Gap in Range

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by DS2014, Apr 2, 2014.

  1. DS2014

    DS2014 Active Member

    Hi all,
    I am a returning player, and have been working pretty hard on getting back in shape. My range and tone are returning, gradually, but I am having a weird problem, and maybe someone can help.

    When moving up the stave I have a clear and resonant C, C# , D, Eb, E, and then a totally absent or buzzy and squeaky F, and then back to clear and resonant F#, G, and then a pretty solid G#, and then A is my upper limit of quality.

    So, my question is, what is happening to the bloomin' F??? It's driving me nuts.
  2. trumpetmike

    trumpetmike Well-Known Member

    Can I ask a couple of (what might seem like) obvious questions:
    What is the instrument?
    What make/model is it?
    Have you let anyone else have a try to see if it is the instrument rather than you?

    The reason I ask is that I have had a couple of students with "instrument-shaped-objects" where some of the notes worked fine and others were just impossible to obtain.
  3. DS2014

    DS2014 Active Member

    Good questions, should have said that first.

    Instrument is a Besson Prestige cornet. Fella I bought it from was able to fly around on it. I thought about the possibility of it being the instrument at fault, but Bb, F, Bb , and D all resonate on first valve. Does that rule out the instrument, or might it still be possible for only one note not to slot?
  4. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    It is still possible for one note not to slot - my B&S alto trombone has an almost completely missing high C#. I would get someone else to try it to see if they have a similar problem - it may be something like the combination of a bit of a weak spot on the particular instrument with a crossover in your embouchure at that point - do you play lower than F differently to above F?

    Also - is the F any better on 1+3? It will be too flat to use, but it may resonate better.
  5. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

    I think that somewhere on this Forum there have been comments about Besson build quality, not with recent instruments but approaching the time that they were bought out. Whatever, if the previous owner managed to fly arround on it then how? Was the fault covered or managed in some way? Perhaps the F plays better with alternate fingering (1&3 ? rather than just 1), was it just un-noticed within what else was happening or is there a knack to playing it?

    In your situation I'd want to get a few reasonable players trying the instrument out for me to confirm the issue/difficulty. If there is an issue then a trip to a better instrument repair shop could be worth while (it might be a complex problem rather than the standard dent removal and resoldering, and a more expert shop is more likely to know of a design or build problem). Once you have some facts a call to the last owner seeking some explanation/fix might help you to.
  6. DS2014

    DS2014 Active Member

    Thanks, MoominDave, and thanks, 2nd Tenor; your speedy replies are very much appreciated. I'm going to band tonight, so, will first try the F's with 1+3. Then I'll ask someone at band to give it a blast.

    MoominDave has got me thinking now about the possibility of an embouchure crossover. Given that I am a returning player, and therefore under no pressure, band-wise, to perform, I have committed myself to practicing maintaining the same embouchure (as far as possible) throughout the range. However, last night, I was hyper conscious about what my embouchure is doing in an around the F, and, sure enough, there are the beginnings of tension developing as I leave the E and approach the F, especially, because it has become a psychological problem now too!

    2nd Tenor, you have me thinking too about the quality of build. The cornet is an English Prestige, which I know (and knew at the time of purchase) is not as highly regarded as the French version. But I really scrutinized it, because I had read-up in advance about poor solder joints on the English Prestiges. However, there's not a mark on it. It might be, though, that I might leave it in for testing in a repair shop. Any recommendations for such repairers in the North West?
  7. Lewis Chris

    Lewis Chris Member

    A friend had this on their Prestige cornet (early model not the newer one) on 'top' Bb. The only way you could play it was on open. A few players tried and had the same problem on that instrument (even tried with different mouthpieces v same mouthpiece). They eventually took it to a shop and they found that one of the holes in the first valve was 0.something negligible mm out of line and on that specific note it just would not work, because the air flow at that frequency didn't work.

    Get your fellow players to have a blow and if they are having the same problem take it to a reputable brass shop/dealer/repairer.
  8. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    That's something you should nip in the bud - you really don't want to develop a 'thing' about a particular note; can get quite messy.

    - Get hold of another cornet - is the F fine on that?
    - Get hold of another player - can they play the F fine on your cornet? Try it with a stronger player and another player similar to yourself if possible.
    - Slur E-F# - does an embouchure change occur? How about with C-D-E-F#-G-A? If so, where?

    If simply using another instrument sorts this out without creating other problems, I would be strongly inclined to change instrument, sell this one, then forget that the problem ever existed. If not, the usual method to overcome a weakness due to a systematic embouchure adjustment is to work in practice to make the two embouchures overlap more - to extend your higher embouchure down below the gap and to extend your lower embouchure up above it - in other words, to create an overlap. But this is something that ought to be done with a teacher - we can only offer generalities online.
  9. DS2014

    DS2014 Active Member

    Thanks for your reply, Chris. I had indeed heard the same thing about the English-built Prestige...indeed, I read Trumpetmike's posting about these instruments on the TrumpetHerald before I bought it. So, I gave it a very close inspection. However, my standard of playing at the time of purchase was not good enough to reliably test it, and the guy from whom I bought it had no problems playing it at all (my ear was still reliable enough to judge sound, etc.). So, I'll get a few guys to try it. My gut feeling is that it is a combination of, on one hand, my embouchure doing something funny at that point and, on the other hand, the instrument being very, very pernickety about slotting the F (if not having an actual problem at that frequency).
  10. DS2014

    DS2014 Active Member

    Excellent advice, MoominDave, I'll work that routine into my practice and sort this thing out once and for all. Thank you very much
  11. euphoria

    euphoria Member

    I have come across a few players with similar problems. With most of them, the problem was that they imagined the note to be higher (or lower) than it actually was. It was quite easy to establish by getting them to sing the note. Some were as much as a quarter tone off pitch. In effect they were trying to play a note that didn't exist on the instrument. They could normally get it right it the interval leading up to the problem note was an octave, so I got them to play a long low C and then a middle C, then low Db and middle Db and so on, making them sing the interval first and then play it afterwards. If that worked we progressed to other intervals (fifth's and forth's), and in most cases it solved the problem.

