Claude Gordon at 1979 International Trumpet Guild



Claude Gordon 1979 conference lecture

Introduction by Dr. Charles Colin

I’d very much like to preface this the credits of Claude Gordon by making mention that the last year at the New York Press Conference for Scholarships we were honored to have had Claude Gordon who gave a most remarkable lecture and it was so effective that William Vaciano asked personally if Claude wouldn’t come back the following day and do it again and extend his lecture and that I think that is kind of a badge sort of approval.

Claude Gordon has a whole list of credits here that are quite unusual. He’s an author, a composer, teacher performer and a consultant with the Benge Instrument Company. He studied with Herbert L. Clark in his youth for ten long years. I think that is absolutely remarkable for any man to have this kind of a very close association with Herbert L. Clark. I know of nobody else in the industry who has ever had this privilege. For 35 years he was a first call studio trumpet player in Hollywood California and was on the CBS staff in Hollywood for 12 years. He has recorded for all the major recording companies and during his tenure as a lead trumpet player and soloist he played with all the major name bands in the 1940s. Some of his many skills as a conducting some of the top T.V. shows, stage shows, movies. Another one of his skills he’s an airplane pilot who owns his own airplane. So when he has to travel from place to place he uses his airplane. In 1959 he had his own band on the road. He fronted his own band and it won the best new band in America award. He’s author of many books that are used throughout the world in Russia especially, Australia, France, and Italy. One of the books is called the Claude Gordon Systematic Approach to Daily Practice. It’s published in both in base clef and treble clef the publisher is Carl Fisher. It’s an excellent, excellent book as a publisher myself I highly recommend it. As a follow up to his book there is The Physical Approach to Elementary Brass Playing another winner. And of course you know the Clark’s Technical studies number two. Claude has an edition of the bass clef on that one which is also a very valuable tool. He is one of the busiest trumpet teachers out on the coast. And students from all over the world come and study from him. They check into a hotel or motel and stay for considerable lengths of time for his expertise as a teacher and a trainer. His students hold positions in some of the major orchestras throughout the county. In about a week or so from or so from now June the 24th he will have his own brass camp which has been going on for quite a few years in Santa Cruz up in the mountains area, south of San Francisco. A very unique place I think it is one of those YMCA camps where all the students get together and they have a rap session like 24 hours a day. They eat sleep and drink trumpet with their teacher which is a wonderful way of getting zeroed in to right habits. He’s developed the Claude Gordon model Benge trumpet and the mouth piece. I think that our recording engineer is going to play one of Claude Gordon’s recording’s before I bring him on. Would you please put that recording on [5:05 begin music]. This is called “The Brass Man’s Holiday”.

[ 7:14 music ends] Wonderful that is something else. [applause] Last but not least Dr. Harold Himes has loaned to us one of his students to assist him in his program and this young chap is Rick Valenezuala. He’s a 15-year-old boy from the Mountain View High School from Mesa and I now take the pleasure and privilege of brining on Claude Gordon. Mr. Gordon please.

[7:55 applause]

[8:10 Claude Gordon] Thank you very much! Certainly a pleasure to be here in fact I want to say there are so many great names here today that I couldn’t begin to repeat them. I was just talking to Frank Kaderabek out in back and many of the professors. I’m not going to try and repeat everyone because then if I leave someone off I’ll feel terrible about it. But it’s a marvelous experience for me to stand here in front of so many great artists that we have. It’s really a pleasure and also to mix with so many of the people who have the exhibits upstairs and it just goes to show you the attitudes of the people what a great business that we are really in.

So great! Now there is one gentleman though that I am going to mention and he was a great inspiration to me over years and still is. I think one of the greatest examples of business trumpet that probably has ever been around. Still a great player a marvelous guy.  Manny are you here? Manny Kline? Okay now I want to tell you a story about Mannie because I can’t go on without telling it. What a wonderful people trumpet players are. We are really in a unique group of people. When I first went to Los Angeles I was oh, 19 years old. When I went into Columbia I was about 25 and I was early at Columbia and my wife got very sick. It was the birth of our 2nd boy and the doctor called me that morning and he said, “I don’t want you to get upset he said but we’ve got real problems and she may not make it.” and he said, “In a case like this we very seldom save both of them. He says we might be able to save one of them.” And as a youngster that was a very traumatic experience and I had to go do some shows that day. It was too late to get substitutes so I talk to the doctor and he said, “Look the best thing in the world that you could do is go play your shows.” He says, “You’re not going to do a thing and we are going to do the best that we can.” So I went and played the shows. When I got done I rushed home to see if there were any phone calls or anything. Just as I got in the door the telephone rang. And the voice said, “Claude?”, and I said yes? And he said, “This is Mannie, Mannie Klein”. And I was very thrilled because Manny had been an idol of mine for many years. He said, “Listen, I just heard about your problem with your wife.” and he says, “You get down to that hospital where you belong.” and he says, “I’m going to cover every show for ya and it is not gonna cost you a dime either.” And that’s just the kinda people that you have when there’s great trumpet players around. So I’d like have, I think we should all show our respect to Mannie of all people.

11:11 [applause]

And now to get on with what we are going to talk about. I’m not here to play for you. And I’m not going to play for you today because we have so many fine artists anyway that you don’t need that, but we are going to talk trumpet and I do think we do need that because trumpet players are some of the most victimized people that exist. Now not because anyone wants to make them victims but because of themselves. In their constant looking for something that is going to play that piece of pipe for them. That big secret that might crop up some day and they get high notes with it. Always constantly looking for that. It’s like the truth of the matter is that trumpet playing is not that hard if a person wants to work that hard and develop. Herbert Clark made the statement years ago, “Trumpet playing is no harder than deep breathing.” Yet, someone took issue to that remark fairly recently and in an article he said, of course he quoted him and then he said, “of course this is a great exaggeration.” It is not an exaggeration, “Trumpet playing is no harder than deep breathing.” But these kind of remarks and many that go along with that kind of thing can confuse the young trumpet player to such an extent that it may hurt his entire future. Here’s an article that I’d like to mention. It was in a magazine, a national magazine. I won’t mention the author because you all know him anyway, a very respected player. It’s a marvelous article. The title of the article was “New Techniques for the Trumpet” and it reads as follows, “When I listen to the famous trumpet players of the early 20th century, I begin to wonder if my title should end with a question mark. In terms of range George Swift seemed able to play up to double high “c” at will. When Krill plays a variation of the Carnival of Venice with the melody in the pedal register I listen in disbelief. I need not discuss these great virtuosos’ flexibility or technique in both of these areas most of today’s players struggle to equal their accomplishments. Even though three quarters of a century has elapsed.”

Well doesn’t it seem so strange that these old timers played so marvelous? And yet three quarters of a century later we are struggling to equal those accomplishments? It shows that there is something wrong somewhere. And then a marvelous article bringing out some the marvelous characteristics of Bernie Glow, in New York came out in the New Yorker, and in there it stated, “That the trumpet seems to be an instrument designed for shear torture.” And I’m certain we can all relate to that especially after years, you notice some of the young players, year after year after year with no seeming improvement. They get a high “C” and their eyeballs are out to here. They turn red and purple, that is torture! And yet they keep at it at it. Something about the trumpet player he won’t give up and he keeps on and on.

Some of them end up in the psychiatrist office and of course the psychiatrist can’t help him he’s not a trumpet player. But they go. I know several that were under psychiatric care because of their frustration over making that piece of pipe work. Then there is the youngster that comes up to you, he says to you, “I’ll do anything, I’ll do anything to be a great player.” Well what he means, anything unless he has to do a little extra work. Maybe if he has to go hungry or if he didn’t have a place to sleep at night. Like one teacher had a student he called right at the time of the lesson and said, “I can’t make my lesson” the teacher said, “Why?” he said, “Well my mom’s not here and she has the car. So I can’t make it”. “You only live five blocks down the street. But he didn’t want to play enough to make that lesson if he had to walk 5 blocks.

