We all have had moments when something pops into our minds which is disturbing enough to keep us up at night and for me, this is one of those moments. Several weeks ago, while searching for topics for this blog, I came across a video produced by Mr. Dave Monette. I first met Mr. Monette many years ago while he was visiting our campus and was very impressed with his knowledge, personality and his obvious passion for the trumpet. As I have stated in more than one blog, I have a great deal of respect for this man and for that reason, I found this article difficult to write. As you have read, the title of this post is called “The Disturbing Monette Video”. Continue reading, I will try to explain why your simple Bass fisherman from Branson, Missouri would be sitting at his computer writing an article which disagrees with arguably the most influential trumpet designer in the world today. In order to set the stage for this discussion, you first need to carefully view Mr. Monette’s video.
I have several issues with this video and will try to explain my concerns through a time line format so that you will be able to more easily compare my issues with the original video.
Watch the video here:
1:04 – This diagram and the accompanying voice over seem to indicate that pivoting the instrument in the various trumpet ranges is done to compensate for intonation discrepancies in the instrument rather than air flow direction issues covered in Donald Reinhart’s book The Encyclopedia of the Pivot System . Read a summary of this important book.
1:45 – Notice the test subject demonstrates the traditional pivot (lowering the bell of the horn) as he sets for the high note. Mr. Monette’s statement “the octaves line up easily, play(s) in tune and have a fairly consistent timbre and resistance” is not accurate. Even without using a tuner it is obvious that the top note is extremely sharp when compared to the two previous notes.
2:17 – This demonstration was apparently done to prove that the length of the modern mouthpiece is the reason the test subject missed the high note as well as prove that the pitch is more of a problem. My issue with this segment is as follows-
- The subject has already demonstrated his natural tendency to pivot for the high note but in this segment he resists this action, misses the note and after pivoting, was able to reach the high note. You will need to replay this portion of the tape several times before you will be able to agree or disagree with my observations.
- Mr. Monette’s conclusion that the pitch was worse than the previous illustration again does not agree with what I hear or what my tuner tells me. We both (the tuner and I) think that the last segment was more in tune than the first. Check it out for yourself. With a tuner.
2:29 – In Mr. Monette’s statement “This is why one constantly see brass players who play old fashion mouthpieces bobbing their heads up and down as they change registers.” He seems to be indicating that the pivoting of the instrument is needed to adjust for intonation discrepancies. My disagreement with this statement can be supported by past information collected by very well known and respected trumpet educators such as John Haynie in his extensive video-fluoroscopic studies at North Texas State as well as the numerous case histories done by Donald Reinhart in his book The Encyclopedia of the Pivot System. In both cases, it was demonstrated that the pivoting of the instrument is directly related to the natural direction of the air stream. Even though these studies were done many years ago, one cannot believe that both of these knowledgeable and highly respected authorities could have been wrong and the real reason we pivot our horns is to improve intonation.
2:52 – Although I was very impressed with the fuller, richer sound in this segment, I have a real problem with the players obvious change in his approach to this demonstration. Notice that, unlike the first two segments, the player this time plays the first note, removes the mouthpiece from his lip, inhales, sets, plays the second note, removes the mouthpiece, inhales, and again resets for the last note. It is obvious that the test subject has taken some liberties with this final demonstration. Also in this section Mr. Monette states “This was always my dream. The octaves line up great, the notes are full and rich and the high C is effortlessly in tune and rings with brilliance”. This sounds like a happy ending to a great epic movie but after checking with my tuner, we (my tuner and I) both disagree with this statement after discovering that the top note is very sharp and after recording the examples on my computer and playing back a loop of the notes, I found that the pitch was close to being the most out of tune of all of the examples.
3:10 – The term Constant Pitch Center is apparently a cornerstone in Mr. Monette’s demonstration and for that reason I want to make one thing perfectly clear to my readers. Even though I have taken issue with this video, I do not take issue with Mr. Monette’s talents or honesty. As I have stated in several of my previous submitted blogs, I consider Dave Monette to be one of the most gifted trumpet designers as well as a very pleasant, caring gentleman and for that reason I felt compelled to challenge the video and not his ability or truthfulness.
3:27 – Mr. Hession’s talents are most impressive and his demonstration actually leans toward amazing. We all are envious of players with such great ability. Through my years of playing, teaching and observing I have been conscious of the lack of change in the best players. While living in Dallas, Texas, I had the great privilege of doing some jingles with Don Thomas. Some of you might know of Don’s talents and some of you might know the work of his son John Thomas (lead trumpet for Count Basie, Chick Corea, Woody Herman, Maria Schneider, Bill Holman, Ella Fitzgerald, Joe Williams and many others).
Before such a recording session, Don Thomas introduced me to his very young son by saying, “this is my son John, he plays trumpet too.” Little did either of us realize at that time how much “he plays trumpet too” really would mean. On one occasion I arrived early for a session and Don was in the studio cutting some isolated screamers for a jingle. As I watched through the glass I was amazed at the accuracy and ease that this man demonstrated. Repeatedly the engineer asked Don to hit high note after high note and without any apparent effort or concern, he belted each note out with pinpoint accuracy and ease. It was one of those experiences that you never forget. Don was a truly gifted and humble person.
So what does this have to do with the Monette video you might ask? I have also had the great pleasure of working with similarly gifted trumpet players who exhibit this ease of playing in the extreme high range. Each player is able to perform in the altissimo register with no apparent increase in effort. Each of these players is also able to recreate their high range talents on any trumpet (and in some cases on any mouthpiece). For a video to imply that the reason for this high range ability is attributable to only a mouthpiece design is a bit questionable.
In conclusion, I would like to repeat what I had mentioned before- “Even though I have taken issue with this video, I do not take issue with Mr. Monette’s talents or honesty”. I would also like to add that I have played on an earlier Monette trumpet but have not played on any of his mouthpieces and for that reason, I have no experience nor will I make any comments about the Monette mouthpieces. My concern here is totally on the video production, its content and implications.