Trumpet: Interview and demonstration with principal David Bilger | Music | Khan Academy

Trumpet: Interview and demonstration with principal David Bilger | Music | Khan Academy


(“Symphony No. 4 in F minor”
by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky) – The trumpet is actually
an ancient instrument and way, way back thousands
of years ago trumpet players didn’t exist of course we just had people. And they wanted to find a way to signal across great distances. So they experimented with blowing
one’s lips into a seashell and they found if they
blew their lips in this way (blowing) Into a big seashell that
they cut a hole into, that that would actually
carry great distances. And then the Egyptians as they
learned how to work metals thought, oh we can make this even louder and do some pretty cool things
by making straight trumpets. And so they took metal
and they devised a way for the lips to sort
of rest on that metal, which is our modern mouthpiece. And then as we got more
technology we decided, oh we need to be able to make
the trumpet do more things. So these systems of valves
here were developed, and the valves actually changed the notes. What they do is if you
push down the first valve it makes the air go through extra length of tubing which makes the pitch lower. And this is the one valve
slide for the first valve. The third valve slide, as
you can see, is much longer, which changes the pitch
even lower, and by using the valves in combination,
we can play chromatics on the instrument we can
play all the different notes of the scale. Using the valves on the
instrument only does so much, we can only work through a
small portion of the notes, actually by changing
what we do with our lips and moving through different
notes on the instrument, different what’s called partials. We can get in and out of different ranges without using any valves at all and can play quite a number of notes. (light music) When I use my fingers with
that, use the valves with that, then I can get a full chromatic scale. (light music) The reason that we need to have valves is the fact that these open notes, the partials on the instrument, are far apart and that’s
actually just physics. The instrument resonates in a way that you can only play fundamental. (light music) And as you may have noticed, the higher we go the closer
those notes are together. But in the lower register,
they can be as much as a fifth apart, which is why we need to have the combination of three valves to get all the notes in
between these partials. (“Symphony No. 2” by Gustav Mahler) The lowest note on the trumpet, you would take the fundamental, the low C. (light music) And then add all of the valves. (light music) And that’s our low note,
which is a low F sharp which is our lowest partial with all of the valve combinations. So basically when we add some tubing the same harmonic series
continues just down a little bit lower. So with no valves. (light music) One valve. (bright music) Slightly longer valve. (light music) (“Academic Festival Overture
Op. 80” by Johannes Brahms) The trumpet is a actually
a transposing instrument. We play in the orchestra
mostly on C pitched instruments but our parts are notated, I think in the Tchaikovsky Symphony is in F, the Schuman Symphony
is in E flat and in F, the Beethoven is in C, which makes it sort of easier. Some of the parts are in B flat, New World Symphony has E and C, so we’re actually transposing at sight, pretty much every piece that
we do, we’re reading a note and having to say, okay
that’s written in E, and I’m on a C trumpet so I
have to play up a major third. By doing that it sort of makes you have to, it’s part of the technique
of the instrument, you have to just learn how to do it and it becomes second nature. The reason for that is that
before there were valves on the instrument, that
trumpet players would actually have to change the instrument. Back in Beethoven’s days,
there were extra pieces of tubing that would go
between the mouthpiece and the lead pipe of the
instrument to make the pitch lower. Now we use the valves and
the slides but back then they actually had to change
these, they’re called crooks, and by doing that they
could play in different keys just the open partials in different keys. But the notations sort of
stuck around and became just the tradition of the
instrument, so we transpose a lot. But other times we’ll be playing on a different keyed trumpet, trumpets that most people will start on, most students, in fact
I think all students, will begin on an instrument
that’s pitched in B flat. And they’ll just read the
music that someone else has transposed for them and so
that the pitches sound right. But perfect pitch on the trumpet can really be a difficult
thing because not only are you visually seeing
pitches differently, but some of our instruments
are keyed in different keys. I actually own B flat trumpets,
C trumpets, D trumpets, E flat, F, high G, high
A, and B flat piccolos. So I have all of these
different keyed instruments they all have slightly different sound, they’re used for some
different repertoire. 90% of the time, maybe 95% of the time, I play on this instrument. Which is pitched in C. Now some people have asked me, and actually given me a little bit of a hard time about this
because it’s not shiny. It’s sort of dull, it’s raw brass, it’s a natural finish of the instrument. Many players have
instruments that are plated with silver or gold, or are lacquered. They spray on a finish that keeps it from turning color like this. The reason I play on this instrument, that is a little bit ugly,
is because it was actually a prototype instrument made for me personally by a trumpet maker. In fact, we worked on
designs for about a year and now they sell this
instrument in the shiny version, but I liked this one so
much that I didn’t want to part with it to send
it out to get it plated. And also sometimes the plating can change the way the instrument
sounds a little bit. I’m just stuck with it,
it turns my hands green at the end of the day. But I think it has a lot of character. (“Symphony No. 5” by Dmitri Shostakovich) Like many musicians I came from a family where music was important. Neither of my parents were
professional musicians, although both had studied
when they were younger, and when I was in second grade
my parents bought a piano. And they said, you
wanna take some lessons? And I said, I don’t know, maybe, sure I’ll try it. I was fortunate enough
to have a great teacher who taught me well how to
read music and made it fun, and then in fourth grade, two
years later, in public school we had the choice of
taking up band instruments. And everyone was paraded into a room with all of the different
band instruments, we didn’t have orchestra where I grew up it was just band country in the Midwest. There were trumpets, and
trombones, french horns, woodwind instruments,
clarinets, saxophones, drums, you name it. And I’m not exactly sure
what drew me to the trumpet, I think in some ways it
might have been the fact that the case was really cool, it had this crushed purple
velour and the trumpet looked really shiny against
it and for whatever reason I said, I think I’ll try that. My parents rented one from
the local music store, just because they didn’t
want to buy one in case it didn’t stick, and played a little bit,
and it seemed like something that was actually a good fit for me. I did continue with two
instruments, I played the piano, and then I played the trumpet. And the trumpet just seemed, I got better a lot
faster than at the piano. And on the piano I had a good right hand and not a very good left hand,
and I played a lot, in fact, I still took lessons when I
was in college, on the piano. But I just wasn’t very good, to be honest. And I could tell, I could
hear players that were a lot better on the instrument, they could do what they heard. Oh, I want it to sound like this, and they could do it on the piano. And for me it felt more mechanical, and the trumpet I felt like I could sing, and say what I wanted to as a musician. My parents used to joke
that it was sort of amazing that no one had to make me practice, I think from early on I had the sense that wow I could really
accomplish something, I could get better, I
could learn a new song, I could learn to play
faster, higher, louder, by putting in some time on the instrument. But I was also a normal kid. I liked to go and play baseball with the kids in the neighborhood, ride my bike, do all the stuff, it wasn’t that I was locked
in a practice room all day. And I think that’s one
of the joys of playing the trumpet is the fact
that, unlike a violin, where you can and sometimes are expected to practice a million hours a day. The trumpet, because of
the impact on our lips, two, three hours a day even for a processional
is plenty of practice. (“Daphnis and Chloe, Suite
No. 2” by Maurice Ravel) There’s a lot to love
about playing the trumpet one of the things is in the orchestra you can, I say drive the bus. You can be a dominant voice. And at the same time, in the same piece, you may have a chance to
play something very song-like and lyrical and be more of a collaborator with other instruments. The trumpet does play a
leadership role and I like that. (“Symphony No. 9 in E
minor” by Antonin Dvorak)

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