Trumpet Method Books: Which are the Good Ones and Which are the Bad Ones?
Ok, this week has a slightly provocative title. If you actually think I am going to say ANYTHING bad about anyone's method book, well,I am going to disappoint you. I'm not. So, if you really need to see me slam a book, you can stop reading and save the time today. However, that is actually the point of the title. I see great value in every method book out there. Let me explain.
First, in the context of this blog, when I refer to method books, I am referring to embouchure method books. So, books like Clarke's Technical Studies or jazz scale and pattern books are not being discussed. The most controversial stuff are the so called "chops" books.
It has been my experience in reading trumpet method books and working with some of the authors of those method books that they are all trying to do essentially the same thing, and that is to explain how they, the authors (who are usually trumpeters of significant accomplishment) do things and/or how they conceptualize things. All of them are sincere and honest efforts. So, it is my conclusion that EVERY trumpet method book is good.
How much VALUE a particular book will have to YOU, however, can vary wildly. One trumpeter might be able to successfully navigate Jerry Callet's books while another may find them useless. This doesn't mean the books are bad or that the player who is unable to make them function is some how missing the point. It is just that most trumpet playing authors of method books are simply trying to put into words what makes sense to them in their own heads and this sequence of words might not work for everyone. It is possible they might not work for many at all, but that doesn't mean the book is bad. I would argue that there is no embouchure method book out there that will work for everyone, anymore that there is a one size fits all mouthpiece.
I am going to put a list of embouchure method books that have been useful to me in my studies. I have developed my own techniques by essentially hybridizing ALL of these, to some extent. In my own practice, I periodically go back and revisit some of these to keep my own development evolving. By virtue of the premise set forth above, this list in no way constitutes a review. I you want a review, I would give them all five stars out of five! Just understand that they might not all work for you. The links embedded are what I just found doing a Google search on each title.
A Systematic Approach to Daily Practice by Claude Gordon
This is a very organized 52 course. My first pass through this book was difficult and only moderately useful to me. As I grew and became more self aware as a teacher/student, this book proved very useful.
Trumpet Yoga by Jerry Callet
Jerry's writings and teaching style have been somewhat controversial to some, but he is, in his own way, sincerely trying to explain how he does things. As with the Claude Gordon book, it took a while to make sense out of this. Also, I went out to NYC and took some lessons from Jerry and met with him in Chicago, as well.
Relaxation Techniques by Robert Glasel
I was able to make this book work from me right away, but I had already developed into a serious professional trumpeter by the time I discovered it.
Musical Calisthenics For Brass by Carmine Caruso
This book is very widely used and comes with a long list of endorsing artists of note. I also went out to NYC to take some lessons with Caruso. What is interesting about this book is that Caruso didn't play trumpet. He played sax. The only thing that Caruso encouraged me to address was that he felt I should include a significant amount of flexibility practice after working out with is material.
Double High C in Ten Minutes by Walt Johnson
The title of this book is provocative. In fact, I bought it as a bit of a joke. However, when I got it, read it and began practicing from it, I found it to be incredibly useful. In fact, I was already drifting to John's way of thinking and working on my own, but didn't even realize that was was doing so. Working with his book helped me to trust my instincts. It sure worked for me.
Superchops by Jerome Callet
This is essentially an extension of Jerry's Trumpet Yoga thing. However, at this point the idea of TCE - "tongue controlled embouchure" - was taking hold in the trumpet community.
Trumpet Secrets by Jerome Callet and Bahb Civiletti
This book is out of print, but is probably the most well thought out of the Callet collection. This is full fledged TCE methods.
Maggio Method by Louis Maggio
This is another famous and tried and true method book. I know many players who have made this work for them. Personally, I didn't do a whole lot with it. By the time I came across it, I have evolved into a "rolled in" player as opposed to "rolled out." Maggio works better for the later. However, I am revisiting it as I work on a tertiary embouchure in my own studies.
Now, these are only eight books and three of them are overlapping by virtue of being by the same author. You can certainly dig around and find many many more books. I would encourage you to consider digging through as many as possible until you find one that works for you. Here are suggest search strings:
trumpet embouchure methods
trumpet chops methods
how to play high notes on trumpet
You get the point. You will get many hits both in text and video form.
Next, the list of books I provided here are the ones I personally explored. You should dig up more.
This brief list of books is only scratching the surface of what is available to trumpeters today. The number of online teachers and experts is overwhelming. Youtube is TEAMING with instructional videos. If you are an astute and open minded and observant learner, you can learn a great deal form this information as well. Again, the same argument can be made about all of this educational material as well: ALL of them are potentially useful.
I am going to conclude this blog with a bit of self promotion. I have a method book as well. It only exists in iBook for and includes many videos. ALL of those videos are also available to you on my web page right here: Nick Drozdoff Educational Videos
If you wish to buy the iBook and thereby help me keep this all going (and also get the supporting text and music) just go here: How To Practice by Nick Drozdoff
My book is not so much an embouchure method book as it is a detailed outline of how I have figured things out. The idea is to get you thinking about how you will "engineer" your own chops.
In conclusion, let me say this. Ultimately the only teacher who can help you make the sort of progress with chops is YOU. In the end we are all really self educated. We go to instructors and watch videos and read books to get ideas, but only YOU can be inside of your own head and develop the tactile-kinesthetic feel for doing all of this and the conceptual understanding that transcends language.
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