Do pro guys have to be "lead" players?

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by eisprl, Jul 28, 2006.

  1. eisprl

    eisprl Mezzo Piano User

    Sep 26, 2004
    Halifax, NS CANADA
    Ok so I have not read a thread on this yet so I thought I would put this out there for people to think about, put in their 2 cents or even just learn a thing or two.

    To be a professional trumpet player (lets say, in a commercial environment not an orchestral one). I hear so much about how one must be a very strong player to succeed in this genre of music. Do you have to be a "lead" player who can do aaall the bells and whistles when it comes to trumpet playing? What about the people who play 2nd, 3rd, 4th and EVEN 5th trumpet in the pro world? Are they normally just as good as the lead player? If that is the case how do they decide who plays what part? I might have won a professional job with the military and I've heard that most of the trumpet players they hire are lead players which will garantee a extremely strong section. But are there professional 2nd, 3rd and 4th players out there? If there are then do they audition for that spot? Do people want to play a professional 2nd part? (It seems that most people who audition for the pro world want the lead parts)

    Just something I was thinking about earlier
  2. Bear

    Bear Forte User

    Apr 30, 2004
    I'm not a PROFESSIONAL but I play a lot of professional gigs and whatnot.

    My answer to your question is a resounding NO! You do NOT have to be a lead player to get commerical/professional gigs. It is nice to have some high notes, style, great reading, etc on your axe. For a lead audition it is EXPECTED that you have them.

    There are professional 2/3/4th spots etc. They are usually just as good or even better than the leads. For me personally, I love to have a 2/3/4 player who can knock down the walls and read the fly off a paper, makes m job easier.

    Some auditions I've been to for 2/3/4 spots, the lead and a few members of the band will audition, talk to you and wahtnot. Chair order comes from expeirence, chops, etc - but not all the time.

    Hope this answers some of your questions. I'm sure some of the older, more expeirenced people will chime in. I'd love to get paid consistenly for playing though and become a real professional... One day, I say, One day.
  3. kadleck

    kadleck Artist in Residence Staff Member

    Feb 28, 2006
    new york
    Good question.

    Pro players need not be lead players. I think that although it "raises one's stock" to have decent range, there is certainly a call for good section players with proper fundamentals.

    A very popular player in NY has always been Alan Rubin (of "Blues Brothers" fame). He can play all styles and is a fantastic musician. Never thought of as a "lead" player, people used to call Alan the "highest paid third trumpet player in the world". It was probably true ... he was on every gig!

    If you ask me, there are many great lead players out there. I'm always fascinated with guys/gals who can play great second trumpet. They may not get the recognition, but they are a true asset to any section.

  4. Solar Bell

    Solar Bell Moderator Staff Member

    May 11, 2005
    Metro Detroit
    Tony, Great answer!

    In our swing band, Bill Hart plays the 2nd, or ride, or jazz book. Bill is a young 63 and played with the Dorsey band under Sam Donahue. He was also a "live in" student of Don Jacoby. Bill can take any song and play the notes out of it. His solos are like James' or Berigan's. They ALWAYS tell a story and ALWAYS start and end somewhere. No "Chromatic Searching" with this guy. If I cannot make the gig we can always get a lead guy in to cover my part. On the gigs where Bill cannot make it, the band suffers. Not to say other guys can't solo, but when you get a REALLY GOOD 2nd player, WOW!

    Also, it helps the lead guy a lot to have real solid players on the 2nd & 3rd books. Makes his job easier and then the SECTION is great, not just one guy!

  5. eisprl

    eisprl Mezzo Piano User

    Sep 26, 2004
    Halifax, NS CANADA
    Ok I am getting some good responses

    How do people get 2/3/4 positions in pro groups when they are up against "lead" players?

    keep em comin'

    Also (in my mind register is not the only aspect of a lead player, one must have the sound, the musical integrity and the authority to "lead" a section).
  6. Solar Bell

    Solar Bell Moderator Staff Member

    May 11, 2005
    Metro Detroit
    Good article about "Lead" ;-)

  7. Siegtrmpt

    Siegtrmpt Mezzo Piano User

    Nov 21, 2005
    No doubt the more you can do the better off you and the band are. A band I'm in has 3 guys that can play lead to a point and one guy that can do the extreme Maynard stuff. We also know at least one chorus on the solos so we're not stuck if the best soloist can't make it that night. It's a good scene.
  8. wiseone2

    wiseone2 Artitst in Residence Staff Member

    Nov 19, 2003
    When Ernie or Bernie were on dates there was never a question about who played lead. The arrangers always knew who they wanted to play the lead chair. Later, when Faddis hit the scene, he was usually the lead player.
    The arrangers for the most part called the shots on dates. Some had their personal favorite players. On Broadway, for example, Dick Perry was Jule Styne's trumpet player.
    Contractors also make chair decisions. Only sometimes can a lead player call the shots.
  9. trpt2345

    trpt2345 Mezzo Forte User

    May 21, 2006
    Morelia, Mexico
    Of course your question makes sense in a big band context. If you're talking about a situation where there is only one or two trumpets (a smaller band) it is almost never an advantage to be a lead player. Then the focus shifts to the ability to play a melody, solo, play backgrounds sometimes without a chart, and so on. A trumpet alone in the stratosphere without doubling an octave down is horribly shrill and is not an asset except in a big band situation. If you can play with a great sound and melodic concept, can solo in variety on contexts and know enough music to play without written music you can go a long way without being a "lead player". I am not a lead player, though I can spell the lead player for a tune or two, but what I live for is playing melodies and solos. And my most fun gigs are the ones where there is no written music at all, because it is only then that you can pay attention to the hot chicks on the dance floor.

    Michael McLaughlin

    It's like an act of murder; you play with intent to commit something.
    Duke Ellington
  10. Vulgano Brother

    Vulgano Brother Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 23, 2006
    Parts Unknown
    My experience in the orchestral world is that he audition materials are almost always the principal part, and I think there are a number of valid reasons for this.

    1. The people on the audition committee (made up of other principals and sometimes even includes violists) know the first parts. They are checking as much for style as they are chops.
    2. Concert high c's are not unusual in any part and you'll find plenty of scary fast stuff in all parts as well.
    3. If looking for loud low notes, Shostakovich 5's first part calls for pleny of those.
    4. Anybody looking for a section player is not going to require the Brandenburg 2 on the audition.

    That being said, section playing requires some skills that can't show up at an audition, namely those of making the principal's job easier. That is why tenure is granted after the first season.

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