How Good Does A Trumpet Have To Be?

Discussion in 'Bandroom News - User Submitted' started by Bruce Chidester, May 18, 2017 at 7:48 PM.

  1. Bruce Chidester

    Bruce Chidester New Member

    If you ask most trumpet players this question the answer is usually “I need one better than the one I’m playing on now!”

    But is this a true evaluation of our current instrument?

    To fully understand what I am about to say, I will approach this question from two different perspectives;

    How good does the instrument have to be to satisfy its player?

    and……

    How good does the instrument have to be to make a difference to the listener?

    How good does the instrument have to be to satisfy its player?

    Every musician wants to be able to perform with the best instrument for to use one of lesser quality would produce music of a lesser quality. Few would argue this conclusion and for that reason most of us are constantly revaluating our playing ability and forever looking for another instrument which would improve our performances.

    If your valves are not functioning properly, a newer instrument may be the answer. If the tone quality is not what you would consider acceptable on your present instrument, another may be your solution. If moving between notes seems more difficult than you expect, perhaps a newer or different model would solve this issue. We are constantly evaluating our output and measuring possible improvement with another instrument. Each of these examples can be justified for none of us would enter a race with inferior equipment when so much is on the line.

    If, while performing, the musician has in the back of his/her mind the possibility of a valve freezing, a possible sloppy slur between notes or a question as to the quality of the sound escaping from ones bell, that musicians concentration will wander and in most cases, mistakes will be made. There is no doubt that worrying about the proper functioning of one’s instrument is something no musician should have to deal with.

    But…….

    There are many musicians who blame their playing problems on a perfectly functioning instrument instead of realizing the problems are not caused by the instrument but stem from the performers lack of practice!

    Too many musicians have convinced themselves that all of their problems can be corrected by purchasing a “new and improve” mouthpiece or perhaps the purchase of one of the “bright and shiny, never fluff” trumpets offered on EBay. I am convinced that the percentage of victims to this utopian philosophy could be as much as 50% of the trumpet world today.

    I have more times than I can remember heard from players who purchase extremely expensive trumpets who have convinced themselves that all of their problems will be solved with the new instrument. Almost all of the same people, when demonstrating their new purchase, seem to play exactly the same as they had with their old instrument. One such player, after shelling out more money than I had paid for my first car, tried to justify his purchase to his wife by telling her that he made the purchase as an investment for as he put it “the value of this instrument will only go up”. The value of the same instrument actually went down and he eventually sold it at a loss to another sucker.


    In concluding this section of my post, I will admit that playing on an inferior instrument will not manifest into your best performance and on the flip side; don’t condemn a perfectly good instrument for your laziness and lack of discipline.

    Now on to point #2…..

    How good does the instrument have to be to make a difference to the listener?

    Could it have been possible for the late, great trumpet player Mr. Adolph Sylvester "Bud" Herseth to perform brilliantly on a student model trumpet? Of course he could have! Mr Herseth could have sounded great on a mouthpiece inserted into a section of garden hose with a funnel at the other end! To illustrate this even further, let me share with you an experience I had while a member of the faculty brass quintet at the University of Northern Iowa several decades ago…..

    Once upon a time, many years ago in a far off land called Iowa, I needed my Schilke trumpet repaired and due to the fact that it would be in the shop for a couple weeks, I needed a replacement for our daily quintet rehearsals. A quick trip to the university’s instrument store room produced a solution to my problem; a fairly new Yamaha student model trumpet. I did not share the dubious pedigree of my replacement horn to my fellow quintetians and continued to rehearse with them for the next two weeks. Then one day, a fellow member asked if I had purchased a new horn to which I responded “no, not yet. I’m just trying it out to see if I like it”. No more questions were asked and no one ever knew that I was playing on a student level horn. This is just another example of the limited thinking one could entertain when considering the necessity of a new and improved instrument. The lower level trumpet was nothing close to the superior quality of my Schilke, yet to the ears of my colleagues, little difference, if any was detected. If I remember correctly, I even performed some concerts on that student level instrument.

    In concluding this section of my post, I will admit that every musician needs the best instrument they can afford to perform as well as possible. Inferior quality instruments will hold a musician back but do not try to justify a better instrument if the problems lay with your own lack of ability or preparation.
     
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  3. Hsop

    Hsop Member

    Hi Bruce

    Interesting post you made there. I am not a trumpet player myself but are there many people on this forum that play in a quintet on a daily basis? Is it perhaps possible that sitting in close proximity to each other during rehearsals that it would be quite difficult to make a true comparison of tone quality between a Yamaha and Schilke trumpet?

    The argument of instrument selection and ability will have already been discussed here many times, however the individual has the freedom to choose what they prefer. A good instrument will certainly help any player irrespective of their skill level achieve better results. Do you believe that skilled musicians should trade in their favourite instruments and buy a student range instrument just because they can play on anything?

    Music is for the enjoyment to play and the pleasure it gives an audience in listening. I personally believe in playing the best instrument that you can buy or borrow, especially if you have the long-term commitment to progress. I was fortunate as a child to borrow from my local band and play on an old B&H sovereign cornet even when I was in the early stages of playing brass instruments. Fast forward 20+ years and I still play on a B&H sovereign cornet after my ability has increased.

    Use whatever instrument makes you happy and meets your requirements :)
     
  4. mikelyons

    mikelyons Supporting Member

    As good as a cornet? ;-)
     
  5. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

    By chance I can across comments by Algridas Matonis (Algirdas Matonis) who is a Euphonium player in River City Brass - both of them are 'big' in the USA and produce some 'good stuff'. It seems like AM supports the view that it is possible and practical to produce excellent music on 'lesser quality' instruments as demonstrated in this video of him talking and playing a 'student' instrument:
     
  6. Tom-King

    Tom-King Well-Known Member

    The better the player, the more consistent the results.

    A stronger, more consistent player is going to be more capable of picking up on intonation tendencies of the instrument and more capable of adjusting to them as they go...
    But at the same time, they're going to be more appreciative of instruments with better intonation, harmonics/slots lining up more evenly, especially when the music gets more intricate - in this sense, when you're referring to slurs between different notes feeling harder than it should, it's the intonation tendencies of the instrument more often than not in my experience (if you're slurring from 4th space E to the G on top of the staff, for example, on most instruments the E will be flat to some extent and the G will often be slightly sharp - the further from centered the notes want to be, the harder it'll be to slur it if you're aiming for where the middle of that note should be..)

    At the same time, a top top performer might be willing to accept slightly dodgy intonation if it allows them to make the sound they want - and since you won't hear it, it's easy not to notice how much effort they're putting in.


    I suspect the style of music might play some part, too - if you're always playing a solid MF or louder, it's easier to lip notes around a bit than if you're trying to play quietly in your high register.


    I don't know about you, but I'll take the best I can get my hands on, personally.

    But I take your point - an excellent instrument you're familiar with is enough for the vast majority of us... And if your own playing isn't consistent enough that you form that connection and familiarity with the tendencies (intonation or otherwise) of a given instrument, it's probably not the instrument - it's the player.
     
    4th Cornet likes this.
  7. Tom-King

    Tom-King Well-Known Member

    By the traditional definitions, most of them are cornets... Or atleast hybrids of the two.
     
    mikelyons likes this.

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