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Motet
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   Posted 10/2/2008 11:48 PM (GMT -5)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
I'm arranging an opera in which the trumpet parts are in Bb and A. My usual practice to to write everything for C trumpet, but this piece famously contains a low F# for A trumpet (concert D#), which is commonly played on a Bb trumpet by pushing out the 1st and 3rd valve slides all the way on that note.

Writing everything for Bb trumpet doesn't really make sense either, I'm thinking, since this would result in some wild keys, and a modern player would probably play at least some of the original A trumpet parts on a C trumpet. Seems like there are a few other choices as well. Which is best?

1) Write everything in Bb, since a Bb trumpet is required for the low concert D#. This will result in some wild key signatures. The player can play it all on Bb or transpose some to C.
2) Write everything in C, since this results in friendlier key signatures, letting the odd-looking D# stand. The player will have to play the D# passage on Bb trumpet, and perhaps others of his choosing.
3) Leave everything in the original Bb and A and let the player transpose as needed or desired.
4) Take a clarinettish approach and write for both Bb and C trumpet, switching according to key.


(Finale 2005b on Windows XP)

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Jazvampire
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   Posted 10/3/2008 12:15 AM (GMT -5)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
Most trumpet players I know (myself included) would prefer to stick with one horn at a time... I would write it for Bb, since that would give you the low tone, and although there might be some bad key signatures, a good player will rise to the challenge.
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Saffron
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   Posted 10/3/2008 4:36 AM (GMT -5)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
Write in Bb all the time. One of the complaints I hear from time to time is from trumpeters who receive parts in A, because the composer/copyist thought they'd be helpful, but the musician only has a Bb trumpet with them, so they have to transpose as well as end up playing in the dodgy key. Every player has a Bb trumpet, many don't have an A.

It's a different matter with clarinets, however - most players have at least the A/Bb pair (though if in doubt, or you think someone might be doubling on sax, stick to Bb even here).

Brian
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Richard Ashmore
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   Posted 10/3/2008 5:04 AM (GMT -5)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.

 

  Make B-flat and C trumpet parts available.  My guess is most trumpet players in an opera pit orchestra will have a C trumpet, and, if the piece is in A, that puts the B flat trumpets playing in the key of B.  B is not a good key for trumpet players-freaked


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Gareth Green
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   Posted 10/3/2008 5:18 AM (GMT -5)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
Saffron said...
Write in Bb all the time. One of the complaints I hear from time to time is from trumpeters who receive parts in A, because the composer/copyist thought they'd be helpful, but the musician only has a Bb trumpet with them, so they have to transpose as well as end up playing in the dodgy key. Every player has a Bb trumpet, many don't have an A.

Brian
In this day and age, there is effectively no such thing as an 'A' trumpet. Occasionally you might come across someone who owns an antique trumpet (or more likely a cornet) with a non-sprung rotary valve which will will switch the instrument from Bb to A, but these will be few and far between, and in most instances will to all practical purposes not be useable in a modern setting. Modern brass instrument manufactures do not make trumpets in A. They make trumpets in (ascending) Bb, C, D, Eb, E, F, G, A piccolo, Bb piccolo, and C piccolo, but not in 'A'. If you had a lot of money, you could probably persuade someone to make one, but very few classically-trained trumpeters would consider it worthwhile, since they would expect to take such transpositions (at sight, or otherwise) in their stride. And no-one in their right mind would pay a couple of thousand £'s for an instrument to play one note in one opera which can be easily 'faked' anyway.
 
The choice between 'Bb' and 'C' instruments depends very much on where in the world you are. The 'standard' orchestral trumpet in the UK has traditionally been the Bb, although there is a gradual movement towards the 'C' taking place. In the US, the 'standard' has long been the 'C'. In most of continental Europe the 'C' is more or less standard, although there are exceptions. In general, I would agree with the OP's principle of generally writing in 'C' and letting the player decide the most appropriately pitched instrument for the job. If you start trying to write for specifically pitched trumpets the player will almost always elect to perform on a differently pitched instrument anyway. Sometimes for practical and/or musical reasons, but more often for reasons of sheer bloody-mindedness (and often purely to show off the fact that we are, as a breed, generally very good at sight-transposition ... smile )
 
That said, In the example the OP mentions, (it's not "Carmen" by any chance is it? There are very few examples of the written low F# for 'A' trumpet, and that's the best known. Most professional trumpeters would know that excerpt by heart anyway, so the transposition wouldn't be an issue.) I would be inclined to leave all the parts in the original transpositions. In the first place, we orchestral trumpet players expect it, and are used to it. In the second place, if you write a note which is patently outside the range of the instrument in any given transposition (such as a low 'F' natural for Bb trumpet) the player will think you are an idiot. If you really want to avoid the 'A' transposition, then write for Bb, but acknowledge the note in question in some way; say, put brackets round it and/or use an asterisk with a footnote referencing the original transposition. Or something like that, which will at least tell the player that you are aware of the issue.


