9 Tips to Take Your Trumpet Playing to the Next Level in 2013

Image courtesy of FrameAngel / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of FrameAngel / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We’re already a few weeks in to 2013 and, if you’re like me, you’ve already dropped some of your New Year’s resolutions. But that’s OK. There’s no reason to wait until next year to jump back on that horse and start going forward again. Here are some tips I’ve put together that will help your trumpet playing this year. The goal here is not to try to do the entire list, in fact, not every tip may pertain to you. Just pick a few to work on and you’ll soon be reaping the benefits in your playing, and having more fun as well.

So, let’s get going:

1. Restarts are Okay!

Maybe it’s human nature, or maybe it’s just a trumpet player thing, but whenever I take a day or two off from playing I know the next day will be rough. And guess what? It usually was…until I discovered how strongly my thinking controlled the outcome of my practicing.  Over the holidays when I had a few days off from playing I decided I would only think positively about the break. It would be a fresh start. It would allow me to refocus my energy on what I do well and unlearn some bad habits. Trumpet playing would be easier and effortless this time, not foreign, forced, and strident.

The results were astounding. I made breakthroughs in my playing that I had been working on for months and even years. What’s even more amazing is that this happened after a break from playing when I would have thought the exact opposite would have happened — I should have regressed in my playing.

Whether you are just getting back to it again after the winter holidays or are laid up with the flu, remember that restarts are okay with a positive mental approach.

2. Back to Fundamentals.

Spend some time this year going back to fundamentals (especially if you are following tip #1). I’m not talking about daily maintenance. I’m talking about going back to page 1. Spend time working on your sound production, your attack, and your breathing. Imagine if you could become 10% more efficient (creating more sound for less work), or be 10% more relaxed while you play? These improvements can only be made by playing fundamentals.

Taking a beautiful Martin Committee apart to clean.
Taking a beautiful Martin Committee apart to clean.

3. Clean Your Trumpet & Mouthpiece.

This tip should be #1 and it will apply to probably 95% of you based on the horns we see here at the shop. Take 30 minutes of your week and give your horn a good bath. If you can’t do that, take it to a repair shop to have it acid washed or ultra-sounded.

Trumpet is hard enough to play consistently day-to-day. When the gunk inside your horn is constantly building up you are spending at least part of your practice time adjusting to it. Get rid of this variable by getting your horn back to the way it should play and maintain it by flushing it out every week. You can also keep a lot of stuff from building up in your horn by using a leadpipe swab after every practice session.

4. Have Fun!

The trumpet is a demanding, unforgiving instrument. If you are a professional trumpet player, the music industry is the same. Whether you are an amateur or a professional, don’t lose sight of the fact that trumpet playing is fun. Don’t focus on the inept conductor or the drummer who adds an extra beat to the measure with every drum fill. When these or similar thoughts enter your mind, take a slow, deep breath and then smile. Focus instead on how the thrill of playing a musical instrument for others, and being able to share your talent, is something that just a small percentage of people in the world are privilege to do. And, you’re one of those lucky few!

5. Take a Lesson.

Our most precious commodity is time. A good teacher is worth their weight in gold because they can improve your playing in less time than you could on your own. Yes, there is a wealth of free information on the Internet on how to play the trumpet; however, you’ll spend more precious time searching, filtering out bad information, and grazing than if you had a guide to show you along the path.

One of my trumpet teachers still takes lessons himself every month. He’ll call up other teachers in the area (many of whom are his colleagues) to take a lesson. He also gets together with out-of-town players who are in the area on tour for lessons. This allows him to always expand his knowledge, improve his playing, and expand his bag of tricks to use for his own students.

6. Get Together With Others

Get together and practice with someone else. This may be playing duets, or you can go through your daily routine and trade off. There are plenty of benefits to this. First, you’ll have more fun than just sitting alone in your practice room like you would be normally doing. Second, you benefit more because you can share experiences, learn from the other person, and you can teach them as well. And third, you tend to have a better practice pace when you work with someone else because you take breathers to talk, laugh, or listen to each other.

7. Set Goals

The start of a New Year is always a good time to set new goals or reevaluate your existing ones. If you don’t have goals for your trumpet playing, start setting them! They may be long-term or short-term. I recommend a combination of both. I set goals for every practice session, jotting them down before I start playing. It may be a tempo I want to hit on a fingering or tonguing exercise, or a difficult passage I want to make easier.

