Archive for the 'Education/Technique' Category

A Little Piece About Little Mouthpieces

Friday, July 2nd, 2004

by Patricia Backhaus

The cornet – just a little trumpet? No, not at all. A real cornet is a conical bore instrument that is most similar to the F horn. Early versions of the instrument used a mouthpiece that was funnel shaped, like a horn mouthpiece. This helped to create the distinctive warm and throaty sound of the cornet. When you’re learning to play the cornet, it is important to remember this information. Many trumpet players try to make a cornet sound like a trumpet. However, it is a totally different instrument and worth of its own tone and color.

In my years as a cornet player, I have tried many different mouthpieces including the British Brass Band style. This was an interesting experiment for me and I still use that design for some solos. It does have a decidedly British coloring and sound. It is the mouthpiece I would choose for British or Australian style solos such as Percy Code repertoire or the solos of Harry Mortimer. Once at a conference I was playing a British style mouthpiece and a friend who was listening asked if I were trying to sound like a Salvation Army musician. Unfortunately, at the time I was not. This helped me realize just how much the sound depended on my mouthpiece and just how distinctive a sound that particular style had. I also showed me how important it is to focus on the “voice” I wanted out of my cornet at any particular time.

Since then, I have experimented with different ideas to find different sounds. I have experimented with turning down flugelhorn mouthpieces on a lathe to bring the shank down to a proper cornet size. The sound they produce is great, but forget any thoughts of performing solos requiring any kind of range. This mouthpiece just doesn’t provide it. However, this style of mouthpiece could be utilized on some of the very oldest of repertories where range is seldom an issue. Again, this is an issue of the desired “voice”.

For many, chances are pretty good that if you own a cornet mouthpiece, it is really a trumpet mouthpiece on a cornet shank. I believe that sometime in the 1920’s mouthpiece manufacturers were going toward this combination. Many cornet soloists were also playing trumpets and it was common to see ads for dual cases that allowed performers to carry both their trumpets and cornets. Switching back and forth between instruments was made much easier if both had similar mouthpieces. Because of this, by the 1930’s the true cornet mouthpiece was out of fashion in the United States. That meant that the traditional sounding cornet was also disappearing. However, the present day trend is to return to the old style of cornet mouthpieces and to return the cornet to the roots where it began.

There are many manufacturers that offer traditional cornet mouthpieces as either an aftermarket product or right along with a new cornet. Recently when I opened a new cornet from Getzen there was, or course, a mouthpiece in the case. Out of respect and curiosity, I tried the mouthpiece and it absolutely blew me away. It was exactly what I had been searching for for nearly 15 years. For me, it was the perfect combination of a funnel shaped cup and rounded rim. Finally, a mouthpiece that gave me the voice I had been searching. Granted, it may or may not be perfect for every situation, but it is the closest I have come to an “overall” cornet mouthpiece. This is just one example of a modern manufacturer realizing that the cornet is much more than just a little trumpet, so much more.

The Badger Band Gets More Getzens Yet Again

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2003

UW Receives Getzen Trombones
Mike Leckrone (l) takes delivery of the new trombones in custom Wisconsin cases from Tom Getzen (r).
(Click image for larger view)

Following the order of 100 Eterna Classic trumpets a year ago, the University of Wisconsin Badger Marching Band continues their love of Getzen instruments with an order of 75 new Getzen trombones.

Mike Leckrone, the Badger Band director, took a break from early season band practice to receive the delivery of the 75 silver plated 351 trombones with Amado waterkeys. As with the Eterna Classic trumpets, each trombone included a custom soft sided case in Badger crimson with the band’s logo embroidered on the outside of the case. In addition, Mr. Leckrone ordered several soft briefcases matching the cases for use by his assistant directors.

Any high schools or universities interested in Getzen instruments in custom cases featuring school colors and logos can contact the Getzen Company at 800-366-5584 or via our contact form for more details.

Becoming the Smart Musician, Part II of Series

Friday, May 23rd, 2003

by Robert Levy – Professor of Music, Lawrence University
Getzen Artist & Clinician

While Part I of this series addressed an approach in practicing by isolating Musical Elements, I’d like to backtrack a moment in Part II to the very beginning of our journey.

When starting out, young players have most likely been drawn to the trumpet for having heard someone play it – maybe a friend or relative. Or, perhaps they attended a concert and heard a soloist and were captivated by the glorious sound ringing throughout the auditorium or concert hall. At any rate, there was something captivating about this instrument for each of us from the very beginning and we made a conscious decision to get one and learn how to play it. Little did we know this would be on long journey!!

After many years I’m still amazed when I see raw beginners taking their very first steps as they learn the fundamentals of good hand and finger position, get their lips buzzing on the mouthpiece, and produce their beginning level tone qualities. They have such boundless enthusiasm and a yearning desire. They just want to get blowing the horn as quickly as possible with little regard for how they might sound. And this is understandable and I believe quite okay in the first few weeks of this learning process. I think the number one priority for teachers is to take advantage of this great enthusiasm that exists. All too often I see young teachers giving detailed lectures on the refined points of embouchure development, the importance of musical notation, and even a theoretical analysis! While all of these things are not only important and essential, I truly believe for a young student, age eleven to thirteen, the priority should be allowing them to play as soon as possible and take advantage of their desire to create a sound. Johnny and Susan don’t get this kind of opportunity in math or English class. We can work on refinement and all the other important concepts later as the long journey continues.