 
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Gareth Green
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   Posted 10/3/2008 5:29 AM (GMT -5)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
Richard Ashmore said...

 My guess is most trumpet players in an opera pit orchestra will have a C trumpet,

 
Not necessarily; depends where you are. Certainly not true in the UK; see my previous post
 
  B is not a good key for trumpet players

 
Again, that depends. Particularly on what level of player you expect to be writing for. An intermediate student or community band player might struggle with it, but a conservatory student or professional player would have no problem with it. The idea that extreme sharp keys cause intonation problems on a trumpet is rooted in historical issues of poor manufacturing techniques allied to poor understanding of acoustic physics. It's certainly not true of modern instruments.


 
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   Posted 10/3/2008 11:42 AM (GMT -5)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
I'd like to thank everyone who has posted here. It has been a very informative discussion. Out of habit I've been writing all my trumpet parts in Bb. But, unless I am going to the extreme low-end (which I don't), then the parts could be played by a trumpet in C. With all the latest features in Finale, it should be easy enough to produce trumpet parts for both the B and the C trumpets, giving the player the option of which one to use. Is that reasonable? I know the C trumpet has a slightly brighter tone than the Bb, but it's not enough (to my rusty old ears) to make a major difference.


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Gareth Green
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   Posted 10/3/2008 12:04 PM (GMT -5)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.

You could, but I think it would be a waste of effort and time. Unless you know that your piece is going to be played by amateur players of limited ability, it's reasonable to assume that the players will be able to cope with either transposition. As I've already suggested, it's perfectly possible that you might provide parts for trumpets in C and Bb, but because of one particularly awkward passage the player will elect to play it on a Eb instrument anyway, so why bother?

Here's a personal example: I recently played a concert which included the Prelude to "Hansel and Gretel" (Humperdinck). The original parts were in a mixture of Trumpet in E (natural) and F. The orchestra was using a new edition, for which the publisher had thoughtfully provided both the original notation, and also a transposed part for trumpet in Bb. Now, transposition from Trumpet in E to Bb is one of the nastier ones (up an augmented fourth and add six sharps), but despite the fact that I was using a Bb instrument, I elected to read from the original notation. Why? 1) (obviously) to show off blush, and 2) (more seriously), because when I was at college we were expected to prepare all these standard orchestral excerpts so that they were effectively memorised. Since I was so used to playing these passages and seeing the original notation, I found that seeing the transposed version was distracting. It's difficult to explain why, but it's real.

Along the same lines, there used to be many an (semi-)apochryphal tale concerning a well known British orchestral trumpeter in the 1970's/80's who was reputedly so good at sight-transposition, and was so used to seeing one set of notes and playing another, that when he was faced with a (relatively rare) classical part in Bb, he had to use a C trumpet, because he was so conditioned to sight-transposing that he had difficulty playing the actual notes he was reading. I don't really know how much truth there is in it, but in one sense it wouldn't really surprise me. The brain is a funny thing sometimes ...


 
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   Posted 10/3/2008 2:13 PM (GMT -5)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
Gareth Green said...

As I've already suggested, it's perfectly possible that you might provide parts for trumpets in C and Bb, but because of one particularly awkward passage the player will elect to play it on a Eb instrument anyway, so why bother?

*chuckle* Trumpeters are just as picky as clarinetists sometimes...
 
My advice regarding orchestral trumpet parts is to always provide *both* Bb and C Trumpet parts for every single piece. It only takes a few extra steps (change the transposition in the Staff Attributes, save as a different file, print a copy) and it's good for relations with the orchestra/players. Just make sure you indicate which one is the "real" part and which one is the "optional transposed" part.


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Motet
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   Posted 10/3/2008 2:21 PM (GMT -5)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
Yes, my question assumes there's no such thing as an A trumpet anymore.

Gareth, would you say it's easier transposing something with a simpler key signature? That is, suppose a piece was in E major concert. An A trumpet part would have one sharp, while a Bb trumpet part would have 6 sharps. Would you say a trumpeter playing a C trumpet would have an easier time transposing from the A part than from the Bb part? Seems like that would be the case.

What would the non-British opera trumpeter do in the case of Carmen? Play everything on the C trumpet, but pull out a Bb for the passage with the low note?