The parents are a big problem. If anyone needed to be taught about music and musicians it’s the parents. You know the attitude, put that little toy away now and go do something constructive. You’ve played long enough today. I had one student’s mother tell me, “You mean to tell me you are going to drive all the way across Los Angeles and pay $40 for a lesson? There’s a teacher right down the corner for $3 and that’s just what he got a $3 teacher and they wonder why does he struggle. Why can’t he play that little thing?

I have a student right here in Phoenix. He hasn’t missed a lesson in five years. He drives all the way to Los Angeles every two weeks. He’s doing very well. That’s the kind of fellas that make trumpet players. The parent’s attitude about instruments, I had a student and he needed a trumpet very badly. I found him a beautiful old French Besson. It just happened to be a great instrument. I could have gotten it for him for $250. It didn’t look very good it needed lacquer. There was some solder in place. But it was an excellent instrument. His dad said, “$250 for that?” He says, “There is one right here in the music store window for $60.” And that’s what he got. Those stories go on and on and on.

Did you know that the greatest examples of what happens in all musicians of the great artists? For example, the finest cellist I ever saw business cello was the principle cellist of Columbia Fritz Metz. Maybe some of the old timers remember. He learned to play cello back in Berlin. Now this was before World War II. Berlin was a big city and this fellow was a little shaver. They’d get up long before daylight strap a cello on his back and he’d walk the entire width of Berlin. Very poor family. He’d have his cello lesson and when he’d finish he’d strap the cello back on his back and he’d walk all the way back home. Getting there long after dark. The story of all the great artist run about like that. Herbert Clark, what a wonderful man he was. His dad didn’t want him to play trumpet. His dad was the church organist in the church. He said, “You’re not going to play trumpet because if you do you will get into bad company.” [Laugh] But Herbert was going to play. So he went up in a little town Massachusetts. He got himself a room up above a corner grocery store. Just a little town grocery store. In order to pay for that room, they let him sweep out the store, at night after every one was gone. He’d sweep out the store, clean it up. The room was a bare room it had a bed and a wash stand. That was it. And that’s where he lived and practiced and went hungry, got sick and lived and practiced. That’s how much he wanted to be a great player.


Myself I’m going to have to tell you a little about that. As I came to Los Angles I was a scared little kid that came from a little town up in Montana. Los Angeles was awful big. I had five dollars in my pocket and my new wife with me. That’s it.  I checked into a hotel because if you had bags they’d let you in. They didn’t have credit cards in those days. Then if you didn’t pay your bill they’d keep your bags. I’m not gonna tell you how I checked out because that wouldn’t be a good example to follow and I don’t think you’d get away with it anyway. But, my wife and I slept in the car night after night. To eat one time, we had a quarter we had 25 cents. We went down to a place called the Three Point Buffett. Meals were advertised for 25 cents. It was our last 25 cents. It was the last good meal we had in a while. We got the one meal and split it between us. And from then on we lived on oatmeal. You know you get oatmeal in the little Quaker Oats they still have it, the same thing. We had oatmeal three times a day with water. Now that’s how much I wanted to be a player. Fortunately, my wife was a marvelous person and she never complained. That’s is important if you’re going to get married young because if you don’t you might not end up a player. Too many times now people will tell you don’t be a musician, it’s a bad business, it’s dangerous. Like one time I was doing a clinic I guess there must have been 4-5 hundred in the audience and one of the professors got up and said can I ask a question and I said certainly. He said how many trumpet players in Los Angeles? I haven’t the slightest idea I never counted them. And he said how many would you say and I said I dunno. Well maybe a thousand? I said okay maybe. He said how many of the thousand make a living playing their horn? I said I don’t know that either. But I’ll guarantee you one thing everyone that plays his horn works if he wants to. I don’t know one fine player that was out of work. Not one. Everybody that plays his horn works. In fact, if you play it well enough they will come after you.

I started playing professionally when I was eight years old. They used to stand me on a chair like this, play solos you know had a lot of fun. Never worried. It was just great. Since then I’ve been playing professionally for 54 years. Outside of the time when I went to Los Angeles and struggled to learn I have yet to be out of work. I don’t think that’s a bad business. And it just makes me boil when someone says “don’t be a musician your taking a chance. If you want to be a musician be a musician. It’s a great business. In that time, I found out that everyone that stays with it who will overcome the obstacles, not give in until he gets out of that average class and gets to the top and when he does will find out there is plenty of room at the top. There is plenty of room at the bottom too.  It’s in the middle where it’s crowded. That great expanse of mediocrity but if you want to work at it anyone can be a great player if he wants to work as hard as the one that is the great player did. There is no mystery to playing trumpet.

When I was a youngster I had that desire. Boy that’s all I thought about one driving desire to be a great player.  It dominated my whole life and I practiced all the time. In fact, I over did it! I over practiced. Someone said how much did you practice? About 25 hours a day. I never stopped. I’ll never forget, I never thought of getting another job just in case I didn’t make it. You hear that a lot nowadays. You haven’t got time to get to the top in two professions. And the minute you say you’re going to get something else for security you’ve already made up your mind you are not gonna make it. There is no room for negative-ness in this business. Stay away from negative people all they do is bring you down to their own negative. I can’t wait to get up in the morning these things are just marvelous. There is so much to do I wish I could turn back the clock and start all over. I’d do it better this time. There is no reason to be negative. Be happy and you’re never going to climb up twice. So enjoy it the first time. You’ll never do it again.

I’ll never forgot my first cornet my dad bought me. A little cornet he got it for if for $5. Looked like a blacksmith made it. I wish I would have kept it really.  In a wooden box. I thought that was the greatest thing I had in my life. When I went to bed at night that horn was on the pillow next to me and when I got up it was the first thing I got was that horn and I was blowing it. When I took a shower it was in the shower with me. I literally lived with that horn. I just loved it. I didn’t worry about doing anything else that was my fun recreation everything.

The way I learned to read was kinda interesting. My dad had a 40 piece orchestra in the theatre. He took me by the hand one day, Just a little fellow about that high. He set me in the trumpet section and he says, “follow the part”. That’s the way I learned to read. Someone said play an “a”. What’s an “a” I don’t know was. But if you put the notes there and the fingers I’d know how to finger. It wasn’t a bad way to learn to read either because I became a reader before anything else. Then in high school I started to play dance music. You’d thought I committed the mortal sin. My teachers jumped on me. You know all the big bands were starting and it was very exciting. They said if you keep on with this we are going to lower your grades. They did. I got a “c” From then on. I never got above a “c” in music. Yet I played all the concerts. Never played any different. Everything they did but I never got a “C”. Then they went to my parents. They said, “You gonna let him do this? This horrible thing? He’ll never have anything he’ll never have a family, he’ll never have a bank account, a home he’ll be the drunken bum on main street”. I cannot get over the picture that the American people have about musicians. It’s terrible and you know who’s the only one who’s going to do anything about it? It’s the musicians. You’re not going make ‘em understand anything. Like if we look like a bum they will treat us like a bum. I got a kick I went to one of the big schools in Los Angeles to hear their spring concert. Well they’ve got a multi-purpose room where they did the concert. You sit in wire chairs. The lights go down. I well maybe it’s not gonna be too bad but I couldn’t help thinking all they could find was a multi-purpose room. Outside is a thirty-three million dollar stadium for the football players. The musicians get a multi-purpose room and many of those musicians are going to play. I think that is a little unbalanced. And this goes all over the country. Up in Oregon I went to a school. They had one band director and he had teach part time math. They had 13 full time coaches. I think that’s a little out of balance and the only ones who’s going to make anyone understand it is ourselves. But when this orchestra came out on the stage I couldn’t believe it. The first guy walks out he’s got a red sweatshirt on with sweat stains clear down to his waist. He slumps out on the stage like this. The next one comes out he’s got jeans. This is the spring concert. They’ve been working all year for this. It went on and on. The drummer came out and he sat down at the drums and his jeans came up he didn’t have any socks on. He had tennis shoes with a hole in the side. And his ankles looked like he’d been out working in the mud. Now what kind of an image are we going to give with that. My trash collector came by yesterday. He’s got a uniform on.  Looked excellent. We’re no different than the doctors, the lawyers, the attorneys so why should we act different? But the people aren’t going to know it unless we let them know it. So they’ll put down the musicians and we are the only ones who are going to stop it. Sometimes in order to get to the top you have to ignore the advice of your best friends.


