worldly approach to life is a result of growing up in a variety of diverse settings, and traveling extensively. Through music, Victor is able to synthesize his thoughts
and experiences into audible emotions and sonic stories to connect with audiences.
Some notable highlights from Victor’s artistic achievements thus far include the creation of his own improvisational concept–Melodic Improvisation–as well as anindependently conceived musical genre that is based on the Melodic Improvisationconcept, called ImproviStory. He released his debut album of all originalcompositions– “The Truth”–on 32 Bar Records in March of 2013. In 2012, He was aspecial guest teacher and performer at the inaugural Izmir International Jazz Campin Izmir, Turkey. He has been the Director of the Jazz Outreach program for theKennedy Center of the Performing Arts National Symphony Orchestra EducationDepartment since its inception in 2014.
Victor is currently (2016) the Instructor of Jazz Trumpet at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. Victor has
also been featured at the Richmond Jazz Festival (2013-2015), Richmond’s 2nd Street Festival (2011), the Elkhart Jazz Festival (2014), the Apex Jazz Festival (2014), and the Festival of New Trumpet Music (2014). In addition, some of Victor’s activities are supported by grants from the National Endowment of the Arts, and the Virginia Commission for the Arts. Victor holds a Jazz Studies/Performance degree from Virginia Commonwealth University where he completed the 4-year music program inonly 3 years (the first and only person to ever accomplish this feat).
Victor is proud to be sponsored by Eclipse Trumpets, and Denis Wick mouthpieces.
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This morning one of the stage managers at our theater got this shot of a bass player going to his job with his bass stuck out the window of the car.
What you might not have known is that the bass player is actually the bass player in “our show”.
On the way to the theater this morning, his car broke down and one of the sax players took off to give him a ride into town. The show was postponed about five minutes so our players could make it to the theater.
You never know what you are going to see when you visit Branson.