Jens' Yamaha trumpet rant

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by trumpetjens, Nov 25, 2007.

  1. trumpetjens

    trumpetjens Pianissimo User

    Mar 14, 2005
    I wanted to wade in on the new Yamaha Vizzutti model trumpet discussion with my two cents. I just received two of these trumpets to try and they are dynamite in my opinion. First of all, before you go thinking that this is a Yamaha ad because I play their horns, think again. I have performed and recorded on many different trumpets over the course of my career. Bach (37), Blackburn (B flat and C), Scherzer (picc), Severinsen Destino, Getzen (Canadian Brass), Benge (large bore), Yach (Yamaha with a Mount Vernon Bach bell), Conn and a Musica (please, let’s forgot ANY meaningful conversation about a Musica trumpet!!!). There are some admirable qualities to every horn I have ever played (aside from the aforementioned Musica…only bought it because it had a first valve trigger and it is on the list because somewhere out there that the internet will NEVER reach is a recording of me playing the trumpet solo in Jay Chattaway’s “Spanish Fever†at the age of 13…you will not find this because the only cassette is in my car which is locked all the time and will explode if broken into because it is German and that’s how I’ve programmed the alarm!).

    I still own most of these horns but I have also played Yamahas since their first professional model came out in the early eighties. The reason I want to discuss this has more to do with a concept of playing than about the trumpet in particular. It is the concept of a focused, centered sound that projects and is not overblown. Let’s look at four successful trumpet players who have had all had a major hand in recent Yamaha trumpet design. Bobby Shew, Wayne Bergeron, John Hagstrom, Allen Vizzutti. There is not a single intelligent trumpet player out there who would flame any of these artists because they have attained a measure of musical and technical success that demands our respect. These are enlightened players for whom there is no more trumpet mystery…they know exactly what they are doing and how to do it.

    Let’s also look at a common trait that all of them have, tremendous efficiency. They all look like they are not really working when they play and in a sense, they aren’t. None of them plays a huge mouthpiece including my newest hero John…go away all of ye who claim big is necessary to play in an orchestra. I even asked Chris Martin (I’ve got a killer speed dial!) when John wasn’t around. Of course, no one will send John this email, right? We are all alone and private on this one as we bear our trumpet souls, correct?

    Jens: “Chris, this whole rumor of John playing on a rim that is somewhere between a Bach 5-7 C with a big cup is just an urban myth, right? He couldn’t possibly play in the Chicago Symphony supporting your huge sound on that gear could he? I mean Charlie Vernon would eat him alive once he kicks into nuclear mode. Chris, please tell me it ain’t so for my world would be shattered!â€

    Chris: “I’m sorry Jens, it IS true and he plays wonderfully but don’t worry, you live in California and there are therapists everywhere!â€

    I first saw the ‘focused’ light many years ago when I first met Allen Vizzutti. Do you want to play like Allen? I know I do and if you say you don’t (even for just a little while) you’re lying. Allen does what he does because he is amazingly efficient and he practices intelligently and diligently (I hate that last word…I thought God just gave him great chops and fingers and imagination and stage presence and a triple octave double tongue). He also does it with little exertion of extra energy. Looks pretty smooth from the audience and I have sat beside him in concert (got his autograph too when I was 14) and recordings. Believe me folks nothing is wasted with Allen. Great, deep relaxed breath and even exhalation that is never forced. Hey, wait a minute, that also sounds like Bobby Shew, Wayne Bergeron and John Hagstrom (remember my killer speed dial…although John I don’t have your cell number…call me!!!).

    My point is this, when people flame a great trumpet like the ones that these people play (off the shelf I might add) they are flaming the player as well. A better approach to trying a horn might be to analyze the player and their gear and why and how they do what they do. Ever tried playing Allen’s mouthpiece (it comes with the new horn)? Most people will tend to fall into it because they overblow. Lips can touch the bottom, your tone doesn’t open up and you wonder how in the world that man can ever make the sound that he does. Usually we just give up on it after ten minutes and invoke the ‘well-he-was-given-a-gift’ clause that trumpeters usually turn to when there is no other answer at our third fingertips. I say this honestly because that is how I felt the first time I tried his gear. Now I’m a curious guy and have so much respect for Allen that I was not going to make any assumptions. Basically I came to a pretty simple conclusion, if Allen’s mouthpiece feels tight when I play it but he can sound huge and efficient on it then it must be because he embraces the concept of resistance and how it can help a player when used effectively…henceforth the mouthpiece isn’t tight, my blow is out of balance with that set-up and the problem is staring me right in the face…on that huge mirror in front of me.

