improvising music

2018-03-10 (UPDATED FROM 2018-03-09) SEAL ROCK AND LINCOLN CITY, OREGON, USA -- 3 months ago my trumpet teacher John Bringetto has taught me how to play songs. We are on our 3rd song now, all jazz standards: "Autumn leaves", "The girl from Ipanema", and "My funny Valentine". Because I play alone by myself (instead of joining a band or an ensemble) I rely on iRealPro backing to learn how to stay in time. I am thrilled that after 3 years of basic training (reminiscent of the long training of the archer's apprentice in 中島敦「名人伝」) I am finally starting to learn how to play melody. I sound awful but who cares? I just began. In fact I think I sound pretty good (for a zero-talent beginner) because John took care to give me good sound before connecting those sounds into phrases and songs.

I am bewildered at the speed of instruction. I had (apparently wrongly) assumed that improvisation -- one of the characteristic skills in jazz -- was an ability acquired much later, after the student learned how to play melody and perhaps harmony. Contrary to my misconceptions, John wants me to improvise from the very beginning. As soon as I can play a song in meter (straight, in time) he wants me to "play what sounds good". At first I was terrified (see my blog entry for 2018-01-15). I am still scared, but thanks to relentless assignments and encouragement from John, I am worrying less and composing more.

John's teaching technique is (as I understand it today) as follows.

(1) Choose jazz standards spanning a variety of styles. The priority is width of different styles before depth in a particular style. (In my case, I have swing, bossa nova, and ballad. There's more to learn of course.)

(2) Play the song straight, in meter. (I can only play straight. I cannot swing yet.)

(3) For each measure, pick and play 1 note. Synchronize the start and end of the each note with chord changes. (I try to select notes that are in that measure of the original melody, and comprise a melody when my selected notes are played in sequence.)

(4) Add notes to each measure. (I am not here yet. Maybe next week.)

(5) Change rhythm, dynamics, and possibly phrasing. (To play this way, I need to confidently detect chord changes.)

John demonstrates various techniques. I admire, respect, and worship his virtuosity. Although I will never be 10 percent of him, his teachings stoke my curiosity, and his patience calms my fears.

I am a kindergarten kid with a crayon and a coloring book. Noriko says I can now fill in sections of the coloring book without missing spots or crossing over the demarcation lines. I can slowly play a narrow range of notes. Sometimes, when Noriko and I play back video-recordings of our lessons, I sound almost the same as my master teacher. Feels so good!

Below is my homework for tomorrow's trumpet lesson. My improvisation is a series of long tones (l-o-n-g notes that sound exceptionally l-l-o-o-n-n-g-g in this slow song). I tried to give it a melody of sorts.


Here's John's re-write, with instructions for me to improve the last phrase.

trumpet arrives

2017-02-27, LINCOLN CITY, OREGON, USA -- My new trumpet arrived!


I ordered it on 2017-09-13 (see my blog entry for that date). The
Hub van Laar people said they would build it in 5 months, which they did -- my trumpet was completed on 2017-02-17, 5 months and 4 days after placing the order.

It took 10 days for my trumpet to reach me. 4 days (including a 3-day weekend) to wire the payment from my USA bank to their Netherlands bank. (The trumpet manufacturer prefers not to use credit cards or Paypal because the transaction fees are expensive.) 2 days to ship from the Netherlands to the USA. 2 days (another weekend) for the trumpet to clear customs. 2 days to ship from the port of entry to my house.

UPS (the shipping company that delivered my package to my door) charged me a
brokerage fee (I believe this includes import duty). They made me write a check. I had almost forgotten how to do that. According to my checkbook, the last check I wrote is dated 2012-03-20, and the one before is 2010-09-15. 3 checks in 8 years.

Today, my purchases and payments are almost totally electronic, plastic, or cash. Online orders often arrive in days.

My experience with buying a trumpet from the Netherlands reminds me of when I moved from Tokyo to California in 1986. My mom sent me care packages that routinely took months to arrive. Because I had to wait for my trumpet, I was reminded of how grateful I was for packages from my mom and brother. To look forward is to appreciate.

This is a
Hub van Laar model B9.2 trumpet. My name is engraved on the 3rd slide.

Compared to my
Carol Brass 6580 (the trumpet I play in Oregon), my new trumpet sounds brighter, feels lighter and smaller, and gives me wider range (that is, I can play a bit higher and lower). I cannot wait to show my new instrument to my trumpet teacher John Bringetto! I want him to breathe life into the instrument, and show me what the it is capable of. (On 2018-03-02 John played his and my instruments. We agree that the B9.2 plays brighter with a piercing tone compared to his Kanstul trumpet and my Carol Brass.)

My Hub van Laar model B9.2 (top) and Carol Brass 6580 (bottom) trumpets with my Bach 3C mouthpiece (left center).

valentine dance

2018-02-10 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON, USA -- Noriko and I attended a big band performance led by my trumpet teacher John Bringetto.

The Valentine Day dance was held on the Saturday before St Valentine's Day. This was our 1st time attending. In the past, we had to miss it due to commitments in Tokyo.

Until last year (if I recall) they offered dance lessons before the music performance. I was looking forward to it because I wanted Noriko to be happy. Too bad, no lesson this year.

Monochrome is much better for music photography I think.

The accordion was John's 1st professional instrument. I understand that he played for tips at restaurants when he was in kindergarten. His father made John promise to continue playing accordion as a condition for allowing John to play trumpet. I believe that John honors his father by playing the accordion at his major gigs.

noriko's birthday

2018-02-02 FUJISAWA, JAPAN -- We celebrated Noriko's birthday at her parents' house.

After 3 years, 7 months, and 3 weeks of practicing trumpet, I finally managed to play "Happy Birthday" for Noriko! And in 3 keys (my G, A, and C). Sorry no pictures or video of the event. Noriko -- the poor girl -- was focused on filing tax returns for our parents.

Noriko's dad and I had drinks and sushi and hors d'oeuvres.

We all had cake. I chose Mont Blanc, a quintessential Japanese edition of Italian pastry (apparently the recipe wasn't invented in France).

tokyo walk

2018-01-31 TOKYO, JAPAN -- I walked 7 kilometers from Ginza to Shibuya. The map below shows Ginza on the far right edge (east), with a dotted blue route skirting along the south side of the imperial palace, the diet (that is, parliament) building, the supreme court (a hideous piece of architecture), the Akasaka palace, Aoyama Gakuen University (Noriko's mom's alma mater and my callsign suffix JM8AGU), the Apple store at Omotesando, and Shibuya station at the far left (west) of the map.

