Using Technology to Improve Your Trumpet Playing- Using an Audio Recorder

The use of an audio recorder may seem common place for most for we all have been or have recorded ourselves at one or more times in our lives. Usually we are not happy with the playbacks but that’s life and even what we dislike can be helpful to our development. A straight record and playback is normal but what I would like to suggest are a few tricks which will enhance your playing ability far beyond the simple, record/ play back level.

Your recording can be done with various pieces of equipment. I’m sure many of you would not be familiar with the early devices which we, the older generation started with but from an historic standpoint, I will list them. I started recording my performances first with a Panasonic, monaural, cassette recorder, then advanced to J.C. Penny’s Stereo reel-to-reel recorder. Soon I was recording on Beta tapes, followed by better quality VHS, then reel to reel stereo recorders and eventually I advanced to Digital. I wish I could say that my playing improved as much as the recording technology.

We will assume that we are all enjoying digital recordings for anything less would be unthinkable. Recording digitally has many advantages over the older formats and through these advancements we will begin to improve our playing ability. I am not talking about using a conventional digital recorder for everyone has the ability to do that on their own. What I am suggesting at this time is recording yourself through a computer equipped with an inexpensive (FREE) recording program called Audacity.

Setting up your recording equipment.

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 very helpful to you as you analyze your tone.

Exercise #1- Keeping a steady tone.

• Record a single note in the middle of your range and play it as steady as you can. Use no vibrato and keep the dynamic the same throughout.
• Play it back and notice how the volume and intensity of the signal fluctuates.
• Keep playing and recording until you are able to keep a constant tone and dynamic level throughout all the notes on your instrument.

Exercise #2- Connecting repeated notes.

• Play and record a series of quarter notes on the same pitch in the middle of your range.
• Notice the gaps between each note in your recording.
• Repeat your series and this time try to connect each note with an extreme legato articulation.
• Continue with this exercise until you see only the slightest space between each note.

Exercise #3- Connecting notes with wider intervals.

• Repeat the exercises listed above but this time record arpeggiated note patterns and try minimizing the space between each note.

Exercise #4- Helping with pitch in the higher register.

• Play and record a C scale starting on low C and ending on third space C using half notes on each pitch.
• Highlight your recording and under “effect”, click on “change pitch”. Unfortunately I have not been able to raise the signal an octave in only one step so you will have to do it in two steps. First raise the original from F to Bb, then raise Bb to F. You should now be able to hear your recording being played back an octave higher than recorded.
• Practicing with this recording will give you a better idea as to what your pitch should be when you match your notes an octave higher than recorded.
• Extend your recordings up as high as you feel comfortable playing.

Exercise #5- Improving your intonation.

• Record pitches which you know to be in tune (i.e. using a recently tuned piano/ pitch/tone generator/tuner) throughout your playing range. You will need to record a click track in order for this exercise to work.
• Record a chromatic scale from your lowest note to your highest using your in tone/pitch generator with each note lasting a slow four beats.
• Record yourself playing the same notes but do not play back the first recording.
• Now that you have two recordings of the same pitch playing at the same time, play both back and make note of the intonation discrepancies for future reference.

These are just a few of the ways you can use a recording program for your improvement. Additional tests could be used to test your accuracy in counting, analyzing your entrances and releases on notes and your use or misuse of vibrato.

Bruce was a member of the faculty at the University of Northern Iowa, School of Music in Cedar Falls from 1969 until his retirement in 1999. He has performed with many well-known entertainers such as Bob Hope, Jim Nabors, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, Anita Bryant, Carman Cavalara, Victor Borgie, the Four Freshman, Blackstone the Magician, Bobby Vinton and John Davidson.