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Some Ideas About Pedal Tones

June 27, 2018

This week's blog is partly a Vlog. I have a short video discussion linked just below. Click and watch.

 

A Little Bit About Pedal Tones Video Link:

Note: In this video I am simply demonstrating what happens with pedal tones. This is NOT a discussion about how to PRACTICE THEM. There are plenty of excellent videos out there already about practicing them.  

 

Ideas About Pedal Tones

 

Now, just to provide some supporting text, I'll give a little bit of 'quasi physics.' 

 

On any trumpet you can play real resonant notes down to a low F# (all valves depressed - 123) . Those are not the only notes available on a trumpet that are real resonant notes, however. There are seven (and ONLY seven more). The notes from F just below that low F# down to C# below that low F# are NOT real notes. There are no valve combinations that will resonate on any of those notes as demonstrated in the video. We call the pedal tones, but we are just lipping them around. Use of the fingerings is essentially meaningless except as a way of keeping track of what you are doing. 

 

The you get to "pedal C." I put this note in "" because if you hit this note in the center of its resonance peak, it will be EXTREMELY flat, and not a "C" at all. Claude Gordon comments on this in his book. In acoustics texts this is clearly outlined. In the book, "The Acoustical Foundations of Music," author John Backus clearly outlines and explains the overtone series that develops in brass wind instruments as the result of introducing judiciously (and largely empirically developed) shaped tapers into cylindrical wind column resonators. On a TRUMET the tapers introduced do function to produce the series and timbre we are used to in trumpet playing. However, those tapers fall short in bring the bottom harmonics up to pitch. So those last seven notes are extremely flat. 

 

This is NORMAL. When you first start working on pedals, you might think you are doing something wrong when you first go for a pedal C and it is tow or three half steps flat. You are just fine. That is just physical acoustics working. What trumpeters train themselves to do is to 'lip' those notes up and force them into tune. Again, Claude Gordon comes out and addresses this in his book. Just realize that when you do this, you are "playing against the grain" of the instrument, so to speak. The tone produced can be developed into an acceptable sound, but it will never be the most efficient place in the spectrum to play. You will be 'way off the center' of the tone. However, this doesn't diminish the use of these tones. 

 

So the seven extra real notes run form a very flat pedal C to a very flat pedal F#. Again, these are easily lipped into tune, but you will be off the center of the pitch in doing so. 

 

You might have noticed that when you play cornet or, most strikingly, flugelhorn, those seven notes not only pop out very easily  (they are almost perfectly in tune on a flugel). Once again, the acoustics explains this. In order to get the timber of a trumpet, the rough balance of tubing is about 2/3 cylindrical and 1/3 conical (or better yet, some empirically developed tapers). Flugelhorns are roughly the reverse of that - 2/3 conical and 1/3 cylindrical. This not only produces the timbre of a flugel, it also more completely adjusts the series. The series for a wind column in the shape of a cone does include those notes. The much more conical taper of the flugel brings those noes much more into play than on a trumpet. 

 

It is often a good idea to practice pedals on a flugel. It is tougher to lip the non resonant notes into play (from F just below low F# to  C# just below low F#), but those seven resonant pedals will just pop out nicely. If you have a four valve flugel, you can have even more fun exploring down there.

 

If you really want to explore the acoustics of why this is, I invite you to read these two books.

 

"The Acoustical Foundations of Music" by John Backus 

"The Fundamentals of Musical Acoustics" by Arthur Benade

 

There are many other texts out there that reference these, but these two books are for serious students of musical acoustics. 

 

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 nick@nickdrozdoff.com and send your tip/donation to me via Paypal. 

 

Thank you for at least considering. 

 

Respectfully submitted:

Nick Drozdoff

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