I started my walk at the Yamaha music flagship store in Ginza. I wonder whether music instruments belong in the same category as jewelry and designer clothing. Are we paying extra for the fancy buildings and impeccably dressed store people?

I had an appointment with a technical salesperson to inquire about soundproofing my room. Retrofitting an existing room with soundproofing material is not necessarily expensive, but for reasons of acoustics physics the soundproofing material must be thick and/or heavy. Because most Japanese rooms are small, and because most residential floors are not designed to support more than 200 kilograms per square meter, Yamaha has chosen to compromise by adding dense but not-so-thick material on the floor, walls, and ceiling of the room to be soundproofed.

The cutaway life-size model below shows that each wall is shortened by over 260 millimeters, and the ceiling height is decreased by 190 millimeters to reduce sound by 35 decibels in addition to the soundproofing offered by the existing walls. (Sound attenuation depends on audio frequency. The values I state here are appropriate for my trumpet.) Compared with soundproofing techniques commonly used in the USA, Yamaha's method offers less reduction in room size at the expense of less reduction in sound. Soundproofing techniques in America often result in reduction of over 600 millimeters in wall and ceiling dimensions, yielding 60 or more decibels of reduction in sound.

On 2017-12-15, Yamaha released
a 2nd-generation version of their Allen Vizzutti trumpet. They discontinued the 1st generation model 6 years ago. The updated model is being sold in a limited run of 200 silver-plated and 5 gold-plated trumpets. At the Yamaha Ginza store I saw (but did not test-play) the new instruments. The plastic bags are chemically treated to retard corrosion.

Tokyo is a small city but tiresome to walk because numerous traffic lights break your stride and force you to stand still. It took me 10 minutes to cross the intersection in front of the diet building. Security had nothing to do with the delay. Automobiles have priority over pedestrians, that's all.

Snow disrupted life in the city a few days ago. No problem today. Traces of snow lined the palace moat.

I visited
Kawai musical instruments at Omotesando. If I ever own a piano, it hope it is a Kawai because it will have my name on it! They sell toy versions too so a Kawai piano is not out of my reach.

I had an appointment with an engineer at Kawai musical instruments regarding soundproofing. The engineer has been playing trumpet for 35 years (10 times my duration) and was understanding of and sympathetic to my needs. The advice he gave me was essentially identical to what Yamaha told me.

I gave up installing soundproofing at our house in Japan, because (a) the upper floors of the building cannot safely support the weight of soundproofing material, and (b) while the ground floor can easily support the weight, its ceiling would become too low if insulation is installed. Noriko says that it would be cheaper and more fun to buy a car (a
van or minimalist motorhome for instance) and to travel to different places where I can practice, like we did in England. Clever Noriko! As a fallback idea, a karaoke store nearby allows me to practice trumpet for about $4 an hour.

I continued my walk to
Ikebe music supply at Shibuya station. On a whim, I bought a Bach 3B trumpet mouthpiece. The 3B has dimensions close to my 3C, and is reputed to have a darker sound. (I can't tell the difference.) I bought the 3B partly as a spare for my 3C, and partly as an experiment. Curiously, Bach mouthpieces are cheaper in Japan than they are in America, where they are made.

I put my trusty 3C and new 3B in a compact camera case I bought for $4.

trumpet mouthpiece

2018-01-16 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON, USA -- My trumpet teacher John Bringetto gave me his trumpet mouthpiece that he played when he was in college. John played professionally when he was in undergraduate and graduate schools during the late 1960s to the early 1970s.

Bob Reeves, the manufacturer, was located in Hollywood, California (spelled "Hollyw'd. CA") when this mouthpiece was made. Now they are in Valencia, California, across the freeway from Six Flags Magic Mountain amusement park.

I cleaned and sent the mouthpiece to
Bob Reeves to have it re-plated (that is, have a new coat of silver placed upon the brass surface).

The mouthpiece has been loved a lot. Note the nicks and scars of battle. The manufacturer intentionally did not polish or buff the metal, in order to avoid altering the playing characteristics of the mouthpiece.

Mouthpieces are like shoes. They need to fit you perfectly, and, for some people and uses, the slightest change in dimension can change how it feels and sounds. On this mouthpiece, the rim (the part that comes into contact with the lips) and the shank (the tube that fits into the trumpet) screw apart, so that the player can exchange parts having different shapes and lengths.

I showed John his refurbished mouthpiece at our lesson on the following day. I am ecstatic with receiving part of my master's heritage. I love the classy case, too.


2018-01-15 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON, USA -- At our trumpet lesson on 2017-12-27, my teacher John Bringetto instructed me to play along with him, with him playing the melody of "Autumn Leaves" and me "coming in and out whenever you feel like it, and playing what feels good" (although this is not a verbatim transcription of what John said, it captures his wording). I didn't expect that (it was my 1st time) and even if I had anticipated it I wouldn't have known what to do.

After coming home, I started struggling with recording myself playing the melody (never can get it right), and messing with "what feels good" (everything I do is primitive and awkward). I got so nervous and self-conscious that I asked to postpone our lesson. John needed to take a trip, so instead of an interval of 1 week between lessons I received 3 weeks.

During that time, I transmogrified the melody. I post it here because it is my 1st attempt. It is the equivalent of kindergarten kids drawing primitive stick figures that represent their parents. Lots of patient love required to interpret the intent. I don't know the difference between arranging, embellishing, or writing harmony. Plus I can't tear myself away from the melody. The song has an AABC pattern. My modification technique differs between the AAB part and the C part. The stylistic difference bothers me but I don't know how to fix it. There's another more upbeat tune I have in my mind but I can't put it to paper or through the horn. Oh dear.

I want to show you the lead sheet from the Real Book that I own. For copyright reasons I believe I should not.
180112_autumn leaves_1v5

After doing all this, Noriko pointed out that I had misunderstood John's instructions. Oops!

Noriko video-records our lessons. We watched the recording the same day of the lesson. I did not understand what John was doing or asking me to do. 2 weeks later after the lesson, we watched the video again. Of course Noriko was right. I finally realized that John wanted me to play fills (as for vocalists) or responses (as in call and response) ... my knowledge of concepts and terminology is severely lacking.

