Once Works Well was pure technology. Now it seeks merely to divert.
Pansy subjects - Verse! Opera! Domestic trivia! - are now commonplace.
The 300-word limit for posts is retained. The ego is enlarged

Saturday, 27 September 2008

How I didn't fit the battle of Jericho

Trumpets work well even though this one is well past its sell-by date. The emotional content of the music is often directly related to the pressure on your diaphragm and this can compensate for a quarter-speed performance and increasingly shaky intonation as you climb the scale.

Note there are only three valves which might suggest that it is a good deal easier to play than the piano with its 80-odd keys or the violin which, theoretically, has an infinite number of stops. True in a sense. However, as things get higher the valves become less relevant as more and more notes are created by embouchure (lip tension) alone.

I was always drawn to the trumpet. Since I couldn’t read music I laboriously transcribed the fingering for simple tunes on to paper and then went down to practise in my long-suffering mother’s gloriously resonant cellar. I was even disciplined enough to play a whole octave of scales beginning with what I fondly imagined to be middle C (Open, 1&3, 1&2, 2, open, etc). Alas, when I tried my first (and last) duet with a piano and provided my middle C the pianist bluntly pointed out that it was in fact B flat. One of us had to adjust and it wasn’t going to be him.

I quickly reached the limits of my competence. I never mastered double tonguing (tacka-tacka) never mind triple tonguing. And I always had rhythm problems which manifested themselves elsewhere in my ability to dance a foxtrot to quickstep music. On the whole I was reduced to playing hymns which, given my attitude towards religion, led to a good deal of misunderstanding, especially in the USA.

My lip went years ago and this battered bit of tubing is retained out of pure sentimentality. I am quite prepared to join anyone who feels the need to create a Failed Trumpeters Club.

CODA (Two days later). In dwelling on my inadequacies I see I have failed to convey the sheer pleasure for me, a non-musician, derived from creating - however badly (though I always looked for improvement) - any sort of music. Lady is a tramp with its trickiness still unresolved after the fiftieth attempt was always worth the effort.


Julia said...

A trumpet is a wonderfully fun instrument because you really can translate energy into sound more directly than with a piano, violin or most any other instrument I can think of. And it feels like singing but with a big voice. I remember picking up a trumpet at a wedding one time, stepping on stage and just belting out a jazz lick. It was very late at night. But what fun. I haven't tried to play for years and it isn't the best instrument for a flat, but if we ever move to less noise sensitive quarters, I am definitely going to add one to our home orchestra!

Lucy said...

Looks like it needs a touch of Brasso, BB!

I enjoyed the Diafani Digest.

(That Julia's a woman of many parts isn't she?)

marja-leena said...

Strange, I've been told that the piano is the easiest instrument to learn, which is why it's the one usually taught at first, maybe because you can SEE each key. A different set of skills, using the mouth...

Barrett Bonden said...

Good grief, Julia, a genuine scoop! There I was imagining you to be a cerebral ├ętude-ish, Archduke-ish creature of the salons and you turn out to be a de-closeted Cat Anderson. What else do you do in your spare time? Design linear accelerators? Win marathons? Play bass guitar with a garage rock band?

Now you must - must - intersperse your brilliant graffiti photographs with stuff about music, stuff you probably think of as hum-drum but which we outsiders lap up. Pianos I have known, and why. How I practice. Personal temperament and the piano trio. And most of all - since you can speak as an expert - musical antipathies.

Lucy: The trumpet needs more than Brasso, while my lips need a transplant.

M-L: Physical effort (usually misdirected at the learner stage) makes a trumpet different. But ultimately it's much easier. No counterpoint for one thing.

Julia said...

I've always suspected that the piano is labeled easiest to learn because it is the easiest on other people's ears! It is useful to start with though, because then kids can hammer major minor tonality into their heads without having to worry about pesky technique messing up intonation.

Ya'll notice that I said late at night right? I've ventured into jazz only rarely, but enjoyed it when I did. More music to come though, I promise, it will be a nice challenge.

Avus said...

I, too love brass music - tried the trumpet once (borrowed), could not get the mouthpiece off so tried it in a vice (I was very young). The work needed to repair it cost me an arm and a leg! So did not progress after that.
I just sit and listen to Charpentier and Handel and just marvel at the clarity and triple tonguing.