    The first time I heard Wayne Bergeron’s CD “You Call This a Living?â€, I didn’t know who it was but I will never forget my first thought, “Whoever is playing this is a scary $#@@% who plays with the most centred, in tune and focused lead sound that I have ever heard…check out the tuning on the last chord of the CD. Wayne plays the fifth of the chord (probably couldn’t take it up the octave) and it is as in tune as any orchestral chord ever could be with an impeccable center and tons of overtones. I ran to the CD (ask Mike Zonshine, he was there) to get the name…next was the phone number (yup, speed-dial now!) and told him to stop playing the trumpet because if he couldn’t go up a whole octave at the end then he was just a hack. Wayne’s mouthpiece is also very focused (we never say small on a trumpet forum), especially at the rim. I’m going out on a limb here but I would venture to say that Wayne has not really had any problems playing lead over the Gordon Goodwin Big Band (if only they could get some real musicians in that group!) or when he played for Maynard or when I stopped watching the movie and just focused on the soundtrack of “The Incrediblesâ€â€¦saw it eight times…kind of like talking about how many times you saw the original Star Wars but for trumpet geeks.

    Bobby Shew (that’s right…I’ll give you this much info: 818 area code…the rest ya gotta pay me for) has helped in the design of one of the most successful Yamahas in history…the noted ‘Z’ horn (personally, I think it just sells because that is a sexy letter). I played one in the Canadian Brass for many years when Chuck and Gene weren’t looking and then afterward as well. The original 6000 series is great and the updated 8000 series is also awesome yet slightly different. This horn was also built for the kind of speed that is rewarded when the player embraces the entire instrument and let’s it do most of the work…translation, don’t overblow! Bobby is an internationally respected breathing instructor and about as efficient as a human can possibly be especially with reduced lung capacity.

    The now extremely popular Yamaha ‘Chicago’ C trumpet was designed with John Hagstrom and I’ve already told you what his set-up is. You are my hero John, I told Charlie Vernon, Dale Clevenger and Gene Pokorney (yep, all three are in my new Blackberry ‘Curve’) to tell you that after I played with them this summer.

    Today’s rant focuses on the word focus. The new Yamaha designed by Allen Vizzutti will rock your world if you learn to embrace the center of the horn. Aim must be with the accuracy of one those British dart players…you know, those guys with the beer guts that freak us out on ESPN 7 at 2am when they group three darts in the bulls-eye everytime. We might giggle at their jiggle, but secretly we envy them…kind of like Allen, except he’s skinny. Gotta hit the target but when you do, the reward is lasting, late night TV glory. The easiest way to make a Yamaha take off is to back off on the sheer volume of air that one might otherwise use and concentrate on playing with a focused stream of air that places a premium on an aperture which is not blown wide apart because you like wrestling your horns to the ground like hogs.

    The trumpet is a life-long challenge and the beauty is that we will never fully master it. Because I am in this for the long haul (translation: can’t-do-anything-else) I have opted to try and make my life as efficient and easy as possible with the horn. Yamahas do not play tight (my aforementioned speed dial brothers are living proof of that) as they are centered and balanced. Now if you want to blow differently, that is entirely up to you…just keep the mirror of honesty close by. You don’t have to play a Yamaha but you do have to analyze why certain players do.

    Jens Lindemann
    MJ likes this.
  2. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    nice ad! There is nothing wrong with sounding like an ad. Yamaha is one of the big players in "redefining" the trumpet sound. We have so many alternatives from this one company alone. No need to conceal your enthusiasm. You could be at home with any top trumpet but have picked Yamaha. That for sure is worth something!

    I also really dig the efficiency rant. The obsession with big, bigger and biggest has not done trumpeting any big favors. The romantic composers wrote triple and quadruple fortes into their scores, we get heat in the 21st century when we play mezzo forte. It will take a while for a 7C to become the standard orchestral mouthpiece though!