But I started to take lessons about that time. Now one interesting thing I played pretty well. At 8 years old I had a good playable high “f”. Why? I don’t know. I just played and I loved every minute of it and I couldn’t wait to play a performance somewhere but then I thought well I better start taking lessons. There are a lot of things I don’t know. So I went to a very fine cornetist. I’ll never forget that first lesson. I’m standing there playing something out of Arbans. All of a sudden he said, “DON’T DO THAT” Gosh I jumped a foot. I said don’t do what? He said, “GET THOSE CORNERS TIGHT! I never heard of that before but I did. He said “GET YOUR JAW OUT, stick that jaw out.  Okay I did and I was a good student I worked hard I went back on that for months. Got those corners tight got my jaw out. Strange thing I didn’t have my high “f” anymore. But, boy I could keep those corners tight. This went on and on and on.

Now something happened. I started to worry. I had never worried before. Now before a job I think gosh my lip going to be alright. Now I get in the mirror. I don’t know what I was looking for. Now there is someone out there that’s got a mirror that you can clamp on your horn and look at your lip. What in the world are you going to see and if you saw it what would you do about it? [laughter] Time went on I still study I mean I kept taking lessons worrying more. Boy time went on I was 18 I was so confused I hardly know which end of the horn to blow out of. Every trumpet player who came through town I’d go talk to him. How do you do this how do you do that? Well try this, try that always try this try that. No one ever said ever that’s the way you do it. I asked one fella how do you lip trill? Oh man that was such a beautiful thing. In those days no one seemed to know. He says like this? He lip trilled. I knew he could do it. I asked him how he did it. “Like this” and that was the instruction. My goodness by the time I was 18 I had embouchure from here to here, I had embouchure from here to here. I played every way you could imagine. More confused than I’d ever been and I’d been making a living for the past number of years.

I had learned one thing though and it is really good because it has helped me out with many students. I learned every wrong way to play that was ever devised. Every way you couldn’t get, we used to read every article that came out in downbeat. Like one guy said you want to get a good grip? Take a wood wrath rough up your mouthpiece it’ll work better. All I got was a bloody mouth out of it. [laugher] But we tried it. We tried everything. There was a bunch of articles fortunately. Young trumpet player from Chicago, Lindy Kao at that time Lindy sent me a whole bunch of articles that came out of some of those magazines. I’ve got them someday if we could get by without getting sued I think we should republish them just for laughs. You can’t imagine the things that came up. Turn your lips out. From here. Everything imaginable. And in that time I learned that it’s hard to play wrong. It’s torture and it’s hard. It’s hard to play wrong but it’s also easy to play right. And that’s what I want to get at today. I am constantly amazed at the mass confusion that exists about making that piece of pipe play and that’s all it is is a piece of pipe. No matter what else you think about it it’s a piece of pipe to the player. There is nothing that is going to make a sound or do anything for you. You’re the one who’s going to have to do it. [34:47]

This idea that only the gifted can play. The natural. How much have you heard about your lip since you started to play trumpet? I’ll bet more than anything else. Like they say, what happens if a fellow plays really poorly? What do they say? He’s got bad lip. If he plays really good what do, they say? Say he’s really good what do they say? He’s got a good lip and if he’s great they say he’s got a natural lip. Did you ever see an unnatural lip? [laughter] I never have. I wouldn’t know what in the world it looked like. And yet this constant talk about the lip, the lip, the lip.  Always there is more written on the lip than anything I’ve ever seen. We have many theories today. But do you know how that got started? You know back before World War II I’d finally got to the point where I was very happy. I was playing with some of the big bands and it was very demanding. A lot of you guys have played. You didn’t have four first trumpet players. You had a fourth third second, first and you played which ever one you were hired to play. And I found very shortly that I couldn’t party like the guys like to you know they’d like to have a little fun after work of course. But, then by the time you get to bed it’s daylight again.  I couldn’t do that and hold down that job. So I always asked for a room of my own and through much trouble and being called prima donna by the band manager. They were always like that anyway I finally got my own room. I’d go to bed when I finished the job because in those days we’d do five shows a day in a theater. The first show would be 11 o’clock in the morning and the war was just getting in gear then so they would have taxi cabs waiting. We’d finish the first show and the band manager, “Come on guys hurry up guys get in the cab we gotta go play a concert!” and you’ve drive out to some airbase. You play a concert. The minute you’d finished back to the theater you’d do your next one. When your done you’re off to a hospital back your back. Between the next one off to an army base. That kept on all day. And then at night in those days you didn’t listen to records on a radio you listened to live orchestras. As a result, they used to have a Coca-Cola show called Coca-Cola Spotlight Band Review. And a couple three times a week they’d bring that in. We’d have to do that live. It added up to about 12 maybe 14 hours a day of playing and I had to get some sleep in order to do it cause that’s a lot of work. I’d be up, I’d set a call for 7 in the morning and get up get my shower. Walk down the stairs. I wouldn’t take the elevator. Went to the coffee shop and have some coffee and then I’d walk to the theater. While I’m walking I’d practice breathing. By the time I get to the theater I’m feeling pretty good. One case in New Orleans it was 2 or 3 miles to the theater. I’d get my horn and I’d go down by the coal bin where I wouldn’t bother anybody and I’d practice for half an hour. Just until I felt great. I’d put the horn in the case and walk back to the hotel. This one day I walked in the hotel and just as I open the door here comes the elevator and 14 guys all the band got off the elevator. You never saw such a motely looking crew in your life. Hair all over. Guys would come out rubbing their eyes, terrible I’d open the door and one of them says hi baby what’s happening. I said how do you feel. He said ahhh terrible ahhh I’ll never make it today can’t awwh. Well, of course they won’t let me band for about a half an hour. Then they go in the coffee shop and what do they eat? Hotcakes that thick. Syrup. All the gunk in the world. Then they chase it down with a Coke Cola. Then they’d hop in the cab and ride to the theater. Well by that time I’m feeling great and I’m hungry. I go in there and I get trumpet player food. Steak and eggs. [laughter] That’s good! I finish that and I have coffee and I walk back to the theater. Now just as I get there I will never forget this trombonist, a beautiful guy I wish I knew what happened to him. A fine player. He says to me it takes 2 or 3 minutes to get on stage. So he’s just starting to warm up you know he takes his slide and squirts it and fix it up and he’ll [breath]he squirts it again. Aw man I can’t make it today. So I just take out the horn. You know when you do something you shouldn’t be a show off or anything. But they don’t know I’ve been down there and I feel great! I take the horn out of the case and dedeledddle beep beep beep bop. I say okay guys let’s go. That’s as good as it’s gonna be for today. He looks over and he says, “How do you do that?”.  How do I do what? “Take that horn out of the case first thing in the morning. Cold you haven’t done a thing and you play like a bird?” The guy standing next to him goes, “Natural lip”. [laughter] And by the time those stories reach back to you, you can’t believe how much you’ve done. It exaggerates and exaggerates. But, that lip goes on and on and on. It gets the credit for everything it gets the blame for everything. Today there are many theories. My goodness we got theories up to here. Hold the horn this way [laughter] this way. Never stops. One player says I blow up stream. I say what’s up stream? He says, “Well you either blow up stream or downstream. You blow high or low. Another one says his aperture is too wide. How would you measure? How do you know if it’s too wide? There’s much talk about the aperture and you find guys putting pencils in their mouth. You don’t play a pencil. [laughter] Now then the next thing I hear is, one fella comes out and says, “He’s got big fat lips he’ll never play. He’s got thin lips he’ll be a high note player.” My goodness I’ve had students with lips that thick! When they put the mouthpiece up it disappears. [laughter] And they play beautifully. The size of the lips has absolutely nothing to do with playing trumpet. Nothing!

