Canadian Musician - May / June 2018 - Page 30

BRASS Paul Baron is one of today’s most highly respected lead and commercial trumpet players. His sound is distinctly bright and powerful and carries with it decades of experience in a wide range of musical styles from jazz to rock, big band to musical theatre, and TV jingles to movie soundtracks. As well as being a performing artist for Jupiter Instruments and Pickett Brass with his signature line of mouthpieces, Paul is also an author, educator, and clinician. www.paulbaron.net. By Paul Baron Mute Choreography O ften when starting a brand new show, the composers and orchestrators will want to ex- periment with different colours in the orchestrations; therefore, they may want to try various instrument and mute combinations. Mute Basics It is a good idea to have every mute avail- able until the show is set and the mutes are decided upon. If the show has been done before and the mutes are set, then make sure you have them all. Just as important as having all the mutes with you for the gig is actually prac- ticing with them. When I am practicing a show I always play the muted parts with the actual mutes in. Each mute can have differ- ent intonational tendencies. Straight mutes and Harmon mutes tend to be a little sharp while cup mutes are a bit flat, especially in the upper register. Practicing the muted parts with the ac- tual mutes in is very important so you learn what the tendencies are, how the mute responds on certain parts, and how you should respond to the mute’s tendencies. Some mutes might respond differently slur- ring and slotting the notes from different harmonic series, so spend the time to learn the feel of the mutes. In Performance Oftentimes, and particularly with newer shows with smaller orchestrations, we trumpet players are blending with different instruments like clarinets and flutes. We may also be the only trumpet, so really learn- 30 • C A N A D I A N M U S I C I A N ing how the mutes feel for resistance and intonation is important. That way, when you get to the actual show, you know those tendencies and can work on matching the other instruments. If you really know the tendencies of your mutes, then when you have to, for instance, play in unison or octaves with a flute player who tends to play sharp in their upper register, you will know where your mute sits with the pitch and can adjust accordingly. Conversely, if you have learned that your Harmon mute goes sharp up high and the flute player is right down the center with intonation, then you need to know how much to adjust. Sometimes the changes from open horn to muted or one mute to the next are extremely fast, so practicing the mute changes is also important. I have played some shows that were really challenging for mute changes. I remember one show in particular which was originally orches- trated for three trumpets, then scaled back to two, and then one, and I was constantly changing mutes. It seemed like the three trumpet books were blended into one, and where the first trumpet may have had a bit more time to make the mute changes possible, when the books were blended, it made the mute changes almost impossible. In this case, what I found easiest for me was to look ahead and see what mute changes were coming up and have a second horn with the mute in it so I could make the switches faster. Another thing I try to do is set out my mutes in the same order next to each other so that if I am grabbing a fast straight mute change, the right mute is going to be in the same spot all the time. Like playing the trumpet, it comes down to muscle memory. It saves some time and eliminates another of the variables so I am not search- ing for the mute. I use a mute rack that clips to the music stand and I tend to prioritize the mutes by how often they are used. For instance, some shows use straight mute a lot but not much Harmon or solo tone, so I will have the straight sitting closest to me in the center of the mute rack so I can get to it quickly and easily and also drop it back in when I go to open trumpet. The bottom line is to practice the parts in real time with the mute changes as marked so the mute changes become programmed into muscle memory just as much as the notes on the page. It is all part of the overall picture. There is enough to think about playing the show without having to think too much about where your mute is. This is based on a lesson from Paul’s book, Trumpet Vol- untarily – A Holistic Guide to Maximizing Practice Through Efficiency, contain- ing more expanded information on this subject as well as 19 chapters with music examples and exercises. The book serves as a guide to teach the player how, what, and when to practice. It is available now through qPress, www.qpress.ca.