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Flint
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   Posted 10/3/2008 4:03 PM (GMT -5)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
No, the composer/orchestrator should indicate directly which clarinet to use (ideally). And something on the Bb Clarinet could be nearly impossible/devilishly difficult on the A Clarinet (or vice versa), so the issue will probably never really be settled. ;)


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"It is not the job of copyist/arranger/composer to not only make the music clear and readable, but to also make it impossible to play incorrectly." - paraphrased from Bill Duncan

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DCrocker
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   Posted 10/3/2008 4:05 PM (GMT -5)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
My experience is that trumpet players generally view a B-flat and a C as two vastly different instruments, approach them (mentally or technically?) in very different ways, and perceive significant stylistic and tonal differences between the two.
I confess I do not find this particularly true, but I'm not the person playing the horn.

What to provide depends largely upon WHO you are writing for, I should think. The principal trumpeter of the New York Phil can be expected to own both horns, a person holding the same position in the Podunk Community Band may not. And if your piece gets played by the Vienna Phil, it will be played on whatever those odd little rotary-valve jobs are that they use, thank you very much, mein Herr :-)

Dean
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Motet
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   Posted 10/3/2008 4:08 PM (GMT -5)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
That's right, and switching clarinets in the middle of an opera is common. Clarinets are in A and Bb, not C; there used to be a C clarinet, and some remain as a curiosity, but it's my impression that they are both rare and out of tune. I rewrite C parts for either A or Bb, depending.

The one-tone difference in instruments may not matter much in terms of tone quality, but matters a lot in ease of fingering, for clarinets more than for trumpets.

[The previous posting slipped in; I was responding to the one before that.]


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Post Edited (Motet) : 10/3/2008 3:12:42 PM (GMT-5)

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Motet
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   Posted 10/3/2008 4:11 PM (GMT -5)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
I'm writing for somewhere between New York and Podunk. But providing a second, all-Bb trumpet alternative part may not be a bad idea for those closer to the latter.


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   Posted 10/3/2008 4:22 PM (GMT -5)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
If it helps, by the time a serious trumpet player hits college, they *usually* have a C Trumpet - at least in the US (and in my experience, of course). A professional player should have one, though an occasional player might not.


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Gareth Green
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   Posted 10/3/2008 8:41 PM (GMT -5)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
Motet said...

Gareth, would you say it's easier transposing something with a simpler key signature? That is, suppose a piece was in E major concert. An A trumpet part would have one sharp, while a Bb trumpet part would have 6 sharps. Would you say a trumpeter playing a C trumpet would have an easier time transposing from the A part than from the Bb part? Seems like that would be the case.

Difficult one. Depends a lot (again; sorry to keep returning to this) on where you're brought up. Also there are several factors at work here. In the UK, at least during the period, say, 1950's (effectively post-war) up until mid-1970's, possibly even 1980's, most professional trumpet players had come through the ranks of the military bands. As such, they were initially cornet players (many had been brought up as traditional British Brass Band players before "joining up"), before "branching out" into trumpet playing. In the first place, they only ever knew the cornet in Bb, and naturally graduated onto the Bb trumpet. Since a great deal of early military band repertoire (as well as the Gilbert & Sullivan operetta repertoire which was such a staple of freelance work at that time) included parts for 'A' cornet, they were familiar with transposing from 'A' to 'Bb'. During that period, the 'C' trumpet was almost unheard of in the UK. Accordingly, even today a UK pro trumpeter is likely to be more comfortable transposing from 'A' to 'Bb' irrespective of the resulting key.
 
As to US trumpeters who are more familar with the 'C' trumpet as a basic instrument, I really don't know. Personally speaking, I find 'A' to 'C' transposition more difficult than most other transpositions, but that doesn't mean necessarily that would be the case with a US 'born & bred' player. I suspect the only real answer would be to consult a local player of the appropriate standard.
Motet said...

What would the non-British opera trumpeter do in the case of Carmen? Play everything on the C trumpet, but pull out a Bb for the passage with the low note?

There's a further complication here, however. The fact is that the parts to which you are referring are really cornet parts, not trumpet parts. (This is primarily because the cornet originated in France; George Bizet would have been familiar with the instrument, and would have, in common with many of his contemporaries been excited by the orchestral possibilities offerd by the 'new' instrument, in comparison to the the rather inflexible trumpets in low 'F' which were in common usage in other parts of Europe at the time.) Now, I can't speak for other countries, but, generally speaking in the UK such parts would be played on the cornet, rather than the trumpet. Now, the "can-of-worms" becomes really complicated: In the UK presently, there exists only (in orchestral terms) the Bb cornet. (there is also the Eb 'soprano' cornet, but this is limited to use in the peculiar circumstances of the traditional 'british' brass band [which, BTW, is becoming increasingly prevalent in the US ...]) In the US there exist also cornets in 'C'; they are rare - I know that Schilke make one; I do not know if other manufacturers make them. Personally, I have no idea to what extent a professional US trumpeter would prefer to use a 'C' cornet in preference to a 'Bb' cornet if the part called for it, therefore I cannot really answer your question with any degree of confidence.

