Why Should I Start At All?

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by Tootsall, Dec 15, 2003.

  1. Tootsall

    Tootsall Fortissimo User

    Oct 25, 2003
    Yee HAW!
    OK...here is the "how and why" I decided to learn to play trumpet.

    Being raised into a military family (Canadian Air Force) we were always on the move and I never got settled into a school that had a band program. Since I was always taking things apart I embarked on a technical education, Mechanical Engineering with a specialty in Design. While in University, I had the obligatory guitar (hey, it was the late 60's and I think I can even see my face in the picture on the Woodstock LP!). I only purchased music books that had those little pictures of chords in the music!

    My wife got my eldest child started with piano lessons when he was about 6. The kid was a whiz, never had to practice anything technical...just seemed to "know" the right answers. Unfortunately his music was also rather mechanical and he gave up when he went from Grade 6 to Grade 7. His sister, however, had to work just a little harder but was much more successful. She changed from piano to French Horn when she went into Grade 7, got nothing less than 95% in any music subject through Grade 12, won numerous competitions including best brass instrumentalist under 15 in the province, competed this summer in the Canadian Nationals and is now finishing her fourth year of a program of French Horn performance at the local University.

    The twins (now 14) were also showing an interest in music which got me to thinking (always a dangerous hobby for a parent of 4!). Well, I finally figured out that my kids had to have gotten their music talent from somewhere and since both my grandmothers played piano (one of them until she turned 90), my father played piano and mouth organ by ear, and I had NEVER been able to walk past any instrument without bonking, thunking, twanking, or honking on it maybe there was still hope for me. I started looking into the future and seeing that I was going to turn 65 in about 15 years and would need something to do...something fun, social, and long lasting that would give me satisfaction. So I decided to buy an instrument. Besides, I figured it was cheaper than a sports car and more socially acceptable than a mistress. Turned out I was wrong on both counts! :D

    (Another possible reason is that daughter was in the community band and they had Allen Vizzutti up for a concert and master's workshop...I got to sit outside and listen in on the workshop....WOW!)

    Now, the immediate question is..."why trumpet?" The answer is "because it happened to be the first instrument I found out of my list of 4 that was in my price range and in reasonable condition". So much for science, eh? There goes another myth blown all to heck! (the list of 4 was Sax, clarinet, trumpet, trombone).

    Anyway, I purchased this old, beat up Bundy that seemed like the best one that a guy (probably a flea market operator) was selling. I hauled my prize home and immediately began torturing my wife, my kids, the dog, AND the neighbours. After a couple of rather nasty mishaps (including trying to straighten a flattened bell by banging it with the palm of my hand and ending up with something that Dizzy would have been proud of), I learned the value of a good mechanic! He straightened, removed dents, made the slides parallel, and actually got the thing so it was really quite a decent horn....for about $25 US! Good techies are worth their weight in gold. Never abuse them when you find one!

    4 months of blatting away on my own had the family at a point of breakdown. My wife found out that a workmate of hers had a husband who was in a state of taking a medical leave of absence (stress)...and he was a music teacher! So the two ladies conspired to set me up with him...therapy for him and lessons for me! Come December he was telling me that I should really join a band...that I needed to play "en-semble".

    What a dose of icewater that was....4 months of lessons (from a saxophonist no less!) and tossed into a grade 3-4 level adult community band. Man, did I struggle to learn to count, follow, how to "hide" by "pretending" to play! I still laugh when I think of it. Anyway, I did manage to survive for that first 4 months of band and then went to the local conservatory and took lessons for the 4 month summer semester. That helped but, as they say, it takes X,000 hours of practice to start getting decent (substitute a number of your choice but at least "2" for the X).

    Flash forward to present. I've been "on the horn" now for exactly 6 years. I’m currently playing section lead in that same band as well as second/third in the senior band (grade 5). We’ve also formed a trumpet choir ("S-Choir") out of the intermediate band. We only have four trumpets in that band so we’ve recruited the conductor (who is a clarinetist by preference and waves a stick without hitting things the rest of the time), two French horns who are really piano teacher wanna-bes but one of whom subs on clarinet, and a newspaperman who is also a twig-sucker by preference. No, I don't play much with my daughter. At the present time I own 4 horns (Schilke B1, Getzen Eterna 800 LB Cornet and Jupiter 846L as well as the Besson International trumpet which my 14 year old son plays). I’m slowly getting out of the mouthpiece game…I’ve settled into a GR 66***. The flugel gets it's stock Jupiter 7. I don't find a real problem switching back and forth, the sizes are all pretty close. I've got a "playing" range from F# below to a "sometimes" high C. On the flugel I can get the "sub" C down to F# one octave below the staff. (that's my description of the C below the C that's 2nd line below the staff and down to the F# below that...and using my "standard" embouchure although it's got to be pretty loose down there).

