Monday, December 28, 2009

Fifths and Tonics

"Six years of college and now I've gotta play this - a hand full of isolated peeps, pops, and poops? Bring on some Mahler, Strauss, or Stravinsky, but not a whole week of Haydn and Mozart! All of my training, and all I get to show for it is a bunch of tonic and dominant. Give me a break." Have we not all thought that at some point?

A modest portion of fifths and octaves may often be all you'll see for a week or longer, so you might as well settle in and get comfortable. Look at it this way, with so few notes to play, you'll be saving on valve oil. You could probably even leave your third valve at home, and maybe the second as well! Your handicapped horn could be quite the conversation starter during rehearsals! In fact, you may be thinking, "why not just bring a bugle to work?"

Don't be thinking that this repertoire is without its challenges. In many ways Beethoven, Haydn, and Mozart can be more difficult than a Bruckner symphony or Strauss tone poem. With nowhere to hide and little room for error, your ability to blend, your intonation and control are on display big time. This music quickly separates the ok from the great players. Myron Bloom used to say that playing Mozart is the best way to learn control.

Although we may only play five, six or seven different pitches all night, we must control all of them perfectly. We act as percussion and reinforce points of melodic lines. We'll get our one or two shining moments, but mostly we are to behave behind the scenes as energetic helpers for the winds and strings. We're seldom in the spotlight, but if we do poorly, all will notice. Let's consider ourselves artistic surgeons, drummers with a skilled touch, and graceful swordsmen.

Enough grumbling and dreaming. How about practicing a good portion of your sessions with Mozart on your mind. Play softer, in tune, and don't play so much. Play many isolated high notes, yes lots of peeps and pops, but no poops, just good clean shortish notes. Control intonation even on individual eighth notes, well spaced and in perfect rhythm. Play long whole notes softly with diminuendos, followed by repeated eighth notes a beat apart. Do all things as if auditioning for a Mozart/Haydn orchestra. Play effortlessly and accurately. Make it a game. Can you play just a few Mozart-style notes perfectly? How about wearing a white wig to rehearsals? Nah.

Get the librarian to let you have a sneak peek at any of the Mozart, Haydn, or Beethoven Symphony trumpet parts. Play exactly what's on the page. There's a nice groove to this style of orchestral playing. Learn to fit in and enjoy. You'll be longing for this kind of a break after a long Mahler week. It's the perfect reset therapy after long blows. The fun for trumpets in Mozart is finesse, rather than force. Tonics and dominants matter.

1 comment:

Jonathan said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.