How do the valves on a trumpet work?

Despite the trumpet having been around (in its various forms and guises) for a few thousand years, it may surprise many people that the development and addition of valves (the buttons to change notes) to the instrument didn’t occur that long ago, with the early versions dating from approximately 1825.

Adolphe Sax

Regardless though of who actually should be credited with the honour of inventing the valve as we know it today, one thing is certain and it is  that the addition of piston valves to brass instruments –in particular the cornet and trumpet – allowed the instrument to increase the extremely limited range of notes it could play.

Prior to the advent of valves, when performing the music of Purcell, Handel and Bach, certain adaptations were made to the Natural or Baroque Trumpet to enable modifications to keys and pitch, such as the addition of crooks – which were additional lengths of tubing to change the pitch or Harmonic Series (see below) available to the player – or the addition of holes (similar to a recorder) in order to improve intonation and make certain notes more “listener friendly”. There was still however a massive gap in the range of notes that the instrument could deliver. 

The next major development was supposedly from Viennese court trumpeter, Anton Weidinger who is reputed to have invented the keyed trumpet in 1770. This instrument was the catalyst for Joseph Haydn writing his much-loved Trumpet Concerto in Eb Major for Weidinger in 1796 and revolutionised what the Trumpet was capable of performing. The instrument however was to have a short lifespan, as due to its design flaws the tonal quality was deemed too unsatisfactory.

A Military Bugle

Playing the Bugle would be the equivalent of playing the modern-day trumpet with no valves pressed down (open valves), and a relatively experienced player would expect to be able to play a pattern of 5-7 notes (called the Harmonic Series) i.e. Bottom C, G, Upper C, E, G, Bb and High (Double C) as shown below. 

No valves pressed down (Open valves). Stomvi “Elite” D/Eb 3-valve Trumpet

The method of securing these notes is a separate blog in itself, but for now we’ll keep it simple and say that as the notes get higher, the player adjusts the air velocity by buzzing their lips faster.

The Harmonic Series (Open/no valves)

So back to the trumpet and the use of valves. When pressing the 2nd valve down, the air is diverted through a small length of tubing attached to the side of the valve, making the initial note sound half a step (semi-tone) lower. Therefore, this creates a new pattern of notes (or Harmonic Series) and instead of Bottom C, G, Upper C as above, the new series of notes is: Low B, F# (F sharp), Upper B, D#, F#, A, High B.
The slide attached to the 1st valve is the one closest to the player’s mouth and is twice the length of the 2nd valve slide, so when pressing down the 1st valve, the notes descend by 2 semi-tones (a whole tone). This creates the following Harmonic Series of Bb (B flat), F, Bb, D, F, Ab and High Bb.

Still with me so far? Good!
The 3rd valve slide is the equivalent in length to both the 1st and 2nd slides combined, so now you’ve a Harmonic Series 3 semi-tones lower and the ability to mix and match i.e. any note played on 1st and 2nd valves can also be played on 3rd only, facilitating “cheats” in difficult passages of music or when trills (a form of ornamentation, moving from one note to another rapidly) is easier to play on a “false” fingering.
You can then take the combinations further, with 2nd and 3rd valves; 1st and 3rd valves and finally 1st, 2nd and 3rd.
As a result, your Harmonic Series now looks like this:

The Harmonic Series using all valve combinations

For those of you who are one step ahead and thinking of the 4-valve Piccolo Trumpet from a previous blog that I wrote Why are there 4 valves on certain trumpets?, the 4th valve is used to add further notes to the range of the instrument and it can also be used instead of 1st and 3rd for better tuning and intonation, plus using it in combination with other valves, again facilitates an easier life for the player in certain tricky passages of music.

A 4-valve Piccolo Trumpet (Model is a Stomvi Elite) (Instrument Pictures courtesy of Paul Fears Photography

I hope that this has demystified “the valve” a little and given you a better understanding of how any valved brass instrument works. Thanks once again for reading the Music for You blog and would love some feedback from you in the Comments Section, including any future topics you would like to read about.
For further information about Andrew Jones, please visit my web-site.

Mind games. Musicians and mental health.

In my last blog “What’s the point?” I discussed the dilemmas and motivational issues I was negotiating with, regarding maintaining a regular and meaningful practise regime throughout this Covid-19 pandemic.

Over the last few days, I’ve seen other musicians posting on social media that they were putting the instrument back in the case and waiting for things to show signs of returning to normality, before they started thinking about getting “back on the horse” and doing some serious practise once again.