To hold the young student back from actually playing the instrument is like giving a four year old a new toy and keeping him/her from playing with it while you tell them all you know about it. He wants to play just as our new young trumpeter is excited about making those first sounds. In most cases they won’t be very beautiful, but they will be their own.

There is all too often a high attrition rate with young musicians and I believe this occurs because they become bored. If we can capture their excitement and enthusiasm it will get them up and running and many more young students will stay motivated playing their instruments.

Lastly, I believe very strongly in even the youngest students hearing models as early as three or four weeks after they’ve begun. They then have a long range goal before them. They’ll remember THAT sound and begin to formulate sound concepts. It can be done with the teacher making a point to play with the student (rather than strictly talking), by bringing in guest players, or by regularly playing recordings of outstanding players. Let’s remember the wonderful success with Suzucki teaching where the emphasis is on playing; reading comes later. I think there is a considerable amount to be learned from that technique.

Part III of this series will address the importance of sound concepts. Meanwhile, let’s keep our youngest students turned on to playing their horns!

University of Wisconsin Takes Delivery of New Eterna Classic Trumpets

Saturday, November 9th, 2002

UW and Getzen
Mike Leckrone (left) eagerly accepts new Eterna Classic trumpets in UW’s custom cases from Tom Getzen
(Click image for larger view)

The University of Wisconsin Badger Marching Band recently accepted delivery of over 100 new 900 Eterna Classic trumpets all in silver plate. Each trumpet also included a specially manufactured soft sided case made in Badger crimson and sporting the University of Wisconsin Marching Band’s logo embroidered on the outside.

“We are proud to continue to be part of the Badger Bands trademark sound” said Tom Getzen, President and owner of the Getzen Company, Inc. He also noted, “The Badger Band has been using Getzen silver plated trumpets, trombones, and flugelhorns for several years and it is always a thrill to hear our instruments being played by a band of this caliber.”

Getzen 900 Eterna Classic trumpets are a return to the original 900 Eterna trumpet design made famous in the sixties and seventies. Each features a .460″ bore valve set, nickel silver mouthpipe, nickel silver slide tubes, a two piece 4 3/4″ diameter yellow brass bell, a first slide saddle, and a third slide adjustable ring.

Becoming the Smart Musician, Part I of Series

Friday, November 8th, 2002

by Robert Levy – Professor of Music, Lawrence University
Getzen Artist & Clinician

While I have spoken in previous issues of choosing the more beneficial aspects of playing and selecting a good daily routine, there are some additional thoughts I’m pleased to share. First, I want to thank those hundreds of trumpet students I’ve worked with over the past, nearly forty years, and my many musician friends who have given their time to share their thoughts and ideas in teaching.

I believe we sometimes simply take many things for granted including the belief students will be able to sort through an approach to learning on their own. If learning is, according to Webster, “the acquiring of skills or knowledge” there is a process we must go through to acquire those skills. I’d like to view this whole idea within a framework that leads to developing total musicianship. Yes, we all are continually learning new ways and new skills, and better ways of doing things, but I think we can find easier ways and possibly save time. This is what I refer to as “becoming a smart musician” rather than simply becoming a tongue and blow player. Perhaps this is oversimplification, but I have seen and worked with both types of musicians and seen my students make many mistakes that they could have avoided.

The “smart musician” can learn an approach to playing and practicing that is direct and concise and gets to the heart of the matter. It also ties in with reducing the complex to the simple. One non-musician friend many years ago was sitting in the audience with me attending a symphony concert. He remarked, “how is it possible for all these players to do all which is necessary to play together as they do?” I thought that was a fascinating comment, and as I thought about it, the idea is rather amazing. How many other fields or occupations are there where one person will multi task or think about so many things simultaneously: pitch, rhythm, intonation, balance, blend, style, articulation, releases, hand and finger positions, breathing, embouchure, trying to make a beautiful sound. Add to that phrasing, watching the conductor, and listening to everyone else on stage. When you stop to think about it, that’s truly amazing. Yet, we do it and many do it in terrific fashion.

Now, how might we approach things in the learning process? If an etude or musical composition appears difficult, we want to somehow “reduce the complex” to make it simpler and easier. This begins not just with slow practicing, but also by isolating the elements one at a time. First get your pitches, then get the rhythm (you can even speak it without playing), the work on the articulations, add the dynamics, accelerandos, retards, etc… Finally add phrasing and musicality and begin combining all of those elements while practicing it slowly and gradually increase the tempi as the passage becomes more comfortable for you. Last of all, listen carefully for good tuning and play with your best sound. The key is to isolate and learn each aspect separately when working on something difficult.

With these tips, you’ll learn the piece BETTER and FASTER. It’s another example of how you can become the “smart musician”.