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is it me or the horn?


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TrumpetVine
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Joined: 16 Jun 2019
Posts: 3

PostPosted: Tue Jun 18, 2019 12:51 pm    Post subject: is it me or the horn? Reply with quote

Hi everyone,

31 year old comeback player here. Just started yesterday. Some background: I used to play first chair in high school concert band, 2nd in jazz band. I couldn't play lead due to my limited range (first ledger line A above the staff was my highest reliable note). I'm sure my issue was embouchure/strength/endurance. I never took lessons outside of school, although with bands + class I was playing around 10 hours per week. I had a good tone, a good ear, and an extensive music background (classical pianist), so I got by.

Fast forward to the present: despite knowing better, I decided to buy a cheap Chinese pocket trumpet, with the intention of purchasing a good quality trumpet once I'm sure I'll be sticking with it. I figured the cheapo pocket trumpet would come in handy in the future anyways during travel/holidays when I don't want to lug the full sized horn around. And if I didn't stick with it after all, at least it wasn't too much money down the drain.

So, I received my horn yesterday. And I am shocked and appalled at how terrible I am. I can achieve an acceptable tone once I stabilize on a note, but I'm slotting notes all over the map (e.g. hitting 4th space E instead of 3rd space C by mistake...or worse...bending notes and hitting something in between). My attacks are imprecise, and I feel like I'm slipping all over the place. In general, playing is quite effortful. I'm having flashbacks to when I started in 6th grade and 3rd space C felt "high". However, even back then, I don't remember having difficulty "finding" notes that were within my range like this.

I am really unsure of whether the problem is the horn, playing on a 7C mouthpiece (which I haven't done since middle school), or my lack of chops. I suspect it's a combination of all three, but if the horn is just unplayable it would be good to know. I don't know any trumpeters that could give me some insight by trying it out themselves... In terms of the trumpet, the valves and slides are functional and oiled/greased. There seems to be good compression and no air leaks.

To clarify my question: does my description match what any of you comeback players experienced on decent quality horns? Is this just what I should expect after 15 years away from the instrument? Or is the pocket trumpet the problem? I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences.

Thank you!
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JayKosta
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 18, 2019 1:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I suggest visiting a music store that has used trumpets (or new) for sale and try them to see if there's a difference from the pocket trpt.

And maybe do that AFTER a few more days of practice - things might start to work better with a little more 'lip time'.

Jay
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OldSchoolEuph
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 18, 2019 3:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I remember reading somewhere that after 7 years or so, every cell in the body has been replaced. I'm a bit skeptical about that, but I do think that after so long, your body will have changed to the point that everything will be different and the muscle control will need to be relearned. Take a close look at a high school picture - how much has your face changed?

That being said, inferior instruments drive more prospective players away before they even really start than anything else. I have no idea if what you bought is playable, or the musical equivalent of tieing a cinder block around your waist for swim class. You need to know the answer to your post, and the only means for that I can imagine is either the opinion of capable players regarding that horn, or securing access for a while at least to a known decent one.

It's normal to struggle at first. But how hard it is to improve can be drastically influenced by the viability of the instrument.
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TrumpetMD
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 18, 2019 3:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

TrumpetVine wrote:
To clarify my question: does my description match what any of you comeback players experienced on decent quality horns? Is this just what I should expect after 15 years away from the instrument? Or is the pocket trumpet the problem? I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences.

Short answer is "yes". I started playing again about 10 years ago, after a 10-15 year break. At first, I couldn't do much at all. Don't hurt yourself by trying to do too much too soon. I started playing 15 minutes at a time, softly, and nothing above the staff.

OldSchoolEuph wrote:
I remember reading somewhere that after 7 years or so, every cell in the body has been replaced.

This is true of certain cells, like epithelial cells, which are in a constant rate of turnover. But it is not true of muscle cells and nerve cells. These cells can evolve, as your body develops. But they are not replaced and cannot increase in number. And once they die off, they're gone for good.

Mike
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pinstriper
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 18, 2019 5:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I took a short 33 year break before my comeback. I spent a weekend blowing soft longtones and lip slurs just trying to get a recognizable sound out of the horn.

You are one day in. Talk to us next week. Or the week after.

Some of the cheap chinese instruments are perfectly cromulent instruments, but it is a bit of a crapshoot.

