Perfect pitch and transposing instruments

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by Haste2, Mar 27, 2012.

  1. Haste2

    Haste2 Piano User

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    I hope there's a successful player(s) here with perfect pitch that could give advice.

    It takes a long time for me to get used to trumpets in new keys, because I rely heavily on the absolute pitch, rather than relative pitch. Since I started with a B-flat trumpet, playing on that instrument is second nature. I learned the C trumpet a few years ago. It was a real hassle at first. I remember being assigned a Charlier exercise and it was a nightmare to learn. Today I can play with the C trumpet almost as effectively as a B-flat trumpet, whether playing a B-flat or C trumpet part. However, I have difficulty with rapid passages on my C trumpet, especially atonal works, unless I examine and practice them.

    A couple months ago I picked up the E-flat trumpet for the purpose of playing the Haydn trumpet concerto with it. It took me weeks to even get the point that I could hear a given note in my head and actually play the correct fingering consistently! (I performed the Haydn just two days ago, and it actually went fine; I only had two or three fingering mistakes; of course there were other kinds of mistakes, too.... nonetheless I can play it better on the E-flat than on my B-flat)

    It's weird. I can apply relative pitch when I'm transposing, but not when I'm playing a transposing INSTRUMENT (unless it's a B-flat, B-flat piccolo, or C trumpet). Any ideas to improve it? Perhaps I should apply solfege?
     
  2. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

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    I think you need to get the brain out of the process entirely. Perfect pitch does not tie a fingering or partial to the pitch. Our intellect does that. I would suggest playing as much as you can WITHOUT sheet music. Get used to the sound and feel of each instrument individually. Then the notes on the page are far less consequential.
     
  3. Haste2

    Haste2 Piano User

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    <i>I think you need to get the brain out of the process entirely.</i>
    If only that were easy to do.... personally I believe that there is very little, if anything, for absolute pitch musicians to unlearn. They view music even more simply than others, if anything. The problem I am dealing with is precisely what I would have struggled with at age 7. I think those with absolute pitch should be taught relative pitch techniques, personally. I was surprised how much "relative pitch" I learned just by learning some jazz improv. I need to do more of that....

    I do play stuff by ear all the time on my B-flat/C trumpets, but didn't do it enough on my E-flat....I think the trouble is that I have not been playing by ear until I got comfortable with the instrument first. Good advice there.

    Honestly, if music was always written based on concert pitch, I would just simply learn to play the instrument by ear, and have fewer problems for actual reading of music. Ironically enough, getting used to the instrument is a bigger problem for me than actually transposing.... thus, focusing on playing by ear is great advice.

    Hm.... another way to view my situation: what if I learned to play transposing instruments by ear, and only by ear? Then let's say the following happens:
    A guy sings a concert B-flat scale, and then he asks me to play that on my E-flat trumpet.
    My ears allow me to finger the G scale and play it without problems, yet I would not even realize it's a G scale! (unless I thought about it)

    That's the obvious reason why I'd still need to learn to read music - so I can know what the "trumpet" pitch is for each fingering/partial, and not just "concert" pitch!
     
  4. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

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    Haste,
    for the successful, the "how" is less critical than the "when".

    We decide in life usually just before doing something if we are going to succeed. If we decide "yes" we find a way. Indecision kills.

    Not everything is equally easy. Harder stuff just needs a slower, even more dedicated beginning. If you have that big of a problem with notation, transpose the sheet music by hand. You then have more contact to the licks and are more focussed on success and solution instead of previous habits.
     
  5. Haste2

    Haste2 Piano User

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    I completely agree. I don't consider notation, nor transposing instruments, to be my biggest problem.... I just don't know any trumpeters (in person) with perfect pitch, and was hoping somebody there would be somebody on this site that could relate. It's more of a curiosity thing. I can see why you might you thought otherwise, considering the way I worded my posts.
     