Longer term goals should be written down as well. For some reason, writing them down tends to put them in motion better than just thinking about them. It may be a career goal, like playing in the Chicago Symphony. It may be tackling a challenging piece you’ve always wanted to play. It may be getting the nerves up to play in front of a group for the first time. Whatever your goal is, write it down and start heading towards it.

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

8. Listen, listen, listen!

I find myself overwhelmed with things in my day that take up my time – work, family, Facebook, sleep, driving. I realized that listening to music has become a much less significant part of my day than it used to. I don’t remember the last time I listened to a Mahler Symphony or Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue from beginning to end without distractions. If you are like me, take a concerted effort this year to make the time to listen. We gain so much from listening to great music that cannot be achieved in the practice room. Hearing great musicians and absorbing different styles of music through listening translates directly into improvements in your own musicianship. Besides, hearing a live concert can be so inspiring that you’ll be reminded of why we do what we do!

Image courtesy of Apple’s Eyes Studio/freedigitalphotos.net

9. Perform!

Make it a point to get out and perform for people. No matter what your level of progress is, once you know 4-5 notes on the trumpet you can make music. You have the tools to connect emotionally with your audience. I’ve seen beginning band students who have been playing for less than a year make people smile and cry with the songs they play. You don’t have to perform at a symphony hall to move people. Play in church, search out a community band, or play at a local nursing home. When you start connecting with others through your playing, you’ll be inspired to do more, and have a sense of fulfillment that you don’t get from just practicing.

The thrill of playing a musical instrument for others and being able to share your talent is something that just a small percentage of people in the world are privileged to do.

What tips do you have? If you have your own tips I hope you’ll share them in the comments section below.


Jazz Trumpet Improvisation Etude #1 by Howie Shear: There Will Never Be Another You

Howie Shear Jazz Solo EtudeWe are pleased to announce an exciting new project! Twice a month we will be posting a new Jazz Improvisation Etude composed by Howie Shear. Each etude will be based on the chord changes of a different jazz standard and will comprise two complete solo choruses.

These etudes will focus on different aspects of trumpet playing and jazz improvisation techniques. They can be played as stand alone exercises but, for best results, we suggest playing along with an Aebersold or another play-along track, allowing you can hear how the melodic ideas work with the chord changes.

The concepts utilized in these solos are presented in Howie Shear’s books Jazz Improvisation – Simplified and Bebop Vocabulary, which are tools that help you develop your own jazz vocabulary that you can use during improvisation. The goal of these etudes is to show how the simple ideas Howie outlines in his books can be applied and developed in a jazz solo format.

Jazz Improvisation Etude #1: “There Will Never Be Another You”

The first etude features two choruses over “There Will Never Be Another You.” This solo focuses on the following:

  • Diatonic & non-diatonic melodic ideas
  • Chordal & scalar melodic ideas
  • Chromaticism
  • Upper register melodic ideas
  • Compositional ideas
  • Technical dexterity

Click Here to Download Now!

If you would like to learn more about jazz improvisation we suggest you purchase Howie Shear’s books, Jazz Improvisation – Simplified and Bebop Vocabulary, which detail the concepts he is applying in these solos.

About Howie Shear

Howie Shear received a Bachelors in Education from Fredonia State University in 1975 and a Masters in Jazz Studies from the Eastman School of Music in 1977. He received his Doctorate in Music from the University of Southern California in 2002. He studied with James F. Burke and Raymond Crisara. Howie toured with the Woody Herman Band as lead trumpet player & featured soloist in 1980. After the tour he moved to Los Angeles and worked as a studio musician and soloist. Among the extensive list of artists he has worked with are: The Chuck Mangione Orchestra, Tony Bennett, George Benson, Mel Torme, The Temptations, and The Spinners. He was the musical arranger and lead trumpet player on the Joan Rivers Late Night Show. Howie has also played various shows at the Ahmanson Theater and many jazz festivals around the world where he has held trumpet clinics. Arranger and producer of various jazz albums, Howie currently has his own jazz quartet. His classical work includes playing with brass quintets and choirs, solo church work, and solo work in the studios.

Howie Shear is professor of Jazz Trumpet at California State University: Northridge.

Shop Visitors: Bill Ortiz, trumpet artist and Santana trumpet player

Bill Ortiz hanging with the guys from Bob Reeves Brass. From left to right: John Snell, Bill Ortiz, Bob Reeves, and Brett Kendall.
Bill Ortiz hanging with the guys from Bob Reeves Brass. From left to right: John Snell, Bill Ortiz, Bob Reeves, and Brett Kendall.