    Now if you can get Y to keep production in the US (last time I heard they had made a decision to stop) then everything is perfect. What has to happen to keep companies that earn so much money in America interested in keeping Americans employed?

    If I understand you correctly, the new Vizzutti Yamaha is optimal for players willing to change their playing to match the horn (this efficient style that you describe has not been taught on a wide scale anywhere in the world - ever). His signature mouthpiece is optimal for players that have an embouchure that works like his, or are willing to throw what they have overboard to get there (if that is even possible)!
    Jens, you are truly one of the great players of our time, but you are WAY off track here. Just because some players lips extend into the cup does not mean that they are inefficient. The mirror of honesty that you mention is not "play like John, Al, Bobby or Wayne otherwise you have no idea". These guys are brilliant players that have horns tuned to their bodies and concepts (like a formula one car tuned to its driver). They are successful in what they do, just like many other players with much different concepts and brands of instruments/mouthpieces. The mirror of honesty shows us that there are many roads to nirvana, some that do not even include Yamaha.

    America and much of the western influenced free world is slowly getting over Bach brand blindness. I think replacing that with Yamaha brand blindness is not good for the cause.

    Excuse me for being disagreeable, I guess I am having trouble relating the chops and talent of 4 of the finest players in the world to other human beings with a different perspective, facial composition and "normal" amount of talent. Advertising is there to make us believe that we can get closer if we only buy the recommended hardware. Reality often tells us a different story. Getting close to those players is reserved for very few - extremely talented, intelligently hard working, musical individuals. The rest of us have to consider comprimises and balance what is possible with what we have time for.

    One thing is for sure, I will go out very soon and try one of the Vizzutti models and let you all know what I think. If it is anything like any of the other Yamaha trumpets that I have ever played, it will be perfectly put together, very in tune, free blowing and have a unique sound that I may or may not like (the Xeno models did not have a sound that I wanted but the blow was incredible - I had a similar experience with Schilke in the 70s!). If I buy it, and it gets stolen, I will be able to blindly order another one and it will be the same.
    I guess I was expecting a more detailed play test of the new horn. My mistake.
    MJ likes this.
  3. andredub

    andredub Pianissimo User

    Oct 16, 2005
    Sounds like a great horn! I'm going to have to give it a test run!

    Last edited: Nov 25, 2007
  4. stchasking

    stchasking Forte User

    Jun 11, 2006
    Ok, Jens,

    I was on a trumpet playing safari at Amherst and only saw you at the bar. I could have asked you all kinds of questions about Yamaha trumpets. I am leaning toward a Schike B7 or B2.

    So you might want to contact Yamaha and have them send a Vizzutti to:
    Band Instrument Service Company
    1232 Harvestowne Industrial Drive
    St. Charles, MO 63304-7730

    That way I can try it in the practice room.
    I am sure they can sell it after I test drive it.

    I know what you mean about efficiency. Getting there is another story.
    I too have watched and listened to Allen live and at conferences. One can tell he has a highly refined buzz inside the mouthpiece. I would consider moving back to Seattle just to enroll at UW and try to get a BFA from him.

    You might want to add to the mix Mr. Frank Kaderabeck as one of your mystical, efficient players. Come to think of it. Attending ITG conferences is a good way to obtain first hand experience in the playing you and I enjoy.
  5. confuoco

    confuoco Pianissimo User

    Nov 11, 2007
    Nice read Jens. I didn't even know a Vizzutti model existed. I'll be sure to check it out.
  6. trumpetjens

    trumpetjens Pianissimo User

    Mar 14, 2005
    Robin wrote:

    Just because some players lips extend into the cup does not mean that they are inefficient. The mirror of honesty that you mention is not "play like
    John, Al, Bobby or Wayne otherwise you have no idea". These guys are brilliant players that have horns tuned to their bodies and concepts (like a formula one car tuned to its driver). They are successful in what they do, just like many other players with much different concepts and brands of instruments/mouthpieces. The mirror of honesty shows us that there are many roads to nirvana, some that do not even include Yamaha."

