What is this "lead" thing?

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by VetPsychWars, Jan 15, 2013.

  1. VetPsychWars

    VetPsychWars Fortissimo User

    Nov 8, 2006
    Greenfield WI
    I'm sorry, guys, I don't know what "playing lead" means. When I was in school, I sat second chair as a junior, and first as a senior, and played "first chair" on pretty much anything. I never played "lead" and I honestly don't know what it means... and there are kids who say that they're playing "lead" and I'm all, what?!

    I feel old.

  2. nieuwguyski

    nieuwguyski Forte User

    Aug 9, 2004
    Santa Cruz County, CA
    "Playing lead" refers to playing the first book in a big band. When I was in high school the groups were frequently called "stage bands." It's different from concert band in that the section is (theoretically) limited to four or five trumpet players, with one player on a part, and the first trumpet part -- the lead part -- frequently goes higher than most any concert band first trumpet part you'll find, and stays above the staff a higher percentage of the time. Since the lead player is the only one playing the highest part, any error is obvious.

    Then there's the whole world of learning the responsibilities of the part and the endless issues of stylistic interpretation...

    But for the most part, when kids post about "playing lead" they're asking about playing the high notes.
  3. VetPsychWars

    VetPsychWars Fortissimo User

    Nov 8, 2006
    Greenfield WI
    Oh.... when I was in high school jazz band that was called "play the first part like the director tells you to." Though I'll have to admit he didn't pick pieces with a lot of high notes.

    Ah, back in the day when "sucking less than the rest of the section" was all you needed to be first chair... :-)

  4. edfitzvb

    edfitzvb Forte User

    Jun 10, 2008
    Woodlawn, VA
    Life was simpler then, wasn't it?
  5. tobylou8

    tobylou8 Utimate User

    Dec 22, 2008
    "Lead trumpet" is a term I first heard in high school, a loooooong time ago, referring to the trumpet player in charge of the trumpet section in a big /swing band. It is the equivalent of the symphonic " principal trumpet". Since most players at that level can all play high, the "lead" set the tone for the tune being played as they had the most experience/exposure/maturity to get the most out of the section and keep all the egos satisfied. Also, IF there were any problems in the section, the "lead" would handle it and try to fix it before it became a band wide problem. Sometimes this meant cutting somebody loose (Maynard cut Bill Chase and told him not to come back until he learned to play the trumpet! OUCH!!). Most, not all, high school kids possess none of the qualities needed to be a "lead" trumpet player. So, as has been said, it's usually the kid that plays the highest.
  6. trumpetup

    trumpetup Piano User

    Jan 12, 2009
    Godley, Texas
    I remember from school it was 1st, 2nd, and 3rd chair also. The 1st chair always got the solos. Now days there is the "Lead" then 1st, 2nd, 3rd. The 1st and 2nd chair play the solos and the Lead does stuff over the top of that.
    Yes it was simpler back then.
  7. BinaryHulledIon

    BinaryHulledIon Piano User

    Nov 23, 2012
    Spartanburg, SC
    Lead trumpet? I prefer brass or silver plate. I hear direct physical contact with lead can be bad for your health.

    (wakka wakka)
  8. duanemassey

    duanemassey Piano User

    Jul 14, 2009
    You haven't really lived until you play a pewter trumpet..
  9. fraserhutch

    fraserhutch Mezzo Piano User

    Jan 23, 2004
    Novato, CA, USA
    While lead trumpet is often used in a big band context, I has always understood it to be the case of the first trumpet in any trumpet section. I use n my experience, the term is used in in the commercial field as well in sections where there is more than one trumpet player. Typically, it is this player's responsibility to lead the section in phrasing and style n addition to playing the top lines.

    Event in the case where the ensemble leader dictates style and phrasing (as would be the case in Tom's HS ensemble), it is still up to the lead trumpet to execute those instructions once the downbeat occurs and up to the rest of the section to follow the lead trumpet.

    To me there is a distinction between the lead player and the section leader, and while they are often the same person there are many cases where this is not the case.
  10. fraserhutch

    fraserhutch Mezzo Piano User

    Jan 23, 2004
    Novato, CA, USA
    That's the kind of horn that generates a sound that make the audience go "pe-ew", isn't it?

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