We had the pleasure to work with the fabulous trumpet artist, Bill Ortiz. Bill has a number of albums out of his own that we highly recommend. Check out his website www.billortiz.com for more information. We are listening to his latest CD, “Highest Wish,” right now. You can also catch Bill on tour much of the year with guitar-legend Santana.

He sounds great on his valve-aligned Martin and now has some Reeves pieces to make his job even easier!

‘Tis the Season for Piccolo Trumpets!

With the holidays right around the corner, baroque music gigs are starting to show up on musician’s calendars, and what that means for the trumpet player is that it’s time to dust off their piccolo and get ready to perform. The holiday season repertoire of Christmas Oratorio, Messiah, and Magnificat is no easy blow and having to play it on piccolo doesn’t help. But, Bob Reeves Brass has some options that will make tackling these pieces a little easier so you can focus more on the music — and have more fun playing!

Bob Reeves Piccolo Trumpet Mouthpieces
A selection of the hundreds of piccolo trumpet mouthpieces available from Bob Reeves Brass.

Modern Developments for the Piccolo Trumpet

In 2012 trumpet equipment has come a long way from what existed when the piccolo trumpet was developed. As piccolo trumpets are half the size of a regular Bb trumpet and have unique issues that need to be addressed, Bob spent many years coming up with the designs of his standard piccolo mouthpieces. The main difference between a standard trumpet mouthpiece and one of our piccolo trumpet mouthpieces is the length. Our piccolo trumpet mouthpieces are shorter than a regular mouthpiece. The same is true for the piccolo mouthpieces we make with a cornet shank. One of our piccolo trumpet mouthpiece with a cornet shank is shorter than a standard cornet mouthpiece.

There Are More Piccolo Mouthpiece Options Than Just a Bach 7EW

Any of the standard Bob Reeves rim and cup combinations can be ordered with a piccolo-trumpet shank or a piccolo-cornet shank. These pieces come with a backbore that Bob developed to play more evenly, better in tune, and with a better balance than the 117 backbore and other common piccolo backbores. The most popular cups players use with their piccolos are the S, M, and C. As with all Bob Reeves pieces, these pieces for piccolo come in a screw-rim configuration and, because of that, if you know you love a certain rim, we can thread it and make a piccolo underpart to it.

Reeves A-Adapter for Cornet-Shank Piccolo Trumpets

Another tool that we offer for cornet-shank piccolo players is our A-Adapter. This adapter, when used on the Bb side of your piccolo, brings the tuning down to the key of A and keeps you from having to pull a Bb tuning bit out very far to play in tune. This prevents a large gap from existing in your horn at the end of the tuning bit before the leadpipe. When this gap is eliminated, the piccolo with play much more in tune, with better response, and much more evenly.

Frequently Asked Questions #1: How Long Do Your Valve Alignment Pads Last?

This will be the first in a series of blog posts answering questions that we receive time and time again.

One of the most common questions we get about Bob Reeves’ patented Valve Alignment process is, “How long do your pads last?”

Bach Trumpet Valve Parts for Bob Reeves Valve Alignment
Trumpet valve parts from a Bach Stradivarius Bb trumpet with Bob Reeves Brass valve alignment pads.

Bob Reeves Brass Pad Material vs. Others

While normal felt pads, Neoprene pads, and rubber pads can change daily because of moisture, temperature, and other factors, the proprietary material that we put into an instrument during an alignment is much more stable. Under normal situations, we have seen our pads last anywhere from five to ten years! This means that the valve alignment will stay true just as long. Some customers wear through the pads faster, but this is usually caused by a reaction with their body chemistry (some people naturally wear through materials faster). Even then, our pads will remain stable longer then the pads that came with the instrument.

The Beauty of a Bob Reeves Valve Alignment

Here’s the thing — even when the pads do eventually wear out, you don’t need to send your instrument to us again, ever! All you need to do is give us a call and order a replacement set of pads. Pop these into your trumpet and it’ll put the alignment right back to where it was the day it left our shop. We have a database of almost 20,000 instruments that have been aligned by Bob Reeves Brass.

