Bass v Treble, Cornet v Trumpet, Eb v French

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by Mike Saville, Jul 22, 2003.

  1. Mike Saville

    Mike Saville Member

    Just been reading another thread in random forum where there was some discussion about which clefs the kids could read. This brings up an interesting point.

    In my opinion trombone should always be taught in Bass Clef as this is the clef that will be played in ALL other situations except brass band. (Treble clef is also confusing as I play stuff in proper treble clef, not Bb treble!).

    I also feel that teachers should push thier students towards the trumpet and french horn rather than cornet/tenor horn. Again for the same reason as the clef - these are the most widely used AND will also give the students the most opportunity for playing.

    I realise that this might well go against the thinking of many on the forum but I have seen many situations where a cornet player who wants to do professional music is at a severe disadvantage because they have not done trumpet (and bone players that con't read proper clefs :) ).

    Teaching brass band instruments and clefs I think is an excellent way to get people started but this should always be tempered by the fact that other instruments/clefs will be ultimately more useful.

  2. Keppler

    Keppler Moderator Staff Member

    Oh would that we all had perfect pitch, so that we could dispense with these archaic naming schemes...


    Mike brings up some good points regarding what will be used by a student in their playing career. Fair enough.
    Why should I push my students toward a trumpet or french horn?
    I am training with the primary purpose of giving the student the ability to express music through a group of like minded brass enthusiasts. In this case in a brass band.

    Furthermore, the brass banding "movement" is not the sole plaything of those people who are gifted and committed enough to make a profession of it. It's just as equally for the person who's quite happy to tirn up once a week and have a blow. That's why the ancient arrangers in their wisdom decided to level the clefs and keys as much as possible. It worked then. It works now. What comes out of the end doesn't change. It strikes me as slightly arrogant to dismiss them as not being "proper" clefs and keys.
    "Oh look, it's the plebs from the brass band again - what eejits - why don't they play in proper clefs like us cultured string players" <tongue in cheek>

    I don't profess to be the world's greatest brass teacher. I know a little bit, and that's entirely through brass banding. Why shouldn't I pass on what I've learned to help other people enjoy playing with a brass band? And in that environment, you can know as much as you want about a bassoon and it'll be just fine..

    Of course, if someone want's to make a profession of music, I applaud them. In that case of course I agree with you, an indepth familiarity with the clefs, keys and modes is essential. But that person is going to have to be committed enough to learn them. I'm not going to deal with a crowd of 26 9 year olds and try to explain that all their fingerings are different suddenly because of a different squiggle on the front of the page.

    If you are, good luck to you..

  3. blondie

    blondie Member

    Some interesting points Mike!

    I was only having this conversation the other day with a friend of mine who plays in our quartet. He is a jazzer at heart, although has been around BB's for as long as I have. We did a rehearsal where I played first bone (Bb Treble - Standard) and he played my Bass bone part. It was extremely difficult to play as it just didn't feel logical anymore (sounds stupid and can't put my finger on to it as to why) although had played in treble clef for years. Bass Clef is as you say much more universal although in BB's its the odd one out!
    As to learning tenor clef and alto, I can understand learning these as these to can be found elsewhere principally orchestral playing, which I think a lot of brass players get asked to dep for(which I have done a lot of).
    I feel that being conversant in this area not only increases your musicianship, but your flexibility, and availability (for those of us who want to play with different groups or play more frequently) which I consider to be a good thing.

    Just my opinions.
  4. Mike Saville

    Mike Saville Member

    Kepps, I agree with a lot of your points. I do see that a standardisation of clef/fingering would help in a brass band.

    What I would be keen to avoid is a situation where BB instruments/clefs are taught to the exclusion of others (which are arguably more important).

    In the wider scheme of things instruments/clef don't really matter as long as people are playing brass, right?

    As for the perfect pitch thingy - I wish someone would let me in on the secret as I've always found aural a struggle :?
  5. picju96

    picju96 Member

    I think that trumpet should be taught over cornet if the student wants to be able to play in lots of different ensembles i.e. orchestras, wind bands, quintets/quartets etc. Cornet is easy to pick up after initial training on trumpet, which is what I did. Higher trumpet grades include transposing, surely a vital part of orchestral playing, whereas cornet grades don't. Therefore I feel learning trumpet instead of cornet gets an all round training, rather than a training veered towards BB's. About F horn and Eb horn, they're completely different instruments, with different hands and mouthpieces, not so interchangable as a trumpet and a cornet, therefore not the same argument. I can't comment on trombone clefs, as I can't play trombone.
  6. Despot

    Despot Member

    I actually tried that once years ago! Didn't work! From a large class of kids I picked a potential trombone player and tried bass clef. What happened was the poor kid couldn't understand what he had done wrong & why he wasn't treated like the others, and after some tears and a chat with his mother I gave up! :lol: (He's now principal trombone in the senior band!)

