Why Cs?

Discussion in 'Wise Talk!' started by camelbrass, May 31, 2005.

  1. camelbrass

    camelbrass Mezzo Forte User

    Nov 5, 2003
    Dubai, UAE
    I'll start the ball rolling (it's a tradition).

    What precipitated the predominate use of C trumpets in orchestras in the US?

    From reading the comments of various player trying to get to grips with a C they end up playing it with a very large mouthpieces, mainly playing larger bore instruments, trying to avoid a bright edge and on the whole complaining about the intonation. Why not just play Bb trumpet as they do in Europe?


  2. NickD

    NickD Forte User

    To C or not to C....

    OK, I am more of a spy when it comes to legit gigs. I'm a free lancer and I tend to do more commercial/jazz work.

    However, I almost always use a C trumpet when I play legit gigs. Right now I use a large bore Bach with a 229 bell and some sort of Frankenstein's monster thing as a lead pipe. I use an Opera Model asymmetric for the mouthpiece. This gives an extremely dark tone.

    Now the qustion is why did we start doing this? In all honesty I am not sure, but I have this recollection that it began with the NY Philharmonic under Leopold Sotkowski, or something like that. You real legit guys can straighten out that part. I THINK the motiviation was for transposition purposes. I don't think accuracy or delicacy of sound was part of it, but I sure could be wrong here.

    I do think C trumpets are a bit more accurate - less prone to split notes - better Q. In the mf territory of orchestral gigs they are very nice that way. Now, I know of only two guys that I've worked with who insisted on using them on big band and jazz gigs, Frankly, I don't think they blow well enough for those jobs. When blown as hard as I have to play on commercial work, a C trumpet will go nasal and twangy, not mention a bit stuffy. I just don't think the sound is big enough for jazz/lead stuff.

    Tha's all just my opinion, fwiiw. As to the facts, we'll need some "real-deal" legit guys to pop on by.


    Nick Drozdoff
  3. govtmodel

    govtmodel Pianissimo User

    Dec 26, 2004
    Rhode Island
    There's a very interesting discussion of this topic at
  4. Clarino

    Clarino Mezzo Piano User

    Nov 9, 2003
    Sheffield, England, UK
    That's a very good article, which goes into quite a lot of depth.

    But in a nutshell, everyone in the US does it because Bud did it.

    I seriously doubt most guys in the US (watch now as Willmer, Manny et al leap in to prove me wrong! :lol: ) can even give a coherent reason to use the C trumpet rather than the Bb.

    The article Govtmodel linked suggests that the C is less prone to splitting notes, but frankly I think most people would agree that it's the player that splits a not note the horn. The only plus side I can see is that transposition becomes marginally easier, Bud mentioned this in something I read about his motivation for using the C trumpet.

    Apart from that, I think it's just a sheep mentality, young Americans get into thinking that they need a C trumpet to play orchestral music with the big boys just because all the top guys in the US orchestras now use C trumpets for most repertoire.

    Silly really.
  5. wiseone2

    wiseone2 Artitst in Residence Staff Member

    Nov 19, 2003
    Well................ Mager, Caston, Krauss, Voisin and Vacchiano preceded Bud in the use of the C. Harry Glantz was a hold-out for the Bb trumpet.
    Boston, Philadelphia and the New York Philharmonic were far better known and more recorded than the CSO.
    The Bach C trumpet was the break through horn in America. Players flocked to the Bach.
    Think about it....... can you come up with any other american maker of C trumpets until Schilke?
    Blame Vincent Bach for making great playable higher trumpets that caused the dominance of the C trumpet in American Orchestras.
  6. camelbrass

    camelbrass Mezzo Forte User

    Nov 5, 2003
    Dubai, UAE
    OK thanks guys,

    Your replies have inspired me to do a little digging of my own. It's an interesting phenomena...Harry Glantz's steadfastness about the use of Bbs for everything certainly seemed to be in the face of a wave of Cs being used by some very influential players (influential then and still today). As Wilmer pointed out it seems that one of the keys was the availability in the US of well made C trumpets provided by Vincent Bach (which are still coveted today). I'm beginning to think that this is one of the reasons that Bb piston trumpets still rule in England-availability or rather lack of it- that and the predominance of brass bands as 'nurseries'.

    One of the great quotes I came across was from Mel Broiles who said that (paraphrased) as a trumpeter starts to play older repetoire the Bb becomes less appropriate (or words to that effetct)..and I can understand that. It's just that the original thought that occured to me in starting this thread was that there seemed to be a pre-occupation with making C trumpets in orchestral setting sound pretty much like Bbs, with large bore and large mouthpieces. Nick D pretty much explained that as well as that Petrouska link.

    Thanks again.


  7. music matters

    music matters Pianissimo User

    Apr 26, 2004
    ON Canada
    Hi Trevor,

    I know that the UK use Bb and transpose, but I believe that C trumpets are in much more use across Europe as they are in the US. I think French Orchestras use C for the majority of their playing as well.

    Cheers and it's great to have this forum up and running - thanks Wilmer.

  8. davidjohnson

    davidjohnson Piano User

    Nov 2, 2003
    i've always thought a section mix would be best...lower parts on Bbs but upper parts on Cs. i think philadelphia used to do that.

  9. brian moon

    brian moon Forte User

    The accuracy on a C trumpet is easier. That is why cold entrances are more secure. It's even easier on D or Eb. I understand that Vacchianno was an advocate for D. The BSO used to use C trumpets with a D valve. Eb's are are gaining popularity.

    Many conductors think that the trumpets are too loud anyway so why not go smaller? IMHO a lot of times they sound too puny but shorter horns have their place.

    I would agree that Magers is the patriarch of American C trumpet usage.
  10. camelbrass

    camelbrass Mezzo Forte User

    Nov 5, 2003
    Dubai, UAE
    I like the look of those big beefy 4 valve Ebs. I'd like to try one of them in anger. Wilmer have you tried one?



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