Natural pitch and concert pitch for Cornet

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by BrassFriend, Feb 5, 2010.

  1. BrassFriend

    BrassFriend New Friend

    Jan 29, 2010
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    IGreetings to you all! I have a few questions, and while I am new here, I did spend some time looking at some very interesting messages on this forum that was of great help to me. Thank you so kindly. I do not know if it has been discussed in great length already but this has been on my mind for some time and I still have not gotten it all straightened out in my head to be honest. Over the years I have played other instruments, but in due time I started to shy away from instruments that were not in the Key of C simply because it got all too confusing for me, even more I do not want to mess up my hearing anymore than I already have. GRIN. But I can't seem to keep away from going in seasons of still wanting to play my trumpet and cornet. But then I always come to that moment of crisis. When I play "G" for example, according to the elementary books for trumpet and cornet, it is not actually a G that I am playing, but an F# I believe. In these past few years I have always faired well when I made my own cheat sheets and had a blast. So here I am, hoping you all could help me with this. I want to make for myself a fingering chart that is accurate for all Trumpet/Cornet keys. When I play these at my level of playing, I am not quite sure what they should ALL exactly be as I do understand that there are some intonation problems in some older models and of course in the way we play it and all that. But I would like to know, exactly, all the way up and all the way down what are the actual notes we should be playing even though the books show us how to learn it differently. Does anyone have a chart? Does anyone know if it is exactly a semi-tone off all the way or the variables or ? I would so very, very, very, much appreciate having an accurate guideline for this. Thanks so very much.:shhh:
  2. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    A cornet or trumpet are mostly in Bb, that means that the tones that you play with no valves are Bb, F, Bb, D, F, Ab, Bb. Whether or not you read concert pitch or not is of no consequence. You can't mess your hearing up (except by just playing TOO DAMN LOUD) by playing a Bb instrument. The transposed parts are notated one whole tone higher.

    It is possible to attach fingerings to the real sounding notes, or the transposed parts found in most ensembles. Even both can be mastered with little trouble. It really depends what type of groups that you are playing with.
  3. muchan

    muchan New Friend

    Jul 18, 2009
    When you play "G" on trumpet/cornet, it's actually sounding consert F. (not F#)
    When you play "C" ----. it's actually Bb, thus we call it Bb instrument.
    That is, a whole tone bellow. not a half tone.
  4. oldlou

    oldlou Forte User

    Aug 28, 2005
    Grand Rapids, Mi.
    To transpose from Bb to 'concert pitch' play up one note and subtract 2 flats or, if the chart is written in one of the sharp keys, add 2 sharps. Try it playing from a hymnal along with a piano.

  5. guyclark

    guyclark Piano User

    Feb 28, 2008
    Los Gatos, CA
    My guess is that our new friend is concerned that his sense of pitch may be adversely affected. This is a possible concern, depending upon how good his sense of pitch is to begin with.

    I am blessed (cursed?) with a good sense of pitch. Some might call it "perfect pitch" although I think it's more of a good "pitch memory". For most of my young adult life, I played C trumpet for almost everything, including concert band and jazz band in college. I got so that I could correctly identify notes nearly all the time, just by listening. Then, about twenty years ago, I started playing Bb cornet regularly in a brass band. All of a sudden, I was unable to tell if the note I was hearing was an F or a G, for example. It would often turn out that it WAS an F, but the stong sense of "G-ness" about it was due to my having Bb pitches in my head.

    THEN, around eight years ago, I got shanghighed into being the soprano cornet player in the Chicago Brass Band. Now, my pitch sense had THREE different bases! I began having difficulties hearing the correct pitch in my head for entrances in many of my groups! (this was primarily a problem with pieces that weren't as tonal as I'd like). Now that I'm back on Bb and C for most of my playing, I still have the original one step uncertainty, but have the entrance problem far less frequently.

    Anyway, this is to acknowledge that there IS a potential of "messing up" ones "hearing" (really sense of pitch) by playing a non-concert pitched instrument. Most of us muddle through with it anyway...

