Trumpet For Fakers

October 19, 2013 10:53 AM

I have a free week. I want to learn how to play the trumpet.

Don't need to be a virtuoso; just want the ability to string together a short phrase of on-pitch, unwavering notes without feeling like I'm having a brain aneurism.
Any tips/ideas as well as links to online vids/tutorials would be greatly appreciated. We have a so-so quality b-flat trumpet.
posted by chococat (6 comments total)

Check out that Honeymooners episode where Ralph tries to hit that high note!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 12:16 AM on October 22, 2013

I haven't picked up a trumpet since age 12 or so, but it basically boils down to learning to produce an even tone in each register, and learning the valve combinations to play scales. For the latter, I'd say a faker can always memorize the finger positions for one specific melody more easily than learning to sight read. But the former might be hard in a week. You could try just concentrating on learning bugle calls, Taps probably being the easiest?
posted by mubba at 6:27 PM on October 22, 2013

Yeah, sight reading isn't in the cards at all; it's more just wanting to smash out a very simple trumpet line for a recording, when I hear one in my head. It's the "even tone" that's the tricky thing, which I agree is going to be tricky. I was being a bit flippant with the whole doing it in a week thing, but any tips would be greatly appreciated.
And as it turns out, about an hour after I posted this, I looked out the front window to see our next-door neighbour being wheeled into an ambulance, strapped to a gurney...turns out she did something nasty to her back. Anyhow, she's at home quietly recuperating now, and since we are on the other side of the wall in a semi-detached house, I'm not going to subject her to loud, painful, bleating trumpet noises for the next little bit.
But I can still start the learning process!
posted by chococat at 8:47 PM on October 22, 2013

I played trumpet in highschool and the ombusher was the hardest part. Learn the Bb scale and practice it up and down for half an hour or more each day trying to get an even tone, starting with quarter notes, then half notes, then whole notes. For more advanced, try two octaves. Your lips will feel like they're going to fall off. By day 3 or 4 you might have the strength built up for relatively even tone, but you still might have to punch in some of the performance.

Hope that helps.
posted by dobie at 1:54 AM on October 23, 2013

I'm not going to subject her to loud, painful, bleating trumpet noises for the next little bit. But I can still start the learning process!

A trumper teacher once told me you can remove the mouthpiece from the body of the trumpet, and practice your embouchure somewhat quietly that way. You can even carry it around with you and practice outside of the house. It won't give you much sound, but you can still feel when it's "right". I wouldn't practice more than 20-30 minutes at a time though, there are a lot of facial muscles involved in getting the right embouchure, and you have train them just like you would train your body at the gym. You can injure yourself if you play too hard or too long (just like any kind of training). The same teacher told me how he split his lip after playing too manys hours over too many days, and had to stop playing for a few months to let it fully heal.

The stronger your muscles are, the easier it will be to maintain a good embouchure, which is key to getting a nice, consistent tone. Maintaining the right shape while you are blowing a lot of air is also hard, so practicing with the mouthpiece removed will only get you so far. You really need to put the trumpet together and practice holding your embouchure while passing a lot of air through your mouth. It's a very physical process, and more than anything else it takes time (just like any kind of training). Breath control is obviously important, and you may have a leg up on that already, being a singer. But you have to pass *a lot* of air to make the trumpet sound good. There really is no "quiet" setting, at least as a beginner.

I'm speaking from a position of having attempted to do pretty much exactly what you're doing, teach myself to hammer out a 30 second trumpet melody of my choosing. I stuck with it for about 6 weeks, before deciding it was more work than I was cut out for (and a lot louder than my roomates or I expected). But, a few weeks after giving it up I was at a friends house, and he had a conch shell with the end cut off, so you could blow it like a horn, but he had never been able to get a sound out of it. I put it to my lips and without really trying blew the biggest, most beautiful sound out of it. I totally wasn't expecting that to happen, and we just looked at eachother wide eyed. So the skills are somewhat transferable, I guess.
posted by grog at 8:12 AM on October 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

Oh yeah, I forgot about the mouthpiece-only thing. Definitely going to do that.
Thanks for the tips so far!
Also, I am not averse some punching-in, editing, and other sorts of fakery in this quest, by the way.
posted by chococat at 9:20 AM on October 23, 2013

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