Pinky hook?

Discussion in 'Vintage Trumpets / Cornets' started by tooslick, Oct 8, 2005.

  1. tooslick

    tooslick New Friend

    May 22, 2004
    As you can see from my signature I have a 1927 Conn 22B. It is a pre-pinky hook Conn. I have a lot of fun playing the horn but I cannot get used to no pinky hook. It feels STRANGE and sometimes my pinky wids up in the air like I'm holding a teacup or something. If anyone plays a horn without a pinky hook/ring is it a problem and how do you deal with it?
  2. Norm

    Norm New Friend

    Sep 22, 2005
    Oregon USA
    I have a 1905 Conn with no ring. What are you doing with your thumb? Mine goes under the leadpipe, between the first and second valve casings, with my pinky anchored lightly on top. Your right hand might feel more secure if you rest your pinky down and behind the top of the third valve casing. You might try finding some photos or drawings of vintage cornet players. I doubt if they have their pinky up in the air.

  3. tooslick

    tooslick New Friend

    May 22, 2004
    Hi Norm,

    My thumb rests the same place as yours(that's where we were taught it goes 38 years ago(whoops, showing my age :oops: )). If I try to put my pinky finger under the leadpipe it tends to pull my 3rd finger down on the valve. When I put my pinky on top of the leadpipe it tends to wander around depending on my valve fingering.
  4. Tootsall

    Tootsall Fortissimo User

    Oct 25, 2003
    Yee HAW!
    All of my horns have a pinky hook. My little finger always ends up waving around like a tea granny's. Who cares. The only time I use the hook for is picking up the horn or changing mutes 'n things.
  5. tooslick

    tooslick New Friend

    May 22, 2004
    After I play the Conn and grab another horn I do find myself at times putting my pinky on top of the hook rather than in it. :-) I guess you're right, Tootsall, it really doesn't matter a whole lot. I was just wondering if anyone else had experience with no pinky hook and found it to be odd feeling. :dontknow:
  6. tom turner

    tom turner Mezzo Forte User

    Oct 25, 2003
    Georgia, USA

    Probably all band directors tell their developing young students NOT to use the pinky ring (to get extra pressure on the chops in order to play a little higher). Heck, I've heard a couple of 'em even advocate sawing them off so students won't develop improperly!

    I started playing as a fifth grader in 1961, but it wasn't until 1999 that I bought my first horn that lacked a pinky hook. It was a wonderful 1911 Boston 3-Star with rebuilt valves that was restored by Rich Ita. That cornet also came with its original "cookie cutter" mouthpiece. Those cookie cutters looked like french horn mouthpieces . . . with thin rims, deep-V "cups" and obscenely huge throats.

    I loved that cornet so much that for eight months it was all I played . . . and I soon discovered that a cookie cutter wasn't a problem either . . . thanks to the horn NOT having a pinky hook!


    Freed of using a pinky ring, I initially saw my range dip a little, since I couldn't "grip and rip." HOWEVER . . . once I also started using the cookie cutter I discovered that:

    1. My performance range shot UP a full octave . . . from the G above High C to the G below Triple C!
    2. Lip trills became super-easy, and on virtually any note I chose to do it on above about a tuning C!
    3. Flexibility and agility soared
    4. Endurance was much better!


    I've pondered these discoveries a lot and have concluded that TWO of the greatest "advances" in cornet/trumpet design actually combined to become the creator of a LOT of problems experienced by a lot of student (and some adult) players of the modern era!

    1920's . . .

    1. The pinky hook began to really grow in popularity as a way of TEMPORARILY holding a cornet/trumpet while inserting mutes, turning music or playing a plunger. Pressure increases were not popular, since those "brutal" cookie cutter mouthpieces would wipe one out in a moment if arm pressure was applied! This "problem" was soon solved . . .

    2. In 1924, Vincent Bach began producing mouthpieces with wider, rounded, more comfortable rims along with C-shaped cups.

    The avaliability of BOTH a pinky hook AND a comfortable new "lip-masher" mouthpiece soon ENCOURAGED kids to use lots of pressure, for many beginning players also discovered that pulling on the pinky hook could allow their weak chops a chance to play a little higher.


    1. Most young players started using lots of arm pressure. This was the death of a lot of young player's ULTIMATE ability to play the horn well! Sure, they pinched out a crappy, edgy High C for momma to hear on the halftime show but ended up as a player who:

    2, The pressure caused the youngster's lip to swell into the mouthpiece and fill up most, if not all. of the cup. This forced the teachers to recommend bigger mouthpieces to these swollen lip players so they could end up with useable cup volume again for richness of tone!

    3. The bigger, deeper cups suddenly hurt the young player's range . . . which led to MORE pressure again . . . which led again to a thin, edgy tone . . . which led to an even BIGGER mouthpiece in order to get back to having the proper amount of usuable cup volume.