Last night in bed, I wore earphones, played with a piano application on my computer tablet, and experimented with "coming in and out whenever I feel like it".

I need to think more. Alas, today I have a heavy workload ... Maybe later this afternoon or early tomorrow?

bringetto jazz duo

2018-01-02 YACHATS, OREGON, USA -- John and Joanne performed dinner jazz tonight at the Drift Inn in Yachats.

The restaurant was packed when we arrived. Great! We concentrated on enjoying the music while we waited for our table.

Joanne the drum player added singing to her performance during the past year.

John performed on trumpet, flugelhorn, flute, voice, and keyboard. He played tunes for me so that I could learn from them.

new year's eve

2017-12-31 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON, USA -- The Lincoln Pops Big Band, directed by my trumpet teacher John Bringetto, performed for the New Year's Eve dance.

A former restaurant manager decorated the auditorium.

The band played 4 sets for the dancers.

I got to walk through the dressing room, and peek at the band from behind.

From the audience seats, we cannot see the drummer, bass, and trumpet playing in the back row.

The daughter of our neighbor across the street manages the cultural center.

lincoln pops big band

2017-12-21 GLENEDEN BEACH, OREGON, USA -- My trumpet teacher John Bringetto directs the Lincoln Pops Big Band. Every 3rd Thursday of each month they play for dancers at the Gleneden Beach community hall. Amanda, John's wife and band manager, waives admission for Noriko and me because we take pictures of the band for use in public relations.

Public relations calls for explanatory visual images, akin to picture postcards and journalism, where content overrides composition. I need plenty of ambient light to accomplish this. An example is the attached photo of the friendly band immediately before starting a song.

Jazz calls for dark, smokey visual images I feel, almost raspy and grainy, with heat and movement. I can take such pictures even in diminished light. The attached photo of Patti George is an example. Note that her body is in fluid motion.

In almost all gig venues, I have limited options regarding sight lines. I need access to the wings of the stage to capture images of the players in the back rows, such as for drum and trumpet. My teacher is an exception -- John solos in front of the band (because he is the conductor) and I have a wonderful view. Tonight he doubled on trumpet and flugelhorn (pictured below).

John seems to have strong preferences as to how he should be photographed. He complained of his posture and clothes in a picture taken by a newspaper photographer. I believe that the picture below portrays him attractively. Sorry about the cluttered background -- I cannot control the light, and must stay off the dance floor.

Noriko and I are giving a package of photographs and movies to Amanda. We hope she gives our pictures and videos to her band members to take home and enjoy with their friends and family.

lesson 036

2017-12-21 SEAL ROCK, OREGON, USA -- Today was my 36th lesson with John Bringetto. I played "Autumn Leaves" with iRealPro backing. Naturally I failed spectacularly. We'll get there eventually.

I report my progress to my family and close friends because they cheer me on. My esteemed colleague and trumpet player Atsushi Tsujimoto viewed a video recording of today's lesson. Atsushi commented that my tone is improving. I have been told that compliments on tone among brass players mean there is nothing to compliment about. Yes, that is so true of me.

In my blog entry last week, I may have erroneously implied that John and I are transitioning from stage 1 (technical studies -- that is, producing notes) to stage 2 (melodic studies -- that is, playing melodies of songs) of my trumpet education. Clarification: we are
adding melodic studies to technical studies.

I think of learning to play trumpet as learning to write. We start by learning the letters of the alphabet, beginning with writing in print, in block letters. Once we know the letters, we can spell words and write sentences. Concurrently to writing sentences we continue learning to write the letters (such as writing in cursive, or in smaller sizes to fit thinner ruled paper). We gradually increase accuracy, speed, and aesthetics. So it is with trumpet. I need to learn how to produce notes. With my small set of notes I attempt songs. Melody and technique form a positive feedback loop, to borrow a concept from electronic circuits.

Here is a spectrogram and an audio file from practice at home. The last 60 seconds of "Autumn Leaves". My trumpet notes / go out the window ...
171223_chart 4

171223_recording 4

play songs

2017-12-13 SEAL ROCK, OREGON, USA -- John Bringetto, my esteemed trumpet teacher, now allows and orders me to play songs.

I am rather pleased with myself for having begun my 2nd stage of learning music. John says that I can produce some notes some of the time, and that I can use those notes to play songs. Naturally I continue learning the technique of sound production. That continues for at least 5 to 7 more years. But starting now, in parallel to practicing sound production, I learn to play songs. This meshes with advice Seikyee gave me when we visited her in San Francisco.

Most of John's students play in school bands from their 1st day of music training. Because I do not belong to an ensemble, my tablet computer is my friend.

My assignment is to play "Autumn Leaves". John chose an easy song: no big ascents in pitch, no short notes, the accompaniment contains a walking bass line, and perhaps most importantly, I have heard my master perform the song many times. Here is a picture of John clapping in time while I struggle to play. I am amazed at my teacher's willingness to submit to acoustic torture.

Here is a screenshot of my iPad. I view the sheet music (the lead sheet) on my left, and watch and listen to the rhythm section on the right. The sheet music comes from Hal Leonard's RealBook for Bb instruments (Kindle edition), which I modified so that the chord names match iRealPro's. John allows me to use iRealPro as a metronome and measure indicator. Because the song is easy, I can hear some chord changes, but were it not for iRealPro's display, I would lose track of where I am at. At best, I can merely distinguish 2 different chords. I cannot identify chords at all. I do not want to rely on visual cues because I want to hone my listening skills. I practice with my eyes tightly closed and ears wide open.


The sound coming out of my trumpet is not pretty. Here are the spectrogram and audio file. Due to hardware and software constraints, the sound is limited to 60 seconds. Certainly that is a blessing.
171215_chart 6

171215_recording 6

I cannot believe it took me 3 years and 6 months to reach this stage. I thought I realized I am a klutz with music, that I am the slowest learner in town. My self-assessment was overly generous!

hilltop big band

2017-12-01 CORVALLIS, OREGON, USA -- We visited the Hilltop Big Band for the 2nd time. This time we sat directly facing the stage. We had better acoustics compared to our 1st visit on 2017-11-03.

We took pictures, and emailed them to the band. They said they would add my pictures to the band's Christmas letter.

This picture was taken from left of where we were seated. Our seats had good sound but partially blocked sight lines. A column decorated with an unusual face stands in the front center of the stage. Soda fountain machines hide the view to the side.


