‘Tis the season–for holiday concerts, Handel’s Messiah, and (where I live) NCAA football championships (Roll Tide!). Around this time I usually get calls from parents asking for trumpet-related gift recommendations. While the holidays can be a great way to knock out some of the more expensive gear and spare yourself the price tag during the rest of the year, there are some gifts that work better on paper than in paper under a tree. Here is the breakdown of what to consider and what to avoid:
Five Great Gifts for Trumpet Students:
1. Examples of Great Trumpet Playing
Very few things inspire young students as much as seeing and hearing their instrument played up to its full capabilities. Check with your local symphony orchestra or the music department at a local college and purchase tickets to a concert (avoid programs entirely comprised of Mozart and Beethoven; the trumpets won’t do much). Many of the musicians listed on the Sound page also have recordings that will inspire trumpet players of any age. You can either visit these links and listen to samples yourself to see what you like (and want to put up with at your house), or you can ask your student or his/her teacher for recommendations. The recordings on these pages are intended to help students develop a healthy, classical-style sound. However, there are plenty of inspirational recordings that don’t necessarily fit into this category. Here is a list of some favorites that aren’t so traditional:
Adam Rapa, Zoltan Kiss, and Jacek Obstarczyk, Rebelión (available only as mp3s)
Ole Edvard Antonsen, Landscapes (available only as mp3s in most places)
Several of these links have an option to gift the album as a set of mp3s, for students who don’t like to carry around CDs and parents who don’t like to give iTunes gift cards. The iTunes store itself also has a “Buy iTunes gifts” link, so you can give a sampling of tracks from different albums if you choose.
If a trumpet player plays in an ensemble of any kind, he is likely to need a mute at some point. Mutes don’t come cheap, but they usually last for a while, even if they pick up some dents along the way. Unlike practice mutes, which I do NOT recommend as gifts, these mutes are actually called for by the composer in most cases and are designed to change the color of the trumpet sound (not necessarily to make it softer). Most trumpet players will need the following at some point (listed in order from most to least common, with the leading brands in parentheses):
– Straight mute (for a student, I would recommend Dennis Wick, though I myself love TrumCor)
– Cup mute (Dennis Wick)
– Harmon Mute (Jo Ral aluminum bubble mute)
– Plunger mute (jazz music; makes a great stocking stuffer)
– Non-metal straight mute (brands differ; our section uses TrumCor Lyric mutes but the most affordable option is the Bach black plastic mute–most students won’t need this before college)
You can purchase mutes from a variety of places, including your local music store (Tuscaloosa students should be advised that Cole Band stocks most of what you would need). A few of the most common include Woodwind Brasswind, Dillon Music, Hickeys, or the Trumpet Herald marketplace (for used equipment). For plunger mutes, go to your local hardware store and ask for a sink plunger with no handle.
3. A quality music stand.
Consider investing in a Manhasset music stand if you don’t already own one. Portable stands work great for trips and band practice, but create endless difficulties for any student working out of the Arban book, which is so large that it routinely falls off the stand or knocks the stand over. Practicing is much easier if a workspace has already been set up.
4. Trumpet-Related Books
If your trumpet player likes to read, these types of books can answer endless questions and spark a student’s curiosity. Some suggestions:
Ed Tarr, The Trumpet: great overview of the development of the instrument and the various trumpet players who contributed to its success. Probably too dry for students younger than high school; excellent for adults or advanced high schoolers.
International Trumpet Guild Journal: the official publication of the International Trumpet Guild. Why not sign your trumpet player up for a one-year membership? This organization will give your student a connection to the trumpet world at large, and the journal is included in the cost of membership. ITG also includes information with its publications that is directly aimed at younger players.
Richard Schneider, Taps: Notes from a Nation’s Heart: Reader-friendly and moving account of the development and use of Taps throughout history. Definitely a worthwhile read for any trumpet player who might need to sound this call.
5. Recording Equipment
Serious high school students should be recording themselves when they practice. They should also consider recording their trumpet lessons. Younger students can do this, too, but may lack the discipline to get much out of it. My preferred recording equipment for in-home use is the Garage Band application on my computer (or Audacity if Garage Band is not an option). However, this can be tricky when moving from place to place, and high school seniors will need something portable if pursuing music in college. Technology goes out of date quickly, so it can be frustrating to invest a lot of money in a recording device only to have it be obsolete in a few years. However, the models that are on the market today seem to be much more user-friendly than those that I owned during my early college years, and I think they are worth the investment. I personally own a Zoom H2n Handy recorder and have found it to be user-friendly with great sound quality (you will need headphones to go with it but no mic). I have heard that people like the newer Zoom H4n but find the two to be comparable for daily use. The Sony PCM handheld recorders have also been recommended to me because the Zoom utilizes its own memory card and the Sony will take a standard memory card such as you can buy at a store. This is probably the recorder that will go on my own Christmas list this year. If you want to check the specs and reviews on various models, you can view a list at this link. Make sure to double check whether a recording device is truly handheld or whether it needs an extra mic; you probably want one that doesn’t, because trumpet players (in my experience) will not use a recording device at all if they have to set up too much extraneous equipment.
Three Gifts to Avoid:
1) Practice aids not specifically recommended by the student’s teacher (embouchure strengtheners in particular)
2) Books of popular songs, movie themes, etc.: many of these contain rhythms that are simply too hard or notes that are too high for a young student’s development. However, I DO like the Essential Elements Movie Favorites book for young trumpet players (available at Cole Band for Tuscaloosa students), and have used it with many of my students. If you want to buy sheet music for your trumpet student, as his or her teacher what would be appropriate.
3) Practice mutes. Please see the FAQs page for my thoughts on practice mutes.
As your student gets older and more experienced, he/she will likely develop specific tastes about equipment. My family has been well-trained by this point, so to speak, and knows better than to invest in trumpet equipment without a specific directive from me. But I owe them big time for countless method books, mutes, and accessories. In a future post, maybe I’ll list the items I myself am investigating this season, so you can see what I’ll be reviewing if I acquire them. In the meantime, happy shopping! (And to my students, happy practicing!)