    It's fine in theory, or if you're in a position to give/get private lessons, but it's not practical in a group situation as is the case for many brass players. It's just too difficult in a class. However, I wouldn't keep them ignorant of the world outside. As they get older, we give them the option of learning the other clefs.....if they want to. It's something that can succesfully be learnt later.

    Most kids that start to learn brass will eventually give up. For most that continue it will always be a pasttime. Is it really worth all the hastle of using bass clef or changing to trumpets and french horns for the one in a thousand that will actually turn into an pro orchestral brass player?

    I played in orchestra's, jazz band's, wind bands etc, in fact I'm playing with one Sunday! But I feel the adavntages I got from being in a brass band player outweigh the disadvantages, and I'd advise any potential brass player to join one. I had to learn bass clef later on , but that was only a minor thing.

    I also disagree that trumpet/french horn give more opportunites for playing. A wider variety of playing perhaps, but not "more often". Your average brass band will do more gigs in a few weeks than some orchestras will do in several years! :lol:
  7. Cantonian

    Cantonian Active Member

    I learnt on tenor horn and did grade five when I was 11. I then started to learn French horn but never really thought to make music my career. I enjoyed playing french horn but my teacher recommended that the french horn mouthpiece be used in the tenor horn or even better (in his eyes) give up tenor horn.
    I explained that I wanted to continue tenor horn as my primary instrument so looked around and found a paxman french horn mouthpiece with a wide rim which was about the same size as my Denis Wick 3 tenor horn mouthpiece.
    The point of this posting is to say that french horn and tenor horn are very different and even now ( 25 years on) I have more of a French horn sound than the 'classical' tenor horn sound. However playing french horn helped my tenor horn playing immensely in filling the instrument and extending the range( albeit with the lower harmonic limitations). The transposition has also helped in playing in small groups or covering cornet,flugel or even baritone parts. The other help is in a greater appreciation of classical music.
    I agree that french horn and trumpet versus tenor horn and cornet give more openings professionally and would recommend that if the opportunity for playing F.H or trumpet is offered to a youngster they should take it, but at the end of the day the enjoyment of making music is all important.
  8. PeterBale

    PeterBale Moderator Staff Member

    I think it makes sense for players to learn treble clef notation first if the majority of their playing is initially going to be with brass bands. I do think it is important, however, that everyone gets as broad a musical training as possible, to incorporate music theory as well as various clefs, transposing etc.

    As a singer before becoming involved in bands, I already had a good knowledge of bass clef notation, so when I moved onto bass trom it was only a question of working out what position was needed to play each note. Regarding transposition, I have never found this a problem particularly. When playing in a concert band at Coventry School of Music where there were often players missing, and I would regularly sit with several parts in front of me, eg alto sax, french horn, trumpet, filling in whatever was necessary. There is no question that the more transposition you do the more comfortable you will become with it, although there will still be the occasion when an odd transposition turns up. On one occasion I should have been transposing up a fifth to read off a Bb copy on an Eb instrument, only to find that, in order to get in tune with the piano, I had to push right in and make it an augmented fourth instead - not recommended!

    Regarding the tenor horn / french horn situation, I know they are very different instruments, and there will be more playing opportunities for french horn players, at least froim the point of view of the numbers of various groups available, but I have known a number of players who have switched between the two quite successfully.
  9. bladder

    bladder Member

    You should learn to busk more! Busking, playing by ear, doesn't only include jazz. You can learn to associate 'sounds' in your head with fingers and blowing. A development of this is to play music purely by busking around the 'shape' of the music you're looking at, irrespective of clef, and not actually 'reading' notes just following the outline of the music. This technique is surprising accurate and works great for transposition, for example, find your key first and off you go!! More emphasis in performance should be placed on the 'sounds' you're making, rather than on the 'music notation' you're looking at!! After all the ears are your hearing organs, aren't they?
    As for teaching trumpet over cornet, it depends on the pupil is interested in. It is easier to get a 'nice' sound on a cornet, which is also more agile. It is easier to play than a trumpet. But the trumpet is a more versatile instrument, why else is it used in all manner of ensembles. The dynamic and frequency ranges are greater on trumpet, as is the range of 'sounds', it is possible to play 'sweet', 'dirty', 'razz', proper 'jazz/swing', 'orchestral', etc.. Many of these styles require effects that can only successfully be performed on trumpet. The pupil must be prepared learn all these sometimes very subtle effects. This can be quite tricky and requires the pupil to go beyond the notated page. Something very rarely done during cornet tuition.
  10. Mike Saville