    My practice routine consists of beating up pieces of band music, trumpet choir music, or working with those "Music Plus One" books. If I'm really desperate I've even been known to play some scales or exercises out of Arbans! I'll do 1/2 to 3/4 hour on Monday and Wed, a 2 hour band rehearsal (Intermediate on Tues and Senior on Thurs, then 1/2 to 3/4 on Friday evening. On Saturdays and Sundays I might do 2 hours per day in 2 sessions. (the way I figure it, the sooner I get that X,000 hours in the better). Long range goal is to be able to play Carnival of Venice half decently in more than the first two variations. "Trumpeter's Holiday" and "The Magic Trumpet" are my secret workouts that are getting pretty close to being ready for "presentation".

    Regrets....that I didn't start sooner. Greatest enjoyment....walking off stage thinking "There...take THAT!" (or walking off stage and NOT thinking "drat").

    One of my real thrills had been playing with my eldest daughter in the senior community band. I just added to that by having my youngest son sit beside me and play in the section for our annual "Mayor's Christmas Concert" this past Sunday.

    If anyone has any interest, our Community Band website is http://www.lcbs.ca . Lethbridge is a place of 70,000 (more or less) about 2 hours drive south of Calgary and an hour north of Montana border. Beautiful country out here and only an hour and a half from "real" mountain skiing!

    Sincerest wish...that we had access to good instructors. Sometimes there will be one at the university but it's a small school and they sometimes have to bring sessional instructors down from Calgary. We do have some really good high school band teachers but they are very busy people and don't do much, if any, private instructing. Oh...and I hope that my health stays good so that I can keep on with trumpet for a very long time to come. After all, maybe half of my life was done before I began, but that still leaves me the best half to enjoy! As the advertising says "just do it!"

    PS. The Twins are now LOADED with music. The girl takes private violin lessons, at Grade 9 plays tenor sax so well that she has outstripped the school band and is so bored that her teacher is switching her to bassoon...but the kid wants to stay on tenor sax for jazz band...which she only started 4 months ago. Her brother is, like his dad, now a confirmed brass addict. I've never seen them come home with a music mark less than 100% (and they're honor students in an advanced program to boot).

    Mrs. plays penny whistle with a ladie's Celtic music group "just for fun". The dog hasn't learned to howl in key yet but we're working on him.
  2. Thevor

    Thevor Pianissimo User

    Oct 24, 2003
    Next to the Volcano
    Great post Toots.

    I started playing less than a year ago. (at 43 years old) I had never been a part of band or choir during my school days, so reading music, playing an instrument or even learning to keep time was all a new "adventure" to me.

    I use the term "adventure" because I have found playing truely that, an adventure. It's always something new, fresh and rewarding. Don't get me wrong, I am not blessed with "natural" musical abilites. It comes with strain and work but I love to play and can honestly say that I'm a "hack" when it comes to my trumpet playing.

    I can't see myself playing in a band right now, but that's not my motivation. As an engineer, there are a lot of stresses at work, having two teens at home fuels the strain of life as well. I love the way a few minutes each day removes those stresses and relaxes me. It's just the enjoyment of blowing and making noise and forgetting life for just a few moments.

    It was a risk that has been worth the effort for me.

  3. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

    Oct 26, 2003
    I'd like to post on this one, although with only the better part of two years off of the horn before playing again, I'm not sure that I qualify as a bonefied "comebacker". What I do know is that when I started playing again, it made me realize the big empty hole in my life that music used to fill and I don't think that it's likely that I'll ever stop playing again.