Jim Cameron (far left, on keyboard tonight, his usual instrument is trombone) is a friend of my trumpet teacher John Bringetto. I have a Christmas music CD they made several years ago. They had a duo going on when Jim was band director at the Yachats Big Band. Noriko and I used to attend their gigs in Newport, until the restaurant (Cecil's Dirty Apron) closed, and Jim moved to Corvallis.

The band has
5 trumpet players. I would be ecstatic if I could play merely half as good as them! My favorite player is Mike Freeman (rear left, standing, playing with mute). I noticed that his section mates let him rest after strenuous playing.

hilltop big band

2017-11-03 CORVALLIS, OREGON, USA -- On the same day of Ken Saul's classical trumpet concert, we attended a big band concert several blocks away in downtown Corvallis. A gentleman who attended Ken's concert told us about the big band concert happening that evening. So we changed our plans for the afternoon.

Hilltop Big Band is part of the Corvallis Community Band. Tonight they played at the Old World Deli.

The deli is affordable and friendly. The audience seating area is L-shaped. Alas the band faces the edge of the shorter leg of the L, such that most members of the audience have compromised sight lines and acoustics. I would suggest that at least the loudspeakers be placed at a 45-degree angle with respect to the stage so that the sound propagates to the center of the audience.

We sat on the wings to enjoy a clear view of the 4 trumpet players in the back row. I was impressed with Mike Freeman, who stood closest to me for most songs. (The trumpet players took turns playing lead.)

During intermission, I chatted with Jim Cameron (right of photo, counting on his fingers) who plays trombone in the Hill Top Big Band. I met Jim when he and John Bringetto (my trumpet teacher) formed a duo, where Jim played keyboard and voice, while John played trumpet and flute. Jim remembered me and Noriko! How nice of him.

ken saul plays spanish trumpet

2017-11-03 CORVALLIS, OREGON, USA -- Our friend and mentor Ken Saul performed trumpet at the Oregon State University Memorial Union.

Ken carefully and meticulously warmed up before his performance.

Ken quintupled on Bb, C, Eb, and piccolo trumpets plus a Bb flugelhorn.

OSU hosts concerts every Friday at noon during term. Here's Ken's concert program.

After the concert, we met Ken's wife Lily, who comes from Sapporo. We hope to spend more time with them next time.

back home

2017-10-29 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON, USA -- The last 10 weeks were fabulous. We learned so much during our trip to England, Flanders, and Holland. Today we're back home!

Assembled my trusty Carol Brass 6580 and played it side by side with my Carol Brass Zorro that I played during our Europe trip. My chops (brass instrument jargon for my lips, cheeks, and tongue) had assimilated to playing the Zorro, so that the 6580 (although it has warm mellow sound) feels more difficult to play, and heavier too.

We installed internet at our house. Drew, the cable person, installed new cable and connectors from the utility pole to our wall outlet. We agreed to distrust the existing old coax.

For the past 13 years we had intentionally avoided having internet at our home because we would become glued to our computers. There is so much work that we need to do online that we no longer have a choice. Besides, we get to watch the news on our big screen. Alas the top news was yet another terrorist attack.

Bokeo (whom we adopted from our sister Keiko) has become our household deity for internet.

We froggified the living room wall with pages from our frog calendar.

inn and pub

2017-10-17 BROADWAY, WORCESTERSHIRE, UK -- We had a drink and enjoyed conversation with the local gentlemen at the Crown and Trumpet inn and pub.

The building was built in the 1780s -- fairly new by Cotswold standards. The building behind used to be stables. Today there are 5 bedrooms upstairs, and a pub downstairs. On Thursday nights they have live jazz.

Noriko had a
Stroud, a local brew. Although we are still unsure, so far it seems that English beers have a lighter, thinner flavor than some Belgian trappiste beers. I had a non-alcoholic beer.

sheepish trumpet

2017-10-10 THORNTON RUST, NORTH YORKSHIRE, UK -- Finding places to practice trumpet is easier in England than Belgium because in England we have a rental car. My routine for the last several days has been: park off highway A684 safely alongside a sheep farm, sit in the rear seat, roll up all windows, and practice trumpet.

Rain or shine, the sheep keep on grazing. Once or twice a day (certainly around noontime and sometimes in the late afternoon) they sit down to ruminate. I enjoy gazing at the sheep and landscape while I play scales.

Colored paint shows who owns the sheep. Stone walls keep sheep corralled. The stones are merely piled on top of each other. Sometimes walls crumble, as shown towards to the upper left of this picture. We talked to a farmer who owns 15 miles (24 kilometers) of wall. He said his walls need constant mending.

I brought my Queen Brass (OEM Carol Brass) Zorro student trumpet. When I'm careful, I point the leadpipe straight ahead, so that the valves and bell are offset to the left.

After scales I took a break by playing by ear the theme song for "
Astro Boy". Hmm, listening to my recording, the song sounds pitifully wailful. Where did his 100,000 horsepower go? Am I doomed to play soulful tunes?

van laar trumpet factory

2017-09-13 MARGRATEN, NETHERLANDS -- We visited Hub van Laar (Hub is pronounced with a long [u:] as in "hoop"), who builds trumpets and flugelhorns in Margraten, a town near Maastricht, in the Netherlands.

We took the train.

We combined 2 tickets: a ticket from Antwerp to the border station, and a ticket from the border station to Maastricht.

Maastricht straddles the river Maas, known as the Meuse in French-speaking south Belgium. "Tricht" means "confluence", the same as my family name.

Hub speaks Dutch, English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, and Czech. He started playing trumpet at age 12. Later, he switched to trombone. He wanted to play trombone to begin with. He waited to grow taller, and for his arms to grow longer, so that he could manipulate the slides.

Out of respect to Hub and his staff, I will not show pictures or videos of their personnel or foundry, although they gave us permission to photograph them.

Their metal-working shop is the cleanest I have ever seen.

I test-played almost 20 instruments. You can see some of them on the shelf besides me. I played scales, lip slurs, and intervals. Each instrument felt different.

We enjoyed conversation over lunch at
a local eatery that began as an Hungarian restaurant.

I lost my mind and money, and placed an order for
a model B9.2 trumpet. This picture shows the instrument I test-played. Mine will be built and delivered in 5 months.

jazz cafe

2017-09-10 ANTWERPEN, BELGIË -- We listened to live jazz at the Café Hopper in 't zuid (literally "the south") part of Antwerp.

