Playing a cold horn

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by fsteveb, Jan 12, 2016.

  1. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

    6,789
    3,552
    Oct 26, 2003
    Baltimore/DC
    I'll echo what others have said about temperature and intonation. Cold is bad for horns like trumpets, but it's probably worse for bigger horns with more metal. I've also had some rough gigs in the wedding band due to the fact that the tenor sax was flat to the point that he couldn't push the mouthpiece in any further to get it in tune, all thanks to the cold.

    Heat will do it too. I did some gigs as an Army bandsman where it was so hot that your my horn felt hot in the hands, and you just kind of hand to live with the idea that the band as a whole was going to be an intonation wreck, and it was never going to lock in.
     
  2. Sethoflagos

    Sethoflagos Utimate User

    5,331
    4,731
    Aug 7, 2013
    Lagos, Nigeria
    Sort of true, but maybe it can lead you down the wrong path. If it was literally the warmth of the metal that determined the tuning on a cold day then I don't think we'd ever get a good note out in an outdoors performance. But we know from experience (and as noted above) that blowing through the instrument gets us rapidly up to pitch.

    Why? Because it's not the temperature of the metal, it's the temperature of the air column that matters.

    Cold air = lower speed of sound = flat sounding air column

    We got a lot of cold gigs in Yorkshire, but what worked was blowing air through the instrument at least once a minute, leather valve guard to insulate the valve block, and yes, mouthpiece in your pocket. A cold mouthpiece drains heat out of your lip more or less instantly and that can be a bad thing.

    Could be worth considering a plastic trumpet also. That would help insulate the air column and keep it warm.
     
  3. Lukarino

    Lukarino Pianissimo User

    137
    105
    Dec 8, 2015
    San Diego, CA
    I have heard that it isn't fun when the mouthepiece freezes to your lips...

    In my experience, when I was out caroling with my cornet, a lot of the notes fracked as well as were flat.
     
  4. larry newman

    larry newman Piano User

    Age:
    70
    323
    211
    Dec 22, 2005
    North Tonawanda, NY, USA
    m.p.in pocket, and press all 3 valves down while blowing warm air thru.
     
  5. barliman2001

    barliman2001 Fortissimo User

    4,466
    4,565
    Jul 5, 2010
    Vienna, Austria, Europe
    Two anecdotes for playing in the cold:

    1) A New Year's Eve service in a church that is not a parish church, but only occasionally used for weddings. For the service, they had hired what they thought was the perfect accompaniment - two trumpets, a French horn, two trombones, a euphonium, four recorders and a tuba. The parish had not booked us as a group, but as individuals... We first met half an hour before service when the parson informed us "that he had just put on the heater". Outside, it had been freezing for a week, inside similar. And this very heterogenuous group had to perform together, almost without any rehearsal...
    The recorders, of course, were out of tune anyway. And all the brass, as we were warming up, went out of tune slowly - depending on the size of the instrument. And as most of the group were rank dillettantes, they did not know who to surreptitiously re-tune.. and so everything slowly fell apart. In the end, we were more than a quarter tone distant... only good thing was, we had our own exit and removed ourselves rather quickly before the audience could follow suit!

    2) Austrian wind bands usually are very experienced at playing in the cold and have devised many ways of keeping the instruments playable even in sharp frosts. One band had finally hit upon the solution of fitting mobile handwarmers to the rotary valve blocks with cable ties. Things like this, in fact: Taschenofen Holzkohle: Amazon.de: Sport & Freizeit
    And for one gig at the local christmas market, they lit all the hand warmers, issued them and then went to the gig (just a few minutes march). One of the guys did not at once fit his warmer, but just shoved it into his bag on top of his music. Even before he reached the Christmas market, he had a black cloud oozing from his bag... the warmer had come undone, and the glowing charcoal had set fire to the music and to the inner padding of the gig bag... He only noticed when one of the local firemen came rushing up and flooded that gig bag with the contents of a fire extinguisher...
     
  6. Lukarino

    Lukarino Pianissimo User

    137
    105
    Dec 8, 2015
    San Diego, CA
    When my dad was in the Navy band playing Army vs Navy games, he would use a plastic mouthpiece so that the aforementioned horror of a mouthpiece freezing to your lips wouldn't happen. As for tuning... He said the band would sound terrible those games, and there wasn't much to do about it
     
  7. Sethoflagos

    Sethoflagos Utimate User

    5,331
    4,731
    Aug 7, 2013
    Lagos, Nigeria
    +1. Heavy playing, such as marching band, generates quite a bit of heat in your lip. There's a medical paper on this somewhere (Dr Gary may know it). Apparently blood flow only removes a proportion of this heat and we rely (perhaps unknowingly) on conduction into a cool mouthpiece to remove the rest.

    We can lose this effect on a hot day, which is maybe one more factor in the large number of wrecked chops from marching band we hear about.

    Also, anyone who has experienced a tarnished mouthpiece that has been left out in the sun knows that that can give you quite a nasty surprise.


    EDIT: I noticed a real difference in my chops when I came back from West Africa to the cold of the UK this time around. Some days it was taking a good hour of face time just to warm up. Problem vanished the moment we got back to Lagos. Total mystery until this thread got me thinking. Small causes can have big effects.
     
  8. gunshowtickets

    gunshowtickets Forte User

    1,243
    781
    Mar 11, 2015
    Tidewater, VA
    This, combined with below:

    Because of this:

    If you can keep the horn in your lap, it works out, but at the very least, keep the mp in your hand or shirt breast pocket (with or without a jacket).


    I used these once last year, held in my left hand against the valve block. My wife's hands are always cold. They have a larger version for feet. Don't be like Zack in "Zack and Miri" and try to use them for...
    ...Warming other parts.

    Amazon.com : HotHands Hand Warmers : Sports & Outdoors
     
  9. Churchman

    Churchman Mezzo Piano User

    699
    373
    Apr 26, 2012
    We sold our old cold Victorian church for a vast sum of money. That solved the problem of a cold horn once and for all.
     
  10. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

    6,789
    3,552
    Oct 26, 2003
    Baltimore/DC
    We weren't always marching - much of this was either standing or sitting in place. We were playing marches, but that's not what caused the intonation nightmare - it was the temperature of the horns, plain and simple.
     

Share This Page