    Music for me is a passion in life. Music is passion, passion is music. I'm not a fabulous musician, but I play well enough that I'm a member of several bands and I'm not a liability to any of them. I can't imagine a life where I'm not enjoying making music with a good ensemble, although I think that a large part of my attraction to music and playing trumpet in an ensemble is for the fellowship with other musicians. I almost feel sorry for the other "Average Joe" kind of guys that don't have something like this, something that they do well and can do with others. I suppose that other guys have hobbies too, but for me playing and making music with others and performing that music for an audience is on a higher level entirely than the "other" kinds of hobbies.

    Tootsall, I am beginning to understand your journey as a late starter on a new instrument. I recently started playing drums for a Rock Praise and Worship band. I even went out and invested in my own kit, sticks, replacement heads, cymbals and bags for the drums so that I don't bang them up during moving and transport to and from the church. I've always been able to "get around" on a drum kit, but actually playing it in an ensemble has been a new challenge all together. I'm at a point where I think that I'm going to get some lessons to try to get some other technical issues under control. I'm loving every minute of doing it though.

    To all of the newcomers and comebackers out there, good luck to you! The rewards of the journey with an instrument, music and musicians are many and provide you with memories and stories for the rest of your life.
  4. W Scott

    W Scott Piano User

    Dec 8, 2003
    Carson City, NV.
    I really do admire you older guys that start on the trumpet. It's a tough instrument that requires years to really sound good on.

    I'm a comebacker. I started playing at age 10---played consistently in a very good school band until 18. Wound up with asthma after a bout with mono at 19. Couldn't play for two years---then played again for about four years. Then, the asthma really came back and I was unable to play for about eight years---finally figured out that if I stay away from smog I'm o.k.!

    So, moved from SoCal to Ohio and started playing again about six years ago. My daughter wanted to learn, so I started teaching her as well. I also found a professional to learn from which helped a lot.

    Now, it's six years later and I'm glad I started again and kept going. My daughter and I have played in several bands. There is nothing quite like the fun of playing and contributing to a really good band. My tone is excellent, my range is from high 'C' down to a low 'G'.

    Here's something funny---about a year or so after starting back I found my range, tone and projection really increasing. I couldn't figure why I could play so much better than when I was a teenager---especially with asthma. At the same time, I'd notice that I would be short of breath after playing hard and high, and it seemed that I couldn't empty my lungs of air when playing. That's not the way things were when I was a teenager!

    Well, it turns out that somehow I instinctively figured out how to breath in such a way that I have a constant column of air supporting the sound---which is what you're supposed to do! (I found this out studying with a semi-retired pro). I also found out that needing at least fifteen minutes to warm up (which I didn't used to need) wasn't a result of old age---it was a result of my chops being in good shape.

    So, my recommendation for any comebacker is find someone who has been a pro and loves to teach. They'll correct what needs to be corrected and tell you what to leave alone!
  5. Thevor

    Thevor Pianissimo User

    Oct 24, 2003
    Next to the Volcano
    W Scott,

    Welcome to TM site and congrats on the comeback trail. I've had a lot of fun playing trumpet with my son too. He tends to be more motivated when I'm practicing too.
  6. Tootsall

    Tootsall Fortissimo User

    Oct 25, 2003
    Yee HAW!
    (I tend to get more motivated when I think my son is about to pass me in skill and musicality!) :D I rue the day when he gets his braces off!!! He had a passable high D after only 6 weeks on a cornet...but before braces.
  7. camelbrass

    camelbrass Mezzo Forte User

    Nov 5, 2003
    Dubai, UAE

    I started playing in my school brass band in Sydney, Australia when I was 9. The band director asked me whether my father had a car with a big trunk and like a fool I said 'YES' and ended up with a Tuba!! Well as it turned out the school brass band was an exceptionally good one and by the time I was 16 I had won the senior BBb Australasian solo competition. The band itself went on to win Senior B grade comps but was never allowed to play A grade (average age was 16!!). That was in the '70s.

    Anyhow I continued to play until my early 20s, discovered playing the Tuba wasn't cool (slow learner) and gave up. 2 1/2 years ago at 44 my youngest son (8 at the time) was showing some interest in playing so I bought him a student model Besson whne on holidays in the UK and guess what? He didn't really take to it but I did!!

    Now that I'm playing again I realise that I missed it. Its the satisfaction and feed back that the instrument gives when you've got your sound 'in the groove' that is the best part. You know, this thing is singing and I'm making it do it. I don't think I'll ever stop playing again now..it was such a large part of my teenage years.



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