    If your problem is caused by a shift in embouchures Dave's solution is very good. I will only add that buzzing on the mouthpiece can be very helpful here. Trying to make a gliss from below the problem note up to above it while concentrating on maintaining a good sound all the way up, without any gaps in the sound.
  12. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

    It's difficult for me to suggest anyone (I live in a different part of the country and have no contacts in the North West) but word of mouth and the experience of others can (but isn't always) be a good guide. Some bands have favourite repair shops so asking the secretary of your band who they use is a start and ask other secretaries if you can too. Ask other players across the band and you may get a feel for who is more expert and who should perhaps only be entrusted with simpler things.
  13. DS2014

    DS2014 Active Member

    Thanks, Euphoria, I will give that idea a try in practice. Will let you know how it goes
  14. DS2014

    DS2014 Active Member

    Thanks, 2nd tenor, I'll try to see if it's me that's the problem ( looking evermore likely), otherwise, I'll source a repair shop as you recommend
  15. DS2014

    DS2014 Active Member

    An update: so, I gave the cornet to a couple of guys at rehearsal, and they agreed it wasn't easy to pitch. They recommended that I give it a good clean out, which I did. And I've been doing the exercises recommended by the guys above. It's definitely better.

    But I'd like to put my mind at ease that the instrument is as it should be. So I contacted the repair shop at Alan Gregory Music. When I described the issue, they recommended that I contact Besson to see if they can offer advice. So, I've sent them an email, and will see what happens. Will post the Besson advice here in case anyone else ever has the same issue.

    Has anyone ever heard of a test that can be done to check internal valve alignment? i.e. that holes on pistons are where they should be?
  16. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

    Thanks for letting us know.

    It was helpful that others confirmed the existence of the problem. Good idea to contact AG but they may not feel free to comment fully, I'd contact some other people too and specialist repairers if possible. A manufacturer may or may not choose to own up to a known fault on one of their instruments, if there were to be a fault then public recognition could lead to consequences ........ Have there been any changes between the older and newer models of your cornet and if so then perhaps that might indicate something?

    I'm not a cornet player but if I were and wanted to check valve alignment then I'd consider pulling the slides and looking down the now open tubes with the aid of a focused torch/penlight. Mind it might be hard to evaluate any slight imperfection if the tolerance is not known.

    Giving the instrument a thorough clean inside and out is a good idea too, might be something shifted that's not supposed to be there and you might spot something not quite right too.
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2014
  17. trumpetmike

    trumpetmike Well-Known Member

    Not sure the current Besson (French) are very helpful when it comes to old Besson (English) instruments - have heard of mixed experiences.
    As for valve alignment - if you can see the holes lining up through the ports (by taking slides out) that will be a good plan. If not, take a trip to see Will Spencer - one of very few valve specialists (have had a few instruments go through Will and they have all come out improved, even when I didn't think anything was wrong).

    As for an exercise - try some lips slurs - C (3rd space) then E (4th space) then G (over stave)
    C E G E C
    then down a semitone
    B D# F# D# B
    then down a further semitone
    Bb D F D Bb
    then down another
    A C# E C# A (using valves 1,2)
    then another
    Ab C Eb C Ab (2,3)

    Then go back up - does the F still feel different to the rest?
  18. BrianT

    BrianT Member

    I've got some questions:

    1) You say you're a returning player. Was this missing F a problem before you stopped playing?
    2) Do you get the same problem when you descend to the F rather than ascend to it?

    You say that A is your 'upper limit of quality' - which suggests that playing an F is still a significant effort (F and A are fairly close in pitch). If this is the case I'd work on extending your range, and then you'll be able to play the F with less effort and it will work better.

    I don't think it's a problem with the first valve, otherwise I'd expect other first valve notes not to work.

    It's most likely that if you buy some time with an experienced teacher, they'll take one look at your embouchure or posture or something and come up with the explanation for the problem. And they'll probably help devise some exercises to fix it too.
  19. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    Hi Brian, just wanted to flag this up, as it's not quite on the button - the rest is as usual sound good sense...

    It's eminently possible to have a single note that fails to work well on an instrument. I would guess due to an antinode of the wave falling in an unfortunate place - so if there's a little burr where the 1st valve meets the 1st valve tubing (for example), it wouldn't upset all 1st valve notes, but might upset one of them. I'd also wonder if the F an octave higher is awkward too, and/or the double high C, etc. up another harmonic series - but that's not really relevant here.

    I'll bring my alto trombone to the quintet sometime, and you can see for yourself how every 3rd position note is fine except for high C#, which simply refuses to sound unless you approach it just so‚Äč. Not even any valves on it to mess up the wave!
  20. BrianT

    BrianT Member

    Thanks for pointing that out Dave. It occurred to me this morning that the problem might yet be due to the instrument - but not the first valve itself. I wonder if the main water key is a tight seal. If it's not (has the cork perished?) and one of the antinodes is next to the hole then that would disrupt the note.

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