O.J.'s Trumpet Page Interview

Trumpet Solutions

An interview with the English trumpeter Eddie Severn.

Eddie, could you tell us a bit about your background as a trumpeter?
I come from a musical family and one of my earliest memories are those of my Mother giving singing lessons when I was about 2 years old. I played the trumpet from the age of 12 and started to get into it seriously when I was about 15. I went into the army when I was 17 to join a military band. After 7 years I left the military and decided to try to earn my living as a musician playing the trumpet. Since that time I have played all different kinds of music but I have always been a jazz player at heart. I was seriously into Maynard and the whole high note thing when I was 15 but also loved all the jazz players too and especially loved the sound of the Flugelhorn. I was told by someone that you did one or the other but I did not want to accept that. When I heard Bobby Shew on a record when I was about 17 I was just totally knocked out with his playing and versatility. I thought, "well if he can play both lead and jazz, then maybe I can learn too". Since that time I have devoted an equal amount of time working on legit playing, lead playing and jazz soloing. It means a different focus each time I put a different "hat" on but I am glad I stuck with it.

What teachers had most influence on your development?
Well compared to a lot of players I have had relatively little tuition. I took lessons at school and went to London for a few lessons with Howard Snell when I was 16. He taught me a lot about practising in a disciplined way, which was good for me at that time. The real breakthrough came for me when I attended the Royal Military School of Music in 1984. At that time I had very little knowledge about embouchure and breathing and all I really had was a burning desire to play, a few jazz licks and a rather inconsistent top G!  My teacher there was John Wilbraham and he taught me about all those physical things that I had never been told about. I loved John and did everything he told me too without question. He was humorous, inspiring and a generous human being and the first great teacher I had. The second and probably my biggest influence was Bobby Shew, whose playing had really helped me choose my path as a teenager. I knew that I wanted to take things further with my playing and that he was the person I really needed to study with. He taught me things that the classical teachers don't tell you and a lot of his ideas are in my book. Like John he is a great teacher and a real inspiration to all who know him.

You have called the book "Trumpet Solutions" why that name?
Well there seem to be so many problems associated with playing the trumpet that I wanted a title for the book that would make people think about the positive side. Every problem has a solution so I thought that would be a good title.

How did this book project start?
It actually happened by accident really. I think if I had set out to write book then it would never have happened, as the task seems so daunting. A couple of years ago I had started to assemble some notes on all the things I had learnt about the trumpet over the years. It was partly for my own benefit but I was giving handouts to my students which needed to be clear so I wanted to make real sense of it all for them. I think it was early in 2000 that we had some protests here in the UK about high fuel prices. All the refineries were blockaded and all the petrol stations ran out of fuel in about 48 hours. I was stranded at home with only enough fuel in my car to get me to an airport to catch a flight, which I had to do so I decided to spend some time working on the notes. After a couple of days I thought to myself "this is starting to look like a book" and it just grew from there bit by bit.

You have divided the book into several sections, could you briefly describe how the book is constructed?
The book basically focuses on three things: Mental, Physical and Equipment. The mental side is often neglected and I think that this actually holds the key to a lot of good things with the trumpet. This is why I put this section in first. The physical aspects come second as I believe that once a player has his or her head sorted out, then they are in a much better position to understand the physics behind what we do when we play and most importantly to apply these things to their own playing. Trumpets and mouthpieces are last in the equation. Although it is important to have the right instrument and mouthpiece I feel that we need to understand the effect that different equipment has on our playing and be able to adjust our physical responses at will. We are best placed to do this once we have our head in the right place and can play efficiently without stressing.

In the exercise section you talk about the "sweet spot" ?
The "sweet spot" is something Bobby Shew talks about a lot. My interpretation of this is that the sweet spot in a note is the point where you have optimum resonance and the most overtones in your sound. In other words it is the absolute centre of the "slot". It really is something that must be felt and heard by the player so, like most other things, I don't like to get too academic about it. Once you find this point on say a middle G, then you need to keep this feeling and sound throughout the range of the horn. I have yet to teach a single student who is playing this way when they first come to me. If they are smart and self aware then they can find this point very quickly and their sound, intonation and accuracy improves dramatically. It's great to see and to hear it happen.

How can people get this book?
At the moment through my web site but Charles Colin Publications in New York will be distributing the book in the USA soon.

o.j. 2002 - photo by Vera Hørven