preparation vs. sight-reading

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by Lucienne, Dec 22, 2009.

  1. Lucienne

    Lucienne New Friend

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    I had what was for me an uncomfortable experience. Having agreed to play some trumpet parts with the top-notch choir at a church for Christmas (I'm in the choir), but also having told the music director my high range (d and above was iffy because I hadn't played in that range in several months), I hoped the choir director would give me the parts in advance just so I could read through them (and he said he would). He was writing the parts himself, and didn't get it done until the last moment. He gave me a beautifully written trumpet solo (with choir) peppered with high Ds which would have been okay if I'd had that range in shape. I got the part five minutes before rehearsal and had only a chance to glance through it before I was asked to play it with the choir. (Only rehearsal before performance.) I found it very uncomfortable because I knew the ds were in there, and I didn't want to miss them, and I had to figure out how to play my way around them on the spot.

    So my question is for other people, if you were given a beautiful bit of trumpet work to play that amounted in essence to something very similar to a movement of a baroque trumpet concerto, would you usually expect, or would you prefer, to have been given the part in advance so you could prepare it a little bit, or would you be comfortable with sight-reading it?
     
  2. mush-mouth

    mush-mouth Pianissimo User

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    Aug 3, 2009
    I think everyone would prefer to be able to practice the sheet beforehand.

    That said, how comfortable are you with applied music theory as it pertains to the trumpet? Do you really understand that any note implies a chord, and that generally you can substitute another likewise chord-tone if you need to do so?

    If the High D falls on a G Major chord (the D as a perfect 5th to the G Major), for example, you could play the B (the Major 3rd of G Major) below, or if it falls on a G Minor, then it would be a Bb (the Minor 3rd of G Minor)... If it is a tonic note for a D chord (major or minor) chord, then you are limited to either an A below (the safer bet as it is a perfect 5th for D major or minor either way), an F (for D Minor) or an F# (D Major) depending on the harmonic tonality.

    Of course, this can lead to voice-leading problems, but generally if you play within the suggested tonality of the chord at hand you will be OK, especially if it is a note that needs to be held for a while.
     
  3. ComeBackKid

    ComeBackKid Fortissimo User

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    Music theory aside, this is a human issue. Since you told the music director that you were not comfortable with the high D, it was HIS job to apply the music theory and re-write the chord with a note that worked with the voices and your range comfort. To simply ignore your statement and write it his own way suggests that he was writing this for his own glory - not to glorify God or edify the worshipers.
     
  4. Lucienne

    Lucienne New Friend

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    Mar 2, 2009
    New York
    Thanks, and I do understand the harmony aspect very well. I just prefer to do a really good job the first time through. I don't know why it bothered me so much this time to be handed the music at the last second. A conductor spends some time getting to know new a composition before he rehearses it, so I just want to do the same thing as a player, especially out of respect for the person who wrote it. It seems like when I was younger I was more okay with playing things on the spot.

    But you wrote a very good and thoughtful reply, thank you.
     
  5. Pedal C

    Pedal C Mezzo Forte User

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    Jan 24, 2005
    Some people feel fine sightreading that sort of thing, some don't. Getting the part early usually comes down to communication with the director and his/her workload at the time. Sometimes even explicitly requesting the parts early doesn't work! Nobody likes to scramble through the first read though, but you just do your best and remember that no one else is as focused on you as you are.

    ALso, I'm always conservative when someone asks my range, because oftentimes (especially with choir directors!), they will take liberties with a note or two, not to mention the times that they write the part in C (with plenty of high Cs and a D or two) then transpose it up a step for Bb trumpet!
     
  6. gbdeamer

    gbdeamer Forte User

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    Oct 16, 2008
    A bit over the top, no?

    Perhaps this is the single busiest time of year for a music director and hand-writing this part (unfortunately) fell to the bottom of the priority list?