Now, the dentists are getting into on the act. I saw and advertisement a while back, “You want to be a good player you better see this dentist to see if your mouth is right.” He’s studying to be a dentist. What’s he know about being a trumpet player? I’ve known some great trumpet players that their teeth went every way. They still played wonderful. I know a player with false teeth upper and lower. One old man he’s 70 some years old. He says, “I used to play and they told me I couldn’t play after I had false teeth. In six months he’s playing all through Clark’s book and he’s up to a good high “e”, down to a pedal “c”. Complete false teeth. His name was Alexander. So right away he got a little group and called it Alexander’s Band. And I think he’s still playing on weekends. I haven’t heard from him in a long time.


One young fella he comes in and said, “I wanna play trumpet.” Why don’t ya? “My teacher said I can’t” I said why? “My teeth are too long.” [laughter] You know what that young fella had done? He went to a dentist and had all his teeth filed down. Doesn’t make a bit of difference. Teeth have very little to do with playing. Some of the greatest soloists in history have false teeth upper and lower. Then when you go to see a dentist what does he do? Oh you have to have braces. That’s a thousand bucks. Then, it’s a year or more before you’re even going to get to play anyway. Like one great high note artist went through a Midwestern town. One young player, a very good friend of mine, high note artist, a wonderful guy. This young player came up to him, “How do you do that?” Oh, he was just amazed, “How do you play that high?” The player shouldn’t have done this really, “He said see those teeth?” He had a wide space between his teeth. The player said, “Aww that’s how you do it!”  “I knew that’s how you do it!” And that was all that was said. So three years later he comes through town again and this same player comes running up, “Look what I did!” And he had his teeth separated. The player said really look what I did, and he had his put together. [laughter] Neither one of them played any different. But see that’s that looking. But the big thing is always the lip. Now as a result of that now we have no pressure systems.


First thing Herbert Clark told me many years ago. There’s no such thing as no pressure. It’s a term to be forgotten. The amount of pressure will take care of itself with practice. That’s not something we worry about. Like one great trumpet player in Los Angeles did a clinic and someone raised his hand and said, “What about no pressure? Shouldn’t we practice that?” “Well you can try it he said aww, First, they’ll be no pressure, then there’ll be not tone, then there’ll be no job.” [laughter] In other words something more to worry about. Because of this we have buzz systems, pivot systems, high note systems, low note systems. You hear much about open your throat. Close your throat.  I want every one of you in here to try something for me right now. Now, I’m not talking about your tongue. Close your throat. [laughter] Okay open it. [laughter] You can’t do that either [laughter]. If you could open and close your throat you might choke to death in your sleep some night [laughter]. The only thing in that mouth that’s going to move is the tongue. And I’ll get to that a little later.

Now in this day of spectacular-ism it’s not double high “c” any more now we have triple high

“c” at the ambusher clinics and the one that puts that advertisement out is Dr. of Ambusher.



I don’t know who gives that degree. [laughter] But again the lip. It puts all the attention on the lip. Because of that now we’ve got these poor trumpet players hanging their horns on strings, practicing that way. They walk up to it. First of all you have to find it. [laughter] Now when they are walking it’s gonna push away but look out now look out it’s gonna come back [Strong laughter]. This is supposed to build no pressure.


Somebody said Herbert Clark invented the no pressure playing. He did not! He did a demonstration one time at a college that you could hang your horn on a string and play a top c. Any good player can do it. And said he told me afterwards that I’m sorry I did it. It went like wild fire all over the whole country. Everybody was practicing on strings. Now they’ve got another gadget now where they put in on a table like this, and the guy gets down on his knees and puts his hands and he tries to practice and every time he blows the horn moves away. And they practice that way. Now they are tying strings. One teacher in Los Angeles area, he’s got it figured out. It’s all in the angle of the horn. So he ties a string from the water key to the belt buckle and adjusts it so you can’t move the horn. [laughter] And these poor kids practice that way! And you have the no pressure mouth piece. It’s coming back again. I’m trying, David Hickman had one in his office I’d like to steal it, but I don’t dare he’d know who got it. But his is a mouthpiece where you put the rim separate from the mouthpiece it’s cut their and there’s a big spring in there. The minute you pick the horn up and your gonna play that spring will give and all the air comes out the side of the mouth. No wonder they’re in psychiatrist offices! [laughter] That’d drive anybody one crazy. But they are practicing. I went into a school out in Los Angeles. Now this is an institution of higher learning. Here’s five guys lined up pushing on broomstick handles. [laughter] I asked them what are you doing? He said working on the diaphragm. [laughter] Well, I don’t know anything about the diaphragm but you can push on broom handles for the next ten years, it’s not going to help your playing any. But these poor guys are doing it. Now they are hanging lead weights on the mouthpiece. They punch a whole and a hang a hunk of lead and put on a mouthpiece. When they go to play your horn goes like this. I haven’t figured out yet what that is supposed to do. Can you imagine how uncomfortable that is? They’ve got wide belts like motorcycle riders wear? They synch that up and I say what’s that for?  It gives me something to blow against. Anything that just makes me upset I can’t say anything about it. Someone comes along, I’ve been working on my breathing what’s he patting there for? You don’t know of any breathing down there. Trumpet players. Now then they take another thing that aww See if I’ve forgotten any of those gimmicks. But they are always looking for something.


A mouthpiece Now there’s an idea if you want to play better get into a mouthpiece hassle. That’s the beginning of the end! Greatest players I ever knew in the world they played one mouthpiece all their life. I got into it I know! I think I played every mouthpiece that was ever made and I finally came back to the one that Herbert Clark gave me in the first place.

I came into him one day and there was an old Rudy Muck Cushion Rims. Boy It was about that wide boy it came all over your face [laughter]. It had a cup like a thumb print. So I went in first thing Clark was wonderful. He said, “Hummm” That’s what he always said when he was gonna come up with something he’d say “Hummm”. By the third lesson he says, “I see you still have that mouthpiece.” Ya you know. He say’s, Lemme see it, and he took it and he THREW IT OUT THAT WINDOW! [laughter] Then he’d open the drawer and he rummaged around and he said here play that and that’s the same cup that I’m playing today. You just can’t improve on it. Now they are worrying about horns. I had a student come in the other day. I practically felt like throwing him out. He came in. I didn’t notice it at first. I can’t even get it in there. He’s playing all of a sudden the water key is on tap. I said what are you doing. He said so and so said, the horn would play better if he did that. I said I thought you’ve been studying long enough to have some sense. That pipe is absolutely cylindrical. What difference does it make which side is out? And you can get into the age old argument that the water key is all you want. Of course if you eliminate the water key the horn would play better but don’t ya think that the horn would play better with the tuning slide upside down don’t you think they would have made it that way? This goes on and on and on. It’s not new.

I remember back in Chicago there’s’ a fella. He really knew trumpet players. He rented a little cubie whole of a room right on Michigan avenue. Then he advertised Brass players, Trumpet players, increase your range and endurance for so and so’s famous lip massage [laughter]. He had a little barber chair in that room, and he’d get the guy in there and he’d tilt the chair back and he’d massage. Do you know something? I’m not kidding you outside there was a line of trumpet players in a line all the way to the corner waiting their turn at $5 a massage. Trumpet players are the most gullible people in the world. They will buy anything if you tack a high note on it. [laughter] And it goes on and on and on. A lot of people, honest sincere people fall victims for that you know.


