So many times I’ve wondered how a musician can interpret various kinds of music styles and sound genuine in all of them.
Being that one of my goals when I play music, my guess is a musician that has achieved it, really respects all music styles, even if he/she doesn’t like them.
Hard to do, but if we can’t get ourselves to respect a music style, how could we possibly get to play it and sound correctly?
Interpretation is on our hands. We are the messengers of Art. From us, is that the public hears it and hopefully will listen.
And that is another reason. A musician that achieves the goal of sounding genuine in many styles, is capable if listening, not just hearing.
Listening to the little but huge nuances that particular style includes. Understanding what it is that separates the great interpretations from the average.
Here are two somewhat complicated matters that I’m very interested in knowing your opinions about.
1) With all the improvements in technology, where almost anyone with little or no talent can sound like a million bucks after a lot of editing, I still think that recordings should sound like recordings and live should sound live. Is it responsible to keep blurring the frontier between recordings and live?
2) How much editing is enough? It’s almost a rhetoric question, but, should we see music at the same level as photography, where many people use Photo Shop to death? Don’t get me wrong, I really appreciate all that’s happening with technology and love copy and paste, but Shouldn’t we practice more and make sure we are able to play a lot easier the hard shit that we sometimes have to record?
Would this be a better world without politicians or without lobbyists that seduce politicians?
Would this be a better world without drugs or without the cowardly need to NOT see things the way they are and escape from them?
Would this be a better world without tuners or without the lazy attitude of not adjusting our notes?
Would this be a better world without record labels or without incompetent people that don’t know shit about music, but say they know what people want to hear, but don’t know that either?
Would this be a better world without gossip shows or without the need to make fun of our fellow humans and see their misfortune and bad behavior?
Would this be a better world without money or without the need to show every one that we have more than they do?
Would this be a better world without dumb people or without the “certainty” that we already know all we need to know?
Would this be a better world with only one language?
Would this be a better world without the attitude of seeing sports as a religion or without the attitude of seeing religion as a sport?
Would this be a better world if a burglar would have to think twice about breaking into a home, because there is 100% chance there will be firearms, people that know how to use them and if the burglar gets killed, that’s the end of it?
Would this be a better world if parents would unite again with teachers and allow the teacher to smack the trouble student and the parent would smack the son/daughter harder when he/she gets back home?
There’s more, but I don’t want to bore you, he he.
Maybe this will sound weird to some of you, because after all, Demos are an essential part of the Music Industry.
My viewpoint regarding this matter is that, when you get called to record in a Demo, you don’t play less well because it is a Demo. You play as usual. Also, you invest (or loose) the same amount of time recording a Demo than recording the official version of the song. Then, many times, when that Demo makes it in an album, the person who called almost crying and in a hurry to ask you to record the Demo, forgets about you. It’s happened to me.
So I decided many years ago that I don’t record in Demos for other people, at least not for a lower fee and definitely NOT for free. When I get called to do a Demo I charge the same amount as if it were the official album version.
Additionally, there’s not much need to use the full band live in a Demo, because the concept “Demo” includes the acceptance of bad instrument sounds and almost zero live instruments (al least from my perspective). The purpose of a Demo is to show the potential client a musical idea, a song or a production concept.
I know some of you have lived a few horror stories regarding this.
Many American musicians and Latino players that have studied in the United States cut off every Whole note on the down beat of the next bar (“Off on one”). While this gets the job done as far as making the horn section sound tight, there are instances in which “off on one” sounds bad because the next chord is a different one. After all, Latin music has a lot to do with anticipations and syncopation.
What do you think about this? Should “Off on one” be cast in stone even when it hurts the Music?
In every chart there are sections that repeat a few times, being the Intro, verse, chorus, etc. Recently I’ve observed that many arrangers and copyists are not clearly specifying how many times those sections are supposed to repeat.
It is true that if the section is to be played a total of 4 times, the first ending would have a “1. 2. 3.” and the last ending would have a “4.”
That’s all good, but when one is sight reading the chart, one needs as much help as possible.
It would be of great help to specify the total of times right at the beginning of the section. For example:
That simple “4X” could mean the difference between having everyone at the same place and the Band sounding like ass, because chances are that at least one guy won’t realize how many times the section should be played.
Quite a few guys have asked me what I think about using practice mutes. Knowing that many use them, I want to talk about my experience with them.
Every time I use a practice mute for LONG periods of time, it feels like “something is wrong” when I play without it.
More specifically, I experience the following:
1. I miss too many notes (3 or 4 out of 10)
2. It’s a lot harder to adjust the tuning of notes
3. It gets very difficult to perceive the center of notes before playing them (in any range)
4. My sound feels not centered (spread)
5. I feel a lot less available flexibility and a very rigid mouth
6. My use of air doesn’t feel right at all, because with the mute I can’t use the air normally, without breaking something internally (testicles maybe…?).
This represents a predicament for people who would have problems with neighbors or spouse if they practice without a mute, or for people who can only practice late at night or very early in the morning.
A possible solution could be to practice a smaller part of the “routine” with the mute and the rest using just the mouthpiece, covering the back-bore with a towel. It’s not a perfect solution, but it attenuates the sound (noise in this case) quite a bit and using the mouthpiece that way, is not as bad as using the practice mute for the full routine all the time.