But even the bad ones will make trumpet-sounding sounds for a few months, even if they don't play well in tune with themselves or solder joints start popping 9 months from now.
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JetJaguar
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 18, 2019 6:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Cheapo + pocket trumpet is a double curse. you might want to send it back and if you still don't want to spend much on a new full sized horn, the Jean Paul seems to get good reviews. wwbw.com has some student models, as does Austin Custom Brass.
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delano
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 18, 2019 11:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don't agree. There are different types of Chinese pockets. The ones with the small bell (something like 3.75 inch, about 95 mm) play very difficult, too much resistance and weird slotting. But there are also a lot of cheap pockets with a bigger bell (104 mm, some even 123 mm) and they play quite good.
I own an A&s ATR 200 pocket which is a regular Chinese but under German name with a 104 mm bell which plays quite good, even the valves are not bad (and with life-long guarantee!).
These little horns tend to be mouthpiece sensitive, a deeper mp seems to play better. Up to now the best results I got with a Yamaha 14D4 and a Yamaha 14F4 flügel mp with a Bob Reeves adapter. Even a cornet mp + adapter could be an option.
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OldSchoolEuph
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 19, 2019 3:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

pinstriper wrote:
But even the bad ones will make trumpet-sounding sounds for a few months, even if they don't play well in tune with themselves or solder joints start popping 9 months from now.


If you don't mind investing about 200 bucks in wall art for your porch or garage, sink $65 into a new lacquered brass (at least that's what it is labeled) Oswal trumpet, and the rest into an Allora Aere plastic trumpet. You will reconsider that stance.

(and I wouldn't trust either of the mouthpieces that come with those against my chops)

It is hard enough to try to begin learning to play (again), without an unplayable horn preventing you from recognizing when you are doing something right. Don't know if that's the case with the OP, but if it happens to be, this will not end well.
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Eliot
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 19, 2019 3:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oh boy! I can empathise totally with the original poster ...

I've been playing again, now for just over six months after the best part of 20 to 25 years away from the horn - no real reason to practise! It's been hard work with what I remember to be an easy to play horn and mpc.

About two months ago I changed from a 7C mpc to a 3C ... instant improvement in effort to get the notes above the staff (and that with the 3C being noticeably deeper and wider than the 7C).

Next I picked up from Paul Mayes (on Utube) the importance of long notes, "sighing" and slurring. Changed my warm up to ten to 15 minutes of 1) the initial sigh 2) the long C below treble clef, then slowly slurring, with long notes, up (and down) the scale (C or chromatic - getting up to G above staff during this warm up atm) one note at a time.

Eventually the trumpet is easy to play - took the best part of three months for any degree of "ease" to be noticed even with better than an hour of practise each day (sometimes up to two hours). Now it's "all in the head," ie, confidence.

Perseverance and practise will eventually start paying dividends.
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John Mohan
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 19, 2019 6:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

To the OP:

You're not going to instantly recover what you had decades ago, but that said, it sounds to me like you need to ditch the cheap pocket trumpet (as someone else said, that's two strikes against you) and get a decent horn. If you've got less than $500 to spend, find and buy a used Yamaha YTR2330 trumpet (they're available all over the Internet). It's a student model but it plays fine (I'd feel comfortable playing a show on one). If your budget is in the thousand dollar range, a used Getzen Eterna or a used Benge (3X or CG model), or even a used Bach 37 or 72 Strad would be doable.

And if and when you're ready for more than internet forum help, I've given lessons to many players ranging from full time professionals to comeback players, all with great results. Example:

https://www.trumpetherald.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=456958

Best wishes,

John Mohan
Skype Lessons Available - Click on the e-mail button below if interested
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pinstriper
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 19, 2019 7:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

OldSchoolEuph wrote:
pinstriper wrote:
But even the bad ones will make trumpet-sounding sounds for a few months, even if they don't play well in tune with themselves or solder joints start popping 9 months from now.


If you don't mind investing about 200 bucks in wall art for your porch or garage, sink $65 into a new lacquered brass (at least that's what it is labeled) Oswal trumpet, and the rest into an Allora Aere plastic trumpet. You will reconsider that stance.

(and I wouldn't trust either of the mouthpieces that come with those against my chops)

It is hard enough to try to begin learning to play (again), without an unplayable horn preventing you from recognizing when you are doing something right. Don't know if that's the case with the OP, but if it happens to be, this will not end well.