Well I wrote Herbert Clark when I as 18 years old. I still have the letter I think I outta put that out it’s priceless. Being the great man he was he said not being able to see you play I can’t tell what your problems are. But he said the lip does not play the cornet. It is only a vibrating medium. Then he said there are three things to being a great success; How you practice, what you practice and when you practice. Right there he told me the whole thing. If I’d just had the intelligence to get it out. That’s why many years later when I wrote a book that’s what it was about. What you practice and when you practice. That book Systematic Approach is nothing new. That’s how all the old timers played. I got a kick one time a guy says if you practice Gordon’s method it will ruin you. Well He’s wrong. Well if I’m wrong then Herbert Clark was wrong. Smith was wrong. Arbans was wrong. St. Jacomes was wrong. Because that was how they all taught and that was how they all played. There is nothing new that hasn’t been done before. Pedal notes are not new. High notes are not new. Those old timers at the turn of the century played higher than you’ve ever heard and they played it. Double c, triple c. Take a look at Clark’s Elementary Studies. On the very last page it has the range of the cornet. Starts double high “c” to second pedal “c”. Nobody sees it. That’s the way they played. Now I’m got some tapes before we’re done to play for you to show you what some of those fellas did.

Aimless blowing isn’t going to do a thing. Now the reason for this is the trumpet playing is a form of athletics. You cannot divorce it from an athletic enterprise. The minute you decide to you’re gonna be a great player you become an athlete. You’ve got to eat right you’ve got to sleep right and you’ve got to exercise. Did you ever notice the pictures of all the great soloists? They were healthy. Every one of them! So how are you going to compete with all the young great artists today that are doing the same thing unless you keep healthy? If you’re lazy, forget it! You’re not going to be a player. Readers Digest came out with an article some years ago. I wish I would’ve kept it. The article said that the average business trumpet player in one hour of blowing exerts the energy of eight hours hard labor. Now that takes an athlete. Yet, it’s easy if you do it right. You’ve gotta train like a football player. You’ve got to beat all fear out of your mind.


Boy ol Herbert Clark did that very forcefully to me. I was very timid and I wanted to do everything just right. I didn’t want to offend anyone. So I’m playing something very poorly and timid, missing notes. And ole Clark boy, was he was very militaristic. He wasn’t any taller than I was but he was big. all of sudden he said, “Would you put some air through that thing?” I said I am blowin’, I’m blowin’. He said, “No you’re not! You think you are”! And he went whop. Man he hit me. I went backwards over a chair flat on my back. I’m trying to protect the horn

57:48 I didn’t know what to think. So finally I very carefully got up and just as straightened my jacket, wham! He let me have it again! I went down the second time. Now, the third time I’m a little more careful. Now I back away but he’s following me. [laughter] Every time he caught me he knocked me down. We went all the way around this big room of his all the way back. He knocked me down every time he caught me. Finally, we got back to the music wrack and he stopped. He looked at me like this and says, “Now that’s the way you play that thing and don’t you forget it!” And I never did forget. And he was right. I finally got the idea look you put some air in this thing and you don’t worry. That constant worry. That’s what holds you back. What are you worried about? What’s this do what’s that? Who cares what it’s doing. All you care about what comes out the end of the bell.  Like a Football player, they get the ball. Here’s the line of guys does he take the ball? No he’s too big I’m going this way. He takes that ball he goes right where he’s supposed to until he knocks down the first guy or he gets knocked down. That’s the way you play trumpet. You’ve got to lick every bit of fear.


Violinist came up to me one time. We’d been doing the show. We had the toughest conductor in the network. Always mean. I’ve seen great instrumentalists just freeze under this guy. I liked him. I worked 12 years for him. Some guys couldn’t take his pressure. Blow headed, great big beat nose, sloping shoulders, someone said he was a championship wrestler in Russia and I believe it. He walked like he was chasing chickens. If this is ever on tape, we were gonna have to take it off! [laughter] Anyway, here’s the way he walked. Let me see if… [laughter] That’s the way he came down the hall. We used to kid about it behind his back of course but he was tough. And you learned a lot from him. But anyway he was the one, doing the big shows. Like we had this one you know with Sinatra and Sammy Davis and that whole bunch. It was going on for 3 hours. Oh what an orchestra 4 trumpets, 4 bones, 4 French Horns full range full strings it was just a lovely orchestra. So we are standing, we can’t leave the room we on have about 30 seconds. So and this is live ya know, no tape in those days you just played it. So one of violins comes up to me and says, “Don’t you have any nerves?”, I said sure I’ve got lots of nerves. He says, “You never show it.” I said that’s right I said I could be dying and wouldn’t show it. He says, “I don’t understand it. You guys come in so hard and strong and you never miss. Well that’s not true. Everybody misses. Boy, there’s some on the walls at CBS they’ll never paint out! I put there. [laughter] but boy they were good honest misses. So any ways he says, “I don’t understand you guys when that stick comes down boy he’s looking right at you!” That’s right, I says if he ever looks at me and I look afraid then he’s afraid of me and I’m not going to be here very long. Because I’m here because there’s a job to do and that’s all he cares about. I had one rule. Hit is hard and wish it well. That’s all you can do. It’s the sneaky misses that get you in trouble and you’ll miss once in a while. He never said a word to me in all the years I worked for him. I could tell you some very funny stories of things that went on.

Like one night we are going a musical. The same conductor and in those days ya know you didn’t have prints. In those days it was all written for that particular show. So we’re playin. The show is going excellent aw, just I just felt so good that night and this part I was playing the ending comes doodle, doodle, oot eeeee…! Then the top and kept going beep, beep, beep, beep….one of those endings that never ends beep beep. Somewhere I lost count [laughter] the worst thing I didn’t know I lost count. So don’t get over confident. You know there’s no excuse for that. I was just sitting there sailing I was having a ball. All of sudden he goes beep..and it was too late I did beep all by myself [laughter] and this went coast to coast. Oh! I thought oh my gosh am I ever going to get fired now’s the time and I thought I was and he’d be justified and that was no excuse. So I though well if he’s…that’s another thing never be afraid of a leader. Now don’t disrespect them they’ve got a tough job too believe me. But don’t be afraid of him. Now I worked with guys who say, “I’m sorry I didn’t mean to do it”. Of course not he knows you didn’t mean to do it.  But he also knows now you are afraid. And if he’s that kind of a leader he’s got you under his thumb and he’ll make you miserable from then on. Never be afraid of a leader. So I waited. I figured all right he’ll come down the aisle. He had to he had to go right passed the brass section to get out. I’m waiting. Procrastinating ya know. Pretty soon here he comes [laughter] as he went by the trumpet section he didn’t even slow down! He looks over and says, “Don’t let anybody tell you you’re a timid trumpet player kid!” And that’s all I ever heard about it until the next day. The contractor come in and he said, “You know where he is now?” Where? “He’s up in the office with Ben Paley and they are listening.” They had a tape of the show and they are just cracking up.” But I never heard any more about it. [laughter] So you do, you hit is hard and wish it well.

First of all, to play a brass instrument you have to get the strength before you can control it. Too much we tried to play pianissimo. Right off the bat. How can you learn control of something that you don’t even have yet? First of all, learn to blow that thing. Then refine it. Put everything in its right order. Like I said the trumpet playing… the trumpet is a piece of pipe. There’s nothing in the world that thing is gonna play it for you. Press down a valve and it’s not a sound. Like a women calls my studio, “Would you teach my son to play trumpet?”  I says I dunno does he wanna play? And she says yes, but he’s dumb! I says he is? She said yes, he’s stupid. [laughter] She says he gets bad grades in school. But she said I thought music would help his so much and I thought trumpet would be the instrument because it only has 3 keys. [laughter]


Of course the more you think of that the more you think it’s not the kid who was dumb. [laughter] But you know that goes on …But you know every one of us has thought one time or the other. We’ll get a horn. I’ll learn the fingers, I’ll get the music and I’ll play. No you won’t because not any of those things make it work and that’s where our problems are is making it work. What good is all the literature in the world if you can’t play it? Now literature is important, that’s what we’ve got a horn for is to play. But you’ve gotta work the horn work first. And you can’t do that by trying to play music. I’ll tell you something else that you want to remember. Every good player, everyone, every great player does it exactly the same way. There is not more than one way to make it work. There is only one and everyone that plays well. I don’t care what they look like, which way the horn points or anything else. What’s happening inside is always the same. That’s the only way it’s going to work and that is something to remember. There is no shortcut. The trouble with the young players today they want to be the hero in High School next week. It’s taken most of us thirty years or more to be able to do it. The young player can do it in six weeks what took us six years to do because you can show them how and that’s a marvelous position.


