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Trumpet Discussion Discuss Small Hands -- Change to Cornet? in the General forums; Hi again, still Liz. I was pleasantly surprised with the response I got with my last question about air flow, ...
  1. #1
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    Small Hands -- Change to Cornet?

    Hi again, still Liz.

    I was pleasantly surprised with the response I got with my last question about air flow, so I expect this question to be a pretty straightforward one and likely even easier to respond to.

    When I first began playing the trumpet, the band director at my grade school asked me what I wanted to play, so I said trumpet. He tried to convince me to go for a cornet, but I adamantly refused. Needless to say, I had no idea that the cornet was just a mini-trumpet, so to speak.

    All right, so now I'm a junior in high school, with the same trumpet, and a few months ago my private trumpet teacher finally decided to get me to shape up and fix my trumpet-holding posture. Apparently I'm not alone in just having picked what was most comfortable and calling it good, because many of my teachers have ignored this issue.

    So I've been struggling lately to adjust to the correct way with my left hand -- which involves actually bothering to use the third valve slide. At first it sounded simple -- just remember to use it! And I get that just fine -- but my hand won't let it be that simple. I'm a small person for my age, 4'10 as a 16-year-old, so I still have small hands. The correct way to hold a trumpet is not comfortable for me at all, and although I will bring it up with my teacher the next time I see him (August or September, probably), I was wondering if any of you could tell me how common it is for this sort of thing with a person who has small hands. Everyone I know who is a trumpet-player doesn't even use a cornet -- does its structure create any differences in sound from a trumpet? Or would I really be better off getting a cornet after all?

    The actual problem with the grip of my left hand is that when I extend my middle finger (pushing the 3rd valve slide out), I lose my grip on the trumpet (it's left up to my poor index finger to hold) and it tips sideways. Is there something that I'm probably doing wrong? Or is it more likely that a trumpet is just truly not my size?

  2. #2
    Forte User mike ansberry's Avatar
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    The cornet is a conical instrument, meaning that the tubing gradually gets bigger all the way through the horn. A trumpet is basically a cylindrical instrument, meaning that much of the tubing is the same diameter. A cornet gets a more mellow tone than a trumpet.

    I'm not sure how switching to a cornet will help the left hand problem. The valve cluster is about the same size, I believe.
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  3. #3
    Pianissimo User mattdalton's Avatar
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    Apr 2005
    Newcastle, WA USA
    Liz -
    If I read this correctly, you have the middle finger in the 3rd slide ring. So my first suggestion would be to try using your ring finger instead. That may not agree with your teacher's recommended way of holding the trumpet, but everyone is different and there is no single "proper" way to grip the trumpet.

    Have you seen the ITG Youth web site? There's an article there entitled "Get a Good Grip On Your Trumpet!" that I'll bet will help you.

    If you can't find an alternative grip that works well, as a final resort you might have the ring position (assuming it's not adjustable) moved by a good instrument repair person.

    I really think this is a fixable problem, and that you'll be enjoying the trumpet even more very soon. Best wishes!
    Matt Dalton

  4. #4
    Pianissimo User connloyalist's Avatar
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    May 2006
    I agree that you should try to use your ring finger. Heck, I even sometimes use my left pinky.

    It is unfortunate that instrument fashion these days dictates that adjustable 3rd slide rings are only for student level instruments and that if you have an instrument with an adjustable 3rd slide ring it is therefore not a professional ("serious") trumpet. This wasn't necessarily so in the past (All Conn cornets and trumpets from the 1960's had adjustable 3rd rings up to and including the top of the line 38B Connstellation; exception: 80A, it didn't have a 3rd slide ring).

    As to your original question: a cornet wouldn't help. The valve block would be closer to your face, but the valve block on a cornet is the same size as that of a trumpet, as is the distance to the 3rd slide ring.

    Regards, Christine

  5. #5
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    Switch to cornet because of small hands? Nonsense! the valve ass'y of a cornet is the same size as a trumpet's.
    If you want to buy a cornet, buy one - you don't need to rationalize it.
    I learned long ago that we do not have to apologize for our possessions.


  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Deecy
    Switch to cornet because of small hands? Nonsense! the valve ass'y of a cornet is the same size as a trumpet's.
    If you want to buy a cornet, buy one - you don't need to rationalize it.
    I learned long ago that we do not have to apologize for our possessions.

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  7. #7
    Forte User Eclipsehornplayer's Avatar
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    Sep 2005
    Metro Detroit
    I agree with most of what's been said above...

    The valve body is no smaller on a Cornet usually so I don't think that solves the problem.

    I would say to hold the horn however you are comfortable! How you hold the horn should not adversly affect your playing.

    As long as you can operate the 3thd valve slide your good.

    I use my ring finger for what it's worth.

    I have the opposite problem, as a 6'3" 340 Lb man I have large hands so I often find the valve block to be constrictive.

    My .02

    good luck!
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  8. #8
    Banned Pianissimo User
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    May 2006
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    It is entirely possible to have a reputable repair man remove the 3rd valve ring from your horn and add a marching band lyre receiver in its place which also doubles as a 3rd valve ring recepticle, thus making the 3rd valve slide adjustable for your hands.

    I have a Buescher Super 400 cornet (pro horn) which has this feature.

    Hope this helps.

  9. #9
    Forte User nieuwguyski's Avatar
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    Aug 2004
    Santa Cruz County, CA
    I sometimes play with a fellow who has small hands. He plays a Bach Strad trumpet with first and third valve triggers, special ordered from the factory.

    I have an old Selmer trumpet with a factory first-valve trigger and a third-valve trigger that was obviously added later. The workmanship on the third trigger is a bit rough, but it works well and is operated by a lever that's very close to the third valve casing. I can imagine this layout would be very usable for someone with small hands. Here's a pic:

    J. Notso Nieuwguyski

  10. #10
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    Heh, I don't know why I didn't even realize it right away -- that the valves would be just as thick as a trumpet's! Well at least this is easier to fix than spending precious money on buying a smaller instrument just for that reason.

    And yes, my trumpet is equipped with an adjustable 3rd valve ring that can be replaced with a lyre during marching season. =) It's just a student Yamaha, but other than it's cumbersome weight, it's not too shabby.

    Thanks for the help, everyone.

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