I didn't say I advise the path, but he's already gotten it, so he's already past that. He asked about whether his Day 1 difficulties were normal after so many years off. I think for a few more days the answer is "yes". It's not like he bought a kazoo.

Even a terrible instrument, that plays terribly, should work better than as described.
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jondrowjf@gmail.com
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 19, 2019 7:48 am    Post subject: pocket trumpet Reply with quote

Yes it will take sometime to learn to play this instrument. Do you have any other mouthpieces to play?
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RickC.
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 19, 2019 12:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Congrats on coming back!

I've been playing a month after a 38 year layoff, so I know your struggle.

My main "getting back on it" horn is a non-descript King student trumpet loaned to me. I'm about to head to the UK for a couple of weeks and did not want to lose momentum, so I bought a pocket trumpet and a practice mute to take on the trip- Mendini brand.

Neither of them are anywhere close to the Bach Strad I sold many years ago, but they're not bad overall.

The pocket trumpet- I lapped the valves with Flitz and replaced the valve springs with Yamaha springs (6 bucks and change on Amazon) and that has helped the valves, which were pretty sluggish. Blue Juice seems to be slicker than the Bach valve oil I had.

As far as playing is concerned-- I am not seeing any problems with it. I don't know what the respective sizes in bores are between the two horns, but I can certainly feel more resistance with the King trumpet. The pocket horn sounds more cornet-ish to me, but it's not a bad sounding little horn. I keep the first valve slide out about 1/4" and the 3rd valve slide out about 3/8" and it plays well in tune, which is a welcome surprise.

The biggest issues I have with the pocket horn is it can be hard to hold, and it sure fills up with spit in a hurry!

But the playability is really pretty good- it's more fun to run through Clarke studies with it than with the King student horn.

The biggest challenge I have found so far is the change in chops-- as in: I used to have some. Now, I don't.

When I put the trumpet down in 1981, I was playing on a Schilke 15C4 that had been bored out by my trumpet instructor in college. I feel like my whole face falls into a 15C4 now. After a very short safari, I've settled on the ubiquitous Bach 10 1/2C for now. The tone is different from what it was years ago, but this is the route I am taking for the time being.

My verdict on the pocket trumpet I have: It's a fun little horn and will work well for the reason I got it. I don't think it's holding me back or causing any problems, once I got those valves working more smoothly. I'm totally starting over-- and it is weird to mentally know what needs to be done but not physically be able to to it!

Best of luck to you—and though some may fly into a fit over this— Kurt Thompson’s comeback player course is excellent. I recommend it.


Rick
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BGinNJ
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 19, 2019 12:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

What kind of trumpet/mouthpiece did you used to play?

Get one of those.

While the muscle tone of your chops will take some practice to come back, you brain will remember how to play more easily if you present the same stimuli.

Even a good pocket trumpet takes some getting used to when you've been playing- a cheap one will be harder because they are stuffier and out of tune.

If you're concerned about cost, if you buy a used strad for 1000-1500, you'll be able to sell it for what you paid if you don't stick with it. Spend $200 on some Chinese thing, it will be worthless. Spend $200 or less on a Holton T602 or similar, you'll be fine.
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TrumpetVine
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 19, 2019 12:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wow, thanks everyone. I am very surprised to see so many responses! I really appreciate everyone's perspectives. Lots to think about. I'm going to try to get my hands on a better horn, at least temporarily. 😊
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RickC.
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 19, 2019 2:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

One thing I might suggest is that playing those Cs and Es might be pushing it a bit for the first day back. Maybe even the first 2-3 weeks.

From what I am seeing with my own comeback playing-- and I don't know if this is typical, I'm the only comeback player I know... it won't take you as long to get into that range as it did when you were in middle school/jr high band, but don't expect it immediately.

As for your attack-- yeah, my tonguing was pretty bad (which is a surprise- you don't forget how to do that, right?) but it's improving.

As for the 7C, I only played on one for about a year back in the day- but both of these horns had them so I thought I'd at least try them-- while I find I can pretty easily get a focused tone with them in the middle range, for me they are just as uncomfortable as I remember them being. I never thought I would want a smaller mouthpiece than that, but at this stage the 10 1/2C seems to be filling the bill. Maybe I'll head back to a bigger mouthpiece down the road, I don't know.

So yeah, maybe get what you played on before and see how well that works for you. I -can- get a decent tone with my 15C4 on some notes, but I struggle with clean lip slurs and tonguing- with the 10 1/2C I nail the exercises more often than not, and things I struggle with on the bigger mouthpiece are not that hard for me on the smaller Bach.

