Switching to C trumpet

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by snazzypadgett, Aug 25, 2010.

  1. snazzypadgett

    snazzypadgett New Friend

    Oct 13, 2009
    Hello TM, I've posted here a few times in the past--I've got a new question.

    I've been playing trumpet for about 8 months now, and am really enjoying it, playing in a concert band and still taking lessons with the university trumpet professor.

    The thing is, I've got absolute pitch and I've had to learn to transpose the written music literally to match the fingerings I've taught myself (open is not "C" to me, it's Bb). This has in turn made me a great ear player as well as reader--as long as it's in concert pitch. I realized today how well I could read when I was reading some tougher tunes out of a friend's Real Book, and it frustrated me that I couldn't even come close to reading that well had I needed to transpose like I'm used to. The connection is just blocked by the transposition.

    So I'm really considering a C trumpet now. Here are the issues I have:
    -Finding a good C trumpet, in a budget price range (used) is not as easy as finding my Bb Olds Ambassador was
    -I'll have to relearn all of the fingerings anyway upon getting the C trumpet. I do think, however, that this will be much much easier than trying to convince myself that a Bb sound is an "Ab" etc.
    -How different is the tone? I don't want a tinny sounding thing! I love playing in the darker register (it's also easier for a beginner :)), and other than the missing concert E and F, I wonder if I'll dislike the brighter sound for jazz. Opinions?

    Thanks everyone!
  2. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    Absolute pitch has NOTHING to do with it. We can train ourselves for all sorts of stuff if we do not hide behind what we think is the problem. I have worked with enough "absolute pitch" players to know that it is merely a matter of willpower.

    I know of no good "cheap" C. Even the good ones often have intonation issues that Bb horns at half the price do not. An out of tune instrument is a real pain for any player with a decent sense of pitch. It is my opinion that the C will not help you at all. Tying a note to a fingering is only making yourself a slave. Start out slow, with easy tunes.
  3. snazzypadgett

    snazzypadgett New Friend

    Oct 13, 2009
    I appreciate your feedback, rowuk, so I'd like to ask you more. How is tying a note to a fingering "making me a slave?" Isn't that just having a connection with the instrument on a thoughtless level, i.e. muscle memory? Adding to that, isn't the difficulty in switching between Bb and C obvious? Where for most players they feel the same, they feel completely different to me because of a different brain structuring.

    Certainly I think much can be overcome with brainpower--heck, the struggle I went through to even transpose at all on-the-fly was rewarding. But I do question that I will ever reach true reading fluency like I have in concert pitch. Suppose someone switched your entire color wheel around a notch and expected you to easily 'change' your system without thought? It's a very, VERY ingrained perceptual system that I am not sure I can overcome.

    Nevertheless, I am thinking that based on what you said about intonation and price/build quality, I will end up sticking with this Olds. :) I like it so much. Just...darn sight-reading!
  4. Raw_Brass_Kicks

    Raw_Brass_Kicks New Friend

    Aug 21, 2009
    if you want to play trumpet as your main instrument, get used to hearing the notes in the trumpet's key. that way, you can improvise and pick up on what other people are doing without unnecessary transposition. a violin player hears in C, and a french horn in F. what makes C a better key anyway?
    a note name is just that, a name. you can relearn the names of the pitches and the rewards will far outweigh the negatives.
  5. nieuwguyski

    nieuwguyski Forte User

    Aug 9, 2004
    Santa Cruz County, CA
    Do you read bass clef?

    Think of trumpet music as being in a different clef -- bottom line is D, bottom space is E, etc. Don't worry about what other trumpet players call the notes. Key signatures and accidentals will be a little screwy, but you have to adapt.

    Believe it or not, there are musicians with perfect pitch who play Bb trumpet. Even (gasp) alto sax or french horn, on which playing a written C results in an Eb or F, respectively.
  6. Kayin

    Kayin Pianissimo User

    May 30, 2010
    We F horn players do instant transposition of ALL keys. It's just something we're expected to know.

    Technically, every time you depress a finger, it's in a new key, and you're playing the overtone series of that length of tubing. That's how I do my stuff, and I use "odd" fingerings sometimes (because of that concept) but the person past the bell never knows a thing. And that's the important concept. Push, pull or drag, if the audience is pleased we did it right (to a point.) May be a different attitude among horn players, but half of our horns have different fingerings one horn to another to keep them in tune.
  7. ComeBackKid

    ComeBackKid Fortissimo User

    May 11, 2009
    Yorba Linda, CA
    I knew there had to be an advantage to not having absolute pitch. I just didn't know what it was until now.:shock:

    Seriously, though, all pitch sensitivity is relative. There is no real absolute pitch. Pitch is different in many different cultures around the world and even in modern western music, there have been at least 16 different values for the pitch of 'A' in the past 150 years or so. The current value of A=440 is just an arbitrary, agreed-upon convenience.

    What we conclude as absolute pitch is just an early adoption of a pitch memory at a particular value. Learning another one (Bb vs C) is sort of like learning another language. It takes some practice and persistence but it can be learned.
  8. dhbailey

    dhbailey Piano User

    Jul 28, 2009
    New Hampshire
    And many orchestras around the world are ignoring that convention of A=440
    and are tuning to 442 and even 444 in some instances.

    It's easy to hide behind the perceived problem, as Rowuk says, and not face the real issue. I have students who say "I can't play above the staff." I tell them that as long as they say that, they're correct and will be correct for as long as they're willing to say that. So my first challenge is to get them to change their thinking to be "I can't play above the staff *yet* but I will soon."

    The same goes for people who say they'll never be able to transpose easily. If all the time they spend explaining that they can't do it were instead spent on practicing it, beginning with very simple limited range songs with easy rhythms and working on it every day, it will become easy, just as trumpet playing has become easy for them by daily practice.
  9. Haste2

    Haste2 Piano User

    Jun 16, 2010
    I have perfect pitch, as well, and I would exhort you to STICK WITH IT! Play the notes on the page CORRECTLY! Trust me, you can and WILL get used to the B-flat trumpet notes! In fact, whenever I put my mouth on my trumpet my mind instinctively goes to "B-flat mode" and I can instantly think of the correct pitch for any note. Likewise, when I play piano or sing, I instinctively go to "C mode"... er, well, I'll admit every once in a while I'll think B-flat notes. >_>
  10. lakerjazz

    lakerjazz Mezzo Piano User

    Oct 10, 2006
    Well I think the problem is that snazzy developed absolute pitch while playing a concert pitch instrument, and that is actually a detriment now to his learning of the Bb trumpet. When we see a C on the staff, we think open, but when he sees it, he thinks 1 and has to think about it a lot more. There are trumpet players with perfect pitch, but they would have developed perfect pitch while playing the Bb trumpet. I think that in this case, it would make sense to get a C trumpet, even if they do have intonation problems. It's better than trying to change years of what you've been doing. I don't have a recommendation for you as far as equipment goes though.

    Good luck

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