Now the reason for this is that there are seven items to playing a brass instrument. Number one is wind power. Now when I’m talking wind power I don’t mean just how loud you can blow and that’s so misunderstood. I’m talking about the force that makes everything work. Number

two, the tongue. Without a tongue you could never play a trumpet or any other brass instrument. And if there ever was a secret, it’s the tongue. Number three, Wind Control. Now you control something that you’ve built. Number four, The lips, way down number four. The only function of the lip is to vibrate. That’s all it can do. In itself it can’t get high notes low notes or anything else it can only vibrate. Number five, The muscle structure of the face around the lips. That’s what hold the lips in place so they’ll vibrate. Number six, is the fingers of the right hand. Number seven, is the left hand that holds the instrument and is very important but no one pays much attention to it. Now, I’m going to take each item and break it down and try to show you how it works.

Wind Power - You’ve heard a lot about wind. Young student comes in and says let me see you play. You can take a young student who’s having all kind of problems in about 10 seconds and tell him everything that is wrong him and it’s that obvious. One student came in and goes I said take a breath sand play says okay [breath] [laughter] I said come on fill up with air. Okay. [breath] [laughter] and what did you take a breath like that? He says, “I’ve always been told to breath from the stomach.” You can’t get air in your stomach! If you got air in your stomach you’d get sick and the great mysterious diaphragm. Goodness, I’ve hear that all my life. Then there is the one that says push out your stomach. I pushed out my stomach till I almost got a hernia. [laughter] I couldn’t play one bit better. Air is only going to go in and out of the lungs. That’s where it was made to go. So when you take a breath fill your lungs. Forget your stomach. Take a breath like the old army way like many great vocalists did. Turn your palms out, this is just as a test, you don’t practice this way. Turn your palms out, pull your arms out when you take your breath. Like this [breath] that’s where you will fill up every time. That’s your lungs. That’s your support. Without that you are not going to go anywhere and believe me it’s not my idea. I wish it were.


I learned it from old Herbert Clark forty years ago. It took me through a whole career. Now in your car when your car runs out of gas, let’s take it over, when you fill your car with gas when you can find it. When you get it full do you try to crowd more in? No, it’s full and yet so many young fellas will play, more air, more air! When your full you’re full! Get comfortably full. Now your full. You don’t have to talk like this [squeezed voice] You have to see all tense. You’re full. Now when you let the air out. Just like the car when you run outta gas there does the gas tank all fold up and collapse? No of course not. This is your gas tank. Alright, now you let the air out. Chest stays, take a breath, out, take a breath, it looks like the stomach is moving. Why because when you take a breath everything moves out of the way. Forget your stomach. I have a young student of Mr. Hide come out her Rick would ya?  Gonna have, I like to use a young student demonstrate with it’s much better than if I do it. Rick come over here. Put your horn in your right hand. Drop it down. Now just lift it up and down. What do you think about to make a horn just lift right. You don’t think about, you don’t think about, I gotta push this muscle out” do you? You lift. Alright. The muscle does bulge out when you lift. Alright, now push the muscle up. Does it make a lift? No. Or course not. Alright push your stomach out. Does it make you blow? No of course not. It’s the same thing. Pushing your stomach out doesn’t blow. Pushing your stomach out. Okay sit down a minute.


Your lungs work like, did you ever see a blacksmith’s bellows? Shee shee, you know how they work ‘em. You’ve got to have compression to move air. You’re lungs are just exactly like a pair of bellows. This the way they work. Sheee, sheee, sheee. That’s the only way you can push. Many say blow from the diaphragm. The diaphragm is to the best I can tell find out is an involuntary muscle. You can’t make it do anything. But these muscles get very strong. When a good trumpet player is done with a very hard job you know where he’s tired? Here, around the sides they push. Now if I told you they push like that you couldn’t play at all because you’d be trying to push like that and you can’t, but if the chest stays up that’s the way it works.


The first exercise I give all my students you get the chest up, comfortable that feeling. You take 10 breaths without stopping, without letting the chest down. [demonstrate breathing]

Ten of them and it’ll hurt, hurt around here and it’ll hurt down here but that’s irrelevant. You do that for two weeks, at least five times a day. Now if you want to do it hundred times why? But at least 5 times a day. Then you get outside and you walk. Walk very relaxed down the street like this with each step you take a short breath through your nose. Till that you have the same feeling so you gauge it on five steps you are full. Hold it five. Now let it out through your mouth for 5. The chest stays up. Now you pull, now you walk empty for 5. That’s a cycle. Here’s the whole thing. [demonstrate] [steps] [breathing] Chest is still up. You’re tired let it down. Now that’s taking a breath that only fills the tank. Now there’s more exercise. Now after two weeks of that you increase it to six steps and seven and then eight, and nine and ten. Every two weeks you increase. Then you start all over jogging.


In my new book, Elementary Method on lesson twelve that is all explained. Now then in Systematic Approach I have a series of exercises part ones that do with blowing. This a little bit, there are a series of arpeggios. You play the arpeggio, you hold the last note, chest up until every bit of air is exhausted and then you still push. It’s like isometrics and boy you’ll feel these muscles pushing and when your empty you can’t breathe wrong and you can’t blow wrong. Because the only exercises I have ever seen in my life that gets at the muscles that blow. And again Herbert Clark taught it to me many years ago. 1:17:04 [Trumpet notes] You take ….[trumpet arpeggio down] long hold You gotta work at it. Tee da da that’s not going to develop anything. You’ve got to work like an athlete. It will hurt at first. Then you go take your horn off and you’ll go rest about as long as you play, do the next one, rest the next one all the way into the pedal register.

Now in the pedal register it starts on the trumpet your low f below f sharp. For example, here’s the f sharp [sound of trumpet note], Now to find the feel force that f sharp, flat. [sound trumpet note going flat] Don’t worry about what I’m doing to make it flat. Even the littlest of boys or girls can make a not go flat. When you get the flatness of it and the feel then you can continue with the arpeggios. [sound arpeggios by half steps] Holding each last one. They all feel exactly alike. There’s no slot, you have to make it, you get very adept at is later. Now concert b flat that’s something else.

Now buzz players, that’s the fellows that buzz their mouth pieces. So much to practice. They get so lip consensus that they try to do it with the lip, like this. [Sound trumpet note and then a buzz] That is not a pedal note [laughter]. It’ll do you more harm than good. I saw a clinic a while back and the clinician said, you better get in the pedals. He said here’s the way you do it. He turned his lower lip out. All the way over. Like this he went [trumpet sound] That’s not a pedal note either. Never under any condition ever let that lip curl over.

Now the right way is always the easy way. You say aw, aw. Drop that jaw. Like the low note would be tee, aww. Now not aw get your mouth open. The lip doesn’t do a thing. [Sound trumpet octaves] Now when you get it it’s as big as a house and it’s as easy! There’s nothing to it. [Sound trumpet octaves down by half steps] You can go down as far as you want and it’s possible to go four octaves, but I don’t think it does you any good and I wouldn’t recommend it. It could do you harm, too many pedals are just as bad as too many high notes. But what I was playing I used to demonstrate. From the fourth pedal c to triple c above. You don’t’ do it with your lips.

Now, when you first do it one word of caution. It’s going to be very flat if it’s right. Don’t try to get it in tune. It’ll be, [Sound trumpet flat note] Fine leave it. Someone will say well how long? Who knows? Two weeks, two months, two years you never know. Eventually, it will come into tune [trumpet note bending from flat to pitch]. And then it’s just nothing to it. It will come up on its own. How are you going to play in and out if your changing your lip all over? [trumpet notes chromatically] You go down two more. I don’t have an advanced student that doesn’t play from the second pedal to the double c. And can many of them go in on breath back. All right so much for pedals and wind power. The next thing is the tongue.

