Trumpet Listening – Tony Prisk

Calls and Echoes with Steven van Gulik and Tony Prisk

1) Close your eyes as you listen. What images do you see that go along with the music you are listening to?
2) How do the trumpet players tongue so fast?
3) In what ways does this duet composition incorporate contrast?

Jazz Listening: Ellington and Cat Anderson

Duke Ellington Orchestra plays The Opener

1) Look at Cat Anderson’s embouchure. Is it “centered”?
2) How high are his notes at the end? How does that look if you wrote it down?
3) Using only your eaurs, can you here what key this tune is in?

In a lot of these listening assignments, I ask you to look at the trumpet player’s embouchures. The reason I want you to look at their embouchures is to see how they differ and how they are the same. There isn’t a consensus on what is right and what is wrong. What is most important is are you getting the results you desire?

The Meaning of Originality

The Meaning of Originality by Vladimir de Pachmann

“Originality in pianoforte playing, what does it really mean? Nothing more than the interpretation of one’s real self instead of the artificial self which traditions, mistaken advisors and our own natural sense of mimicry impose upon us. Seek for originality and it is gone like a gossamer shining in the morning grass. Originality is in one’s self. It is the true voice of the heart. I would enjoin students to listen to their own inner voices. I do not desire to deprecate teachers, but I think that many teachers are in error when they fail to encourage their pupils to form their own opinions.

“I have always sought the individual in myself. When I have found him I play at my best. I try to do everything in my own individual way. I work for months to invent, contrive or design new fingerings—not so much for simplicity, but to enable me to manipulate the keys so that I may express the musical thought as it seems to me it ought to be expressed. See my hand, my fingers—the flesh as soft as that of a child, yet covering muscles of steel. They are thus because I have worked from childhood to make them thus.

“The trouble with most pupils in studying a piece[183] is that when they seek individuality and originality, they go about it in the wrong way, and the result is a studied, stiff, hard performance. Let them listen to the voice, I say; to the inner voice, the voice which is speaking every moment of the day, but to which so many shut the ears of their soul.”

Trumpet Listening: Forrest Johnston

Forrest Johnston performs Otto Ketting’s Intrada

1) When did you start playing the trumpet? How good were you when you were 10 years old?
2) Forrest performs this solo work with a great deal of musical maturity. Can you hear that maturity? How would you describe it to someone who doesn’t know what musical maturity is?
3) Is there a problem with Forrest’s embouchure? [Warning: this is a trick question.]

One of the wonders of the internet and Youtube is that young players like Forrest Johnston are coming out of the woodwork (so to speak). To some people, this actually discourages them from wanting to try to become better at playing the trumpet. They see someone who, at such a young age, has already mastered facets of our art that we continue to struggle with.

For me personally, I only began playing trumpet when I was ten years old. When I was Forrest’s age, I was playing nursery rhymes from a beginning band book. I wasn’t playing as well as Forrest does in this video until I was in my late teens and early twenties.

But I think it is a mistake to look at things this way. It is a mistake to look at anyone’s age in this context. What we need to focus on, instead, is the message we each have to share with the world through our music. When we do that, when we no longer focus on “how good” we are and focus instead of sharing our story with the world, then we can see young students like Forrest Johnston as evidence that we CAN be great players. It is in deed within our grasp.

That’s how I see it. I can share my story, through my music, and it doesn’t have to take a lifetime to accomplish.

This reminds me of the story about the first runner to break the four minute mile. Before Roger Bannister, people just believed that breaking the four minute mile was impossible. They believed that the human body couldn’t possibly run that fast. It is believed by many today that the reason WHY no one ever broke the four minute mile was because no one believed they could.

But once Bannister broke the four minute mile, many runners followed. Once they saw it could be done, they believed!

Why not let young students like Forrest Johnston effect you the same way? When you see youngsters like him, instead of doing as others have done, jokingly saying that you now have a trumpet for sale (insinuating that you are quitting), why not view them as evidence of what is possible?

Jazz Listening: Donald Byrd

Donald Byrd quintet Cannes 1958

1) From what you can see in this video, was Donald Byrd an “upstream” player or “downstream”?
2) How would you describe Donald Byrd’s embouchure?
3) Toward the end of the song, the flute and trumpet take turns improvising. What is that called?

Trumpet Listening: Stephen Burns

HIKARI by Sômei Satoh featuring Stephen Burns on Trumpet and Kuang-Hao Huang on Piano.

1) This is a very difficult piece to perform. What makes it so hard to play?
2) How would you describe Mr. Burns’ embouchure?
3) Is he playing on a B flat trumpet or a C trumpet?

Trumpet Listening: Wynton Marsalis

Wynton Marsalis with Kathleen Battle
Eternal Source (Händel)
Bright Seraphim (Händel)
Cantata No. 51 (Bach)

1) Which finger is Wynton Marsalis using to play the fourth valve on his piccolo trumpet?
2) Listen to Wynton’s trills. How would you describe them to someone who hasn’t heard this recording?
3) How would you describe the interaction between the voice and the trumpet?