Friday, October 01, 2010

Back to the future...

Among the many irons in the fire of late, I've been rekindling my knowledge of trumpet related things. I lent my grandson one of mine, and having not been able to play for the last 20 some years because of my teeth, I'm amazed at some of what's changed in two decades...

First was the band book he came home from school with...including DVD.

This week I've learned there are no truly "full line" music stores here! They can all order this or that and have it in 3 days, but don't expect to walk in and get a mouthpiece today unless it's the very basest average of beginner models. Not to mention that the prices out of New York have doubled, but locally they've tripled or quadrupled if you call around.

You used to be able to go buy 2 or 3 to try and return the ones that didn't work for you. You still can out of New York; up to 15 of them...if you have the credit card balance to cover them all.

Not locally!

When I lent my grandson a beginner trumpet (more a matter of smaller bore than quality) I lent him the shallowest mouthpiece I could dig up to go with it. My own, the jewel it took me years to find "back in the day" is much deeper and has a wider rim because of the lips my Dad used to refer to with an ethnic slur that still bothers me.

Dillon doesn't have that problem and what I lent him is a bit much to make it easy on him...

I finally came up with the Bach 7C last night, the one I should have sent with him the first day, 3 weeks later, stuck somewhere it shouldn't have been (like many things around here). If I could find one locally I'd also have him try a "10 1/2C" (even shallower, makes higher notes easier, better for "thinner" lips and smaller lungs).

In my on-line explorations and reading I've found out that some of the idols of my youth used a mouthpiece I'd never heard of, a "Parduba 'double-cup'" that has a shallow cup for upper register, but at the bottom of it is a 2nd deeper cup to allow more air to fill in the tone throughout the range. Louis Armstrong used one through the 40's and later. It also turns out that Dad's idol, Harry James used one from '35 on. James had grown up playing in his father's circus orchestras and the legend had it is that all the playing and practice were what had built his range and tone...

My hope (fingers crossed) is that I can try a pair of those and find one that will let me pick up the horn again and play enough to satisfy "the urge" without putting so much pressure on the porcelain bridge I've already blown up once ($2500 in 1989) that I have to replace it again! (Both times I begged the dentist for a full plate I could "glue" in, knowing many of the old-timers had made that work and was told that this was so much better an option. For eating, yes, it has been, but there is more to life sometimes...)

Even better is that, pending background screen and such, I have a job starting in a few weeks, so I should be able to order those and not have to feel guilty about it! Part-time, 3 days a week...I had hoped for 4 but we'll see how it plays out. They said if I survive the holidays I'll become a "part time" employee instead of "seasonal"...I plan on surviving!

Other things I'm finding that amaze me are the forums available on "the net" that cover instruments, technique and such, along with fully written out transcriptions of some of the solos I spent hours taking apart spinning 33 and 78 rpm recordings of...Dad would have really been upset had he figured out how many times I spun some of his old shellac discs before I got my first cassette recorder and wired it into an old turntable so I only had to spin them once and could then wear out the tape I made!

In the mid 80's, when I had that first "bridge" and started playing again I was still spinning 33's to play with because so much was unavailable on CD. I'm looking forward to playing with some of those now, as 33's changed pitch as they played, starting out flat as the needle rode the outside edge of the disc and slowly going sharp as they spun faster when it moved inward on the album. (Sadly, during that stint in the late 80's, I used enough pressure as I worked into the upper register that I snapped the steel posts out of the root-canaled teeth supporting that porcelain bridge and not only had to have it rebuilt, but now it has even less support than it did then.)

If I get my desktop running again (driver issue) I'll fire up Deezer and see what mp3's are like as well...

Having that outlet was always a means of expression that came many times it was much easier to "bend a blue note" than to find the words for whatever was bottled up inside me.

Through all these years, I've never stopped "hearing" the music "in my head"...hearing what I'd have played to solo or counterpoint any given thing at any given time. My fingers still run through the fingerings as my mind flies...

Perhaps letting some of that loose will make way for more practical things!

May the weekend be lovely and kind for each of you!