There are many great quotes from trumpet players that I admire. But this one, which I copied from the trumpet method book A Tribute to William Adam, is my favorite.
“You have to remember the trumpet is a mean instrument, the meanest there is. It’s a damn monster. Sometimes I feel like throwing it out the window, it’s such a beast. There are times when it treats you so sweet and nice that everything comes out just perfect. Then you come back to it the next night, rub your hands together and say to yourself you’re going to do it all over again. You pick up the horn, put it to your chops, and the son of a bitch says, ‘Screw you.'”
– Roy Eldridge.
Starting my 2023 trumpet practice routine on a positive note… 😉
On my channel, you’ll find videos of my musical collaborations as well as a variety of other things that I’ve served up outside of the scope of this website.
Two of my Happy Birthday videos have amassed over 136,000 views and I’d love to be getting some of the advertising revenue that YouTube makes from them. But to do that I need more subscribers and more views… Can I count you in, please? 🙂
What do you think? Please leave a comment and let me know.
I enjoy looking at the statistics and metrics from this blog, from time to time. I like seeing the number of visitors and the files that they download. I thought I’d publish a list of the Top 5 downloads since WordPress started measuring them in 2019.
I’m so pleased to see that the works of one of the greatest artists of our time consistently rank at 1st place. It sure looks like the trumpet players who visit this site really dig music with a groove!
I continue to record new Virtual Collabs all the time, so I continue to transcribe trumpet charts to make that possible. There’s a steady list of transcriptions in the works and they’ll be added to this blog as the recordings are finished.
This is not a transcription post, although I did transcribe a lot of this including trumpet and strings. I’m sharing this video on my blog because I’m very excited about this musical collaboration. I think that the audio recording truly characterizes my trumpet style and the way that I like to play naturally. And it is such a joy to be able to play with such fantastic and accomplished musicians.
Thank you so much to my friends and co-collaborators Antonio Freire (drums, audio engineering), Georgi Chobanov (keys), Jay Reawaruw (percussion), Richard ‘Bolo’ Loupatty (bass, video editing), Ynping Mak (violins), Yoichi Kishi (guitars).
A special shout-out to my good mate Adrian Munn for his amazing videography and trumpet mentoring.
I hope you enjoy “Fandango”. Composed by Juan Carlos Calderon. Originally recorded and released by Herb Alpert in 1982.
Having collaborated in over 400 online recording projects, there are a few lessons that I’ve learned for achieving the best results. I thought I’d pass on some of these on an ad-hoc basis. In this post, I’m sharing a few simple thoughts about how to play “tightly” together when you and your collaborators are not in the same room (or even in the same hemisphere).
When we play live, we know that a rock-solid connection is needed between the drummer and the bass player in order to sound tight and set a strong foundation for the other musicians. Without that, the band will sound loose and sloppy. These guys must work to lock things together and set the groove for everyone else to play in. We need to work hard when recording virtually, to ensure that we achieve the same standards of musicianship and performance discipline.
The order in which the tracks are recorded is key to achieving this.
Drums should always be recorded first. Assuming we’re recording a cover, the drummer plays along to either the original recording or to a metronome click track. The completed drum track is then shared with everyone in a shared drive.
Bass should always record next, playing along closely with the drum track. If an original recording has been used as a backing track, this should be low in volume; just enough to hear the melody as a guide. Unless there are parts of the song with no drums, the click track (or backing track) can be discarded. Or, otherwise, it can be edited to only keep time during those periods of silence. It’s the bassist’s role to lock-in to the drum track to ensure a strong foundation. The bassist shares the completed track with everyone in a shared drive.
The remaining rhythm section members (keys, guitars, percussion) all record next, in any order, playing tightly with both the drums and bass track. The click track (or backing track) is optional by this stage. If a backing track is still being used, it should be set low in the mix to only act as a musical roadmap. All tracks that have been recorded are shared so that successive musicians can play along with them, which they most certainly should do.