    Hope this is somehow helpful!

    Guy Clark
    South Bay Brass
    Silicon Valley Brass Band - A Traditional British Brass Band
  6. guyclark

    guyclark Piano User

    Feb 28, 2008
    Los Gatos, CA
    While I'm thinking of it, I'm reminded of a funny (?) little experience I had as a junior in high school. I had been preparing for the instrumental solo contest that the area schools put on annually. I'd been participating in these things since fourth grade, and had received nothing but first places (simply a judges' score above a certain level), and felt that I was an old pro already ;-) (was/am I a trumpet player, or what?)

    A week before the competition, I'd received a Getzen 300 model Eb/D trumpet as a gift from my parents. I was working on one of those old Maurice Andre series of solos (Sonata in Re mineur, or some such) on C trumpet. I tried it on my newly acquired D trumpet, and found it worked really well, so I spent the last week practicing it on D.

    I get to the contest, whip out my D trumpet, and proceed to play the #$% out of the solo (if I do say so myself ;-) ). Then comes the mandatory sight-reading test. I'm still not a great sight-reader, but I was really not very good at all in those days. I look it over, and proceed to play it. About three or four bars in, I'm finding that I can't find the notes! Everything feels funny, and I start having the panics well up from inside. I do my best, but really maul the sight-reading section. I realized almost immediately, but too late, that I was starting on the wrong harmonics. I'm able to play some notes with the fingerings I'd expect, but I'm really on the wrong pitches! AAACCCCKKKK!!!!!

    Then, to make matters worse, I see the scores posted a bit later, and I have a THIRD PLACE!! I was mortified!! I thought I'd done really well on the solo, and didn't expect to be docked TWO grades for my embarassing sightreading! I had to hang out there for the rest of the day because I'd carpooled. I was miserable for the whole day, until they handed out the judges scoresheets, with the comments. Fortunately, it was a misprint on the posted scores, I'd still gotten a 1st place, but was docked a few points for the sight-reading as expected. What a relief!!!

    The moral of this story is that one's sense of pitch can not only be messed up by switching to an instrument in a key with which one is unaccustomed, but one probably shouldn't do anything "important" with an unfamilliar horn, either!

    Hope that was amusing ;-)

  7. BrassFriend

    BrassFriend New Friend

    Jan 29, 2010
    Greetings Rowuk, Muchan, Oldlou, Guy Clark and All!!!!
    Well now I am really embarrassed, as I do not know why I wrote F#.
    Some years ago I started learning from a beginner book called Essential Elements 2000 for Bb Trumpet and per chance I had gotten out my chromatic tuner to find that the first few notes I learned were like this...G was actually F, F was actually Eb or D#, E was actually a D, and D was actually a C, and the last one I learned was C was Bb or A#. That was it at the time, and I had no idea how I could wrap this around in my brain at the time as at the time I wanted to (and still do) want to improve my hearing more instead of being more technical. The truth is when I was a teenager I learned on an instrument that was always out of tune, and because I acted on my own for my own enjoyment I began to learn hearing wise incorrectly what was what. At the time I did not think it mattered, but I so regret that today. In these past few days I learned some other things about the reasons why we learn wrong notes, is that for example regarding brass instruments that the fingering positions are pretty much the same for all Bb players, so they could jump from one instrument to another. I read that, but I do not understand, then, why there are brass instruments in the key of Eb and others???
    That seems so rude...grin.
    Another thing, I have a question, actually, I was reading that on Bb brass instruments and they way they are structured, that C and D are often the culprit and can be the notes more likely to be "sharp" and needing adjustment when playing. I do not know, first, if this is correct, but I want to know, now, then, are they talking about the Bb fingering position C or D, or are they talking about the concert pitch C and or D????
    These things continue to boggle my mind, as I am at a loss then what exactly is being referred to.
    Does one great big transposing chart exist for all of this? If not, I am going to make one, possibly in a PDF file. Is there a place to post it, so that anyone who would like to confirm that it is true and correct can help to make a good one, a perfect one??? Is there a place on the homepage to attach a PDF file? For a preliminary Chart for Fingering Positions for various keyed brass instruments?
    Can you tell this is all important to me?
    Thanks a bunch.
    I look forward toward more insights into all of this.
    God bless.
    Also, thank you all for your messages. I appreciated all of it.
  8. ComeBackKid

