Sunday, March 27, 2011

My Brand New Pocket Trumpet

My new CarolBrass Pocket Trumpet
Some of you out there know that, before I was a jazz pianist, I was a trumpet player. I started playing in the school band in 4th grade. I actually went on to do my undergrad at Peabody Conservatory in classical trumpet and Music Education. I never had the natural talent for the instrument; I actually had major embouchure difficulties which made high range and endurance a major struggle. My teachers, Lee Stevens and Wayne Cameron, really tried to help me, but I never developed enough to be consistent. But I was so stubborn that I persisted, insisting that I was meant to be a trumpeter. But then, the piano suddenly became important. I was only learning piano to improve my understanding of harmony. But I sort of got lucky getting gigs on piano in Baltimore. I had so much paying work as a pianist that upon graduation from Peabody in 1991, I proceeded to quit the trumpet entirely.

However, I decided in 1998 that I wanted to give it another try. Unfortunately, I had sold all my  trumpets in 1991( I had a Bach Stradivarius Bb, a Bach Strad C for orchestral excerpts, and a Shilke D/Eb for playing the Haydn Trumpet Sonata and so forth). So I went to Sam Ash in New York and bought a cheap Holton Symphony Bb trumpet. I couldn't really tell if it was any good because all the horns I tried sounded terrible; I hadn't touched a trumpet in years so I had NO embouchure at all. The horns weren't terrible: I was terrible!

So I messed around with trumpet again for a while, for about two years. Then I put it down again for another 5 years or so, and then in 2005, dusted off the Holton Symphony and decided to try again. When I accepted the job at the University of Manitoba in the Fall of 2009, I was assigned a trumpet student. This inspired me to practice so that I would be able to explain and demonstrate physical and musical concepts more readily. I still struggle with the physicality of the trumpet, but I'm better than I was in college. I also have had so many more musical experiences that it has helped my musicality on the instrument. I can oftentimes play tunes that I know on piano but have never played on the trumpet.

Not a Piccolo trumpet!
All this is a preface to what is essential a product review of a recent purchase:the CarolBrass Pocket Trumpet. For those of you who don't understand what a pocket trumpet is, it's essentially a regular Bb trumpet, only the tubing is coiled much more compactly, so that the trumpet looks smaller and takes up less space. But the notes and fingerings are the same. (Some mistake it for a piccolo trumpet, which is pitched an octave higher than a typical Bb trumpet. Piccolo trumpet is used for baroque music such as Bach's Brandenburg Concerto #2, or it's used for some orchestral music, such as Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exibition.)

Don Cherry
The most famous musician to exclusively play a Pocket Trumpet is avant-garde jazz musician Don Cherry. Cherry played at first a custom made pocket trumpet from Pakistan, allegedly, and then played a pocket trumpet made by Besson for the rest of his life. Cherry claimed that the idiosyncratic nature of the pocket trumpet made him get some sounds out of the horn that were useful in modern musical settings. ( The only other person I can think of that I know who uses a pocket trumpet on a regular basis is drummer Ralph Peterson. I've been on gigs where Peterson pulled out the pocket trumpet and played stuff that many full time trumpeters would envy.)

"How does it play?""I don't know, but it sure is RED!"
However, most trumpet players consider pocket trumpets to be little more than a novelty. Before I purchased my pocket trumpet, many tried to dissuade me, saying that pocket trumpets are "stuffy" and "out-of tune" and "cheaply made." Indeed, you can go on Ebay or Amazon and find pocket trumpets of many different colors for less than 100 dollars. I'm sure these horns are crap. But there are also pocket trumpets which are $1500 and up made by real companies like Benge and Kanstul. Even Monette, which makes the most expensive trumpets(10,000 dollars and up) made at least a few pocket trumpets, as I have heard.

After doing a lot of research on line, I found many good reviews of the CarolBrass Pocket Trumpet. CarolBrass is a company based in Taiwan, and they are various distributors in the U.S. I found a brand new CarolBrass Pocket Trumpet being sold on Ebay for $750 through California Music Supply. It took a couple weeks to ship to Winnipeg from California. When it finally arrived, I was excited, as I hadn't bought a new trumpet since 1998!

Case Closed!
I was surprised at the compactness of the trumpet case; it looked like a small briefcase in which you might smuggle diamonds. Don Relic, who owns California Music Supply, threw in a small soft case that he calls the Tiny Toga for the pocket trumpet. If you were very careful with it, you could probably put the pocket trumpet in the toga and then put it in your knapsack. Also, Don said he would make sure the valves were well oiled, and sure enough, when I took the horn out and started to fiddle with it, the valves were fast. Not the fastest I've ever played, but fast for a new horn, for sure.(Sometimes the valves need to be "broken in" a little.)