The café is located near the royal museum of art. The museum is undergoing significant remodeling at this time. We hope to return to Antwerp when renovations are complete.

The café has street seating (smoking allowed), and indoor seating (non-smoking). This is standard for Flanders.

Daniel McBrearty played clarinet and 2 kinds of saxophones. Jef Manderveld on bass, Jonas Boulsen on drums. The guitar and piano players were different people from what was printed on the flyers. A local teenager was invited to play piano. Sorry I did not catch their names.

The best part for us was that music started at 16:00. Most live performances take place at night.

No cover charge, just a coffee or hot water and ginger, for a set of live music.

vleeshuis museum

2017-09-09 ANTWERPEN, BELGIË -- Noriko and I were visiting the Vleehuis (meat house) museum of musical instruments when we were invited -- purely by good fortune -- to join a tour of the nearby cathedral tower. After the tour of the cathedral we returned to the Vleeshuis to resume our study of musical instruments.

I do not know whether the color of the exterior walls are intended to evoke images of bacon. Seriously, I suspect the color contrast of meat and fat, and flesh and hide were design elements.

The tall ceilings are supported by crossed arches.

The 1st floor (what Europeans call the ground floor, or floor 0) consists of 2 rows of open space supported by arches. The museum's main exhibits are located here, and some more in the basement. The upper floors are closed to the public.

We were particularly drawn to trumpets. In medieval times, Antwerp and other cities employed trumpet players, who performed at formal functions in uniform and often on horseback. In 18th-century Antwerp, trumpet players would stand watch atop the cathedral tower 2 times a day, in case they needed to sound the fire alarm. Below is a detail of an oil painting that depicts a procession led by 4 trumpet players. These are natural trumpets -- that is, the trumpets do not have valves. The players are puffing their cheeks and seem to be applying excessive mouthpiece pressure. Hmm, they need to work on their embouchure!

This painting shows a procession exiting what must be the Antwerp cathedral, judging from the likeness of the architecture. The cathedral building evolved over the centuries. The 1st building was built in 1520, almost exactly 500 years ago. The building can and should look different from how it appears today.

Detail of the painting shown above. A band follows a white-robed flag bearer and a green-clad standard bearer, who jointly lead the procession. The person holding a trumpet with coiled tubing shown in the center of this photograph is, I believe, the trumpet player. The 3 people holding shorter straight wind instruments might be playing straight trumpets, as Noriko surmises, or they could be playing reed instruments such as shawms. Noriko is probably correct. Shawms were popular back then, but they seem to have been used only in folk music (such as dance music in open-air festivals), so perhaps shawms would have been excluded from a formal procession such as the one this painting.

Sheet music from a while ago. Of typographic interest is the shape of the notes. The note heads are diamond-shaped, instead of ovals. Heads can be filled (that is, solid black) or empty (that is, circles), just as today. The stems extend from the center of the head rather than the right edge. The way stems are written is the same as the hand writing of many modern musicians. Perhaps it is more natural to center the stems.

Trumpet valves are a fairly recent invention. Natural trumpets (including the world's 2 oldest known examples from King Tutankhamun's tomb) have no valves, and are often straight. They all have bells, which have the effect of decreasing the frequency intervals between lower harmonics (
see my favorite reference).


The museum lets visitors download software for listening to sounds created by instruments on display. No need to rent audio guides anymore.
This app is available only in the museum.

An omni-tonal horn invented around 1820 by
Charles-Joseph Sax, father of Adolphe Sax, who in turn invented the saxophone. Fascinating design. I do not understand how the omni-tonal horn works (this reference may help). The horn appears to produce various pitches without keys, valves, or slides. However it is not clear from merely visually observing the instrument how the horn works. For starters, I cannot tell which parts move. I would like to see the instrument played.

The museum's basement houses 2 reconstructed Belgian foundries of music instruments.

The first foundry is a bell foundry that was relocated when the owner and builder retired in 1988. He was the last bell maker in the country. Carillons are numerous in the low countries (Benelux) and the USA. Carillon players are called carillonneurs, but for myself, in the interest of international English, I am switching over to "instrument-name player" to describe players of instruments. Piano player (not pianist), flute player (not flutist), trumpet player (not trumpeter).

The second foundry is for brass instruments. The company "Van Engelen and Son" started making instruments in 1813. They were well known for military instruments, and for a while they were the largest manufacturer in the country. The company ceased business in the 1991. The museum purchased the brass instrument manufacturer's workshop in 1999, and exhibited many artifacts as shown in the picture below. The foundry displayed at the museum depicts the original workplace in the 1970s.

Mandrels would be familiar to brass instrument craftsmen today. The tooling on exhibit are only 50 years or so old. (Referring to half a century as "only" shows my age.)

Hanging bells is another timeless technique.


2017-09-06 BRUSSEL, BELGIË -- The city of Brussels is Brussel in Dutch, Bruxelles in French, and BXL to locals who prefer abbreviations.

We started with a visit to the Grand Place, a large square in the center of the city.

Aggressively gilded buildings line the square.

Weather was borderline -- almost about to rain. Tourists didn't mind.

We walked into
a music shop that we found in a prime location near the square.

The gentleman at the store (who had studied music at a conservatory) told us that Belgian schoolchildren are not required to take music classes. Compulsory exposure to music is limited to playing the recorder in elementary school (but unlike Japan, not harmonica). Students may take music lessons for free after release. It appears that music is an extra-curricula, extra-credit activity. Piano is the most popular instrument. Acoustic guitar is second. But interest in electric guitars has waned, overshadowed by computer games.

I bought
a level 1 trumpet book. I can play most of the music written in the book (badly, of course). I bought the easiest book because I want to learn the Dutch language terms for music. Because the book is written for children, the language used is colloquial and friendly. Exactly what I need! The book is 21 euro -- as expensive as music books in Japan. Come to think of it, the Hal Leonard books they sell in the USA are unusually affordable.

Today's main attraction was the
MIM (musical instrument museum). The art-deco building is a landmark.

The museum is chock-full of oh-so-wonderful instruments from the world over. Next time we visit (probably soon) we will rent an audio guide, which plays music played by the instruments on exhibit. Today we focused on visual appreciation.

Analog synthesizer. I spent some time reading the labels of the controls.

Automatic organ.

Wires that control the automatic organ. The tiny wires might be for brief notes (like 1/32) or vibrato.

