O.J.'s Trumpet Page Articles and reviews
Malte Burba
Distinctive and innovative trumpet soloist and pedagogue

The name Malte Burba can often be heard in trumpet circles, not least because he is regarded as quite controversial. But what does he really stand for? The fact is, that through his trumpet method, he has filled a previous gap with new knowledge of the specific physical and physiological conditions for trumpet playing. This work has so far resulted in the books BRASS MASTER-CLASS (Schott ED 8335 in German or ED 8760 in English) and TEACH YOUR BODY TO BLOW (Editions BIM 6), as well as master classes and workshops in Germany, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Austria, and Brazil, and for the first time in Sweden this year (13th 14th of July in Kosta). He is teaching at the Conservatory of Mainz, and until the end of spring 2002 also at the Music Academy of Cologne

A difficult path
Malte Burba was born in1957 (Frankfurt/Germany) into a musical family, where it was expected that little Malte would play an instrument. He started on the piano. At the age of 15 he started to play the trumpet. He was then told that he neither had the right lips and teeth nor the physical qualifications needed. But since he was totally determined to learn how to play the trumpet, he started his own investigations on how to play the trumpet. He studied phonetics, medicine and musicology. The scientific insight he got from these subjects were subsequently used to explain and find solutions to the difficulties of trumpet playing.

Democratising trumpet playing
Malte has done a great work to demythologise the art of mastering the instrument. He is of the opinion that it's a question of technique, and that all - regardless of age, or physical appearance - can learn to play trumpet, provided they have a strong will and good practicing discipline. With this attitude he has contributed to democratise trumpet playing. In his opinion, trumpet playing was a privilege during the centuries to those that instinctively did the right thing, while today everybody has a chance. These scientific insights have revolutionised trumpet pedagogy.

The soloist Malte Burba is the best evidence
That his method works, is he the best evidence of himself. Today, Malte is one of the best trumpet players, who spends most of his activity interpreting contemporary music and finding new sounds and directions. This activity is documented in 30 or more CDs (the latest will be released in May on Thorofon: Duos 1995-2000). He is without doubt one of the most original musicians today. This really shows if one listens to the record Le Vertige Des Profundeurs (Thorofon 1994, no. CTH 2198), where he plays pieces for mixed ensemble of brass instrument, soprano, piano and tools. Sometimes one gets the feeling of being in the middle of a building and construction area. To access this music - where the beautiful and ugly is equal - one must disregard old western music listening habits.

Malte, who says he is working on the liberation of the noise in the sound, gives a clear example of this philosophy in his own piece Voyage (1993), where small parts from well known trumpet works take us on a journey through different style epochs, woven into thunder - and roaring middle pieces. This brings us back to our own existence in the present. Malte says that "this music collides with our time and is inspired by political and ecological movements, as well as sources from our own time." (Brass Bulletin 86-II/1994). If our ears are still not at home with these extravagant sounds, and we feel lost, Malte's concerts are at least a good reference, where we can clearly hear his incredible musicality and technical skills. Malte performs contemporary music, but he also plays music from other periods, like the baroque. This is exactly what characterises his musical personality, he displays an incredible versatility, also when it comes to choosing instruments: he plays the trumpet, but he also reaches out for the tenor horn, the euphonium, and Alphorn when needed.

His workshop's are for all brass players, professionals as well as amateur musicians. And quite right, he treats every one equal, often tough, sometimes even blunt. But this is Maltes very special way of caring, perceiving every ones effort seriously and giving every student a chance to become a better trumpet player. He respects that every person approaches the art of trumpet playing on their own premises. By that, Malte clearly shows, that he really stand firm in his belief that every one can learn to play the trumpet.

The main points in his workshops are:

Two of his basic rules are economy and stability. To work economically means to only use those muscles that are needed, and avoid using the rest. By establishing as few variables and many constant factors as possible, a stable system is achieved, easing and fixing a positive pattern.

Knowledge of and working with the body as foundation for playing
A brass instrument is the only one, where the generator function (production of vibrations) must be achieved by the body of the musicians (i.e. the co-operation between air- and lip force). The instrument only serves as a resonator (amplifier of vibrations). This can for the trumpet player result in great skills or in special problems. Problems are best met where they arise, in the particular body functions that are not utilised effectively. They must be met through work with the musician's body, isolated from the instrument. Playing on the instrument can only to a certain degree solve these problems. Exercises, developed by Malte, are not meant to be transferred directly to the instrument, the musician must respect his own body's autonomy and give it a chance to intuitively change less effective movement patterns. The body grips for its own learned movement patterns if it feels that these are more effective.

The idea is to utilise the body's vegetative and unconscious processes by intuitively influence the reflexive control mechanisms by programming complicated movement patterns. In the beginning the muscles are trained for what is needed to play the instrument and those not needed can rest. By this, the way of playing can be maintained. Only at a later stage can the exercise be transferred more directly to the instrument. Even if his books are logical and clearly constructed, they cannot replace a workshop. Those that seriously seek progression in their playing by the help of this method, should attend a workshop, plus get a teacher who is familiar with this way of teaching, so that a constant control can be developed.

More information about Malte Burba at: www.burba.de

Verena Jakobsen, 2002

Translated and edited by OJ and Vera