Finally: vocals, horns, and strings, all of which tune by ear, can record now. They should play along to shared tracks only. By now, the original backing track should be a distant memory and no longer used for recording. Share all tracks as completed, so that subsequently recorded tracks may benefit from them.
Recording this way, from the ground up, we’re able to form and then build upon a strong, solid rhythmic and chordal foundation. And since backing tracks can often be tuned to something other than the A440 that our rhythm section will tune to, we avoid potential catastrophes by removing the backing track before vocals, horns, and strings can be deceived by it.
When I’m asked to collaborate on trumpet, I almost always wait until the rhythm section has completed its tracks before recording my own. This allows me to better play “in the pocket” rhythmically, while also avoiding the risk of accidentally tuning my ear and horn to a backing track that is not quite on A440.
Do you have any thoughts on this? Or better practices that you follow? If so, please share by adding a comment!
I’ve been asked about the different tools that I use to transcribe trumpet lines from audio recordings. So here they are!
Follow the links to learn a whole lot more about these resources.
I’ve only recently taken to using this tool, and I like it a lot. Before using Transcribe! I used Audacity in much the same way, but this tool is just a little handier for the sole purpose of transcribing from an audio file. It lets me isolate a section of the recording that needs close examination, reduce the speed, loop it over and over, and a whole bunch of other things that I’m only beginning to explore.
The audio tools that are buried under menus in Audacity are lying right on the surface in Transcribe!, making it a tool that is custom-built for this task.
Anytune Possibly the only app that makes me wish I had a Mac or iPad, as it’s not yet supported by Windows. Instead, I use Anytune on my iPhone.
While Anytune has many of the same features as Transcribe!, its “ReFrame” feature is especially valuable for isolating the exact instruments I am otherwise straining to hear. Other applications allow me to adjust the EQ to highlight the sounds I want to focus on or ignore, but no other tool that I’ve found can achieve this so effectively and so easily.
I was fortunate enough to be born with a good working pair of these. I’ve found them invaluable for holding my glasses on my face and also giving me somewhere cool to put my headphones. My set has a special add-on feature called tinnitus, which I think I picked up in my developing days of playing the trumpet. But if I was getting a new set of ears I wouldn’t select that option next time.
I have found my ears to be such an invaluable resource for transcribing, that I can’t imagine doing it without them.
This free, open-source music scoring program is hard to beat. I’ve compared it to the trial versions of its hefty competitors, and I’m yet to find a serious shortcoming.
It’s amazing, and it’s free.
In addition to these tools, my transcription efforts are aided by a trumpet on my lap and an old keyboard within reach behind me. Can’t get by without those!
Something I saw in a trumpet group that really resonated with me…
“Music on paper is just a roadmap. That has nothing to do with the actual things you’re producing. That has nothing to do with emotions and affecting people. I hope that’s the reason we’re up here doing this.” -Ambrose Akinmusire
I’ve always felt this way about what, and how, I play. But perhaps for the first time I’ve seen it articulated in words so clearly that it hit the mark perfectly.
I’m going to try to draw on this whenever I’m playing outside of a trumpet section.
When I started this blog I almost always followed a routine of posting each of my trumpet transcriptions along with a link to a video demonstration of me playing it. Most often that was a link to a collaboration video, comments, and other resources at the Bandhub site. But when Bandhub went offline in mid-March, all of those links (some 200-odd) from my blog went dead. 💩
I didn’t want this to be a blog full of useless links, so I’ve spent the last month tidying-up all of those dead links to Bandhub, mostly replacing them with links to Bandhub videos published on YouTube. Where I found my co-collaborators had shared videos I linked to those, and where I couldn’t find any traces I uploaded the videos to my YouTube channel. In some cases, where I was especially pleased with what I saw and heard, I embedded those Bandhub/YouTube clips into the blog post.
There was a number of videos that I did not upload or link to. Usually, this was because the collaboration was only partially completed before Bandhub closed, or the backing track (in all its copyrighted glory) was still embedded in the video. In those instances, I’m simply not including a video demonstration of my transcription.
