The Best Zoom Settings: Learn More in Your Lessons

The Best Zoom Settings: Learn More in Your Lessons

Written by benwright2021

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I have met and worked with many fantastic trumpet players since spring of 2020 via Zoom: American, Canadian, Asian, Australian, Spanish, and British players; older players and younger; amateur and pro. I feel lucky to have been able to help so many people from the safety and convenience of our respective homes/countries. Even now that it is safer, I am still thankful for the Zoom interface and its ability to reach far and wide. 

I wanted to share some info on how you can make your distance learning lessons go smoother from a technological standpoint.

Often I hear people say: I need FANCY equipment to make zoom lessons work, right?

No!!!

Are you among the people that have expanded their minds and improved their playing over the last year by taking lessons with experts all over the world via Zoom? I know that for many of you the answer is yes, but just in case…

Do you need a mixing board, preamp, condenser mic, DSLR camera in 4K, internet at warp speed, and/or supercomputer to make trumpet lessons work on zoom? 

Nope. Can you use just a cell phone on 3g or slow WiFi? Well… sorry, no. 

Here’s what I use: MacBook Pro (2018), Apogee Mic (that’s the model name, but you can use any plug and play USB mic in my experience to excellent effect as long as it has a way to adjust gain control), corded Ethernet connection to Verizon Fios, and an Apple AirPod in one ear with a corded backup nearby just in case.

 

I’ve made excellent connections with my online students using similar setups with GREAT results since March of 2020. 

Does it help to have some setup tips? Yes- here’s a great zoom setup guide. 

Make sure you are running the latest Zoom version by clicking Check for Updates (any time Zoom doesn’t work well this is your first place to check :

Once you are sure you have the latest and greatest version of Zoom, open Zoom and select the cog wheel in the upper right corner:

Once into the settings menu, select “Audio” on the left and check or uncheck the options as shown below:

Click on “Advanced” at the bottom of the screen. On the following page, set echo cancellation to Auto.

Next, select Video on the left side of your settings window and uncheck HD – this will ensure that more of your internet bandwidth will go to your audio feed and reduce lag.

 

That is it for Zoom settings.

As far as to use WiFi or a corded connection (called an Ethernet cable), always choose the latter as it will ensure the most reliable connection (especially if, like me, you have 11 year olds playing Minecraft on the wifi!). I bought a 50’ cable for mine to connect to the router from Amazon for under $20.

Once you have done these things, you can be reasonably sure that your Zoom lesson learning can be maximized! 

 

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The march from Shostakovich 5th Symphony

The march from Shostakovich 5th Symphony

Written by benwright2021

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Shostakovich’s 5th Symphony has always been a favorite of mine to play – but, here’s the question? Have you heard his 4th Symphony? Check out the BSO’s recent recording of it to hear some crazy stuff! It never shows up on auditions and is rarely played, but it is big, brawny, and bristly in that awesome Shostakovich way. My colleague, Tom Rolfs, principal trumpet of the BSO, sounds incredible in all of the Boston Symphony’s Shostakovich cycle, but especially so in this piece.

Shostakovich’s fifth symphony sounds like a lullaby by comparison. 

Have you ever had trouble making the 16ths square enough in the march, while keeping the phrases long at the same time? This was an excerpt that I struggled with while in school – it is such a strange combination of square rhythms, long lines, and rests. It can take awhile to put it all together. 

The next time you practice it, play long marcato 8th notes during the half notes to subdivide. Take care to drive through them – if they are light or mechanical they won’t do you much good. We’re using them to not only keep the notes the right length but to ensure we don’t let the phrase go slack. Also practice the 8th note/8th rest/sixteenth figures as straight 8th notes to get the feel of the phrase better. You can also deliberately play the WRONG rhythm here – play triplets instead of 16ths and you’ll immediately know if you’ve been playing your 16ths inaccurately.  Don’t practice it with triplets more than once though!! Of course you can also practice the figure with 16th divisions. Notice in my rendition the crescendos that aren’t printed – these are traditional and really help drive the phrasing along. 


 

In my 7 and 12-week T5 programs, members get to play along with me with a feature I call Symphony Stage. Here is the march from the 1st movement of Shostakovich 5th Symphony with me playing all the parts. 

What are your plans for improving your playing this fall? If you’re looking for a one-stop learning experience where you get lessons, masterclasses, a community of similarly driven players, and much more, check out my T5 Fall Semester 2021 HERE.

 

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Principal trumpet excerpts from Alpine Symphony – Peak Efficiency Needed

Principal trumpet excerpts from Alpine Symphony – Peak Efficiency Needed

 Alpine Symphony – a need for peak efficiency – pun not intended!

In high school and then college, my friends and I were constantly trying to bang out the high Ds in Alpine Symphony with varying degrees of success (and bruising of the chops)! I was shocked when I finally realized that it wasn’t supposed to be crushingly loud at figure 68, but F and then (GASP) mf on a high D… But mine would only come out at the speed of PLAID (Spaceballs reference to light-speed for those of you under 40). 

For years, I thought the key was to build up my chops. I was forever working on flexibility and range and more often than not running into the same brick wall. I didn’t realize what the barrier was until very recently.

One of the things I talk with my T5 students is the idea that there is so much more to it than just the chops. My fancy name for it is integrated mechanics for the trumpet: learning to use your whole body to play more efficiently.

