Tuesday, July 28, 2009

But Where's the Sizzle?

There you sit in the trumpet doctor's office with your mouth wide open, saying "ahhhh". With his tongue depressor he peers deep inside inspecting for open throat and esophagus. "You're fine. Just checking for unrestricted air flow. By the way, you might want to have those tonsils, wisdom teeth and molars removed. They'll have to go for the sake of your flow."

Next he examines your equipment, piece by piece, first making sure that your deep-cupped mouthpiece is properly bored out to accommodate massive air movement. Your lead pipe also must allow for floods of air traffic. Your rounded tuning crook and the fattest of bells also aids in the mission of huge-is-cool. And why not? Your sound is sweet, luscious, mellow and fat.

Reality often is that in spite of all these very nice adjustments that definitely improve sound and ease of playing, there can be side effects. For instance, you will likely have to deal with flat tops (of phrases), tubby tendency, lack of projection, unstable intonation, less than crisp articulation, and endurance limitations. These usually surface in extended passages, large ensembles, difficult solo works, and high decibel requirements. In short, the horn seems bigger than you are. These problems can be overcome, but at a cost of a lot more effort. Sizzle can happen, but it's hard with a cannon.

In the rush to go for the big sound, be careful not to sacrifice penetration potential, or "pokability". Equipment can be geared for huge sound quality while you shoot for the richest, fattest, most beautiful, gorgeous, velvety sound possible. No problem with that, but make sure to keep it balanced with enough edge. A great sound must have its share of bright highs as well as dark lows and be able to travel farther than a few feet. So whatever your concept or equipment choices, remember you must do it all. Be able to wield the shot put and hurl the javelin, and you're playing is smokin' and sizzlin'!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Your Sparkling Red Shoes

What does Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz and the conservatory trumpet student have in common? Hint: It has something to do with Dorothy's shoes. Remember that she had the power and ability to get where she wanted anytime she wished? She just failed to recognize that her ticket out of Oz was at her feet all along - those red sparkly shoes right there in her possession.

Unfortunately, unlike Dorothy, we need more than the wave of an angel's starry wand, or an emotional wish to instantly arrive at our destination. A tough mission is involved, an arduous journey not unlike her assignment to capture the broomstick of the Wicked Witch of the West. The road is treacherous and full of obstacles for sure. We might even have enough courage, heart and brains for the task, but what will take us there? Where are our "magic shoes"?

(HARP GLISSANDI) Why, your ticket out of the conservatory can actually be found right there in your own music case. Yes, it has been there all along! You needn't have looked anywhere else! The pathway is The Yellow Brick Road on which all great trumpet players must travel. I'm afraid there are simply no shortcuts. The secret to greatness is found in a very ordinary but very special book. You have had it with you every day, but have not known it or used it properly.

You must play it correctly however and do exactly what it says, for it has the power to make you into a great trumpet player. Ignore this book and its instructions, and you will remain captive in the Emerald City from which there is no escaping. Your "red shoes" is your very own book entitled Technical Studies by Herbert Clarke. You are now free to use it and find your heart's desire.