Currently, this blog is receiving 150-200 visitors per week. So I felt it was important to keep the house in order for them.
And I’ve got a number of completed transcriptions drafted and ready to publish, once my co-collaborators record their parts and the videos have been finalized. So stay tuned, there’s more to come.
While the Bandhub music collaboration community was online I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to play and record some music from the great band Chicago. Further, I got to play it with some of the very best musicians on “the hub”.
Here are my absolute favorites from those collaborations…
Ballet for a Girl in Buchannon
Feelin’ Stronger Every Day
Questions 67 and 68
Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?
I’m so grateful to have been able to play with these great musicians, including James Wilkas (vocals, sax, keys), Bob Bernstein (drums), Clay Whisenant (bass), Juan Ignacio Saba Veloso (vocals), VanGuy2015 [who won’t reveal his name] (vocals), Chris Heaps (guitar), Joe Mendicino (guitar), Tom Ferazza (trombone), Mike Pinto (drums), James Erickson (guitar). And for the sake of completing the credits, Gary Badger (trumpet, flugelhorn).
My sincere thanks to Marcelo Birnbach and Pablo Osinaga too, for creating and maintaining the Bandhub platform and collaboration community, for as long as it was able to keep beating. This kind of thing was only possible because of their fine work.
I enjoyed three fantastic years collaborating with others to make music on Bandhub, until its recent sad demise. For the uninitiated, Bandhub was an online music collaboration community where I made > 400 recordings, making music with people from across the planet. After my early days of hanging out there, initially assessing the lay of the land and understanding potential, I did my very best to test the boundaries of Bandhub by organizing and creating collabs that I thought would be “epic”. My quest to engineer epic collabs had me trying to record performances that differentiated themselves from others.
Here’s a collection of the collabs I organized that I’m the proudest of because:
They were truly unlike others on Bandhub;
My wonderful Bandhub buddies and co-conspirators trusted me and totally bought into my unusual ideas, with lots of feel-good moments; and
Most of these collabs were transcribed by me. I’m relieved to say that charts were available for the others, so transcribing wasn’t always necessary.
We recreated the original 1976 Hollywood recording, doing our very best to capture the energy and excitement of that ground-breaking soundtrack. The transcribing, arranging, and project management consumed an entire Xmas break for me. Bringing the team together and seeing the adrenaline rush of excitement as this built, was truly special.
My tribute to my musical hero, Chuck Mangione. I love this one because it was challenging to transcribe Chuck’s solo by ear, and even more challenging to play it in the flugelhorn high register. But I really tip my hat to my good buddy James Wilkas for his magnificent tenor sax solo, incorporating much of Chris Vadala’s fine work into his own.
I’d never known anyone to cover this tune before, so it felt like a rare, untapped opportunity. To top it off, I was honored to learn from Chuck’s niece that Chuck himself saw and heard the video!
There’s a recurring theme of dumb ideas taking hold and blossoming into something big. This one came about, not surprisingly, while enjoying the Life of Brian opening cartoon sequence and admiring the trumpets in this Goldfinger parody. Then, after convincing Claire she should sing and perform the unorthodox lyrics, she absolutely stole the show!
Hot on the heels of Life of Brian, we found momentum and enthusiasm to stretch things further and pull together the original theme song that inspired it. We stretched to bring in French horns and even real timpani. Leveraging Brendan Champion’s Free Horn Charts, the amazing Ynping tweaked the string orchestrations to create an epic string section. Finally, Claire once more dug deep to pull off the most extraordinary Shirley Bassey-esque performance. Very proud of this one!
Given that I’d rarely ever played with strings before a few years ago, it sure says something about the talent of my friends to see violins feature so heavily in my Epic Collab Collection. This time, my very good friend Amanda Tse plays some truly beautiful, heartfelt violin lines as we play this stripped-back Australian rock ballad.