For me that isn’t an option, for a number of reasons. Firstly, my sanity – I need something worthwhile to do! Secondly, I actually enjoy playing, albeit that playing at home is not the same as being alongside other musicians in that team environment. Finally, I need to maintain my core skills and technique. I’m not one of those “natural” players who can let it go for a few weeks and then pick it up as if it was yesterday.

So imagine my frustration, nay panic. Yes, PANIC, when things aren’t going at all well. I’m not talking about clipping a top C a couple of times, or not being able to play that tricky passage in the Allen Vizzutti Etude in that God-awful key that involves the third valve more times in one bar than you’ve played all year! I’m not on about an “off day”, where the chops are a bit bruised and battered from an over-enthusiastic session the previous day on the D/Eb Trumpet and carelessly omitting a proper warm-down afterwards.

No, this is when day after day for the last week or so, I feel my “chops” aren’t responsive at all, the tone is thin and airy, the range is non-existent and pieces that you enjoy playing sound like a proverbial zoo on fire! Yes, I warmed up properly each day. Yes, I played lots of long notes quietly. Yes, I accept it can’t sound perfect every day, but no I can’t accept that it can be consistently this dreadful for so many days on the bounce.

This serious confidence “wobble” all coincides with the recent push within the brass band movement by Tabby Kerwin regarding mental health awareness and at the same time, a friend – a string player – mentioning on social media, that he was dealing with nerves whilst performing.

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The Three P’s – Tabby Kerwin

Ask any musician and they will tell you that the demands of any performance are 50% physical i.e. the core skills and mechanics of performing the music and 50% mental, namely dealing with the stress, nerves, anxiety which then however causes physical problems affecting the mechanics, such as breath control, tremors or shakes, sweating etc. Some will disagree on the percentages, but all will agree that the mind has a very strong bearing on the successful (or unsuccessful) outcome of any performance.

To keep things simple, I’ll generalise and call the affliction “nerves”. Whilst nerves (in moderate doses) are a perfectly natural condition prior to and during a performance, in excess these can ruin perfectly good musicians and can reduce the most competent performer to a gibbering wreck in a very short space of time, if not dealt with immediately and correctly. It only takes one “off” performance or a few unguarded comments from another person to sow the seed of doubt in an individual, before those gremlins start their evil voices of self-doubt in your head and you enter a downward spiral of catastrophic proportions.

So for me, when the gremlins do rear their ugly heads every now and again, I revert to Howard Snell’s fabulous book “The Trumpet”, which has a Chapter dedicated to “Anxiety Control”. He prefaces the section as follows “For many players, the control of anxiety seems virtually impossible. As they see it anxiety represents an impenetrable barrier to achieving full realisation of their talent. In most cases the use of straightforward routines will comfortably control anxiety.” He goes on to advocate a number of methods and techniques which can tackle nerves/anxiety head on and shows that with a controlled approach, you can overcome this and you will prevail. The quote below certainly caught my attention!

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The Trumpet – Howard Snell

“When anxiety is an habitual problem for a player, it is futile to say that more effort, discipline and hard work are needed. While these attitudes are essential to building quality playing, anxiety needs to be dissolved rather than confronted. Habitual anxiety points to imbalances within the player’s overall approach. Realism, mental balance, patience, persistence and awareness are the key attitudes.” Howard Snell

Mental health issues are far more at the forefront of peoples’ minds nowadays, including musicians. There are many ways to address any problems that we might have, including Alexander Technique, yoga, hypnosis, Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) and a whole raft of publications, however talking to other musicians sometimes is just as effective and helps highlight that it’s not just “me” struggling to overcome issues. My friend the string player drew a number of friends and colleagues into the conversation and it was surprising to see how many people were admitting to having their own personal battle with anxiety, in ts many guises.

For me, this period of chaos is a blip. A brief hiatus where things aren’t going well. At least I very much hope so! Thankfully, I don’t suffer from stage anxiety (touches wood!) and my current issues are home-based, however it wouldn’t take long for it to morph into a bigger problem. It’s happened before and perhaps a couple of days off and a few binge-sessions of CSI New York or The Yorkshire Vet will give me some rest and space to clear my head and bounce back, as if nothing was wrong? That usually works. As Mr.Snell says “Realism, mental balance, patience, persistence and awareness are the key attitudes.”

If you have an “issue”, remember #itsgoodtotalk – get things off your chest, you’ll be amazed how much support and resources are available out there to help you with this!

Here are just a few links that may be of some help to you:

Tabby Kerwin: Mode for Publishing

Charlotte Tomlinson Performance Coach 

Howard Snell The Trumpet

Excerpts from “The Trumpet” (It’s Practice and Performance, A Guide for Students) by Howard Snell (published Rakeway Music) kindly authorised by the Author.