    Mike Saville Member

    Why don't you try teaching all the kids bass clef - that way no-one is left out.
    I would argue that a student is far more likely to continue playing if they are presented with a number of styles in which to play - this means bass clef for trombones and trumpets for cornets

    Would it not be easier to learn treble clef at a later stage for one situation instead of bass clef for multiple ones?, especially as much training music for brass bands comes with bass clef trombone parts??

    Agreed. But I think choice is what makes it interesting. What if a player does not like brass bands (it can happen) do they giveup becausethey can read for any other group??
  11. Aidan

    Aidan Active Member

    I know.. lets kill brass bands :roll:
  12. Big Fella

    Big Fella Member

    I am a Tuba player, who initially was taught to read Bass Cleff. After a couple of years, I started to read Treble Clef.
    Although I now basically play for BB, due to the fact that I could read and play in both cleffs, I have enjoyed playing for Orchestra's & Wind Bands, as well as BB's.

    I think that certain instruments. Tuba's, Trombones should play in the cleff that they do in Orchestra's, after all they have been going a lot longer than BB's..
  13. Mike Saville

    Mike Saville Member

    There are two different types of aural ability. The one you mention here about being able to pick out a melody on your instrument, being able to play in tune and basically being able to play what's in your head - this I can do, and I think is the most important.

    The second, however is when it comes to notating pitch or calling out which pitches are which I'm not much cop. This is where your perfect pitch comes in.

    This is probably an interesting topic for another thread - schools, colleges etc teach students to complete written aural tests when the most important aural abilities are to play in tune, balance, etc, and to be able to translate what you hear onto your instrument .. . . they don't tend to focus on these . . . .
  14. michellegarbutt

    michellegarbutt Supporting Member

    Every child I know that is taught to read music in school is always taught treble clef first. Why I don't know
  15. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    Don't people with perfect pitch fall into two distinct categories? 1) Those who do indeed seem to be born with it, and 2) Those who learn it. I've often heard it essentially suggested that "if you're not born with it, you can't acquire it", but this isn't so. For example, I certainly wasn't born with perfect pitch, but can name random notes with no preparation to an accuracy far higher than chance by imagining what that note would sound like on the Trombone.

  16. Pythagoras

    Pythagoras Active Member

    Probably to do with the pitch most people will sing at at the age they learn music, and that most tunes (the first things they will play) are in the higher register.
  17. timbloke

    timbloke Member

    A few years back when I had an hour of theory lessons every saturday morning, my theory teacher told me about how you can teach yourself perfect pitch. It is apparently ultimately as easy as learning the names of colours, each note having it's own "colour".

    To do it, you need a piano, or ten, dotted around your usual route around the house/work place/band room etc. Every time you walk past it, close your eyes, play any note, and name it. It'll be hard at first but after a few weeks/months/years, of trying you should apparently get the hang of it and be able to name any note when you hear it.

    I can't say i've tried it, I always forget when I'm passing my piano, let me know if it works!!

  18. Mike Saville

    Mike Saville Member

    This is new to me. All those I know with perfect pitch have always had the ability (from what age I'm not sure?) Anyone here experience of acquiring perfect pitch??
  19. Mike Saville

    Mike Saville Member

    I wish I'd heard of this when I was at music college. I would certainly have tried it. Now I don't have the time so won't ever do it (I'm not that worried though as you don't need it to be a good player!).
  20. PeterBale

    PeterBale Moderator Staff Member

    Just an observation regarding perfect pitch: it is not always the blessing it may seem. I have known a few who have perfect pitch, but who have then found it very difficult when playing with a group whose pitch is at variance with the standard; they have also found it very hard to come to terms with the concept of transposing instruments, when what they see on the page is not what their ears lead them to expect.

    For myself, I have a good approximate pitch, in that I know what my bottom singing note is and feels like, and can work out pitch from there within a semitone or so - useful if you have to pitch a chorus for singing to avoid straining everyone's voice at the top!

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