    Like a dog chasing his tail, the player's endurance, range and tone problems have done in millions of young trumpeters.

    I HAVE A DREAM! . . .

    I'm only HALF kidding too!

    Removing pinky hooks and returning to the brutal cookie cutter rims would FORCE the player to learn to play correctly . . . for a cookie cutter rim will wipe one out almost instantly if arm pressure is applied!!!

    Freed of the need or using arm pressure, the chops begin to get the pressure/resistance that's needed from the chops compressing up and down AGAINST each other vs. than the teeth and mouthpiece causing the resistance from an ever-changing, increasingly swelling lip!

    Endurance would then shoot through the roof, suddenly those agile cornet show-off pieces of 100 years ago get easy to play ALL THE WAY THROUGH . . . and lip trills become awesome!


    No horn maker has the balls to remove the pinky hooks . . . for young players (as well as many fine adult players too) feel they NEED the pinky hook . . . and thier horns thus would not sell.

    No mouthpiece maker has the balls to put out a brutal, thin cookie cutter rim . . . and thus have tons of pressure players reject buying them.

    Actually, pressure players DO need the pinky hook to survive, much like a Heroin junky needs Heroin or Methadone to survive!!!
    Unfortunately, many student (and fine adult) players will never experience the liberating feeling that the elimination of arm pressure gives to their playing . . . once freed of their "addiction" to lip masher rims and pinky hooks!!!

    IN SUMMATION . . .

    Whenever lip pressure begins to rear its ugly head, I pull out that wonderful 3-Star cornet . . . WITH its cookie cutter mouthpiece . . . and let the bell rest only on the sides of my thumb and little finger. In other words, I don't grip it with the left hand at all.

    The sharper cookie cutter rim provides PERFECT air seal WITHOUT much pressure . . . and suddenly I'm soaring all over the horn . . . without pressure and will greater range, flexibility, etc.

    You've all seen or heard stories of great trumpet players hanging their horns on strings and then walking up behind the horn and playing a High C or whatever. One reason they turned into great players who could play sooooo well and play super-exhausting music . . . was the lack of arm pressure!!!


    Tom Turner
  7. DaveH

    DaveH Piano User

    Nov 27, 2003
    As usual, Tom always gives a great post with lots of good information...

    Let me just throw another idea in on the arm pressure thing...maybe it will affect someone someday...maybe not.

    Everyone gets older, and genetics has somewhat of a role as well - or maybe an accident...someday you just might lose your teeth. :-o

    Maybe if you learn to play as "pressure-less" as possible now, you may still be able to play in the event that happens someday.

    Seems like that may have been the case with Roy Eldridge; perhaps others as well..
  8. fundenlight

    fundenlight New Friend

    Aug 2, 2005
    While your "disertation" of sorts has a lot of insightful and well thought out comments I really cannot agree with everything that you say. I play on a fairly large mouthpiece (Monette B2) and it has nothing to do with needing room for my "swelling" lips. While a lot of players may move to largeer mouthpieces as a quick fix to their lips swelling I can't say that I fit in that catagory. I have always advocated the use of as little pressure as possible, and even share the same disdain for the pinky ring as you seem to. For me the bigger moutpiece helps me achieve the sound that I hear in my head much more efficiently than a smaller mouthpiece would. As for rim shape... I personally have never really noticed the differences in rim shape for any mouthpiece I have ever owned or played. Perhaps this has to do with playing with as little pressure as you can.
    So, while I agree with you on many accounts, I think you may have over generalized the situation. Perhaps teachers (particularly school teahers) should advocate a open, relaxed sound instead of praising kids for what PITCH they can sound.
  9. oldlou

    oldlou Forte User

    Aug 28, 2005
    Grand Rapids, Mi.
    Mouthpiece pressure and shape

    My grandpa taught me to play on a deep vee mouthpiece with a "cookie cutter rim". This served me well during my high school years, when I got to Interlochen National Music Camp, where I was fortunate to have Raphael Mendez as a guest instructor. If anyone ever stressed low to zero mouthpiece pressure it was him. After two major embeshure accidents that took him out of playing for extended periods, he became an expert at the low-zero pressure method. I still try to emulate that.

  10. Tootsall

    Tootsall Fortissimo User

    Oct 25, 2003
    Yee HAW!
    While this discussion has gravitated to that of the relationship between mouthpiece pressure and the pinky hook, there is one other aspect that deserves consideration.

    In your hand, the 3rd and pinky fingers are not as flexible as the 1st and second. If you have your pinky finger "anchored" in the hook, you'll find that your third finger isn't as fast or flexible as otherwise. For those tricky passages with a "lot of black stuff" in music having 3 or more sharps or flats you'll find it a lot easier letting the pinky finger "wave in the wind".

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