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The Trumpet. My greatest pleasure …. and my greatest enemy!

Thanks for reading the Music for You blog. I hope you’ve enjoyed it and if so, please feel free to share. Stay safe and stay healthy!

What’s the point?

It’s sounding a bit of a cliche now, but these are truly unprecedented times. Not only for me, but for millions of people all over the world. The Covid-19 (Corona Virus) pandemic has affected us all in ways that we could never have imagined possible and has made us re-evaluate the things that are truly important in our lives.

A quick trawl through my social media channels has highlighted the very best and also the very worst traits of the human species. These have ranged from kindness, bravery and self-sacrifice to selfishness, arrogance and sheer idiocy. We have suddenly become virtual prisoners in our own homes – that is if we’ve been true to Government guidance about self-isolating and social distancing – with boredom and a lack of freedom to do what we want, when we want to and where we want to being the major focus of our lives. Unless you count stockpiling ridiculous amounts of toilet paper sufficient to deal with a worldwide dysentery a major worry!

Thankfully during this period of virtual lock-down, Mrs. Wife and I have been perfectly safe and secure here at “Trumpet Towers” – with sufficient (but not excessive!) quantities of pasta, tinned tomatoes and loo rolls to keep us away from the shops. She is an avid reader – a book a day is not uncommon – and I have my music to keep me going. Thank God for my music!!!

It’s funny how music always ends up being the “uniting force” or “glue” that brings communities together and puts a smile on peoples’ faces during times of adversity. Footage of residents in Italy (subject to lock-down) standing on their balconies and singing was broadcast all over the world and my friends at the Cory Band featured on national television, when their players recorded remote individual recordings of “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”which were was then skilfully combined to make a complete band performance online, which vent viral (no pun intended!) overnight.

For musicians, whilst there is no replacement for performing together in public to an audience, or in a rehearsal, there is great comfort and satisfaction still to be derived from playing or singing at home on one’s own. Granted, it’s not the same, but it does fill the void and those endless monotonous days pass with less pain and angst, than those who don’t have a meaningful and fulfilling pastime to fall back on.

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Tools of the trade (Stomvi and Eclipse Trumpets)

So despite having my music – this saving grace, my refuge, my mental and spiritual sanctuary – this week having realised that I’d missed 2 consecutive days of blowing my trumpet, I had a moment of real full-on “what’s the bloody point?” The mind goes into over-drive. “I’ve got plenty of books waiting to be read, the attic needs clearing out and that box of archived memorabilia and “stuff” desperately could do with a sort out. Why bother practising? I don’t have any gigs in the book, there are no rehearsals I can attend, I don’t get paid to practise. Why should I bother?” So I didn’t and binge-watched “Murder 24/7” on Sky Crime or something similar.

The following day, having maxed out on my TV fix and now being thoroughly conversant  with Police custody procedures, forensic techniques and how much of a mug’s game crime actually is, I had a large reality check and got that Trumpet out for my daily parp.

Why? Because I realised that life without my music, in whatever form it takes – group, individual, home, abroad, practise, performance – is just a part of me. The period of no gigs and not being paid are (sadly) part of the territory, even when there is no pandemic to worry about. Indeed if musicians charged clients for the work “off camera” and “behind the scenes” in terms of preparation and maintaining standards we’d all be blinking millionaires. Imagine a builder excusing themselves from the family viewing of “Sound of Music” on Christmas Day to go and lay a few rows of bricks because they need to keep their hand in, as they’re building a wall on Boxing Day!

That said and done, it’s what we do, it’s who we are and it’s what makes us tick. Therefore by writing this blog, it’s been a cathartic experience. I’ve answered my own question really! The point is …… because we’re musicians and we love it!

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The Phil Dando Big Band Trumpet Section in action.

So the next time you ask a musician how much they charge for performing at a Wedding or to provide music for a Corporate Event, you’ll know that the fee doesn’t just cover the 3 hours the musician will be at the engagement, or the travel time and costs, or even to purchase the music, to arrange that special tune you requested or for buying that very shiny Trumpet. The cost reflects a lifetime devoted to the pursuit of excellence (I’m still chasing it incidentally!) and maintaining those extremely high standards, rightly expected by clients but demanded of the performers themselves.

I hope that all of you stay well and safe during these strange and difficult times and look forward to that first rehearsal or gig, whenever that may be.

Car Practice

Needs must! Martini practise session – “Any time, any place, anywhere”

5 Trumpets and a Flugel Horn

Following on from my last post, where I shared a recording I made of Thomas Morley’s  “It Was a Lover and His Lasse”, here is another track, but from a totally different era.

