Trumpet Topics

Natural Trumpet

I strongly encourage anyone interested in the performance of trumpet music from the Baroque to seriously consider trying to somehow arrange to learn how to play the original instrument itself (a modern replica of the instrument, of course). The performance of baroque repertoire blossomed with the evolution of high-quality piccolo trumpets in the late 1960's. That manufacturing development has enabled the performance of these difficult works to come within the reach of large number of professionals, amateurs, and student trumpeters. I recommend that for a trumpeter to give an enlightened performance that attempts to be true to the original performance practice, the player should have experiences with actually attempting to play the music on an instrument similar to the original.

Most of the baroque trumpet repertoire was written for the trumpet in D, an instrument without valves approximately seven feet in length. At twice the length of a modern D trumpet, the overtone series falls an octave lower, so that a diatonic scale can be played beginning on 3rd space C. Playing the correct notes was controlled by the embouchure, and a highly trained ear was obviously a necessity. Having no valves, all of the trills were of course lip trills. The bore of the instrument was approximately the same as a modern instrument, but because the baroque instrument was twice as long, the bore-length ratio was much smaller than today's instrument, making the response much different. Generally, the baroque instrument has a feel of greater resistance, and care must be taken to not overblow it, which would tend to make the tone splatty and increase the likelihood of cracked notes.

The mouthpieces used on the baroque instrument are much different from modern ones. The cup diameter, even on the smallest baroque mouthpiece was much wider than the largest modern mouthpiece and the rim was quite flat, with a relatively sharp inner edge. There was also a sharp edge at the bottom of the cup at the entrance to the mouthpiece throat. When playing a baroque mouthpiece, one must constantly strive for a very focused, but relaxed embouchure to keep the lip from collapsing into the cup. On a modern trumpet and mouthpiece, I feel that when embouchure tension and perhaps a bit of mouthpiece pressure build, I can often get through a performance be increasing my air support. This concept just doesn't work on the baroque trumpet however, because without relaxation and a finessed approach, the tone is likely to simply stop abruptly.

After playing on replica of an original baroque trumpet and mouthpiece for just a short time I'm sure you would discover that some things that you do to play your modern equipment simply do not work on the baroque trumpet. By learning how you must physically approach that instrument, you will discover that it actually effects the resulting musical style. It will then be possible to transfer your newly acquired, enlightened sense of baroque performance style over to your performances on the piccolo trumpet. I realize that my proposal may prove to be impractical and/or expensive for many trumpeters. However, if you do have that opportunity, I'm certain that you will find it to be a very educational experience.

If you would like additional information about getting started on baroque trumpet or obtaining equipment, contact me by E-mail and I will tell you some sources.

Back to Trumpet Topics Home Page

Back to Bryan Goff's Home Page