Without a tongue you couldn’t play. And we can prove it very easily with this young man. Come on. Rick is Mr. Hines student. A marvelous fella with good mind. Rick I want you to say two words for me aww and hold it. “Awwww”. Come over to the mike so we can hear. Awww. Where’s your tongue. “It’s like in the bottom of my mouth.” In the bottom of your mouth. Alright now say eee. “Eeee.” Now get a different pitch. Get up to Eeee. “Eeee.” Now where is your tongue. “Shaped on the top of my mouth.” Now go aww, eee, aww, eee. “Aww, eee, aww, eee. Where’s your tongue? “Like this?” Alright can you see your tongue really well in your mouth? I want you to lock it on the low aww. Say Aww and don’t let that tongue move in anyway and say eee. “Awww” [laughter] It just won’t work. Right now say eee. EEE. Now lock it there, try to say aww. “EEE” [laughter] “It won’t …My tongue”. Okay now can you whistle? Get right in the mike. Now whistle like this any two notes. [sound whistle two notes] Can you see your tongue? What’s it doing? Going up and down. All right. Now whistle the first note and lock the tongue. Don’t let it budge and try to move it. [whistle sound] “My pitch goes up when my tongue goes up.” Another words it’s impossible unless the tongue moves. What makes the pitch move? “The tongue” All right now let’s take the trumpet. Play me a low “c” to a “g”. Love those two notes. [sound trumpet notes] What’s your tongue doing? “Moving up and down.” Okay you can see it. All right now I want you to play the low “c” as soon as you can see your tongue lock it there and then do everything you can to play those same two but you lock the tongue. [Trumpet sound] You can’t do it. Unless the tongue moves the pitch won’t move. All right Rick now let’s play a flat, c, e flat, a flat take a big breath and play strong and watch your tongue. Now when you get to your top a flat. I want you to hold it. Close your eyes and look at your tongue. As soon as you can see where that tongue is I want you to tell me where the tongue is and where the very tip of the tongue is resting. [Sound trumpet arpeggio]. “On my bottom teeth.” On your bottom teeth. Anyone if I ask you say oh it’s up here. Where is it? “On your bottom teeth.” So that tongue it does not go like this. It goes tah, ah, ah, ee, Like that. The tip is down the back is up. Anyone would say oh anybody can come down. That’s easy. Okay let’s see.  Play that same chord. When you get to the top, as soon as you can see the tongue lock it there. Don’t let it budge under any condition. If it does stop and do it again. Now I want you to try to slur directly to a low e flat but don’t let the tongue move. [Trumpet sound] “It won’t go down.” Unless the tongue moves the sound won’t change. So this proves something very adequate. If that tongue is set in position for any particular note in this case an a flat that’s the only note that will come out. Therefor, to practice you get the knack and the feel where the tongue belongs, an octave above, that’s the only note that will come out. There for it will be just as easy as that a flat because no other note can come out. Ok now let’s do it again. Now this time watch the tongue and slur down to the low e flat. Tell me what the tongue does. [Trumpet sound] “It goes like this.” Alright now we always hear that the strong lip you can get high notes. All right let’s take that low e flat and I want you to lock that tongue right where you see it and then you tighten that lip every way you can and see if it will go up. Lock the tongue. [trumpet sound] Unless the tongue moves… All right now a great player a wrote an article a while back who said, it’s not the chops man. It’s here, he’s right to a point. So let’s try that. I want you to take the low e flat, lock the tongue and you blow as loud as you can blow and see if it goes up. Lock the tongue. [Trumpet sound] If you could get higher by blowing louder how would you ever make a crescendo? All right now let’s put both together lock the tongue and blow as loud as you can and see if it will go any lower. Now, unless the tongue moves the pitch won’t. Thank you Rick that was very good. [applause] Now, if there ever was a secret it’s the tongue. Why? There are just many, many great players that haven’t the slightest idea why they are playing great. If you get down to that analyzation. So it really is a mystery in that sense.


Now wind control. How many of you have Clark’s book? Clark’s Technical Studies? That’s great. You see there’s two things the trumpet player cannot live without. That’s good food and Clark’s Technical Studies. [Laughter] If you don’t have it get it. Now the first exercise, as you know is a chromatic exercise. When I was studying with Clark he used to make us do it sixteen times in one breath and every half step up to high f in this way and we got so we could do it. The first thing though when playing softly the chest has to be up. I have students now that will do it 30 times in one breath all the way up to top f. The youngsters in top physical condition if they can do it. Starting on the low f sharp being pianissimo is not always that easy. [Trumpet sound softly chromatic] That’s sixteen. If I was in shape I could do more …wind.

Someone asked me about circular breathing. Well, it’s not necessary no. But anything you can do to enhance the control of this piece of pipe is going to help you. One time it helped me on a show. The conductor’s timing was off. He was holding the stick like this and some of the guys were all fading out and there was one trumpet still playing. He looks up to see what in the world was goin’ on. I was breathing all the time. Sometimes it can help. I want to make it very obvious when I take a breath. Mendez had this down oh, that’s how he did that trumpet perpetual is that what he called it for trumpet something like that. Marvelous! He was breathing all the time. You could never hear one breath. The air gets stale you let it out the side of your mouth and keep on breathing. I’ll start empty. [trumpet constant tone] You could go on forever. It gets a little boring but you can. Now I made it very obvious but in your practice you can get it very even very easily. There’s nothing to it I worked on it for years. I was about to give up then I decided I’d try once more and it happened and you know why it took me so long? I was looking for something hard. It’s not hard. Trumpet playing is easy if you do it right.


We all learned that from Clark. You know where he learned it? Glass blowers. They did it long before we ever thought of it. They had to. All right that was wind control.


Now, the lips. The only function of the lip is to vibrate. The position of the lip is important only to a degree. Arban in his wonderful book, some of the text is not correct but he was a pioneer. He said place the mouthpiece in the center of the mouth 1/3 on the upper and 2/3rds on the lower. That text is still there and a great majority of our younger players start that way. Arban was not right. In fact, if you just read on another sentence, he says, “At least it seems that way to me.” St. Jacome in his wonderful book, the two of the greatest books they will never be. St. Jacome in his original book, now he and Arban were vying for the crown at the same time. And they weren’t friends. St. Jacome said place the mouthpiece toward the center of the mouth. A little to one side. [Trumpet sound] Anywhere you can get a vibration you could build an embouchure. Now don’t everyone go out and try it. [laughter] I’m just saying what could be done. In the studio you could never do, we didn’t have tape. You couldn’t do anything over. If you missed a note it was gone forever. So we had a sore lip. If you had to send a sub every time you got a sore lip you’d never make anything. So sore what’d we do we’d move it over. Play over there a little while. That was some of the things I learned. I had an embouchure from here to here. Someday it can be helpful. But place it high. Everybody’s scared to death to change an embouchure. Why? If it’s wrong change it. But don’t try to play at the same time that’s where the troubles come in. You have to change it and rebuild. That’s all. Ok next thing, oh let me tell you, you can use your lower lip for I mean you can use your tongue for a lower lip. If you didn’t need it elsewhere. It doesn’t look very good. [Trumpet sounds] Boy that tickles. [Laughter] The best advice I can give to any trumpet player is forget your lip. If you leave the lip alone it will take care of itself but do keep it moist it can’t be dry. Forget about pressure it I’ll take care of itself in time. That’s hard to do. You’ve got to get away from that lip.

The next thing is the facial muscles. Your lip is like a reed it vibrates. The facial muscles are like a ligature. They hold the reed in place. Not necessarily to get high notes but so that it will keep vibrating. When the tongue moves the jaw moves. When the jaw moves the horn moves. Oh it’s constantly moving to some extent depending on the shape of your face. As a result, the lips are constantly flexing and letting loose. They are holding against wind power. They are letting loose, they are holding, they are gripping. As a result, they get tired. When they get tired they collapse and you can’t play any more than if you get the ligature loose on a reed instrument. They stop vibrating. So you rest. Your facial muscles have to be very strong but very elastic also. So they move. Some more than others. Some say they go this way. Some say they go this way. Who cares the function is the same. They are gripping hold and letting loose. Forget your lip.