Belgium is the birthplace of
Adolphe Sax, who invented the saxophone. Sax experimented with various brass instruments, including a keyed trombone with 7 bells, pictured at left.

I love the display cases as much as I do the items on display. The cases are beautifully integrated into the architecture.

I was thrilled to see a drawing of a brass instrument foundry that I had read in a book about the history of brass instruments.

Historic documents such as these grip me with curiosity. The museum has reproduced most of this book so that visitors might read it.

Before modern times, mouthpieces were permanently attached to the trumpet. Of the mouthpieces that I saw, all had rather thin rims (although many modern mouthpieces are just as thin), and as far as I could tell, medium-sized cups. I could not see the shape of the throat or bore.

Glass bugels!

The gift store uses, but alas does not sell, book ends with a trumpet design.

The top floor has a restaurant with a marvelous view of Europe's capital city.

To round off the day, we listened and watched the great wall clock ring 17:00.

trumpet practice

2017-09-04 ANTWERPEN, BELGIË -- Practicing trumpet while traveling is not easy for me. I don't want to bother people. Finding a place to play is not easy unless smack in the middle of the day. Because I often have activities planned during the day, I ruefully use a practice mute (top center in photo) that doesn't feel right. Maybe when I become an intermediate player I can benefit from a practice mute. At my current stage, I can hurt myself if I'm not careful.


little shop of horrors

2017-08-18 NEWPORT, OREGON, USA (updated after the event) -- My trumpet teacher John Bringetto played in the orchestra for the stage version of "The Little Shop of Horrors" at Newport's Performing Arts Center.

I saw the movie a long time ago. Even that movie was a re-make. The original must be ancient.

Here's a screenshot from
the theater company's web site.


John showed me the music. Sorry no photo. Too scary to show! The first note on trumpet is an A6. The last song (played after curtain call, and while the audience is walking out) is also brutal. What was the composer thinking?

Naturally we bought tickets for opening night.

We asked for seats close to the orchestra pit, so that we might see John and other musicians up close. Turned out that the box office had sold us seats
in the pit! Noriko discovered that row B is the pit itself. John (lower right, facing away from camera) is where our seats would have been located.

Minor chaos ensued. We (and many other surprised guests) had our seats changed.

Thanks to Noriko's quick thinking, we got excellent seats in G row, with a much improved view of the stage from an elevated near-center position.

Even if we had been seated in the front row (which was row C) we could not have looked into the pit anyway because a portable wall blocked the view.

Naturally no pictures of the performance itself. I felt that the 2 trumpets were less audible but maybe that's because I'm partial to brass instruments.

As the musical show progressed, I remembered various melodies and lyrics that made me laugh, such as "you'll be a dentist". Kero, Sirokuro Puppy, Noriko and I had a great time!

I realized that the "horrors" in that little florist are not the antics of the flesh-eating plant. The terrors have more to do with human greed and cruelty.

lesson 30

2017-08-16 SEAL ROCK, OREGON, USA -- My trumpet teacher John Bringetto gave me my 30th lesson with him.

He teaches me in the room with the vaulted roof. These beautiful trees shelter his neighbors from my terrifying noise.

Among his many talents, John is an accomplished sailor. He crossed the Pacific Ocean in his 2nd sailboat. The photo below is his 3rd.

This past week, I practiced playing as accurately as I can with a metronome. Today John told me that all that good practice is worthless if I can only play like a machine. I answered that I would be ecstatic to play like a machine! Expression comes after that.
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chet baker tribute

2017-08-03 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON, USA -- David Matheny played flugelhorn at Lincoln City's Cultural Center. I enjoyed David's interpretations of Chet Baker's music, and the mini-lectures David gave in between songs.

The LCCC makes it easy to buy tickets online. We don't even need to print them. We tell the receptionist our names and that's it.


Drinks and light snacks are sold and allowed during performance. There's a tiny table next to your seats.

During intermission, I told David Matheny that I've been taking trumpet lessons for 3 years, and asked when I can start playing flugelhorn. He answered that I could begin immediately, especially if I used a flugelhorn mouthpiece with a rim and cup similar to my trumpet's mouthpiece. I asked that don't flugelhorn mouthpieces have deep, V-shaped cups for dark sound, and David answered that yes most players do play those deeper mouthpieces, but that some people including himself play a trumpet-shaped mouthpiece with a shorter shank, that facilitates playing both instruments.

Here's a review with pictures that appeared in the "Oregon Coast Today", a weekly publication of local events.

And the same picture in clearer color.

international kindergarten

2017-07-07 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- We visited an international kindergarten in downtown Sapporo.

Shaun Keenan (standing, far left) invited us to his school. They have 3 grades, 1 class each. All instruction is in English language. The kids are doing great!

The kids were dressed up in kimono for the
tanabata (7th of July) festival. I brought my electronic trumpet (Yamaha EZ-TP) for the kids to play with. Ivy Lin (far right) is my grad student. She has a degree in music performance. She played the electronic trumpet beautifully!

Ivy Lin and I played the "ABC song" on her guitar and my trumpet. I made mistakes but the kids didn't care.

ivy lin sings at jamusica

2017-06-29 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Ivy Lin, my graduate student, sung at Jamusica, a local jazz bar.

Ivy has a bachelor's degree in jazz performance. Her instruments are piano, guitar, and voice.

Masaya Yanagi is one of most sought-after bass players on Hokkaido island.

Sohei Kawai (no relation to me) is a bashful and respected drummer. I should take his rhythm lessons.

Tomoaki Motoyama is a Hokudai physics major turned Sapporo piano player.

We gathered with our friends to enjoy the evening.

Monochrome captures the jazz scene nicely.

tri horn buffalo at d-bop

2017-04-27 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Today was a full day! Business meeting, keroppi shopping, heavy lunch, visit new restaurant ... and then a rock concert at jazz bar D-Bop.

D-Bop is owned by private detective Cozy Matsuura. Cozy is well-connected in the police world, but I understand he was never a police officer. Cozy plays sax, and opened a jazz bar. "D" is for "detective".

Tri Horn Buffalo show was so crowded that my ticket got squished before I could photograph it.

It was rock played with jazzy instruments. I loved how they interacted with the crowd.