  6. Ed Lee

    Ed Lee Utimate User

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    IMO "perfect pitch" would apply primarily to a C instrument viz notes as they would be played on a C instrument as A = 440 Hz. Thus, for instruments in other keys, we must duly transpose, Only 2 persons I am aware of are acclaimed to have had perfect pitch, one being John Philip Sousa, a violinist, and the second, Eddie Duchin, a pianist who subsequently served in the U.S. Navy as a Sonar operator and the latter comes to me only via the movie, The Eddie Duchin Story. Certainly, I don't have it, nor do I expect most musicians do.
     
  7. Haste2

    Haste2 Piano User

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    I hear Saints-Saens had perfect pitch, as did Mozart. I could be wrong there. Ella Fitzgerald, too, I think.

    Well, here's a list I pulled from a page (with a way-off statistic... I guarantee way more than 1-in-10,000 have absolute pitch)

    Leonard Bernstein, Stevie Wonder, Julie Andrews, Ludwig van Beethoven, Celine Dion, Ella Fitzgerald, Vladimir Horowitz, Michael Jackson, Yo-Yo Ma, Barbra Streisand, Brian Wilson, Frank Sinatra, Steve Vai, Shakira, Yanni, Paul Shaffer

    And, hey, finally found a famous trumpeter with perfect pitch: Woody Shaw.

    I was looking at a page on that other trumpet message board that must not be mentioned =P:

    "I played a gig on the 4th with a sax player from LA who had perfect pitch. He was playing tenor parts, but had brought only his alto since it was easier to pack. I asked him what it was like dealing with alto and tenor issues. He said "I don't think about note names, I just figure out the sound associated with the note on the page, and then push down the buttons on the horn that will make that sound happen. Key and note names don't even come into the picture.' That's a pretty extreme example, though."

    The way I think is exactly the same as that sax player! If that helps things make more sense....
     
  8. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

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    Haste,
    perfect pitch is not a blessing. It is simply another tool that a player could have. For a trumpet player, it is of little use. Our instruments generally have well defined pitch center (slots).

    Your "problem" however has NOTHING to do with perfect pitch. The mental block is not that you hear where notes should be, it is because you are not comfortable with other pitched instruments. YOU have talked yourself into believing that this is caused by perfect pitch. That is no different than talking yourself into a mouthpiece switch, needing a new horn or embouchure change.

    For a player with perfect pitch, endurance could be an issue due to trying to muscle the horns pitch all the time - until we discover the tuning and 1st and 3rd slides. That has little to do with a concert C being open on a C trumpet, 1+3 on a Bb and 1+2 on an Eb, 1 on a D or 2+3 on an A trumpet.

    I worked for many years with a soprano with perfect pitch. Her problem? A=440 in her head. Our problem? In Germany they tune to A=443 - result: permanent imperfect pitch.

    My suggestion: instead of solidifying an excuse, just switch instruments in the practice room often. You like every other trumpet player on the planet will get better by building habits.

    We don't hear a lot about perfect pitch because the successful that have it just live with it instead of talking about it. It doesn't give us any advantages if our musicality, tone, range and technique aren't as good as the competitions. It is also useless in ensemble playing as each pitch does not get a frequency assigned to it. A Bb has a different pitch depending if it is the root, third, fourth or fifth in a chord. The well tempered scale is ALWAYS out of tune. Google "just" intonation.
     
  9. Phil986

    Phil986 Forte User

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    So true. It's too bad we musically grow listening to pianos and considering them as the absolute reference. They are only a compromise. Good choirs, or string ensembles can teach us a lot.
     
  10. JediYoda

    JediYoda Mezzo Piano User

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    I don`t mean to throw this thread off topic.....
    But I have led choirs of various sizes and abilities.......
    I have a friend who has perfect pitch who is a world famous choral conductor and when he is in town we are always talking about the perils of having perfect pitch and having a choir where the members don`t have perfect pitch....

    By the way everything Rowuk said is 100% true....
    I swirtched to my C trumpet and I spent a few weeks just playing whatever came into my head as well as scales and such from memory in order to get use to the sound of the trumpet!!


    Shalom!
     

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