Issue: April-June 2010
Bandworld Magazine Page


15 Years ago in Bandworld
Even Young Trumpeters Can Play Low D's in Tune

by David Newell Bio
Vol.10 , #4, p.29 (March - April 1995)

It is a well known fact that low “D” (fingered 1st and 3rd valves on the trumpet) is quite sharp in pitch. It cannot be played in tune unless the third valve slide is extended approximately one half an inch. In spite of widespread knowledge of this fact, in actual practice only a small percentage of young trumpet players in school bands use their third valve slides on this troublesome note.

To anyone who has taught beginning trumpets in a class situation, the reasons for not insisting on the use of the third valve slide from the very first lessons are legitimate.

1. In all beginning instruction books, low “D” is among the very first notes that trumpet students are expected to learn, but beginning students have so many things that they have to think about—embouchure, mouthpiece placement, posture, hand position, breathing, tonguing, being on the correct partial, fingering, note name, note duration, and so forth. To add this refinement of using the third valve slide on “D” is simply asking too much.

2. On newly rented student line instruments, the third valve slides most often do not operate freely and easily. Students are too young and inexperienced to be given instructions on how to “work them in” themselves, and teachers of multiple beginning classes in different buildings don’t have the time to do it.

3.  Most important, however, the typical beginner’s left hand is simply too small to effectively push out against the ring on the third valve slide while playing, without introducing undue stretching, straining, and tension in the left hand, not to mention the probable jarring of the mouthpiece on the embouchure.

For these reasons, the use of the third valve slide on low “D” becomes one of those things “we’ll cover later.”

In many situations, unfortunately, later becomes much later. Not until the students are in a more advanced band, probably in their late middle school or junior high school years, are they typically asked to add this new idea of extending the third valve slide on low “D” (and, of course, also on low “C#”). But by now, old habits are thoroughly set. Students have literally played thousands upon thousands of these notes without using their third valve slides, and to be asked to do so at this late date becomes one of those things that is often easier said than done. It takes a great deal of concentration to now have to remember to do something differently on “D” than they have ever had to do before. Of course it is eventually accomplished in the best bands, but not without vigilance and constant reminding (or is it nagging in the students’ minds?) by the director.

An Easy Solution

There is an easy solution to this problem. Students can begin immediately playing low “D’s” in tune without difficulty. Teachers simply need to show their beginners two important and easy procedures before the students ever produce their first tones on the instruments: (1) how to “prepare the trumpet for playing” and (2) how to “prepare the trumpet for putting away“.