Takahiro Miyazaki, the sax player, autographed his EWI (electronic wind instrument) music textbook for me. I own an
Akai EWI-5000 that I have no idea how to play.

izuru opens restaurant

2017-04-27 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- My former trumpet teacher Izuru Konishi retired from his day job as an insurance salesman. He and his wife bought a restaurant. They had a pre-opening party for close friends a week or so ago. Today was their first day open to the general public.

The "Party House Fiesta" is located smack in downtown Sapporo.

I know where it is now, but the first time I came, I got lost for 40 minutes walking within half a block of the place.

Izuru claims the place seats 100.

Big windows overlooking sakura almost in full bloom.

Trumpet art by local artist
Quzan Kuzuoka. Gold foil on canvas.

Quzan formerly taught fine art in middle school. He now paints art, and creates signs and labels for commercial clients.

We toasted Izuru's success.

chris botti concert

2017-03-17 TACOMA, WASHINGTON, USA -- Noriko and I attended our 3rd concert with Chris Botti and his band.

Wonderful entertainment, as always.

He autographed his CD for me! And shook my hand!
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playing scales

2017-02-11 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Trumpet players are expected to play over a 2.5-octave range. After 33 months of training, I am beginning to approach the upper and lower edges of that expected range.

My trumpet, like over 90% others, is a transposing instrument. For my Bb trumpet, music is written 1 whole step above, such that a concert Bb is written as C. What I call a C major scale is a concert Bb major scale. Conversely, a concert C major scale is a D major scale on my trumpet.

Shown below are a spectrogram and an audio recording of a 2-octave C major scale (concert Bb major), starting at my C4 and ending in C6, that I observed during this morning's practice. I could have started half an octave below, like I often do. This is not my best playing, merely better than average.

I want to solve 3 problems. (1) I want to stabilize my pitch. My unstable pitch is clearly visible as fluctuation in the higher harmonics, that is, the wiggly lines in the upper rows. (2) I want to transition cleanly. As my pitch ascends, some notes jump up or down. I want to stop that. (3) I want to play softer. I can play a bit soft in my comfortable range, which is the left half of the chart. As I ascend in pitch (that is, moving towards the right of the chart) I need to increase airflow, hence increasing the sound amplitude (see the red color in the lines towards the right). I want to learn to play softer, which means I am playing more efficiently.


My tiny success is that I am becoming able to play this range at all. I am happy that my chops (a collective term referring to lips, cheeks, teeth, and tongue) recover much faster than a year ago.

ivy and the two book trio

2017-02-05 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Our grad student Ivy is a musician trained in jazz piano and guitar performance. Tonight she sang with the Two Book Trio at the jazz bar Jericho in downtown Sapporo.

Jericho is a tiny place.

John Long, who taught Ivy music at high school in the UK, visited from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Sohei Kawai on drums, Yosuke Homma on bass.

Tomoaki Motoyama (far left) on piano. Tomoaki played Jericho's mini-upright piano with his back to the audience.

John played sax, and gave me several music tips.

last lesson with izuru konishi

2017-01-28 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Noriko and I did not realize that today's trumpet lesson with Izuru Konishi would be our last. Several weeks ago we agreed to soon terminate lessons partly because Izuru is switching jobs at this time, and because Noriko and I are taking sabbatical leave starting this summer.

We had planned 2 more lessons on 2017-02-04 and 2017-02-11. We learned the evening before our next lesson that the streets would be closed for snow removal. So we canceled both lessons for what was supposed to be our last month. Hence, we discovered after the fact that today's lesson was our last. I took 65 lessons from him, 2 or 3 Saturdays a month, for 60 to 90 minutes each.

Izuru is retiring from his insurance company (his day job to support his family) to become an owner of a popular gig hall and restaurant, the
Party House Fiesta. I was there once to attend a piano teacher's birthday. Customers rent the entire hall, receive food and drink (it was buffet style when I was there; perhaps they might be served at the table if they pay extra), and party any which way they like. Most groups seem to perform music. They have a baby grand piano (I saw it) and probably a drum kit (unsure).

Noriko came every week. I am indebted to her for my entire music adventure. She made me take my very first music lesson. Izuru showed me which end of the trumpet I blow into.

Izuru and I would sit side by side, me on his left. I was never happy with my playing. In the photo below, placed between Sirokuro Puppy and Kero is my audio recorder. I recorded all our lessons, and saved Izuru's demonstrations as separate audio files so that I could play them while practicing by myself. The textbooks he uses ("
Learn to play trumpet and cornet" ISBN-13 978-0739014684 and ISBN-13 978-0739030332) do not come with audio recordings. I wish they did because I am unable to read music -- that is, even though I might play the pitch of each note, I might not understand the rhythm unless I knew the song already, or the etude is so simple that the timing and phrasing are transparent.

Chris Botti concert

2016-09-11 MEDFORD, OREGON, USA -- Noriko and I went to a musical concert by Chris Botti and his band.

They played at the Craterian Theater (named after Crater Lake national park) in downtown Medford, Oregon.

Chris Botti happily allows his audience to take pictures and videos.

In the encore performance he invited the audience to come close to the stage.

The band members enjoy scripted and ad libbed banter with each other, and with the audience.

Truth be told, I had brought my trumpet method book and Chris's CD in vain hopes for an autograph.

lincoln pops big band

2016-08-20 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON, USA -- The Lincoln Pops Orchestra played dance music at our city's community hall. My trumpet teacher John Bringetto is the band director and also performs trumpet and flugelhorn. Noriko and I took pictures and movies so that John can give them to his band members.

Patty George sings while John Bringetto plays flugelhorn. The Lincoln Pops Orchestra tends to play a tad slower for elderly dancers.

Storm Wedel is 19 years old. Noriko and I enjoy observing him grow as a vocalist and trumpet player. Monochrome photographs capture jazz music better than color.

corvallis community band

2016-08-16 CORVALLIS, OREGON, USA -- The Corvallis Community Band plays each Tuesday evening in the summer at Corvallis Central Park, across the street from the main library and close to the downtown campus of Oregon State University.

Corvallis is about 100 kilometers inland from the Oregon coast. Daytime temperatures soar above 35 Celsius (this day it felt like 38). After sundown the temperature quickly drops to 25, and continues to fall until dawn to around 13. The band starts playing at dusk.

The locals bring lawn chairs to enjoy the music.

We snacked at a picnic table, although it was a bit far away from the band.