Trumpets, a Piccolo Trumpet, and a Flugelhorn Ready for a Bob Reeves Alignment
Bb and C trumpets, a piccolo trumpet, and a flugelhorn ready for a Bob Reeves Valve Alignment.

Have Your Valves Been Aligned By Bob Reeves Brass?

You can check whether your instrument has been aligned by us using our online serial number look-up form or giving us a call.

If you have any questions you would like to see answered in this series, email them to blog@bobreeves.com and it might be featured it in a future blog post!

The Better Plastic Trumpet Mouthpiece

Trumpet Playing in Cold Weather

Winter’s just around the corner and we’re getting flooded with emails from musicians who have to play outside in the bitter cold. Whether it’s for marching band at finals or caroling at an outdoor Christmas tree lighting, trumpet players are called on to play in all sorts of weather conditions. Here at Bob Reeves Brass, we have the answer to playing in the frigid cold: the Better Plastic Trumpet Mouthpiece.

The Better Plastic Trumpet Mouthpiece by Bob Reeves Brass
The Better Plastic Trumpet Mouthpiece by Bob Reeves Brass

The Better Plastic Trumpet Mouthpiece

The Better Plastic Trumpet Mouthpiece uses a Delrin plastic rim on a traditional brass underpart. The plastic rim is easier to play in cold weather because it does not get as cold as brass and provides more grip. The traditional brass underpart keeps the integrity of the sound and playing characteristics of the trumpet mouthpiece.

Any of our trumpet mouthpieces can be made with a white or black Delrin plastic rim. Just specify that when you order. If you already have a Reeves mouthpiece you can order the rim by itself to screw onto your existing underpart.

3C and 1.5C Plastic Mouthpieces

If you want to convert your 3C or 1.5C trumpet mouthpiece to have a plastic rim, just send us your mouthpiece and we can thread the bottom underpart and build a plastic rim to it. Contact us for more details.

From The Archives: Irving Bush Photo

Irving Bush was a fantastic trumpet player for many decades in L.A. He played commercially with the Nelson Riddle and Harry James big bands before joining the L.A. Philharmonic where his tenure lasted 20 years. Irving also designed his own line of popular mouthpieces. His relationship with our shop dates back to the time of Carroll Purviance.

This is a photo of a very young Irving Bush playing the trumpet in what looks to be a big band setting. The photo is signed to Carroll Purviance: “Thanks to a wonderful friend and teacher, Irving R. Bush, 5-11-52.”

Irving Bush Playing Trumpet
Irving Bush playing trumpet circa 1952 prior to his tenure with the L.A. Philharmonic.

Bob Reeves with Maurice Andre and the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra Trumpet Section

Maurice Andre with Bob Reeves and the SFSO Trumpet Section
Bob Reeves with Maurice Andre and the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra Trumpet Section. From Left to Right: Bob Reeves, Don Reinberg, Tom Heimberg, Laurie McGaw, Maurice Andre, Edward Haug, Phil Shoptaugh, and Chris Bogios.

Here is another photo from our archives. It was taken on April 18, 1975 at a party after Maurice Andre’s performance with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. Many of the musicians pictured are good friends and customers of mine that I’ve worked with through the years.

3C and 1-1/2C Classical Series Trumpet Mouthpiece Feedback

Bob Reeves Classical Series Mouthpiece
A Bob Reeves Classical Series Mouthpiece

Since its release at the beginning of the month, we’ve received a lot of positive feedback from musicians who have tried our new Classical Series Mouthpieces. The response has been overwhelming. Our first production run sold out in under a week (and it was supposed to last us at least a month!). We’ve shared some comments that we’ve gotten on our website. Come check it out! Be sure to check back later as we will update the page as we hear from more players.

Click here to read the feedback!

Bob Reeves Classical Series Trumpet Mouthpieces Now Available for Pre-order

Bob Reeves 1-1/2C Trumpet Mouthpiece
Bob Reeves 1-1/2C Trumpet Mouthpiece

Up at the shop, Bob’s long-running classical mouthpiece project is nearing its conclusion. Over the last few months we have provided a few prototypes of our new Classical Series Trumpet Mouthpieces to players and the pieces created quite a buzz at our ITG booth last month.

Now, we are proud to announce the official release of these mouthpieces.  Starting today we will begin taking pre-orders for the 1-1/2C and 3C models of the Classical Series Trumpet mouthpieces that will ship on July 1st.

Click here to learn more about the Classical Series mouthpieces and pre-order one for yourself!