starting on piccolo trumpet

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by simonstl, Apr 2, 2009.

  1. tpetplyr

    tpetplyr Pianissimo User

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    I just want to add a little perspective to this discussion.

    Let's pretend that the Bb trumpet is a "piccolo trombone." It IS one octave higher, just like the piccolo trumpet is an octave higher than the Bb.

    Now conventional wisdom suggests that one develop technique on a Bb trumpet before moving to a piccolo in order to establish the basic skills and not "epic fail" on the piccolo.
    So before playing a piccolo trombone (remember, a Bb trumpet), shouldn't one start on the trombone? To develop technique and not "epic fail" on the piccolo (trombone)?

    No, that's different, you say. But don't forget the experiment Arnold Jacbos did where he found that the pressure/flow ratios for all the brass instruments lie on the same curve, intersecting on enharmonic notes.

    Finally - most rank beginners experience something akin to an "epic fail" on Bb trumpet when they first pick it up. We're just used to sounding OK on picc the first time because we're trumpet players. If he wants to start on picc, he could. And he'll eventually develop piccolo technique and perhaps become quite good. But he won't develop the rest of his register - just like I can't play trombone. Even though I play piccolo trombone rather well.

    Stuart
     
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  2. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

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    Stuart, an interesting point - with one caveat: we do not play an octave higher with the picc trumpet. We still play in essentially the standard trumpet range. The difference with a horn an octave higher is that we are playing in the range where we finger everything instead of "lipping". That gives us a bit more technical freedom.
    Perhaps we also need to think about the repertory that we use the picc for. It often calls for a lighter, chamber music approach. Your picc trombone remains "symphonic". There are those that use the picc for security - even although the sound is not really optimal (Pictures at an Exhibition, West Side Story, Bolero). Maybe I am the only one bothered by this type of abuse, but still, when starting on the picc (the original topic of this thread), it is useful to think about what we will use the horn for - and why.
     
  3. simonstl

    simonstl Pianissimo User

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    I really like this notion of piccolo trombone. It seems to fit pretty well with my own experience moving between the trumpet and the valve trombone.

    I have one question, though. It sounds like trumpet uses a different set of facial muscles to control the embouchure than does the trombone / euphonium / baritone, and then the tuba is a different set altogether.

    The vibration of the lips and the airflow seems likely, as Jacobs found, to be one long continuum. I'm guessing, though, that there is a break in that when it comes to controlling the lips.

    So is that why we don't all start on tuba and climb up through trombone and "piccolo trombone" to piccolo trumpet?

    Your point about "epic fail" on the regular Bb trumpet is well-taken. I can usually get friends to make basic sounds in a trumpet, but sometimes explaining it is difficult, especially to people who can't easily get a buzz going.

    I'm guessing my (far away) friend won't actually try a piccolo, much less become proficient on one, but there's a lot here worth pondering as I explore the lower instruments. I've heard of Arnold Jacobs, but now I think I need to look him up more.

    (I hadn't expected this to turn into a conversation about the whole range of brass instruments, but wow, it's been interesting, especially given that my current interest is more in playing lower than higher.)
     
  4. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

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    Simon,
    generally it works in the other direction. Trumpet players that didn't make it move to a bigger instrument. In fact, most tuba players that I know started with TRUMPET!

    Arnold Jacobs did an awful lot for the whole brass player world. His concepts of wind and song are ageless.
     
  5. simonstl

    simonstl Pianissimo User

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    Given my friend's fondness for period instruments, perhaps I should direct him to the valveless trumpets of the day - less freedom, more authenticity, and a lot of years of practice before you can play more than bugle calls.

    But definitely, the shift to fingering opens new possibilities.

    I think my friend was only thinking about repertory. For the particular pieces that he'd want to play (mostly baroque and early classical), the piccolo trumpet would likely be appropriate.

    Do composers write much with piccolo trumpet in mind these days? I agree that the sound is different, but it seems like it's a sound that could be well-used.

    In any case, it's great to see how a random aside can turn into fruitful conversation here.

    Thanks!
     
  6. The Dutch Guy

    The Dutch Guy Piano User

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    not really. There is music written specifically for piccolo trumpet, but it's not much. also: baroque music is NOT written for piccolo trumpet. those things didn't exist back then. they are just written high enough to be played on a piccolo trumpet.

    the piccolo trombone thing is nice, BUT one difference in trombone --> trumpet and trumpet --> piccolo, is that the trombone mouthpiece is bigger than the trumpets mouthpiece, making it easier to play low notes on the trombone.
    the trumpet and piccolo trumpet use the same mouthpiece size, so getting a specific frequency is still exacly as hard. NOT easier. if you can't hit high C on a trumpet, you won't hit it on a piccolo either. and because a 3-valved piccolo starts one octave higher, you have almost no range left.

    if you would create an instrument with a mouthpiece with half the diameter of a trumpet mouthpiece, technically, it would be easier to play high notes. the problem is that our lips are still the same size and thickness, making the small mouthpiece too small for humans to play.
     
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  7. SteveB

    SteveB Mezzo Piano User

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    I must agree with everyone here who says that if you don't have the range on a conventional Bb trumpet, you'll never achieve it on a picc trumpet.

    One of the common misnomers about a picc trumpet is the myth that it automatically boosts one's existing range by an entire octave. Not so.

    I've become fairly proficient on the picc trumpet, however, my top high end range is actually a note or two higher when played on my regular Bb horn. Like others have mentioned, the overall range of the picc trumpet is quite limited.

    The picc trumpet's "personality" is known for its unique sound . . . . definitely not its range.
     

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