I'm only about 5 weeks ahead of you (after a much longer time away), but I'd say give yourself allowances to outright suck for a while. It's hard to hear yourself sounding like a 5th grader when you used to be able to play this thing, but you won't stay there long.
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jondrowjf@gmail.com
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 19, 2019 6:10 pm    Post subject: Cleaning the pocket trumpet Reply with quote

If you haven't already; clean the inside of your pocket trumpet is probably very dusty. Give it a bath in warm water for at least an hour. I use dawn dish detergent. When finished rinse out the trumpet. Then soak the snake, valve brush, mouthpiece in a isoprophyl solution. Clean the lead pipe, valve block, clean the valves using q tips on the holes, end of valves, bottom caps wipe down the valves with the alcohol solution. Basically any part of the trumpet you can reach with a brush.

Consider using another mouthpiece than the one provided by the pocket trumpet maker.

With a few trumpets, it took me three times to thoroughly clean and free up the stuck slides.
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Heim
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 19, 2019 6:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

pinstriper wrote:


Even a terrible instrument, that plays terribly, should work better than as described.


Not necessarily. Some horns are as bad as the OP describes.
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50YrComeback
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 14, 2019 10:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Little late jumping in here - Have been off the forum for a bit.- I started up after 50 yr break 9 months ago - you are about a month in, so you are probably making a little progress. RE: MPC, equipment - If you can make a nice, relaxed clean buzz sound on your MPC and easily manipulate the pitch, etc., and the instrument still sounds bad, maybe the instrument - It took me 3-4 months before I had a good sense of what I was doing and 6-7 months to accomplish the above with the aid of some quality instruction. My range, endurance, breathing and reasonably relaxed playing gradually evolved but it was helpful to have some direction.

I, like many others, assumed it was the MPC, the horn, etc. After a couple of months struggling to hit F above middle C, I handed my horn to my teacher, Jim Manley to prove it must be the horn. He stuck in his MPC and belted out double high C's on my horn like they were nothing. Handling it back to me, he said "hey man, the notes are in there, you just gotta let yourself find them". Haven't found anything close to Double High C, but can I slide fairly easily from the lowest of pedal tones to A/Bb above middle C without changing my set-up and that covers most things I need to play although I am wanting to add to that. Kind of like the golfer that says he would be happy if he could hit it 200 yards off the tee and when he hits that he says, "you know, if I could just hit it 215, 235, 250, etc. etc."

Good luck!!
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robcs
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 14, 2019 5:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

My experience matches others here.

I started playing again in Feb after 25 years of not playing. I still had my old horn and mouthpiece, so I can make a direct comparison.

Initially when I restarted, my tone sucked, my slotting was all over the place, I'd lost flexibility, and my range was ridiculously narrow. That went away pretty quickly once I started doing strenght an flexibility exercises. Even simply doing scales helped.

So, yes what you're experiencing can be explained by "being out of shape".

But don't discount the effect of the trumpet.

My old horn was by no means a bad one. The Jupiter is a solid instrument and I played first chair in a number of concert bands with it.

But since I traded up to a Strad my playing has taken off. 25 years ago, I couldn't have tackled some of the pieces I'm doing now. My range and above all technical abiity have soared after just 4 months compared to where I was back in the 90s.

If you know you want to get back into playing seriously, then start now. I'm not saying go out and drop a few grand on a Strad or a Xeno (although a 43 went on Ebay yesterday for $500! I'm still kicking myself for not picking that one up), but try a decent horn to give yourself a chance to figure out how much is you and how much is the instrument. Grab a B&S Challenger, which is comparable to a Strad but half the price. Or finance it: I got my Strad on 12 month finance. It was in brand new condition, but it was an instrument the store had taken as a trade in, so I saved $1000 off the new price.

Alternatively, if you want/need to control budget, get a chinese trumpet from one of the retailers who bring them into the country then do all the work of making them play properly. Personally, I haven't used Trent at Austin Custom Brass but I've heard nothing but good things about the ACB trumpets, so give them a try.

Or rent something decent from your local store. The store where I bought the Strad offered to let me rent a new one for a couple of months, and if I wanted to keep it they would credit my payments against the cost. I didn't take them up on it because I got the "nearly new" Stard instead, but that would have been my Plan B.
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