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  • Nick Drozdoff

DIY Trumpet Study

This week's blog I call Do It Your Self Trumpet Study.

Just a quick side bar: in the end, we are ALL doing DIY trumpet study, even if you are working with a reputable trumpet teacher personally. No matter what that teacher tells you or assigns to you for practice, YOU will have to go home, practice the material and find a way to make sense out it all in a way that fits your thinking. This goes back to the idea that we are all out own teachers, when it comes right down to it.

Here is another thought. I have had many trumpet students over the years come to me and ask for help with something (usually high chops and or endurance). I always ask a few questions to get at what they do when the practice. What is the biggest problem? They DON'T really put the time in. Success here will not come about in a timely fashion of you can only muster 20 minutes a day. If that is all you can do, you simply must resign yourself to the simple mathematical fact that to get you "10,000 hours" in, it will take a lot longer.

Now to the blog. What do I mean by DIY trumpet study? In the days of the internet, information superhighway, wisdom of Google, etc, access to teachers and general instruction can be found online, often for free, with a simple search on the search engine of your choice. Let's do some searchers right here.

I just Googled how to hit high notes on a trumpet. The first thing I noticed is that there are many MANY videos out there that address this. There is something that hit me as I started pouring through these. It is certainly possible to get you video to show up more quickly in the search by gaming the tags in setting up the videos and with metadata embedded into the process of putting these things online. I also found one of the videos in the first ten was actually linked to a scam artist running a website claiming to promote a famous trumpeter's method without any examples of promoters ability to play. In fact he tried to keep his name hidden but got outed on Trumpet Herald. So how do you decide which ones are the most likely to teach you something? Here is what I look for.

First, can the person in the video who is teaching you actually DO what he or she is trying to teach you? If you stumble across a clip that looks interesting, do a Google or Youtube search on the person who is teaching and see if you can find some performance clips. If you can determine that they can, in fact, practice what they preach, that is a step in the right direction. If you can't find any samples of their work, I would move on.

Next, you have to sort out an important idea. Is this teacher actually sincere about conveying ideas about how they do what they do? I will not use names, but I recently did a couple of interviews with a highly reputable and famous trumpeter who is a former teacher. He does NOT have to teach to survive. He had become very disenchanted with the entire process of education in trumpet. He felt that students were just looking to completed as opposed to instructed. He also felt that many other trumpet teachers are actually not interested in teaching their future competition! That is, he felt many trumpet teachers were deliberately a bit evasive about how things are done. I am not quite that skeptical, but I think there might a grain of truth to his commentary. So, it is on you, as you research this material to determine of you are actually getting good information.

Now, as a physicist and musician (I have masters degree in both, though it could argued that that along with $4.00 will get you a caramel macchiato at a coffee shop) I have to point out that trumpet teachers in many of these videos will expound on the physics (often without realizing that they are) behind the functionality of the instrument without a complete understanding of acoustics. Depending on your own understanding of physics and acoustics, this can sometimes lead to some confusion. For example, the word, "compression" is flung about quite a bit. I have to ask myself, what exactly do they mean when they use this word.

There is, in my opinion, a simple way to work around this problem. I treat the language that approaches an attempt to discuss the physics as a metaphor to describe what they are thinking about as they deploy their methods. Don't take the scientific language too literally. When you find a good video, the accomplished teacher explains how they do things is offering a sincere description of what is going on in their head as they do this. There is no reason you can't adopt the same mentality and achieve the same goals. The best approach is to watch HOW they do things very carefully and try to imitate that. Then listen carefully to how they are describing things even in the context of this current discussion and "listen between the lines," so to speak and see if you can develop a useful mental image of your own from that discussion. More often than not, you will.

Now that you have found some interesting videos, vetted the teacher a bit and have begun a self directed course of study, you will want to have an approach to how to work with the material and monitor your progress. I recommend setting up a spreadsheet with things you want to practice and study. Work on timings of how much time you will spend on each facet. Make quick videos of yourself and carefully listen to you playback. This can be agonizing, but it is always instructive. As you progress, you might drop one video package and move on to another. This doesn't mean the video teacher is bad. It just means their ideas didn't connect with you. That is how teaching and learning works.