    ComeBackKid Fortissimo User

    May 11, 2009
    Yorba Linda, CA
    Wow! A lot of questions! But, I can totally relate. I had the same ones when I started. I cannot attempt to answer every one in detail because it would take too long and there are already many threads on this forum that address them. So, I have taken your two posts and isolated what I think are the primary questions that you have. I will try to give a simple, clear answer that is not complete but is enough to get you started and then when you read other threads here, you can sort out the essential points and help fill in the gaps for all of these issues. [Note: I have corrected a couple of things in the text so your questions read the way you intended them to read.]

    I must admit that I cannot really address the point of whether playing an instrument in a “transposed” key (all instruments not in the key of ‘C’ are called “transposing” instruments) will affect your hearing of correct pitch. That is because I do not have good pitch memory so I cannot really tell what key I am playing in. I simply read the written notes, play the fingering required and listen to those around me to make sure I am on the correct pitch. So, it makes no difference to me whether I am playing a Bb, C, D, or Eb trumpet.

    There are two issues here: First relates to the pitch of the sounded note vs. the written note, and second is the fingering for the written notes. I will address the second issue first because it relates to your fingering chart. Every valved brass instrument (that I know of) has the following relationships: Open valves at the lowest playable note are always written as a C but the actual pitch played defines the “key” of the instrument. So, for a Bb trumpet, the lowest open valves play a concert Bb (written as C below the staff). Going up, the next open valve position plays a perfect 5th above, which is a concert F (written as G). Next, we go up a perfect 4th to Bb (written as 3rd space C), then a major 3rd to concert D (written as E), then a minor 3rd to F (written as G above the staff), then sort of minor/minor third to a very flat Ab (written as Bb above the staff), then a major second to Bb (written as “high C” – 2nd ledger line above the staff). That is enough for now because most of us can’t play higher than that. But, suffice it to say that this pattern for all valved instruments – just the starting note and the relationship between the sounded pitch and the written note change depending on the instrument.

    Now, for the other valve positions, it is quite simple. Starting with any open valve note, the 2nd valve drops the pitch one semi-tone from that note regardless of which open note you are playing. The first valve alone drops the pitch two semi-tones from the open note. The first and second together drop the pitch three semi-tones. [Note: the 3rd valve also drops 3 semi-tones but normally the preferred fingering is 1+2 rather than 3]. The 2nd and 3rd together drop 4 semi-tones; the 1st + 3rd drop 5 semi-tones and 1+2+3 drop 6 semi-tones. [So, a rule of thumb to remember is that valves can only make the tones go lower – embouchure is what makes the notes go higher.]

    Now, you may look at the above relationships and then look at a fingering chart and quickly realize that starting with any open valve note and moving down, you do not see the fingering always go in sequence (2, 1, 1+2, 2+3, 1+3, 1+2+3). If you start with 1st space G and go down, you do see this sequence. But, if you start with, for example, 4th space E and go down, the fingering chart shows Eb/D#=2, D=1, Db/C#=1+2 - so far so good - but then C is open rather than 2+3. Well, this is because as we noted earlier, as you go up the partials (space between open notes) are closer together so the fingering positions start to overlap. Actually, 3rd space C can be played as either 2+3 (the way you would expect) or open – this is referred to as “alternate fingering” and the choice for the fingering depends on the note sequence in the music and which fingers are easiest to use when playing very fast passages.

    Also, when you start playing above the staff, you will find that the partials (open notes) are so close together than you can play a scale with only open valves (if you are good enough to play that high). In fact, the original “natural trumpets” had no valves and were played at high enough partials that they could play the music without valves.