    It's likely that he heard the top of the range was "D", so that's exactly what he wrote. Whatever the case, if the OP wasn't prepared/able to play it then he should have gracefully bowed out.

    For my regular church jobs I usually ask if there's anything "special" to prepare for the performance. This is my subtle way of asking for the sheets in advance. More often than not I get nothing in advance, but if I want the job I go in and play whatever is in front of me. A few weeks ago I was given 2nd trumpet parts in advance and showed up to discover that thew 1st player had a rough gig the previous night, so he passed me his parts.

    At the end of the day communication seems to be the issue with this one. Next time someone asks you about a comfortable range, be honest and give them the range that you can comfortably work with (not the highest note you can pop out). Hopefully the next time this director says he'll give a part in advance, he will do so.

    Lessons learned...
     
  7. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

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    Take it down an octave.

    If something is important, then we prepare for the the worst. If we give the enemy ammunition, they will use it. I don't know when you told the director what, but am pretty sure that they assumed between that discussion and the service, you had enough time to prepare!

    It may be interesting to muse over the difference between getting more time to prepare the part or keeping up our general playing level, at the end of the day it is OUR reputation that is on the line. THAT is a POWERFUL MESSAGE. Trumpets represent the glory and power, not pory and glower. The rest is up to us.
     
  8. dhbailey

    dhbailey Piano User

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    Jul 28, 2009
    New Hampshire
    It was unprofessional of the choir director to thrust that music on you 5 minutes before the rehearsal. It was also unprofessional of him to make so much use of your upper limit. It's obvious he doesn't understand the trumpet and therefore shouldn't be writing for it. For a choir director, who most likely is a pianist and/or organist, high notes are no problem at all, just push a key. For a trumpet player it's quite another story.

    Rowuk hits the nail on the head, though, when he points out that regardless of how the music got the way it is or when it got into your hands, you are the person playing the trumpet and it is your reputation which is on the line. Modify the part between now and the performance so that you are confident that you can hit all the notes. If that involves playing certain passages down an octave or revoicing the part to a lower note, then fine. When the music is performed, you want/need to feel confident and to play it confidently.

    And the next time, when you're asked tell the person that your upper range is a third lower than what you can reach when you're in the best shape.
     
  9. gbdeamer

    gbdeamer Forte User

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    Oct 16, 2008
    I respectfully disagree with this sentiment and the view of what is "unprofessional". The director had someone who wanted to play the trumpet and he was given a range to write a part. It's not his job to "understand" the trumpet any more than that. It's the players responsibility to understand the horn and be able to play it.

    That the part was given to the OP prior to the performance was a nice gesture. For a typical hectic holiday service it's not uncommon to show up and have extra parts handed to you during a mass.

    "It may be interesting to muse over the difference between getting more time to prepare the part or keeping up our general playing level, at the end of the day it is OUR reputation that is on the line."

    When I was young I wouldn't play a gig unless I had "time to prepare". I performed well, but didn't get a lot of playing opportunities. I started taking my playing more seriously and while I still prefer "prep time" I got to a point where I could just show up and play. (I still won't do that for things like a lead book in a musical...but I'm working on it).

    At the end of the day the OP made it through the performance and learned some valuable lessons. The primary ones are setting proper expectations and being prepared.

    Again, during THE busiest time of year, I object to painting a music director in this situation as unprofessional. Could he have done more to make things easire for the trumpet player? Absolutely. But it's not his job to do so. As my wife regularly reminds me, the world does not revolve aroung trumpet players...
     
  10. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

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    This is true for those of us living in the real world. I do have some colleagues with "smaller worlds" where they are in fact trapped equally from all sides!


    If the trumpet part is killer, it could be very professional.

    The music and the player have to fit together. On stage, there is no room for excuses.

    Once somebody asked me if I would play the Bach Christmas oratorio for about $50. I told them "sure, but I think you would be happier with the $150 version". I think that was professional of me.
     
    Last edited: Dec 23, 2009

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