Tell a Story on the Trumpet: The Cadence

When I play trumpet, I want to communicate with the listener. I want to tell a musical story. If my fundamentals are working on the trumpet (breathing, articulation, fingers, lips, tongue placement, etc.), then I can shape and pace notes in ways that help deliver this story, from the details up to the big picture. Perhaps the smallest detail of the story that we musicians can tell is the cadence, which is that part of a phrase that harmonically resolves, usually with a dominant chord leading to a tonic chord.

The melody, which cannot fully convey the harmonic movement, nevertheless can support the underlying cadence. From the Sixteenth Century until today, a very good rule of thumb with cadences is to give more intensity throughout the dominant and relaxing this intensity on the tonic. The reason for this is that the dominant chord is harmonically “far” from the tonic. The dominant has tension, dissonance, or “drama.” Will the dominant resolve? Maybe yes, or maybe no–that is the drama that the listener is confronted with. Imagine a movie where the camera follows the protagonist down a dark hallway. Something will happen. Will it resolve peacefully or will there be a shock? Watching the scene, your anxiety increases, and your heartbeat quickens. This is drama. In a very similar way, the dominant chord sets up expectations which can be fulfilled or denied.

A good movie director underpins the dramatic hallway scene with lighting, music and pacing that helps the audience feel the anxiety more. In the same way, a good musician can highlight the drama of the movement from dominant to tonic with more intensity. This intensity usually means more volume, but it could also be a change of vibrato, timbre (tone color), pacing or articulation. This helps the listener hear the harmonic framework of the music better. It helps to draw him into the “rhetoric” of the music. 

To me, nothing is more “rhetorical” than Renaissance music, so, as an example, I offer this cued-up YouTube video of cornettist Bruce Dickey playing Josquin des Prez’s Mille Regretz. Notice the intensity swelling and then releasing as the dominant resolves to the tonic (this happens twice at 1:24 and 1:29). 

Let’s look at another example from the second movement of Joseph Haydn’s for Trumpet. I want to contrast two great performances with the small difference of this device. In the eleventh bar, we hear a line descending by steps with the longer notes on dominant harmony and the shorter notes on the relative tonic of each successive dominant. In the first (cued up) example, a young Wynton Marsalis, teamed up with John Williams and the Boston Pops, performs this passage smoothly.

But listen to the contrast in rhetorical delivery with more emphasis on these dominant-underpinned notes in a performance by French trumpeter, David Guerrier (who plays a historically-accurate keyed trumpet). This video is also cued up to the same musical passage (it is pitched lower, at A = 430). 

For me, the subtle difference of “leaning” on the dominant notes that Guerrier does in his example helps us hear the harmony more vividly. 

One more example comes from the end of the first movement of G. P. Telemann’s Concerto in D (the “first” concerto). In the first example, listen to the great Maurice André play this last phrase. He has a gorgeous tone, he has chosen a very luxurious tempo (very slow), but his shaping of the inner dynamics from the dominant to the tonic (where he is playing a trill) is pretty straight. There is not much contrast. 

Another example (on baroque trumpet) by Niklas Eklund, shows the dynamic tension on the trill followed by a slight release on the last note, which coincides with the dominant-to-tonic harmony. Notice, in both examples, that the trill starts slow and speeds up, which also helps the drama of the line. This cued-up video is pitched at A = 415, which is lower than the example by André.

 

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Happy birthday, and the importance of Story, Song and Support

It all started three years ago with a little post about, well, starting this website. And now Trumpet Journey has grown to more than 90 published posts about all kinds of trumpet-related things. There have been many interviews, but also “Top Ten Lists.” There have been posts about jazz, renaissance and baroque music, orchestral playing, the jobs market, and even language learning. 

Of the 117,000 people who have visited Trumpet Journey, I am really happy to receive the occasional comment or question. Especially from places like The Netherlands or Italy. Or even India! (sorry, India, I haven’t gotten around to answering you, yet). 

15th-century manuscript with a bearded figure blowing a trumpet

15th-century manuscript with a bearded figure blowing a trumpet

I haven’t posted much of my own writing in a while, because I have been doing so many interviews. So, I’d like to shake off the dust and talk about the three “S”s. These are what I think are the three key elements that each great trumpet player has: Story, Song, and Support

Each of us has a unique story. That story may be an actual account of some event, or even the story of our life. But we also have our own stories that we keep coming back to, such as “beauty is great,” or “old things are cool” or “technology is what I’m about.” These are our thematic points that our choices point to. Choices about repertoire, style, equipment, venues, and even the clothes we wear when we perform can help create our own story and the story that each generation needs to hear. Many players perform to a story that is going on inside their heads. As listeners, we can sense that something dramatic is happening. 

Trumpeters like Jean-Francois Madeuf, Doc Severinson, and Philip Smith seem to have a really strong story. Their playing seems to spring effortlessly from their personal story. 

