hi and starting on soprano

Discussion in 'Introduce Yourself' started by startingsop, Feb 17, 2012.

  1. startingsop

    startingsop New Member

    I have just joined the forum. I took up cornet 2 and a half years ago having played bugle and a tiny bit of trumpet in my youth. I play with a small community non-contest band in Malvern and I love it. Until a couple of months ago I played 3rd cornet, but the cornet section were invited to volunteer to learn sop and nobody else volunteered so I did. We have a brilliant soprano player but he plays for other bands too so we need a reserve. I have bought the best sop I could afford (a second hand yamaha xeno) and have acquired a copy of the arban. I have had a few lessons and I am practising. Some of my lower notes I am becoming happier with but the higher notes (On a good day I can manage up to a C above the stave but not very reliably) sound strangled and thin.

    Is this to be expected and tolerated until I just do lots more practise or is there a secret to getting the sublimely beautiful tone our 'real' sop player gets? How do I know whether I am using my diaphragm properly?

    Also my sight-reading isn't anywhere near good enough. Is there anything I can do to improve that?
  2. Andrew Norman

    Andrew Norman Active Member

    As no "Proper" Soprano players have offered any advice yet let me start the ball rolling.
    1. It's a brave move and well done for rising to the challenge. I have a similar situation in my band and nobody wants to step up to the challenge.
    2. If you can get close to a C above the stave this early you are heading in the right direction - proper practice will help to improve your range.
    3. Tone is very difficult to learn - all I can say if that you should keep the "sublime, beautiful tone" of your regular Soprano in your mind at all times. Maybe ask what mouthpiece they use - no guarantee but using something similar may help.
    4. Regarding use of the diaphragm - there are plenty of books on technique which will help but perhaps get yourself a few lessons booked with a good teacher, probably an easier way than self-diagnosis.
    5. Sight Reading by its very nature can't be learnt - scale and arpeggio practice will help you to recognise figures and phrases. Playing along to CDs and playing with bands at every opportunity will help with rhythm and phrasing. Again getting together with a friend or teacher to play through duets is a great help - don't be too worried about making mistakes - get used to keeping going.
  3. johnsop

    johnsop Member

    Hi startingsop,

    In terms of tone and 'diaphragm' support, work on long notes. I.e. play a note for as long as you can, keeping the air constant and the tone even. Do this on a comfortable mid-range note and move outward in both directions working on the same evenness of tone. Also, mouthpiece might be a factor. Try using the biggest mouthpiece that you still feel comfortable on (especially at the top end!).

    The best way to develop sight reading is to do lots of it. Open the Arban play a few bars, not stopping and look back over it? How do you think you did? Try it slower to find out. Then move on.

    I've also sent you a Private Message with my e-mail if you want any more advice or help.

    Best of luck,
    John Atkinson
  4. davidquinlan

    davidquinlan Member

    How is your upper register on Bb Cornet? If you do not have a good solid register up to high C, and maybe beyond, the same pitch on Soprano will (written 4th Lower) will sound the same.
    Try not to be blinded by the anatomy of breathing, if you are alive and breathing, your diaphram is working correctly, so don't worry about it.
    There is plenty in the Arban to work with for both Bb and Eb Cornet playing.
    If I was to suggest any supplementary materials, I would say John Rigdeon "How Brass Players Do It" for flexibility, Claude Gordon "Brass Playing is no Harder than Deep breathing", for thesis on breathing and control, and for general playing and practice tips, both Howard Snells books "The Trumpet" and "How To Practice" are worth the investment.

    Practice little and often (3 X 20mins sessions over 1 hr long session), don't expect a "smooth improvement curve", you will improve in fits and starts, think of a stairs with uneven steps.

    Good Luck.
  5. startingsop

    startingsop New Member

    Hi, Thankyou for the replies and helpful advice and encouragement. I really appreciate it.

    I am using the yamaha mouhpiece that came with the cornet (6B4).

    I am finding it much easier to practice now I have a really nice cornet to play on. Every time I walk past it I want to pick it up and play. However I think for the sake of the other people who live in the house, and the cat in particular, I need to buy a practice mute. Looking at websites there seem to be several to choose from - is there a reason to go for any one in particular?

    My upper register on the Bb cornet isn't too bad (for a 3rd cornet player). It seems to have improved since I started playing the sop.

    One thing - my bottom front teeth are quite uneven, so I play with the mouthpiece not very central on my lips - will this be a problem?
  6. davidquinlan

    davidquinlan Member

    I use http://www.sshhmute.com/ as they fit Cornet/Sop/Bb/Eb trumpet etc.

    Difficult to diagnose issue with teeth over internet.. :) I would say that your teeth form the foundation of your embourchure, so if your teeth are not straight, this could influence the direction of the instrument. i.e. it may not be straight, or your embourchure may be offset. This may not necessarily be a problem, but a lesson with a respected teacher should sort this out.
  7. Bass Trumpet

    Bass Trumpet Active Member

    It's worth remembering that the Soprano cornet is just another instrument of the brass band. It's not a special case as some would have you believe. Approach is just the same. If you have had the benefit from good instruction, just put it into practice with the Soprano and all should be well. The one thing that I think does make a good sop player is the experience to judge when to give it the beans and when to leave it out. I don't have a vast experience in high-level banding, but I have had the pleasure of sitting in a band with two of the greats (Gary Fountain and Kevin Crockford) and they are two perfect examples of players demonstrating experience and good judgement.

    Most importantly, keep working at it and GOOD LUCK!:D
  8. Andrew Norman

    Andrew Norman Active Member

    As always I recommend taking a look at The Balanced Embouchere http://www.trumpetteacher.net/be_book.html
    This method improved my top range no end and will also show that unconventional emboucheres are not necessarily to be feared.
  9. davidquinlan

    davidquinlan Member

    Couldn't agree more...
  10. Bass Trumpet

    Bass Trumpet Active Member

    I'm sure it's very good but I had to laugh at a book on embouchure written by a bloke called Smiley!
  11. Andrew Norman

    Andrew Norman Active Member

    :D :clap:
  12. startingsop

    startingsop New Member

    Thankyou again for the comments. I had a much better evening at band this week. Managed to get As and Bs on demand (well the slow ones anyway - left the faster bits to the expert). One thing I have heard about playing sop is that most players are slightly loopy (in the nicest possible way of course). My kids reckon I am well qualified if that's the case.
  13. KernowSop

    KernowSop Member

    I am by no means an expert (ask my MD), but I was always taught to have at least one practice session a week with a practice mute in all the time. Or you could use a Bb cornet fibre straight mute, which is just as difficult. It makes you work harder and you really have to work on note production. I used to have an excellent tutor (in my youth) that swore by this method, as it picks up all of your bad habits and makes you improve on them. It will also help control your breathing.

    Perhaps I should listen to my own advice!

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