With this lengthy prelude I want to put up a list of video clips that I have found helpful to me. What struck me about these instructors was that they could do what they were talking about. I was also struck by how much trouble they went to to actually show you in great deal how they do things. This list is by NO MEANS exhaustive. You can do further searches via forums like

High Notes: (trumpeter's holy grail)

Larry Meregillano - This gentleman has many many videos and he goes to great lengths to show you exactly how he does things. He seems 100% sincere and if you watch his videos over and over, you will pick up some great ideas. Here is one that I particularly liked as he hits almost everything.

Jim Manley - I have met Jim and like Larry, he seems eager to explain exactly how he thinks about things and how he makes it all work. He actually told me that he doesn't really understand the physical acoustics. He just uses the language that makes sense to him. When I watch his clips I watch very carefully how he works with with his embouchure and his air. You can learn a gat deal from these if you watch carefully. I actually use these clips as pat of my own masterclass lectures.

Arturo Sandoval - We all know who THIS guy is. I have never met him, though I have heard him live plenty of times. I was both flabbergasted and thrilled to find that he is putting up many instructional videos online. These area must. Here are several that I have found very helpful.

Bryan Davis - I have been checking out his videos from Airflow Music. These are perfect examples of well done videos on how to play the trumpet. He is very thorough. He has a series called Trumpet A -Z. I am only posing 'A'. You should watch them all.

Mark Zauss - I've never met or spoken to Mark. I've heard his stuff online and I think anyone aspiring to make some improvements in their playing would be well advised to carefully WATCH what he is doing as well as listen to his instructions. He keeps it pretty straightforward, but WATCH him.

Rashawn Ross - How To Play Triple C This is not a lesson per se, but if you listen to what he says and carefully WATCH what he is doing, you'll get the idea.

Jon Faddis - This is also not a lesson. Again, you will get some great close ups of what Faddis is doing with his lips. This is a very interesting object lesson by careful observation. Pay attention at 2:50 or so.

Jazz Playing - How To Improvise Better

Richie Vitale - I am working on developing some Woody Shaw stylings in my own improvisation. I did a Google search on the subject and discovered Mr. Vitale. Here are a couple of videos of his that I really liked. If you like these, explore more of his clips.

Willie Thomas - Jazz Everyone - Wille really goes to a lot of trouble to explain how to rally bring a lot of intelligence to you improvisation. Here is one clip to serve as an anchor. Feel free to dig around the rest of his material on your own. There is MUCH to be learned here.

Wynton Marsailis - In my humble opinion, Wynton Marsailis is the greatest overall trumpeter, ever. he covers classical and jazz like nobody I've ever heard of before. Here is a master class he has presented.

Classical Trumpet Playing

John Hagstrom - As a member of the Chicago Symphony, Hagstrom is extremely intellectual, thoughtful and well educated. He is incredibly skilled. He is also extremely willing to share any and all ideas.

This is the first of several clips. Watch the rest on your own.

Allen Vizzutti - He is one of the most amazing trumpeter out there. He is also a great teacher. Here is the first of several clinics the HE does. Watch them all.

Phil Smith - Smith is one of the greatest principal trumpeters in an orchestra since Adolph Herseth. Here is a master class that he did.

This is all I am going to do with the videos here. When you follow these links you will find many other videos popping up in the suggested videos. That will prove to be another valuable resource in scrounging around for ideas. As mentioned earlier, this list is not even close to exhaustive. This list is intended to be a trigger for you to dig up even more folks. Certainly James Morrison, Thomas Gansch, Wayne Bergeron, Doc Severinsen, et al, have master classes online. You should explore them as well. These are people who are 100% sincere about sharing ideas. You should explore further on your own.

Finally, I am going to make a personal plug. I have many instructional videos, as well. These live right here at my website. Please feel free to explore these, too.

Now, if you are reading this, you made it through the post. Thanks! I hope you'll consider subscribing to my blog. If you found this interesting, please read the blogs in the archives. I also hope you'll consider supporting my work. As the blog evolves and as I get ready to launch my podcast later this summer and as I continue to record audio and video, please remember, I am totally self funded. If you enjoy my music and have benefited in some way from reading the blogs and or watching the videos, please consider a donation to the cause. I am seeking advertisers and backers, but every individual can contribute in some way. No donation is too small, and no donation is too large! ;-) This is tantamount to digitally passing the hat on a no cover gig, but so be it. If you wish to make a contribution, just use and send your tip/donation to me via Paypal.

Thank you for at least considering.

Respectfully submitted:

Nick Drozdoff

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