I have had occasional requests for ideas about how to practice for survival in the throes of a string of really rough gigs. I have posted on this before and this is something of an addendum to those. You might go back through my archives and re read those, for more ideas. With this week's very short post, I want to share an idea I first got from my good friend and brilliant jazz musician, Art Davis. This is to do as much of your practice on bass trumpet as you can stand.
Here is the theory. As trumpet players, BASS trumpet, which uses a trombone mouthpiece, puts us in a position to get a lot of practice in without ay risk whatsoever to our chops. We are much more likely to limit our range thing on bass trumpet because we aren't used to it. This is particularly useful for jazz musicians who spend a lot of tie working on patterns and deploying those patterns on solos and changes. Limiting our range like this helps us to develop our ideas around musical structure as opposed to physical prowess. This has always been a problem for me. If I get stuck on some solo, I am often tempted to start trying to distract my audience with the "shiny objects" we call high notes. The idea is to keep them impressed with the old "oooo, listen to those screamers" while I try to figure out what just went sideways with my solo.
The main problem with that sort of thinking is that the high notes become a crutch. Also, if you resort to screaming too soon, now you're stuck up there! Finally, ideas to gracefully descend back down into the normal register are not as easy to come by as you might think. I have found that practicing my solo work on bass trumpet helps be develop in a more musical way as a jazz improvisor.
The next benefit from playing bass trumpet is the mouthpiece. It is much larger and tends to sit around the rim spot for our trumpet embouchure. This can be really nice if you beat your chops up a bit and the regular Bb trumpet mouthpiece is a little uncomfortable on the lips. Playing bass trumpet allows you to keep up your progressive work with patterns and scales without risking your chops. You can actually find this restful. It can allow you to practice even while healing up a bit.
There are some drawbacks that y do need to be prepared for. Playing bass trumpet will force you to open your chops up a bit. If you're planning on playing it on a GIG, you should make sure you practice with the switch off at home. The first time you start doubling on bass trumpet and switching back to trumpet can be a little surprising. If you are prepared for it, though, it is very manageable.
I've got a few little clips with bass trumpet. I share them here just for a little fun.
Finally, the really nice part about playing bass trumpet is that no mater how much time you spend on it, you won't HURT your trumpet chops at all. The only issue is that doing this takes getting used to. Also, you want to make sure that this is only a small part of your practice day.
That having been said, at this point in my experience, I would have no misgivings whatsoever about doing a three hour practice day on only bass trumpet on an off day and not play trumpet at all. Picking up my regular trumpet the next day would not be a problem.
The one thing I would recommend against is a complete switchover to bass trumpet for a week or so. To be open and honest, I have never done this. I am just uncomfortable about the idea of not doing something to keep my chops focused for my regular trumpet work for that long and playing an instrument that requires me to keep the "aperture" more open.
If you decide to pick up a bass trumpet, you'll need to experiment a bit to get a feel for how it can work for you. I have a Getzena Eterna Bass Trumpet. As of this writing, they don't currently make them, but they are excellent horns. You can find them on eBay. Also, old Holton Bass trumpets are real nice. Bach Bass trumpets are excellent, but quite expensive.
I use a very small custom trombone mouthpiece I had custom made for me by the Wedge company. Any standard student trombone mouthpiece ought to feel good for the typical Bb trumpeter. Again, you'll need to explore to meet your own personal needs.
Finally, if you let the word out that you double on bass trumpet, this CAN be a nice piece of the "getting work" puzzle. One area community orchestra was doing the Janacek Sinfonietta, which calls for 12 trumpets, including two bass trumpeters. In our area (a big market) outside of the CSO, there were only a about four free lancers who owned and played these. They hired a trombone player with a Bach and me, with my Getzen. It was a lot of fun, and for what it is worth, my Getzen was the sound the conductor was looking for.
That is it for this weeks "blog lite." Last week was emotionally challenging for me to write. So, something bit less intense for now.
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