However (and this is the real killer!), as an arranger, you have the opportunity to face up to a long-standing conundrum, and possibly find a meaningful long-term solution!

The fact is, Bizet's original orchestration of this particular passage can arguably be seen as crass and incompetent. Even by using the written low 'F' of the 'A' cornet, the whole of the melody can still not be performed; in order to completely execute the melodic line a written low 'E' would be required, which the composer clearly knew was unplayable. In the original orchestration, the melody on the cornet is incomplete, and one has to wonder why Bizet bothered to write something so 'Klunky' (to use a modern term). Given the opportunity to 'arrange' such a piece, the obvious question (in my mind at least) would be: "why not completely re-write the passage, and allocate the offending passage to, say a horn or trombone, which could easily play the whole melodic line without such awkward compromises as we see in the original?

And there goes another can of worms ... ;-)


 
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   Posted 10/4/2008 2:35 AM (GMT -5)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
I'd like to get an "Ab" Trumpet (if one exists) so that I can read Bb Trumpet music using the concert-pitch fingering I learned for my valve Trombone. I want to play middle-C with valves 1-3, not open.  But I guess it would make reaching those high notes just a bit more difficult.


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Motet
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   Posted 10/4/2008 3:53 AM (GMT -5)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
I wonder if Arban played Carmen in the Opera Comique.

Gareth Green said...
Even by using the written low 'F' of the 'A' cornet, the whole of the melody can still not be performed; in order to completely execute the melodic line a written low 'E' would be required


The part goes down to a written F#. There is one written F which is omitted, but to my ear it doesn't sound bad, since the clarinet, basson, and cello section continue the melody.


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   Posted 10/4/2008 8:54 AM (GMT -5)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
Gareth Green said...

Difficult one. Depends a lot (again; sorry to keep returning to this) on where you're brought up. Also there are several factors at work here. In the UK, at least during the period, say, 1950's (effectively post-war) up until mid-1970's, possibly even 1980's, most professional trumpet players had come through the ranks of the military bands. As such, they were initially cornet players (many had been brought up as traditional British Brass Band players before "joining up"), before "branching out" into trumpet playing. In the first place, they only ever knew the cornet in Bb, and naturally graduated onto the Bb trumpet. Since a great deal of early military band repertoire (as well as the Gilbert & Sullivan operetta repertoire which was such a staple of freelance work at that time) included parts for 'A' cornet, they were familiar with transposing from 'A' to 'Bb'. During that period, the 'C' trumpet was almost unheard of in the UK. Accordingly, even today a UK pro trumpeter is likely to be more comfortable transposing from 'A' to 'Bb' irrespective of the resulting key.

My experience in the US is similar. I played professionally from the late 1940s to the mid 1960s, although not with symphony orchestras. The players I knew, including myself, used a Bb trumpet and one or two mouthpieces (one for general use and a shallow one for demanding high work) for everything. No one schlepped a big bag of horns around, nor did they need an assistant to carry their trunk full of mouthpieces. smilewinkgrin


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   Posted 10/4/2008 2:36 PM (GMT -5)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
Doug,

Wouldn't it be easier to just read Bb trumpet parts as tenor clef? It looks the same except for a few differences in accidentals. I've actually gotten so used to reading Bb parts, that tenor clef looks weird with the proper accidentals!

Doug Blackmore said...
I'd like to get an "Ab" Trumpet (if one exists) so that I can read Bb Trumpet music using the concert-pitch fingering I learned for my valve Trombone. I want to play middle-C with valves 1-3, not open. But I guess it would make reaching those high notes just a bit more difficult.


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   Posted 10/4/2008 3:29 PM (GMT -5)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
Jeremy Levy said...
Doug,

Wouldn't it be easier to just read Bb trumpet parts as tenor clef? It looks the same except for a few differences in accidentals. I've actually gotten so used to reading Bb parts, that tenor clef looks weird with the proper accidentals!
I've done that on occasion when the bass-clef Euphonium part went missing.  Although I don't like it, that's probably the best solution, apart from re-learning fingering.


Doug Blackmore
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Finale 2006r3, Win 2K Pro

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