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Notes On The Trumpet

Updated on September 24, 2012

WHICH BAND INSTRUMENT FOR YOUR CHILD?

Are you looking to augment your child's education with an appreciation of the value of music? Perhaps you ought to consider the trumpet as an ideal solution: lightweight, easy to maintain, inexpensive and sweet-sounding.

Many parents over the years have realised the importance of giving their children a musical grounding, as part of raising them in a well-balanced, well-adjusted manner, quite apart from the question of whether the child might subsequently go on to a musical career. The trumpet has proved to be a popular choice to this end. Often, too, it is the other way around: that the child is motivated by a reason of his own to ask that his parent buy him a trumpet.

The trumpet is one of the most expressive and ebullient instruments in the musical world. In the hands of a virtuoso it has an unparalleled ability to thrill a listener.

THE TRUMPET'S GLORIOUS PAST

J.B. Arban (1825 to 1889) was a brilliant performer who did the most to have the trumpet recognised as a serious orchestral instrument. His "Complete Conservatory Method" is a 347-page study method that is unsurpassed to this day and is highly recommended for intermediate to advanced students. It may be a bit too much for a beginner to take on, and it is advised that he follows the guidance of an experienced tutor regarding which techniques and exercises he is ready for.

Since Arban's time, brilliant trumpet players have left a legacy of stellar performances over the years. Louis Armstrong is the greatest name in the history of jazz. He was a marvellous trumpeter and a tremendous entertainer. Miles Davis was a superstar who developed the "be-bop" style and showed that the measure of a trumpeter's greatness need not be found merely in extremely fast playing nor in super-high notes. Dizzy Gillespie dazzled everybody with his phenomenal playing ability, his showmanship, his alarmingly puffed cheeks and the unusual upturned bell of his trumpet. Harry James, Shorty Rogers, Clifford Brown, Lee Morgan, Freddie Hubbard, Roy Eldridge, Blue Mitchell and Tom Harrell are just some of the tremendously talented musicians who have carried forward this great tradition. Known for their majestic high-note pyrotechnics are Maynard Fergusson, Arturo Sandoval, Jon Faddis and John Thomas. Lesser known but also highly gifted are Cuba's Basilio Vasquez and the South African high-note maestro Ian Smith, from the band Virtual Jazz Reality.

GRADES OF TRUMPET

But even these maestros had to start somewhere! It is almost certain that they did not learn to play on top-of-the-range professional quality instruments. Louis Armstrong, who grew up poor and fatherless in a rough neighbourhood, learned to play while in a juvenile detention centre, having been incarcerated after taking his uncle's gun and firing into the air on New Year's Eve 1912, when he was only 11 years old! He also had to stand well back from other band members during these early years because he blew so strongly! He was a musical genius who was almost single-handedly responsible for the rise and popularity of jazz since the 1920s and through its golden years. No shiny new trumpet for him to learn on, it can safely be assumed!

There are trumpets suitable for every level of playing ability. A modern classical great, such as Sergei Nakariakov (known as the "Paganini of the trumpet") or Hakan Hardenberger, would surely not settle for anything less than the very best trumpet money can buy. He may even commission a craftsman to produce one by hand to the most exacting standards, one suspects.

There are highly competent career trumpeters who do not need to go to such extremes but will still buy instruments of the highest professional quality, paying $2000 or more to acquire just the right trumpet.

But the majority of trumpeters are nowhere near these lofty heights and are quite content to carry on for years using a trumpet of intermediate quality and price.

LEARNING TO PLAY

The trumpet is a challenging instrument to master, and it often takes years of sensible training to attain a good performance standard. It is thus advisable not to purchase an expensive instrument to start learning on. There are a number of very good options on the market that would prove suitable for any beginner, without hampering his correct technical mastery of the instrument. It is generally accepted that student trumpets are produced to be somewhat more robust and easier to maintain than their intermediate and professional level counterparts. They would also not be manufactured using the highest quality materials, but would still provide good enough support for the learning process. Certain brands of trumpet, such as LJ Hutchen and Yamaha, provide excellent value-for-money and very melodious sound, as far as beginners' trumpets go.

It is recommended that the beginner should start his first note under the supervision of a tutor who can immediately rectify any faulty technique which may later undermine the progress of the player. The tutor should explain the basic workings of a trumpet and provide guidance for the proper placement and care of the lips, correct posture and breathing technique, and many other vital aspects of playing.

BUYING A TRUMPET?

If you have it in mind to purchase a trumpet, pay a visit to this website for a review of an excellent choice of trumpet for a beginner, the LJ Hutchen B Flat trumpet.

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