    If I understand the question, it appears that you have mixed two things here. First, the term “intonation” refers to the accuracy of any particular played note relative to what that note should really sound like. Due to construction limitations of brass instruments, it is almost impossible to build one where every note is perfectly in tune, so compromises are made. But the reference to “older models” actually refers to an era when the “standard pitch” for instruments was different than today. We now (in the U.S.) use A=440 Hz as the standard. But, in times past, A was at different frequencies. As I understand it, the A=440 was not used until sometime in the 1920’s so instruments prior to that were set to A=450 (or something – I forget exactly what it was). There was some overlap so some trumpets/cornets built during that time had an insert in the leadpipe which could be changed depending on which standard the orchestra was using at the moment.

    But, in answer to the other part of the question, Yes – the difference between the sounded pitch and the written pitch for a Bb trumpet is one whole-tone over the entire range BUT not EXACTLY one whole-tone. It will vary slightly due to the aforementioned intonation compromises so that is why there are 1st and 3rd valve tuning slides and also requirements to adjust the pitch slightly with the lips (referred to as “lipping” into tune).

    Well, I am not sure how to help with this. There is a certain amount of technical information that must be absorbed but I think that once you think about these issues enough to start to understand them, you will find that you will be able to adjust your hearing to the point that you know why the tone you are hearing is related to a certain written note and then you won’t have to focus so much on the technical points and just learn to play the music.

    I have wondered the same thing. But, the only answer I get is that there are “historical” reasons for this. I guess that since the C, D, Eb and Piccolo trumpets are constructed slightly differently (the length of all of the sections of pipe are different) it results in a slightly different sound quality which some prefer. There is no technical upper limit to the range of a trumpet – it is entirely dependent on the ‘chops’ of the player – so I guess one could play a piccolo trumpet part on a Bb trumpet (or even an older ‘F’ trumpet which is pitched even lower than a Bb) if one had the right embouchure but the tonal quality would not be the same and I guess certain parts are written for a particular model of trumpet to obtain the sound desired by the composer.

    As I understand it, such comments always refer to the written note – not the corresponding concert pitch.

    To post any sort of image (.PDF or .JPG) to this site, you have to first set up an account on a free storage site such as PhotoBucket, of Flikr, or and then upload the image to that site. Then, simply copy the IMG address from the image on that site into your post and the image will show up here. There are posts with step-by-step instructions in case you have difficulty with this.

    So, Welcome to TrumpetMaster and good luck with learning to play the trumpet. It is tricky at first but in the end, it is worth the effort.
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2010
  9. BrassFriend

    BrassFriend New Friend

    Jan 29, 2010
    Greetings Come Back Kid!!!!!!!!
    I have read your message twice over. THANK YOU so much!
    I have been so busy these past few days, but in spite of all that, I have managed to start my Brass cheat sheet. I am hoping to have it to a point where I can post it and get some feedback and info to complete it, as I am sure there will be alternative fingerings and others that I will not know of.
    Then to make a final copy and hope to share it as well.
    Then all that would be left to someone make a midi file for each finger position so we can hear how each note really should sound!!!!! :thumbsup::play::roll:
    Would that be awesome?:D
    Truly, Come Back Kid, I'll be reading your message a few times over to let it really sink in. Lots of info. Thanks so very much.
    Blessings to you and to all.
  10. dabhand

    dabhand New Friend

    Apr 7, 2008
    Ramsgate Kent England
    "Natural" would mean the pitch that the particular Cornet /Trumpet that you are playing in (Bb, C , Eb , F etc)
    "Concert" would mean the pitch that a "C" instrument plays in eg Piano and/or trumpet / cornet in "C"
    Whatever pitched instrument you playon, you must get accustomed to it's own natural base Middle "C" and hear it in your head when playing with that paticular instrument, with others in a Band Orchestra etc, in relation to "Concert Pitch"
    This takes a long time of playing practice, but it gets easier the more you rehearse

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