Issue: April-June 2010
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15 Years ago in Bandworld
Even Young Trumpeters Can Play Low D's in Tune (concluded)

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

Preparing the Trumpet for Playing

(1) Insert the mouthpiece. (2) Pull the tuning slide approximately one-half inch. (It was manufactured to produce an A 440 with the slide in this position). (3) Pull the third valve slide approximately one-half inch. (The first time this is done, the teacher needs to adjust the ring on the valve slide so that the left hand is comfortable, while still allowing just enough room to pull the slide fully closed for any note fingered 2nd and 3rd).

Preparing the Trumpet for Putting Away

(1) Empty all condensation. (2) Remove the mouthpiece. (3) Push the tuning slide in the whole way. (4) Push the third valve slide in the whole way. (Moving slides in and out daily ensures against their becoming stuck and immovable).

Once beginning students habitually “prepare their instruments for playing” in this way, the third valve slide can be ignored by the students for many months during performance, and low “D’s” will be reasonably well in tune. To be sure, all notes that are fingered 2nd and 3rd valves will be flat if the slide is not pulled in, but fortunately, these particular notes are seldom called for in the earliest pages of band method books! In almost all cases, D#/Eb and G#/Ab are the very last “new notes” in the books, and so students can literally experience months of playing before these particular notes become a problem!

When the first note that is fingered 2nd and 3rd is finally introduced, the students need to be told that “this is a bad note on the trumpet,” and they must fix it by pulling their third valve slides in. This in itself has an advantage for the young player. Of the two actions that the young trumpet player has to accomplish with the third valve slide, obviously the easier of the two is pulling the slide in rather than pushing it out!

This new way of thinking about beginning trumpet instruction has many obvious advantages. The most important of all is that during the first critical months, when young trumpet players are developing their ears and aurally memorizing where pitches sound, they will be hearing “D’s” that are much more in tune. One of the reasons it is so difficult to train students to begin extending their third valve slides on low “D” after two or three years of playing is that, after countless repetitions, they have had the wrong “D” thoroughly ingrained in their tonal memories. The out of tune, sharp low “D” doesn’t sound wrong to them, and so they don’t understand what all the fuss is about!

Additionally, because of the sequence of introducing notes that beginning instruction books seem to follow, the first time students are asked to actually move their third valve slides occurs significantly later in their experience, at a time when they have far fewer critical things to attend to all at once. And, the very first time students are shown how to finger a note that is 2nd and 3rd, the moving of the valve slide is taught as a part of the new fingering—it is not something that is added later! From day one, students are taught that they must pull their third valve slides in on this new note and they are, therefore, much more likely to remember it. Additionally, those students who occasionally forget will be more apt to adjust the slide on their own when they hear the resulting pitch. Young ears recognize flatness as being out of tune more readily than they do sharpness.

To summarize, what is being suggested here is that teachers of beginning trumpet turn their thinking upside down relative to low “D” and its problems. On the properly prepared trumpet, “D” is a good note and Eb is a bad one! Teachers who ask their young trumpet players at the beginning of every class to “show them their properly prepared trumpets” will immediately reap the benefits of improved intonation in their ensembles, and they will be developing trumpet players who perform with better pitch right from the beginning.

 

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