The right hand not enough attention is given. I like my students to hold their thumb straight. Not like this, straight. On the first valve not between. Now when you do that your hand is built in proportion with itself and look where the fingers fall. Right on the ball of the finger where they should. If the thumb is bent you’re going to play thing way or this way how could you be a technician? That’s very stiff, this way. Lift them high off the valves! Strike them down hard! That’s the only way they are going to develop. The left hand. I like my students to hold it the way they did when they made the old French Bessons. Like this, the little finger around the slide. Now the horn is flat in your hand. Hold it straight up and down don’t let it twist like this, straight up and down. Now you got a hold of this thing. Boy when you want to play you’re the master of it. This is a piece of pipe. You’re the master. Arhg! Play! Now one student got up and said, Well Maynard Ferguson was through and he held his like this. Fine when you play like Maynard hold it anyway you want! [Laughter] That’s your business then. But until then you hold it in the best position and you’ll be a better player.

Now I do want to mention there’s a couple things. The ones that pay for these clinics, they pay they pay fairly heavy to get the clinicians through. We didn’t have this when I was a kid. I wished we did. And I think we should never forget to mention them. The Benge trumpet company which is a division of King picks up the tab. That costs a lot of money I know ‘cause I get it. [laughter] So they really should deserve credit now. Whenever you go to buy a horn you don’t buy a horn by bore size.  You know when were youngsters they never put a bore size on a horn. All we cared about does it blow does it play and how easily. You can’t put a horn in tune. It’s impossible to build a horn in tune. I asked Clark one time should I get a trigger? Some of these things. He says look, “If you can’t play it in tune throw it away!” In other words, the player can play it in tune. You can make amends for those compensations because you’re never going to get, the best old horns were a little hair low on fourth space c, very sharp on low c sharp. Now you know what would happen if you put them in tune? They’d play terrible. The best horns are always a little out. I could tell ya some great stories about Jules Levy and guys like this and what they did and people would come in and say, “The high c is flat there’s no such thing as a high c flat the player that is playing it flat. You learn to play in turn and that takes time, but the Benge trumpet, now don’t go looking for a bore size. Someone will say, “I’m looking for a symphony horn, another one says I want a studio horn, another one says will I want a jazz horn. I’d never seen any one of them. A trumpet is a trumpet. You’re the one that makes it a horn. Now I could go on for half hour but I’m not going to about the qualities of the Benge and especially the one I worked on which is called the CG, but I’m not going to but I would recommend if you’re going to buy a horn try it. No one can tell you what to play but whatever horn you try be honest with yourself and look for a trumpet and if it plays good that’s the one you want.

So I want to thank the Benge Company as well as Charlie Colin and all this wonderful clinic for having these things. There’s one other thing. We have some tapes and I think you’ll really enjoy listening to it.

This first one 1:41:42

Now, we talked about the old timers at the turn of the century. They played high. They played low. They had technical, great sounds everything. This man his name was Kip. You’d probably never heard of him. Now when they record it, it was interesting. There was no electricity in those days. They would set a bunch of instruments, like the Victrola’s, ya know the big horns, that they used to have. Well it was the reverse process they’d set 25 of them in a semi-circle, the artist would stand in front of the stand with the 25 machines in the best place that they found. The band was behind them. No balance possible. Baritone always cut through everything. You could always hear the baritone. Horrible recordings. Then they had a waxed disk and the sound through that horn would vibrate cut through that needle cut the wax. That’s why even today they say “cutting wax”. There is no wax involved anymore but they did.

He played a solo. They’d take all 25 off stack ‘em up put 25 blanks on and he’d play it again. Take ‘em off put ‘em down and he’d play it again. They’d start recording early morning and play till late at night. Can you imagine how many times they’d play the solo cause they sold 50,000 records? And yet they seldom if ever do you hear a miss. Aww have you got that tape? Now listen. Don’t listen to the sound. Listen to his phenomenal technique. And his range on both ends of the horn.

1:43:27 Kip Solo


That’s a pretty good double c. And these fellas all played like that. I have another little tape here. Bobby O’Donnel I don’t know, how many of you have ever heard of Bobby O’Donnel? Bobby is a phenomenal young trumpet player. He’s going to be one of the great virtuosos. Someone asked him recently, he’s doing studio work down in LA, someone asked him recently what can we write for you? He said, what do you mean? They said well, how technical, how high. He said between pedal c and double c write anything you want. Heh, that’s just what they did. He’s doing phenomenal. He never misses. Several years ago he came in for his lesson and I said, Bobby I wanna start working on some control now. I said what about, you got Clark’s book? He said yeah. The fifth etude, you all know what that is. The fifth etude it must be played in one breath. When I studied with Clark he used to make us do it twice in one breath which was going phenomenally fast to make it. So Bobby very confident, he says okay how do you want it slurred or tongued? I said okay if you feel that way lets tongue it. So he did and we put it on a piece of tape. I thought you might like to hear it. Now this was several years ago so it would be even better now. The fifth etude of Clark in one breath single tongued.

1:48:14 Herbert L. Clark Etude number five single tongued in one breath. One breath [laughter]

1:48:33 [Trumpet sounds]

Now you don’t do that the first year. You have to learn it first. Awww, I think that was recorded on the Bobby on stereo that’s why we were getting that thing. I’ve got one more piece of tape. You’ve been here such a long time. You want to hear it? “YES!” Okay, This is another student, he’s with the Ice Follies, Shipstad and Johnson Ice Follies. Now his name is Mike Paulson. He’s 20 years old. Someone asked me well, when you first start to get range. Everyone lives in that life of high notes. I know it’s inevitable if you play right and there are important but you don’t make a life of it. There are other things that the same. So someone said well when you first start to play high should the sound thin out. Well, when a baby’s born it creeps before it walks doesn’t it? So of course it’s going to be thin at first but as you develop and you get the knack, the feel of that tongue it gets bigger and bigger.

So I asked Mike I said Mike, would you put that on a piece of tape. Now this again this was six or seven years ago. Mike has grown in stature since then. It’s lesson twenty in Systematic Approach starting on the second pedal c to high c slurred and we’ll go up each half step and you can see what he sounds like. He has a mouthpiece with a number twenty drill so it’s not a so called a high note mouthpiece. It’s just a big open free mouthpiece. Okay, let’s try that.

1:51:01 “Claude Gordon Systematic Approach lesson twenty Part two” [Trumpet arpeggios] when you first get in don’t worry about intonation in the pedals that takes quite a while a little intonation. [Trumpet Arpeggios] c sharp. We’ll keep track as we go now d One thing I want you to notice is sound never thins out on the top e flat [Trumpet arpeggios] Now e [Trumpet arpeggios] Also never get to the top empty take a breath. This is f [Trumpet arpeggios], Now f sharp [Trumpet arpeggios], Now g [Trumpet arpeggios] And now the next on the top a flat will start the double register [Trumpet arpeggios] Now a natural [Trumpet arpeggios] [Laughter] b flat, He hates b flats [Laughter] [Trumpet arpeggios] b natural [Trumpet arpeggios] Now c [Trumpet arpeggios] Now c sharp [Trumpet arpeggios] Okay I think you’ll get d. Actually, he’ll play ballads up around f okay [chuckle] that’s enough.

There is more records there but I’m not going to take the time dinner hour and a beautiful concert tonight. Now I just want to thank all of you for being a marvelous audience. I will tell you it’s such a pleasure to talk to so many players that can sit here for two solid hours and listen to me talk without getting antsy about it. I just think it’s marvelous. I want to thank you, I wish I could applaud all of you, and I wish you all the most of success and keep at it. Thank you very much! [Applause]