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Trumpet Discussion Discuss Music theory important or not? in the General forums; Hey Manny! Being in college and taking so many music classes a big question has entered my mind as of ...
  1. #1
    Pianissimo User
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    Jan 2005
    St. Paul, MN

    Music theory important or not?

    Hey Manny!

    Being in college and taking so many music classes a big question has entered my mind as of late. Does written theory, in term of only playing the trumpet alone, really benefit your playing? In otherwords, do you think while you are playing, "Oh a french augmented 6th chord guys!" or
    "That must be a Neopolitan 2 chord so I need to do this." I'm assuming that most of the time you just play your notes in terms of how they fit with the orchestra and the style and time period of the piece. Am I right? I'm just really having a hard time with all these classes when they load you up with so much work and then practice time is limited. I was told by a teacher a while ago that once you get to college, you practice your butt off, and then do what you can in your classes not to fail so that you can practice as much as possible. Does this make sense?? I'd like to hear your imput...


    To sum all that up, what I'm basically asking is, do you need theory, conducting, music history, and all the other classes to be a great trumpet player?
    "99% is the same as 0%. If you don't feel like giving 100% or can't give 100%, then you might as well stay home." -Will Smith/added to by Jeremy Tarter

  2. #2
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    Sep 2004

    That's truly a fabulous question and if you have the stomach for a dissertation on the subject read on,

    What you ask is something that has to do with necessity vs. broad knowledge. The minimum vs. something extra is a battle anyone who is a parent understands once their little ones become older.

    How much knowledge does one need? The unfortunate answer to that is you don't know until you need it.

    Vacchiano was a fabulous musical theorist and devotee of ear training. It was part of the training he receieved early on in his life. Combined with his talent for playing music it made him the artist he became. Playing trumpet would not have been enough. His teaching was based on having a clear understanding of chordal structure. That's why he may have chipped a note here and there but he never made mental errors regarding notes. He always knew what the context of what he was playing.

    Ted Williams was the greatest hitter in the Major Leagues not only because he had the best eye in baseball but because he was the quintessential student of hitting. He literally studied photos, stances, muscles... everything that encompassed the physical as well as mental aspects of hitting throughout his career and well afterward.

    There's playing and there's understanding.

    I believe a great many players get very caught up in the theory of music and it doesn't help them be better musicians, just better educated ones. As I said, however, then there are your William Vacchianos that get the balance and proportion of knowledge to application just right. If there's one thing that drives me crazy are music jocks after about the age of 25 or so. I don't mind the jock thing in college. You're pumped. it's fun to sit around and listen to stuff because it's loud or high. Those guilty pleasures are appropriate when we're at that stage where we're excited and it's hard to hold in. Heck, I was like that, we all were and if you weren't you missed out on a lot of fun. Later on I found I had less use for that mentality. It's like tenors with great high chops and no brains. It makes me sick.

    The bottom line is learn all you can because you don't know when you're going to need that knowledge. I've forgotten most of the stuff you're presently learning because I've had to make room for the performance aspect of what I do and I'm learning more every day. I'm just forgetful and can't keep it all stored unless I use it on a daily basis.

    What we want is a basic simplicity when we start out that is engorged by knowledge for the sake of simplicity later on in life. That old "come full circle" thing.


  3. #3
    Forte User
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    Aug 2005
    Atlanta, GA
    It is all about loving music - every part of it. It is also about being a complete musician and not just a trumpet player. The more you understand music, the more you love it and the more your blood, your breath and your thoughts become music.

    Are you familiar with "Schenkerian analysis" in music theory? I love it. (and I am not a theory braniac by any means) I love looking at music in this way as opposed to traditional theory. It really brings the musician and the music to a place of "one".

    Basically, all of the stuff that challenges you in college (in theory and history) and makes you pull your hair out will serve you well the rest of your life. You will be able to pick out the folk tunes "Stravinsky" used in Petrouska, you will understand where a piece is going tonally and how it is going to get there....which in turn will shape how you play the music....believe it or not.

  4. #4
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    St. Paul, MN
    Thanks a lot Manny!
    "99% is the same as 0%. If you don't feel like giving 100% or can't give 100%, then you might as well stay home." -Will Smith/added to by Jeremy Tarter

  5. #5
    Artitst in Residence
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    Nov 2003
    Or as a friend put it...."Do you want to be a trumpet player or do you want to be a musician"
    Be sure Brain is engaged before putting Mouthpiece in gear.
    S.Suark 1951

  6. #6
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  7. #7
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    Northern New York
    To be a great trumpet player? No.

    To be a great MUSICIAN? Yes.

    Trumpet player: insert mouthpiece. Play right notes. Go home.

    Musician: Understand what is taking place around you and be a conversant, contributing member in the dialogue. Come away with a new understanding.

    I'll take door number 2, please. Even if I stumble and fall going through it.
    "Roses have thorns; shining waters mud. Clouds and eclipses stain the moon and the sun; and history reeks of the wrongs we have done. After today, after today, consider me gone."- Sting

  8. #8
    Piano User
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    Nov 2004
    Toronto Canada
    If you dont have some kind of classical training (like Arbams) then you are not going to have the basic training you need in order to play music as complex as Jazz or Classical. Geting your theorie down is crucial so you can develop your ear.

    Look at it this way, pay your dues and you can play your horn on a world class level. Be it Jazz or Classical. If you dont develop your ear, you have nothing.

    Work hard for what you want, and you’ll get it

    Martin Committee Trumpet, T3467RE
    Holton Heim # 2 Mouthpiece

    Rick AKA Trumpet Man

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