I’m not going to recommend a brand of practice mute over the other. I have a few and all feel very similar.
I’ve seen some guys using a Cup Mute to practice and even though it attenuates less and probably won’t eliminate problems with the neighbors, is a lot more efficient for these purposes and less dangerous for your chops.
Hope this helps.
I’ve received quite a few emails and comments regarding one of the recordings that I did during the ’90s, when I recorded trumpet for a lot of Merengue productions. The comments talked about a particular CD being their favorite as far as the sound of my trumpet: “Me olvidé de vivir” of Toño Rosario. That got me thinking and it blew me away when I realized the following:
In that CD I played with considerably LESS volume than my normal playing volume by the time and indeed, my sound came out a lot clearer, bigger and better in every aspect. Food for thought for those times when we want to play louder than Life itself.
Don’t use your age as a an excuse for anything. If you are “young”, don’t think you’ll be the same age all your life. The way you treat your old now, will be the way you’ll be treated by the younger as you grow older.
If you are “old” you should know that there are “old” people that become Legends.
If you are young and market yourself as “the new”, and because of your age you think that you’re better than the rest of the Planet, when a few years go by, you won’t be “the new” anymore. There will always be someone younger than you. The only thing you should be doing is your job the best possible way and not talk so much about how your young age qualifies you to be working right now.
I’m 43 years old and remember when I was the youngest in every job that I did. There are videos of shows that I played when I was 15 (of course, there are people that have started much earlier than that). I started recording professionally at a very young age, when the line between a studio musician and a band member was very clear. I don’t remember treating any older guy with anything that was NOT respect. I always kept my mouth shut and did what I was told. Learned a lot that way. Today, I keep learning a lot, even though I’m now the oldest or one of the oldest in every job.
To those of you that have realized that the clock keeps moving for everyone, congratulations. To those of you that think that because you have certain age you’re now “old”, don’t think that you don’t deserve to work or don’t deserve the good things in Life. In Latin countries, the old don’t get much respect. I’m not sure how the old are treated in the USA or Europe. In Asia, apparently, the old get a lot more respect than in other continents. If you think that you’re old (even if you are only 30), I challenge you to know that experience gives you things that youth alone can’t give you. Enjoy Life!
Those that make noise saying that they’re young, will come to realize, maybe too late, that age doesn’t have much to do in this business. When you put the horn in your chops, what’s important is what comes out of the bell.
Let’s always look for excellence and when we get it, let’s not think that it is because of our age, it is because of many ingredients combined.
Always forward! Good luck.
Most trumpet players want to be or become a Lead trumpet player. There even are situations where two players arrive to a gig and both want to grab the Lead book. You can see them almost arguing over that. That’s nonsense! Funny that in this case, the guy who doesn’t get to play the Lead book can make life absolutely miserable to the guy who “won” the Lead book this time.
Hence, the 2nd trumpet player’s importance. The attitude and aptitude of the 2nd trumpet player can make or break the Lead trumpet player’s work and that’s why that chair is one of the least understood and probably, the most underestimated of the section.
My favorite chair to play is the 2nd trumpet chair, really. But for that, I absolutely need a consistent and accurate Lead trumpet player. Otherwise, I’ll never know where to release my notes or where to step on the gas to help him or where to let go to let him “sing”.
If I’m playing Lead, I expect my 2nd trumpet player to be on the lookout for my life (my chops) and help me when I need him to be there for me. I need him to follow my releases, my breaths, my vibratos (sometimes), the length of my drops and MOST importantly, I expect him to NEVER overpower me. I can play pretty loud, but many times I choose to play with a quality, projecting tone, strong enough to be heard by the whole band, assuming they are really listening (which is a different topic).
There are many aspects to this and I only wanted to open the door for a discussion on the topic. We all need and want to play in a great, balanced trumpet section. That’s not always attainable because of the lack of knowledge and the abundance of some Super Egos out there. That said, it is possible to sound awesome as a section no matter who is playing with whom.
The second trumpet player is a very valuable asset. Treat him well. He can kill you, he he.
Ahhh. The eternal question… What mouthpiece do you use? For many years my answer to that question should have been: “Whatever someone recommended this week”. I was an expert in switching mouthpieces very often. Sometimes every week, sometimes twice a month. If I missed a note, got tired or just sucked in a gig or rehearsal, I always felt it was the mouthpiece’s fault, not mine! I thought that if I couldn’t play well that day, was because the mouthpiece was too small, too big, too shallow or deep, or maybe too shiny. My fixation with finding the holy grail in the mouthpiece department, didn’t let me own up to the fact that it was always my fault. Yes, my fault, for switching so much that I was not letting my chops find the way to play better with whatever mouthpiece felt good and right. I was looking for perfection in the feeling of my chops and trying to find a mouthpiece that would allow me to play a double C and also sound well in a brass Quintet. There is no such a thing.
What we can find is the right tool for the job at hand. It is not a sin to use one mouthpiece for Lead and another for Jazz and yet a third one for Legit. It is not a sin! Use your logic and don’t be stupid. Use the mouthpiece that feels and sounds good on that playing environment. Don’t kill yourself trying to play Lead in a 1C and don’t sound like an ass in a brass Quintet trying to play a 10E. Keep it simple, practice with all the chosen mouthpieces and don’t suck. Please, make music.