    Easy Robin...I'm glad that you are well aware of stereotypes in the trumpet world about different instruments and that the path to 'Nirvana' (I would love to get there!) can be reached many ways. The 'mirror of honesty' is simply there not to blame the trumpet. We have a choice in how we blow. Those players are exceptional because they focus intelligently and everyone has the ability to improve when that is done properly. I only have a problem when people start to blame the instrument for their problems. I never said that you had to change your way of blowing, only that a well made instrument (and the players that helped design them) have a certain approach that we can all learn things from. I think we are saying the same thing, just coming from a different angle. Ultimately, play what is easiest but do not dismiss something without looking at all variables regarding how a horn is made.

    Jens Lindemann's Web Quarters
    BrassFire with Jens Lindemann
  7. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    thanks for the clarification. My point is still the same, you can't compare the most gifted chops on the planet to the rest of us. That also applies to the mouthpiece.

    Al Vizzutti and the others have a certain amount of "natural talent" that they through hard, intelligent work have been able to further optimize. If Al were sitting in an orchestra where blend in the fabric was paramount, he would have to make other decisions based on that big picture. He would not be as free to do what feels good. The same thing applies if he wanted to play lead in any reputable band. I have no doubt that he would make intelligent choices for himself but do not feel that those choices are necessarily those that he presently has made or would be transferrable to another player. His face, brain and muscle structure is different than every other person on the planet.

    As far as the hardware goes, again whether that new horn is even suitable for a non-world class soloist or ensemble player remains to be seen and heard. The qualities (of which I know nothing except for your couple of comments)will have to prove themselves in context.

    Your example, John Hagstrom, is using a smaller rim than is considered "conventional" in the orchestral world. Whether or not that qualifies as more "efficient" we will only know if he can maintain as did/do Charles Schlueter, Bill Vacchiano, Ed Tarr all of which for instance used EXTREMELY large equipment, no doubt in an efficient way (otherwise their careers would have prematurally ended when their faces collapsed).
    It is too early to tell if John has started the next generation of playing concept. Efficiency is simply the relationship of energy in to energy out. I am not sure that John has more "output" than the other more conventional professional players, or if he is in fact putting less into the front end for what comes out the front. My experience and research tells me that it is possible, but more work for the player to squeeze a bigger sound out of smaller mouthpieces, just like it is more work to get a lead sound out of a toilet bowl sized cup. Efficiency is when you have equipment optimised for your playing situation and that involves the whole ensemble/section as well as the player.

    The issue of "overblowing" does not exist as far as I am concerned. Too damn loud is a function of "underlistening". The distortion that we call "overblowing" is a complete lack of musical taste and control that has little to do with air pressure. We do not solve that problem with HARDWARE or approach to hardware. We solve that with our brains and ears. In my opinion, hardware that does not take what we throw at it will be of lesser interest for those seeking to stretch the envelope though!

    Ultimately, what we play has nothing to do with efficiency or any other single technical term. Our decisions are based on many things tangible and intangible: Peer pressure, section considerations, intonation, sound, projection, prejudice, finish, country of origin, heck even money is an issue for the players employed or sponsored by the manufacturer.

    I appreciate the effort that Yamaha has invested in bringing the state of the art forward. I appreciate the choices that they give us. I appreciate your contributions to the world of trumpeting. My comments about brand blindness still apply. The power of choice is what keeps music moving and not static. Hardware was NEVER the solution.

    I am sorry that I have gone into this much detail. We do agree on many things and you are certainly right, we all can choose what comes next. Rim size is probably the least of our worries for the coming generation of players though..........
  8. derekkress

    derekkress Pianissimo User

    Oct 8, 2007
    Montreal Qc Canada
    The free world would understand more over a round of great Canadian beer!I was very close to purchasing the Yamaha 8335LA(Wayne Bergeron) model since it had all the qualities of "efficiency" I was looking for, I just took a chance and went with Flip's horn since I couldn't part with the tonal qualities I was used to from my beat up Bach(love it). However, Jocelyn Couture play that Yamaha(and swore never to play one). He has no regrets and needs 12 spare ones since as you know with his sound/projection/intensity etc... they just light up and explode like a vocano in his hands!Whatever set-up a player uses we should always be striving to make it look easy!Take care Jens from the cats in Montreal!
  9. gglassmeyer

    gglassmeyer Piano User

    Apr 28, 2006
    Cincinnati, OH
    Yamaha has been making pro horns longer than you give them credit. I know the model I own was produced from 1969-1978. Mine was made around 1970 and is a copy of a Schilke from that era. Yamaha was making valve clusters for Schilke and (possibly other work) around that time. Model YTR-734, lightweight, reverse tuning slide, very responsive and I still play it from time to time.