Authenticity (played on an authentic natural baroque trumpet–very rarely heard):

Showmanship–notice how Doc adjusts his story to suit the Lawrence Welk Show audience:

And this story telling in the orchestral realm. I remember hearing Philip Smith talking about the way he thought about this opening excerpt from Mahler’s Fifth Symphony. He said he pictured Death (as the shrouded skeleton) reaching out from a dark fog. Closer and closer he comes, until you see his grotesqueness clearly. Sound quality is not quite perfect in this example.

 

Then there is the song. This is how we play what we play. This song can be sung with heart-on-the-sleeve romanticism, laser-beam clarity, or rhetorical interpretation. This is our personal song we sing on the trumpet when we play. Each of our voices are different–and they should be. Our song is the meeting place of our phrasing, our interpretation, our experience and, of course, our tone. I learned a beautiful lesson about tone from a former colleague of mine, the great euphonium player named Roger Behrend. He said it helps him to think about tone in terms of color, texture and taste. So, for instance, if you are thinking about maroon, velvet and chocolate, you get an especially luxurious sound. Or, perhaps you’re thinking golden, rough and with the taste of jambalaya, like I do, when I hear this trumpeter:

Trumpeters that have a great sense of song are many, but for me, some of the most astounding “trumpet singers” have been, besides Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, and Maurice André. 

I found this unusual example of Maurice André playing the Hindemith “Trumpet Sonate.” While this is not normal repertoire for André, nor is it a standard interpretation of the renowned German composer’s piece, it so well shows André’s glowing song-making style.

 

But to keep the song going, which keeps the story fresh, we all need the support of our technique, our fundamentals, our use of air, and our “chops.” For most of us, this comes down to consistent, mindful practice over many years. We are also looking for the right equipment to help us get there. Equipment and practice routines seem to be the subjects of most the trumpet chatter out there on the web and in studios. We all want to be able to play better, faster and higher. I know I do. But I think we all understand the limitations of mouthpieces, technique and high notes without a great singing style. Or without a musical story to tell. Let’s let support be what it is: help for a greater cause. Nevertheless, there are some great examples of technique and equipment.

Wynton Marsalis’ amazing technique and unique equipment do not get in the way of his song or story.

Malcolm McNab is a paragon of fundamentals, and he spins them into the most amazing recordings.

And, or course, there are the high note players like Arturo Sandoval and the late, great Maynard Ferguson. 

Talk about support!!! 

I think all of these examples show exceptional Story, Song and Support, and hopefully will give us some inspiration to communicate with our audiences, too.

In a very meaningful way, Trumpet Journey has been one of my trumpet stories that I have been able to tell over the last three years. 

 

 

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Back from a Long Vacation

First performance of "Night Passages," my concerto for trumpet and orchestra

Premier performance of “Night Passages,” my for trumpet and orchestra (February 9, 2014; photo by Angela Anderson)

Except for four gratifying interviews with some great trumpeters (Tine Thing Helseth, Chris Sala, C.J. Camerieri, and Brant Tilds), I haven’t posted on Trumpet Journey since September of 2013. I did remain busy, however. I composed and performed a concerto for trumpet (doubling on flugelhorn and piccolo trumpet) and orchestra.

 

Bach historian Christoff Wolff and me after a Washington Bach Consort concert at Kenyon College

Bach historian and me after a Washington Bach Consort concert at Kenyon College

 

 

 

 

The Natural Trumpet Making Workshop (with teachers Dr. Robert Barclay and Richard Seraphinoff, standing)

The (with teachers Dr. Robert Barclay and Richard Seraphinoff, standing)

 

 

I also played a lot of baroque trumpet and cornetto, and did things like visiting the Natural Trumpet Making Workshop and the organ making workshop of Taylor and Boody.

George Taylor demonstrating making an organ pipe at the Taylor and Boody workshop in Staunton, Virginia

George Taylor demonstrating making an organ pipe at the workshop in Staunton, Virginia

 

 

 

But my lack of new posts hasn’t stopped readers from visiting my blog. Since September, 2013, there have been more than 46,000 new visitors logging on the Trumpet Journey site. Previously, I had only 16,000 visitors for the first year of Trumpet Journey’s existence. That’s a huge increase! Thanks, thanks, thanks!

 

In the next year or so, I hope to keep my focus on getting and flourishing in trumpet jobs. I will continue to publish my popular but controversial Top 10 lists. Of course, there will be more interviews. And I will finish publishing my dissertation. In addition, I hope to publish some of my compositions on Trumpet Journey (for free of course!). More interviews, more practice tips, more history, more baroque trumpet, cornett, more pleas for authenticity, and some silliness are to come.

What I’ve learned from Tom Clancy

Author Tom Clancy (1947-2013)

Author Tom Clancy (1947-2013)    

I don’t have a whole lot of time to read books–I’m busy with jobs, family, recitals, practice and, well, blogging! But I have read a few Tom Clancy novels. He died yesterday at the relatively young age of 66. I was always impressed with the flow of plot in his books. And his masterful knowledge of military weapons and tactics (especially the Navy stuff, since I am actually in the Navy).