This one will be instantly recognisable to many of you (especially of a certain age and generation), however the title may well be unknown and l can almost hear the cogs whirring as you try to remember where you’ve heard it from. To find out the answer, you’ll need to read the programme notes at the bottom of the video.

As for the arrangement, it was done by a colleague and friend of mine, Mike Linskey, who I met when I was a student at the Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff (way back in 1985-89). Mike ran his own brass quintet and was a real whizz at arranging an assortment of pieces for the quintet and I asked him to arrange this for a Concert I organised at the College with my Trumpet Ensemble. He scored it for 6 Trumpets, but I added a little extra colour with a Flugel Horn on the 6th part, just to give an added bit of tonal contrast.

Flugel Horn

As always, thanks for your continued support and I hope that you enjoy it!

Click here to view the Video

It’s been a while – to say the least! – since I last posted. Life has been extremely hectic and often things gets in the way of projects that we plan to carry out.

During this period, I’ve been trying to fulfil certain goals and among these goals was a project to record some further music tracks of Trumpet repertoire, both solo and ensembles. If truth be known, it was a bit of a vanity project, however there was a serious aspect to it too, in as much that during the quieter periods of work, one needs to keep playing standards to the highest levels possible and not lose focus on maintaining core skills, such as technique, stamina, range, as well as the ability to swap from one instrument to another.

The track entitled “It Was a Lover and His Lasse” is by English Renaissance Composer Thomas Morley (c.1557-1602), who was Organist of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London and one of the foremost composers of his time, particularly in the writing of Madrigals. It was recorded by James Clarke at Ty Cerdd Recording Studio, at the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff.

I hope you enjoy it!

For more information about Andrew Jones, please visit http://www.andrewjonesmusic.com

 

Who is your favourite Trumpet player of all time?

It never ceases to amaze me how people can differ in their taste and opinions of everyday things and this is certainly no exception when it comes to choosing your favourite trumpet player.

It got me thinking, how do you decide who your favourite is? Is it based on sound alone, is it interpretation, style, phrasing, technique, or a heady mix of all of them? And what would be the spread of votes between A and B or between X and Y?  There are so many different categories and sub-categories of trumpet players that you could compile endless lists of too e.g. classical, jazz, soloist, orchestral, big band, commercial, chamber music etc. etc.

My list is unashamedly self-indulgent and based on my favourite classical solo trumpeters. Whilst I’m sure many of you will have your own thoughts and question the inclusion/omission of certain Illuminati of the  trumpet world, these are just 10 of the many amazing musicians that have inspired, educated and brought us so much pleasure through their performances over the years.

Thanks for taking part and perhaps you’d like to comment why you made your choice.

Music for You – it’s just that!

Music for You is owned by trumpeter Andrew Jones and can be contacted on +44 (0)7973 869621.

Taking the plunge with an unknown quantity?

Booking a person or company that you’ve never worked with before is a real minefield, particularly when it comes to musicians for special events or occasions. Perhaps this testimonial from a recent client will reaffirm and convince you of Music for You‘s ability to deliver a quality service, when it’s most needed.

Music for Parties Celebrations

“Dear Andrew. From the first time that I rang you, until you left yesterday, you conducted yourself with so much respect, dignity and professionalism. Please never let that change. It was a pleasure to deal with you. I had every confidence that you would perform well……… I can’t thank you enough for performing, what was such an important thing to me. It was my last personal tribute to my Dad. You did an old Veteran proud.”

KR – Last Post (Salisbury).

There, convinced now? If so, please either fill in the enquiry form below, or call Andrew on 07973 869621 to discuss the musical requirements of your event. Music for You – it’s just that!

Why are there 4 valves on certain trumpets?

I often have to remind myself that many of you who read my Blog are not brass players, but you show a great deal of interest in what I do and also are curious to know the workings and origins of the equipment that I use on a day-to-day basis. As a result, one of the frequent questions I get is “why does that trumpet have 4 valves?”, so for this Blog I’ll try to demystify that topic.

Stomvi “Elite” 4-valve Piccolo Trumpet

Following the invention of piston valves in the second half of the 19th Century, there were many ongoing attempts to develop and improve what valved instruments could achieve, musically speaking. Whilst the addition of valves meant an increase in the number of notes attainable, there was still a desire to try to further increase the range possible on the instrument and perhaps more importantly, to improve the intonation (tuning) on certain “sour” notes, that were proving problematic. These would certainly include low D, D flat and C sharp below the stave

So how does it all work? Well, the 4th valve essentially removes the need to use the often problematic 3rd valve, with a selection of notes given below.