    I now play a Conn Vintage One and like that it came with 2 tuning slides. The rounded slide reduces the resistance and give the horn a more free/open feel and the traditional "D" shape slide has the resistance some folks are used to. I still like to play the lightweight horn on swing arrangements and Sleigh Ride (it gives such nice feedback you can feel in your hands as the horns vibrates). It's like being one with the horn.. Ohmmmmmmmmm...

    Yamaha makes really good trumpets that are reasonably priced, and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend one.
  10. trumpetjens

    trumpetjens Pianissimo User

    Mar 14, 2005
    HI Robin,

    Again, you make some very good points and I would love to debate you sometime over German beer (wo bist du in Deutschland?) goal, to make all people weep like little babies. What I can assure you about that Yamaha Vizzutti trumpet (since you ask) is that it has both a fantastic rich sound and an ability to blend very nicely. I really think the only time ensemble blend and horn choice become real world issues are in professional orchestral situations where the principal player often dictates instrument types. Since 99.9 % of us do not have to deal with that as a playing issue, we are free to choose what works best for us. Perhaps I should have prefaced my original comments by saying that I was responding to a specfic thread on a 'different' trumpet chat group. I usually copy both groups since I like to double my fun. Again, the entire point of my rant was to emphasize the fact that people should focus on 'focus' instead of simply dismissing any instrument based on perceived stereotype of either the horn itself or the player who has helped in design.

    I am a big proponent of having people consider smaller rims as a possible avenue for further trumpet success. I truly believe that it is the single biggest problem in the trumpet world today...the notion that you must play a bigger mouthpiece for 'classical' or common everyday (bands, etc.) trumpet music. I recently did a masterclass in Spain where I asked every player what they started on (7C) and what they were playing now (1 1/2-1 1/4C...every single player...35 of them!!!). Such blind-leading-the-blind thinking is exactly what you are talking about as well...don't play something just because of the brand or the stereotype of a region or just because someone says so...we must get trumpet players to think more. I make such a broad sweeping statement because the beautiful part is that it is the least expensive thing to work on. Buying a new basic mouthpiece is less expensive than taking a private lesson. To be even more specific, I am a huge fan of suggesting to people that they try a Bach 5B mouthpiece ($35-40 US) if they are used to playing bigger gear. The deeper cup is great at allowing a player to continue their usual blow and there is minimal sonic difference to overall warmth of tone (translation: your sound has a great chance of staying the same) but the smaller rim allows you to start feeling the center of your note with a focused embouchure that just does not have as much room to wiggle around in (we don't want our lips to do naughty things!!!) and you start to get the 'feeling' that I am trying to describe. Once again, I am not saying anything other than a player should consider this possible route because there are proven examples in the real world.

    Robin, I am tired...tired of hearing people say that a Yamaha plays too tight (it doesn't), tired of hearing that you have to play a bigger mouthpiece (you don't), tired of what Mark Gould so succinctly calls "The $%**# trumpet meathead syndrome" (he's right and you have to fill in your own blanks there...with Mark it's not hard). The 'mirror-of-honesty' (I like that...think I'll buy the website) is just that, if something's not working for you consider some alternatives and just get on with, work, work.

    Thankfully, you are not one of the meatheads. You are asking all the right questions both technically and philosophically. Everything is a choice and the venerable players you mentioned (all of whom I know or knew personally and respect) all made their choice and did just fine. The so-called 'most gifted chops on the planet' players that you also mention are also examples of people who have made conscious choices to head in that direction. What seperates all great players from the rest is diligence, an intelligent approach and a positive attitude about everything they do when they pick up a horn...that last comment is probably the most certain truth of all and it pleases me that we can end on an entirely agreeable idea!

    Jens Lindemann

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