But the quote that I read today by the late Mr. Clancy hit squarely home with my overall philosophy of learning and improvement on the trumpet, in music and pretty much anything in life:

“You learn to write the same way you learn to play golf… You do it, and keep doing it until you get it right. A lot of people think something mystical happens to you, that maybe the muse kisses you on the ear. But writing isn’t divinely inspired – it’s hard work.”

Please keep this in mind with trumpet playing. Of course, it is possible to spend lots of un-mindful time playing the trumpet and NOT get better. But for most of us, when we start spending lots of time on our instrument, we naturally become more efficient and more mindful. And we get better. The trick is to find out if you really enjoy spending lots of time on the trumpet. If you do, then the trumpet world is yours.

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How not to get a trumpet job

IMG_3951From yesterday’s post, we know that trumpet unemployment in the U.S. is more than 87% for new college trumpet degree graduates. I think the real figure is more like 95%. But that’s okay, because today, I want to help those who do not want a full-time job or its equivalent in the trumpet world. Sorry this list is so long–but the journey toward unemployment is long.

  1. Before college, be satisfied with your public schools’ music programs for all of your trumpet needs. You should not feel the need for a private teacher. The professional orchestra performs nearby, but why would you need to hear them when you can hear your own band play every day?
  2. Don’t worry about your embouchure. If there are problems, then you can fix them later.
  3. Don’t listen to art music. Yes, you have to play trumpet for the school band and marching band, but when you are on your own, you want to listen to pop, rock and roll, country, or hip hop.
  4. Don’t have a favorite trumpet player or players. Again, who cares about music with trumpet? You just want to follow the hottest pop bands.
  5. Don’t enter solo and ensemble contests, and avoid All-District and All-State competitions. Those are on the weekends, and weekends are made for fun!
  6. Choose a college to go to because they have a great football team. Bonus points for choosing a college because it’s where your friends or family went. Go with the school that seems to be the most enthusiastic about recruiting you–you’ll be happiest there.
  7. When you’re are at college, major in trumpet performance because those band trips in high school were so fun and because the humanities and sciences are boring. 
  8. At college, choose the easiest music courses and teachers, because that will help your grade point average.
  9. Don’t practice more than an hour and a half per day. If you played it once correctly, then move on.
  10. Don’t bother ordering all those pieces that your trumpet teacher asked you to purchase. You can get a lot of music online. Also, you need to be working on wind ensemble and pep band music anyway.
  11. Study ear training only enough to pass the music theory exams. It’s really called, “ear straining.”
  12. Keep bringing in the same pieces to your lessons over and over. “I had a really hard time getting around to the new etude this week, but here’s Egmont Overture for the 10th time.”
  13. Join a social fraternity. Become popular.
  14. Don’t bother trying to get a C trumpet, a piccolo trumpet or an E-flat.
  15. Argue with your teacher. This shows your independence as a musician.
  16. When you finally get around to practicing excerpts, practice them only while warming up before band rehearsal–that impresses the other trumpeters. Just learn the excerpts and not the whole piece, because they will only ask the popular excerpts at auditions.
  17. Once you start practicing excerpts, decide that an orchestra job should really be your only goal (because it’s so hard to get in, it makes the job pretty exclusive).
  18. Do not practice technique, long tones, articulation exercises, or scales because those types of things are not needed at professional auditions.
  19. Don’t go to summer music camp.
  20. You’ll be more of an intuitive player if you don’t organize your practice. Play what comes to mind!
  21. Don’t bother building good relationships with your teachers. They’re very old and don’t matter. No need to offer to help with projects.
  22. When you get really close to your recital date, it’s time to start practicing 6 hours a day, so you can learn all of your repertoire.
  23. Don’t dress nicely for juries or recitals.
  24. Change your equipment to fix your sound. 
  25. Don’t listen to recordings of yourself.
  26. Don’t play with a metronome. It tends to speed up. 
  27. Don’t play with a tuner. 
  28. Don’t keep a journal. 
  29. Don’t sing your pieces. 
  30. Don’t bother learning to transpose.
  31. Don’t buzz your pieces with your mouthpiece.
  32. Don’t memorize your pieces.
  33. Don’t learn how to play other musical styles. 
  34. Drink heavily and try out drugs.
  35. When you go to an audition, realize that your whole life hinges on winning this audition–that will help you focus.
  36. For your first job, only try out for the top five orchestras–that’s where the money is! Please don’t consider joining a military band.
  37. If you win an audition, be sure to act haughty around your peers.
  38. Don’t speak with the conductor. If you do, argue with him or her. If you lose the argument, do what you want to do anyway at the concert. Because being passive-aggressive is always effective.
  39. There’s another audition coming up for a better job, so don’t waste your time practicing for your current job.
  40. If you’re a section player, be sure to show the principal trumpeter how strong your sound is and what a good leader you are. Blending is for sissies.
  41. Be sullen, unpracticed and unprofessional at pops concerts. Because you want to play classical music, not pops.
  42. Talk poorly about other trumpeters when they’re not around.
  43. Don’t try to create a new sound or a new group. 

Hopefully this list will prove helpful to those trumpeters who enjoy hanging out with their friends after graduation. You can’t really hang out as much if you have a job.

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