  • Arnold Jacobs-style breathing
    • Song and Wind concepts (insert hyperlink the book)
    • Breathing bag and Breath-builder (hyperlinks here too) techniques for ease of airflow
  • Alexander Technique and its benefits for trumpeters
  • Which muscles are needed to play and which are not
  • Singing – the best way to practice away from the trumpet to strengthen musical ideas and improve airflow and articulation
  • How flexibility is improved by understanding the proper function of the tongue
  • How various physical exercise habits have helped my playing

Here are some clips from the Sound Truth Library™ from Alpine Symphony that require focus on the techniques above to make it sound easy. Happy practicing!

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Carmen Prelude for Trumpet and LOW notes!

Carmen Prelude for Trumpet and LOW notes!

Written by benwright2021

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LOW NOTES! It’s been a huge part of my professional life since leaving school in the late 90s. Having held two 4th trumpet jobs and two second trumpet jobs, I have always been comfortable below the staff and continue to be so. 

In every audition, you’ll have to show you can play in the basement and Carmen is the most commonly requested excerpt that covers that range. There are others: Shostakovich 5 and Piano Concerto, Beethoven 5 second trumpet, Dvorak 8 second movement, Tanhauser, etc, but the focus here is Carmen.

When I was in The Kennedy Center Opera Orchestra, Tage Larsen and I became good friends and remain so today. I remember talking with him about low notes as we prepared for the CSO fourth audition and what he said stuck with me: “Lets face it, they want the notes that are at the bottom of our range or off of it (in the case of low Fs) to sound like real notes. You don’t want people who play other instruments on the committee to look at the trumpet players on the committee and say, Hey – is that supposed to sound like THAT?” So with all excerpts that require that half step below low F#, take special care – MAKE IT SOUND LIKE A REAL NOTE!!!!

 

With Carmen, there are multiple ways to get down to the low F in terms of the fingerings and the slides – this video clarifies what has worked for me over the years (simpler is better, as you will see).

Think of playing the low F like a basketball player being able to dribble between their legs – you don’t want to try that skill out in a game for the first time. You would develop it behind the scenes until it is pretty consistent, and THEN use it in a game situation. It may still feel challenging when it comes to doing under the pressure of someone defending you, but at least it is a skill you have already learned. Same thing here – get the pitch and sound right on the low notes, THEN practice it more or less in context.

A couple of things to remember – we tend to play flat when we play below the staff and our pitch often sags as we descend.  Bear those things in mind when going through these drills and your low notes will start singing with that spinning sound in no time!

Get your free Carmen Prelude Drills !

To receive your free copy of my complete Carmen Prelude Drills PDF, please fill out this brief form.

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Sousa Hands Across the Sea Trumpet Part for Navy Band Audition

Sousa Hands Across the Sea Trumpet Part for Navy Band Audition

Sousa Hands Across the Sea Trumpet Part for Navy Band Audition

Written by benwright2021

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Do you ever wonder what, when, and how to practice?  Learning to practice efficiently has taken me years but would have been faster if my teachers could have been in my practice space to help. This is the idea behind Practice Window Training.

Practice Windows are 5-minute videos recorded during a practice session. The idea is to capture a short clip of how you actually practice – it is not a performance. Practice Window Training™ is a 20-minute lesson, watching the Practice Window together, to create a more efficient, productive, and satisfying practice experience.

During the fall of 2019, my former student Bret Magliola was learning the material for the Navy band audition that he eventually would win.  Hands Across the Sea came up and I MARGINALLY learned it in helping him prepare. This year,  as the Navy Band announced another opening, I used the Practice Window Training on MYSELF to finally learn the Sousa. It seemed like the thing to do in helping my current crew as they made their recorded round auditions. 

It was interesting for me to see how this worked in my own playing. I recorded the first session, was slightly perturbed at how inconsistent I was, and then got to work. Figuring out various things that were adding to those inconsistencies started to be kind of fun – I am not the kind of person to be satisfied with unanswered questions – especially when it comes to the trumpet.

Practice Windows are 5-minute videos recorded during a practice session. The idea is to capture a short clip of how you actually practice – it is not a performance. Practice Window Training™ is a 20-minute lesson, watching the Practice Window together, to create a more efficient, productive, and satisfying practice experience.

If you’d like to sign up for a practice window training with me click the button.

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Master the Petrouchka Trumpet Excerpt with these drills – Part 1

Master the Petrouchka Trumpet Excerpt with these drills – Part 1

Master the Petrouchka Trumpet Excerpt with these drills – Part 1

Written by benwright2021

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If you want to play in an orchestra, sooner than later, you are going to need to learn to play the Ballerina Dance from Stravinsky’s Ballet, Petrouchka. Why? It’s on every audition. The honest truth: this excerpt was tough for me in school. I didn’t really learn to play it well until I had won my third job. If you also struggle with this piece, fear not. If I was able to own it, so can you!

I used to “rent” this excerpt, simply running through and repeating the same mistakes. Owning this excerpt didn’t come until I thought bigger: I needed to improve the parts of my playing that were insufficient to make it sound good, namely my flexibility and clarity of articulation. Once I made inroads with flexibility and a lighter, clearer articulation — which had much more to do with how I was using my air than with articulation itself — this excerpt and others like it (Ravel’s G-major piano concerto, etc.) became much more consistent.

In this video and in its companion video Petrushka Drills part deux, I share all the exercises I’ve used to take ownership of this ubiquitous excerpt. They will help you to gain the skills you need to truly own it.

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