No fancy notation software here I’m afraid, just my wobbly hand and trusty pencil!

The D is normally played on 1st & 3rd valves. If you then think, 1+3=? Yes, it’s as basic as that! You now play D on 4th valve. The same goes for the low G.

Db (D  flat) & C# (C sharp) are both played 1,2&3, but alternatively you now play on 2&4.

The low F (required for Baroque works such as Handel’s “Let The Bright Seraphim” and “The Trumpet Shall Sound”) falls outside the natural range of the standard 3-valve instrument – F# being the lowest note, therefore a 3-valve Piccolo Trumpet in A would be of little use for these 2 particular pieces and the performer would have to resort to using a D Trumpet – not the choice of the vast majority of players, I suspect! With the 4th valve, it is possible to get the F natural, by playing 1&4. Result!

Stomvi “Elite” D/Eb 3-valve Trumpet

So,with the advent of the 4th valve, players now have a viable option that makes life easier, not just in an intonation and tuning sense, but also in facilitating tricky passages and also giving certain notes a better tone quality. For example, playing a D on 4th valve sounds more “open” and “free” than when played on the conventional 1st & 3rd valves. As an example, C-D trills are much easier i.e. rather than open-1st & 3rd, you play open-4th valve!

The 4-valve instruments are not just restricted to the trumpet world however. 4-valve flugel horns have been around for years, however it is now possible to get Bb Cornets and Eb Soprano Cornets with 4 valves, courtesy of Spanish instrument makers Stomvi. A notable flag-bearer and ridiculously talented exponent of the Soprano is the Cory Band’s Steve Stewart, who was playing on one, when I was guesting at a rehearsal with them the other night. It was fascinating watching (and hearing) how he utilised this 4th valve to maximum potential!

 Stomvi 4-valve Bb Cornet

If you’d like to try a 4-valve Stomvi instrument, contact Mark Carter at Mr. Tuba or call +44 (0)1633 871506 for further information.

For further information about Music for You please contact Andrew on 07973 869621.

A lovely testimonial from a satisfied client

I received a lovely testimonial from a client yesterday:

“My daughter and I recently asked Andrew from Music for You to assist us by playing the Last Post at the funeral of her father. Andrew’s performance was phenomenal and was a great tribute to a proud ex- paratrooper. We received so much praise for Andrews contribution to the service, and feel he helped to make it truly memorable. Andrew is an amazingly talented and sincere person, and I would not hesitate to use the services of Music for You in the future.”

Nice to know when you get things right.

For further information about Music for You and the “Last Post” or music for any event, please call Andrew on (07973) 869621 or e-mail andrew@andrewjonesmusic.com

Trumpet Voluntary. The most well-known Wedding Processional music – ever?

The Trumpet Voluntary must be one of the most performed pieces at Wedding Ceremonies all over the world and yet there is a lot of confusion as to its name, its origins and its composer.

Firstly, it wasn’t originally written for the Trumpet, but as a March (or Processional) for the Organ and would have been performed using the Trumpet stop, to create a distinctive sound. It dates to around 1700 during the Baroque period.

Secondly, it was originally attributed to English composer Henry Purcell, however this is also incorrect and was actually composed by his lesser-known compatriot, Jeremiah Clarke, who in his own right was an accomplished musician and was organist at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.

The next bit of confusion stems from the title of the work “Trumpet Voluntary”. This was a popular style of writing, therefore the title was often used and trumpet players even today have to be careful that people get to hear the correct Voluntary when asked, as there is also a very popular one by John Stanley (sometimes also referred to as Trumpet Tune).

Just to keep people on their toes, the final bit of confusion lies with the fact that the piece has not one, but two recognised titles. “Trumpet Voluntary”, is also known as “The Prince of Denmark’s March”! Confused? Don’t blame you, but if you use the latter title, most competent and experienced musicians should know instantly which piece you are referring to!

The sound clips above and below will hopefully help sort the confusion, but I’m sure you’ll agree both works are great pieces of music regardless.

 Probably the most famous Wedding to feature this music, was the Royal Wedding of 1981 when HRH Prince Charles married Lady Diana Spencer.
It’s not just weddings though that have featured Clarke’s evergreen work. It has been used by an eclectic mix of musicians and performers, including the Beatles, Sting and Peter Sellers to name but a few.
If you would like to make your “Big Day” extra-special and have Trumpet Voluntary performed at your Wedding Ceremony, then please call Andrew on 07973 869621 or e-mail me at andrew@andrewjonesmusic.com to discuss things further.
Music for You – making Weddings memorable!”