Monette Mouthpiece
The trumpet came with a Bach equivalent 7C mouthpiece. They usually come with a 3C, but I actually asked Don to include a 7C, since that was what I was using when I ordered the trumpet. However, in the interim, I had borrowed a Monette B6 mouthpice from a local trumpeter named Andrew Littleford. Now, I've been using a 7C since 1998. But I had been hearing rave reviews about the Monette mouthpieces. (In fact, trumpeter Ingrid Jensen had suggested that I use a Monette mouthpiece with a pocket trumpet in the hopes that it would sound better.)My first impression of the Monette B6 mouthpiece was that it was the most incredible mouthpiece I've ever played! However, sometimes the honeymoon ends quickly with equipment, and now I'm not as bowled over as I was initially. But it still feels good to play, in terms of comfort. I'm going to try the Monette mouthpiece for a little while longer before making my assessment, which would result in me actually ordering one for myself(and they are very expensive: 300 bucks and up just for the mouthpiece.)

So I inserted the Monette B6 mouthpiece into the pocket trumpet and played a bit. My first impressions were pretty good: it has a nice mellow tone, and felt pretty good in all registers. The things that took a little getting used to were holding the trumpet, since the third valve slide on a pocket trumpet is operated by the left thumb, as opposed to the left ring finger on a normal trumpet. I will admit, when I play low D and C#, the notes which are very sharp on a normal trumpet, I have a hard time getting this slide out. I'm getting better at it the more I play, though. Also, I thought the overall intonation was very good, but sometimes, the accuracy of hitting the notes where I'm accustomed to feeling them was a little different. Again, the more I play it, the better it feels.

Most people are mesmerized by the look of the horn. I got the one with the "satin" finish on the bell, which makes it look almost vintage. Some people have called it "cute". I agree. And most people have remarked that it sounds good. Like I said, the more I play it, the more I like it. I'm not sure if full time trumpeters would ever totally replace their normal Bb with a pocket trumpet. Still, what with the airlines constantly cutting back on what you are allowed to bring on flights, it's definitely worth considering, especially for those who just want to have something to practice on vacation. For me, I'm bringing it on my next road gigs as a leader (I wanted to be able to bring the trumpet and the melodica;I think both of these could fit in one bag....). I'm also hoping to bring the pocket trumpet on my tour with Jack DeJohnette in May. Maybe Jack with let me play a few tunes with the band....

So to conclude, I give the CarolBrass Pocket Trumpet a hearty endorsement. Especially when you consider the price, you get a high quality horn for pretty reasonable cost. CarolBrass makes regular trumpets, flugelhorns, cornets, and trombones as well. I have my eye on a CarolBrass lightweight Bb of normal size. So many instruments, so little money.........

http://www.carolbrass.com/index.php
http://californiamusicsupply.com/
http://www.monette.net/newsite/

6 comments:

  1. Hey! Pocket trumpets are fun. Another player who uses them a lot is a French player named Mederic Collignon. He has a beautiful silver horn and he sounds pretty good on it. Another player is the Canadian Patrick Boyle. He's in Toronto now but originally from Novia Scotia, and he plays it like it's a folk instrument much of the time. Really fun.

    I have a Trumpet Max, which is also highly thought of by players who like the pocket size. It's well made.

    Fun stuff.

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  2. Didn't Cherry play a pocket cornet?

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  3. The CarolBrass Pocket Trumpet is one heck of a player. With great intonation, and range ( a double C is no problem on this horn if you have the lip ) I highly recommend them.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hey! Pocket trumpets are fun. Another player who uses them a lot is a French player named Mederic Collignon. He has a beautiful silver horn and he sounds pretty good on it. Another player is the Canadian Patrick Boyle. He's in Toronto now but originally from Novia Scotia, and he plays it like it's a folk instrument much of the time. Really fun.

    I have a Trumpet Max, which is also highly thought of by players who like the pocket size. It's well made. invoice financingcheapest website design

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  5. Passages Malibu HelpOakville Real EstateHey! Pocket trumpets are fun. Another player who uses them a lot is a French player named Mederic Collignon. He has a beautiful silver horn and he sounds pretty good on it. Another player is the Canadian Patrick Boyle. He's in Toronto now but originally from Novia Scotia, and he plays it like it's a folk instrument much of the time. Really fun.

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