Yeah, this is where it started to get silly and included fancy dress. I had this idea that we could pull off a full brass band performance in the British style with just four people. Ably assisted by my very good friends Craig Catarinich, Andrew Mayes, and Ross MacDonald, we made a very good attempt at it. Sadly, we ran out of time and the opportunity to fill out the lower brass instruments, but there’s enough here to show that it could be done.
Cheesy late-70s funky disco taken too seriously; this piece was just itching to be hammed up and some trumpet ego exercised. But there certainly are some jazzy chords and dramatic accents to capture attention.
What I liked the most about this collab was that none of my collaborators were even the slightest bit aware of this stuff, but took a leap of faith and trusted me with it anyway. The result far exceeded my expectations.
Too silly? Naah. Australian ska band No Nonsense released a vinyl EP entitled Around Tuit, late in the 1980s. This unique arrangement of the Hawaii Five-0 theme was on the B-side. This was a chance to have some fun with friends on a theme…
I traveled interstate with my webcam and recording equipment to record my Dad playing this clarinet solo as well as the rest of the reed section. The one and only recording of Dad and I playing together, so we did it in style as a full big band.
A very special memory, with an exclamation point at the end when Dad nails the last note of his clarinet solo and then turns to me with a look of surprise as if to say “Please tell me you got that!”
A moment in time when I knew that we had the right people to capture a credible version of this, one of my favorite Sting songs, closing out his 1985 album Dream of the Blue Turtles. Except, of course, that Branford Marsalis’ brilliant soprano sax parts are played by me on trumpet, as best I was able.
Wonderful hints of Sting can be heard in vocalist Jason Osborne’s performance, while the sound of the original recording was totally nailed by Chris Carli (guitar), Neil Davidson (keys), Ross MacDonald (drums), and Luciano Baêta (bass and video production).
Transcribing and recording this complex beast had long sat in the too-hard basket. But I felt that if I could untangle the tightly woven horn parts then I stood a good chance of the other musicians being able to nail the rhythm section parts. As it turned out, once on paper the horn parts weren’t that complex after all! Too many good things to say about this one…
I heard this on YouTube and simply had to copy it. Who else do you know who has attempted a serious recording of this tune?
Village People – Y.M.C.A.
The beauty of the Bandhub community was that it was just that; a community of people. I pulled together 25 of my favorite people to help me celebrate my 400th Bandhub collab, just weeks before the kiss of death was put on Bandhub. This is a pretty fine level of community participation!
A unique jazz-influenced arrangement of John Williams’ classic theme as recorded by trumpet virtuoso Don Ellis. I pulled together a 34-piece Bandhub orchestra to play charts that I transcribed by ear. I love the way that this arrangement builds from very little to a major musical climax, before quietly slipping away into a galaxy far away. Too many musical highlights here for me to single out any one of them over another.
A practical joke backfired on me, and before I could blink my good friends made a meal of this cheesy jingle. But it caused us to consider, and really pay homage to, the studio musicians who are called upon to play silly ditties but do so with complete professionalism. So as we played, this was another case of “ridiculousness, taken seriously”.
I’ve never had the slightest interest in the Carpenters and their music, although that sometimes puts me at odds with other people (including one I’m married to!). But when my friend Ynping was interested in singing the lead vocals and transcribing strings, this was an opportunity not to be passed up. French horns became flugelhorns, and an oboe became a soprano sax. But we were still able to blend the instruments and vocals (lead and backing) beautifully to closely mirror the Carpenters’ original.
I saved this one until the end of my Epic Collab list. It’s like no other collab, and it serves as a reminder that it was the people that made Bandhub so special. Knowing that Claire’s birthday was on the horizon and that she has so many warm friendships across the planet, I organized this surprise party for her. Bandhub allowed “unlisted” collabs so I was able to track down a bunch of special people and record this secretly for weeks in readiness for the big day. Then, overnight on the morning of her birthday, I published it.
“Surprise” would be an understatement. “Shock” and “disbelief” were more accurate after Claire casually logged on around 4:30am and was hit with that. 🙂