Date: Fri, 30 Aug 2002 09:36:42 -0400
From: Jeanne G Pocius/ John C Archer <>
Subject: Re: [TPIN] Developing a Palatte(long)

Dear friends:

For many years I've used the concept with more advanced students of developing their personal palette of trumpet skills, both physical and interpretative.

I find the concept useful because, like artists who use paint, we as trumpet artists begin to play with just a few options and gradually develop more and more as we mature.

For example:  a young player is usually content just to play the correct notes to a piece.  A slightly more mature player pays close attention to articulations and dynamics.  An artist knows that there are internal dynamics and secondary articulations which can be applied to gain subtle effects which less experienced players often don't recognize, except to understand that, for some reason, the playing of a particular player moves them more deeply than most.

How do you develop a personal palette?  Through practice, through listening, through performing a wide variety of styles.

When I was an undergraduate I never turned down ANY opportunity to perform, including with experimental, black box theater productions, a rock-a-billy band that played for dance class, the Collegium Musicum (in which I learned to play Renaissance instruments which granted a subtly of articulation that lends itself beautifully to the trumpet and piccolo trumpet, as well as interpretative dynamics that lend themselves well to all periods of music), marching and jazz bands, brass quintet, as well as orchestra, chamber orchestra, vocal class(accompanying basses, baritones and sopranos on Bach, Handel, Purcell, Scarlatti, etc), wind ensemble, etc.

Each unique experience lent me the opportunity to expand my personal palette. The Stravinsky Octet taught me about adjusting my pitch to play with the bassoon in the extreme upper register(which is much harder to adjust than is the trumpet's pitch).  Working with vocalists, from youngsters to seasoned professionals, taught me to experiment with vibrato widths and speeds to alter  timbre. (Nothing is so exhilarating to a soprano as to have a trumpeter who not only matches pitch, but also vibrato with her).

Playing in experimental theater productions taught me much about aleatoric music, and alternative techniques, as well as challenged me to produce a wide variety of timbres.

And those are just a few of many, many examples I could cite.

How many different attacks can you produce with a single tongue?  How do you alter the tongue stroke to produce a different effect?  Try changing the shape of the tip of your tongue while single tonguing as well as changing the location where that tip strikes.  Record yourself to hear what happens.  Of course you should also practice so that YOU are in control of whether the pitch and timbre change with attacks or not.

Practice Arban's and Clarke's exercises with every imaginable variation of articulation: legato, marcato, slurred, tongued, double tongued, triple tongued, fanfare tongued, syncopated, etc.

Experiment with altering your airspeed and the amount of air you use for a particular note or dynamic level.

It is in practicing that we develop the palette of muscle memory that enables us to perform without consciously considering the details of performance.

MARK your music, paying special attention to internal dynamics (gentler dynamics that occur within a phrase), alternate fingerings, specific articulations.

Listen to ALL types of music (and that includes twig-suckers, especially classical ones).  Listen to articulations, phrasing, releases.

Do you pay attention to the releases of notes or just the attacks?  Great musicians manage to be in control of both.

If your attacks are wonderful but your releases are haphazard, your performance will sound unfinished.

Practice breath releases of various sorts as well as tongue releases.  Taper notes gently, sometimes, even if the written dynamics don't seem to indicate it.

Remember, what's written on the page is not music, only a rough shorthand to help the performer reproduce what the composer intended. Sheet music only becomes MUSIC when it is interpreted and performed.

Practice both details and performance.  One in every three practice sessions should be a *mock* performance in which you emulate your best possible performance (then carry that with you into actual performance).

Subtlety is a key which is all too often forgotten by trumpeters who think only of power and projection.  Whisper with your trumpet, or you'll never play the end of the Haydn second movement properly.  You'll have plenty of opportunities to shout through the horn, you  know.

Make your pianissimos as intense as a double forte.  Can you?  Work on it (hint: it's in the air support)!

Make your fortissimos as rounded as a fluegelhorn. Can you? Work on it (hint: it's in the shape of the aperture).

Learn to roll your lips outward and inward (more on that in a later post) to control pitch, projection and timbre.

Communicate with your audience.  There is nothing worse than a self-centered performer.  I once saw an exquisite performance ruined by a performer finishing a long decrescendo at the end of a piece who abruptly put her instrument down and looked up at the audience as if to say *There! I'm done, now applaud!*.

How much better it might have been to maintain the illusion that the note continued and draw out the suspense so that the audience wasn't quite sure when the piece was over.....

We are communicators on our trumpets, but like all communicators we must develop a dynamic vocabulary and style of delivery (and a variety of styles of delivery) to keep our audience listening.

Work every day on your palette.  Develop a library of articulations, tone colors, dynamics, styles.

Your audiences and colleagues will thank you.

Take Care!