We listened and watched through the trees.

trumpet lesson with john bringetto

2016-08-16 SEAL ROCK, OREGON, USA -- I had my 20th trumpet lesson with John Bringetto at his home in Seal Rock, 58 kilometers south of our home. I have been learning trumpet for 26 months. Progress is slow.I feel like I am learning how to write the letters of the alphabet. Not sure I am even learning how to spell yet. Certainly not yet learning how to read and write sentences.

I asked John if there is hope for me. He told me not to think that. Childlike absence of inhibition is key, he says.

He wants me to play long tones and scales pianissimo. Playing soft is fatiguing! It's like adjusting a faucet to obtain the thinnest continuous trickle of water, right at the boundary of a fast drip. I am starving the horn of air, holding my breath in.

John let me play 4 mouthpieces from his vast collection. They clearly felt different on my mouth. Truth be told, when I played them they hardly sounded different, because I was focused on adjusting myself to each mouthpiece and I had no ears for timbre. Noriko took a video showing us comparing 2 of his Monette Prana mouthpieces with my Bach 3C. The mouthpieces do sound different in the video.

I think that compared to my Bach 3C his Monette with 1.25-inch rim matches better the intended acoustic design of my Carol Brass 6580. My Bach 3C is probably better suited for my Yamaha 8310Z. My understanding of the difference in frequency response of the 2 horns is that the 6580 and 8310Z have more energy in the lower and higher frequencies respectively. This difference is paralleled in the frequency response of the Monette and Bach mouthpieces.

I wish I could measure the frequency response of horns and mouthpieces independently and under reproducible conditions. Brass instrument manufacturers should publish frequency response charts, just like camera lens manufacturers publish MTF (modulation transfer function) charts.

solid basics

2016-03-26 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON, USA -- I am delighted that after 21 months and 9 days my trumpet embouchure (that is, the placement of the mouthpiece upon my lips) is becoming accurate and consistent. Not quite there yet though! I started removing my mouthpiece after each note so that I can unwaveringly combine my body with my instrument.

I am excited to deepen my listening of music. During today's lesson (which is our 20th),
John Bringetto lectured on chord changes, specifically on the role of the secondary dominant. Much of what he mentioned was over my head, although not for lack of reading material -- I need to put the theory to practice by working through actual examples. I will review our lesson by listening to its audio and video recordings. I also practice playing straight melody with iReal-pro backing.

John demonstrates by firstly playing the straight melody (which is where I am barely at), secondly embellishing the melody (which I suspect is my limit of possible achievement), and thirdly improvising by moving around the chords.

Much of embouchure is hidden. "Tense the corners of your mouth, and relax the aperture (that is, then opening at the center of the lips". "Raise the back of your tongue, and widen your throat like there's an egg in it". I see the point ... but aren't these instructions oxymoronic? Or I am a moron?

ken saul, inventor of ultrapure oils

2016-03-16 PHILOMATH, OREGON, USA -- We met Ken Saul, owner of the Ultrapure Oils company that manufactures lubricants for brass instruments, at a coffee shop near his factory.

Ken was trained as a composer and trumpet player. After earning his degree in music from San Francisco State University, he studied at Julliard. He continues to perform the trumpet in the larger Corvalis, Oregon area.

Ken is also an engineer. He has an BS in electrical engineering, and an MS in engineering management. He worked at HP's fabrication facility in Corvallis for 30 years. During the early period of his technical career he used high-vacuum pumps which required precise lubrication. This formed a confluence of his interests in music and engineering. He invented a synthetic lubricant for brass instruments which he named Ultrapure Oils.

I use Ultrapure Oils exclusively, partly because I am an Oregonian, and partly because
Carol Brass, the manufacturer of 2 of my 3 trumpets, vouches for Ultrapure. So does Monette, a trumpet manufacturer based in Portland, Oregon. Wynton Marsalis plays Monette. (By the way, Wynton Marsalis and I both use Ultrapure oil, and are the same age. The commonality ends there: Wynton Marsalis plays trumpet, alas I play with the trumpet.)

Recently, Ken helped a trumpet manufacturer that uses stainless steel valve casings and pure copper valves. Last month, Ken improved his oil to reduce electrochemical corrosion caused by the difference in ionization tendencies across the 2 metals.

Ken spent over 100 minutes with us, generously advising me on my trumpet training, and talking about the trumpet industry. His wife comes from Sapporo.

Noriko and I plan to attend his performances with the
Corvallis Community Band this summer at Corvallis central park.

I oil my valves before and after each practice session. I disassemble, wipe, dry, reassemble, and lubricate my instruments every 3rd day. My instruments allow me no excuse for poor playing!

Imagine Coffee is considerably larger than coffee shops in Japan. Apparently they occasionally provide live music.

Ken graciously exchanged my stock of Ultrapure oils with his newest blend.

back online

2016-03-03 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON, USA -- We are back online! This past fall and winter were seasons of illness and injury for me. Nothing serious, thank you, everything is being taken care of. I'll skip the details because who wants to hear of ailments? I do apologize for not updating my website for so long. I was out of commission until the medical team found out I was treating myself incorrectly. Next time I'll consult experts even if I suspect seasonal allergies!

We returned to Oregon a few days ago. Noriko got us a free upgrade to roomier seats on the 9-hour flight from Tokyo to Portland. Delta airlines calls the spacier seats "economy comfort", implying that regular seats are "economy discomfort". A truthful assessment in my opinion. Delta reportedly profited 6 billion dollars last year, mostly from falling jet fuel prices. Crude oil is down to $35 a barrel today, from over $140 in 2008 and $100 in 2014. No news from Delta about fuel surcharges. By contrast, ANA (All Nippon Air) has reduced their fuel surcharges over a period of some time, and will abolish them altogether starting next month. Delta is not my favorite airline.

A picture I should have uploaded to my blog 3 months ago: On 2015-11-23, while woozy from illness and exhaustion, I gave my first public musical performance in my life at the House of Jazz in Sapporo, Japan. Noriko is upset that they made me play when I should have stayed in bed. No preparation of any kind. I chose my song only 2 days before the event. First time playing with a live band (piano, bass, drums). No rehearsal except a 10-minute "hello, nice to meet you folks" just before. Conditions were so bad that I could not begin to become embarrassed or worried. I played "Bye bye blackbird". John Bringetto gently advised me not to "get ahead of the chord changes". I didn't know what they are (still don't), and could not hear them (still can't). I will do the world a favor by NOT putting a recording of my performance here.


open air trumpet

2015-09-23 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON, USA -- Before my trumpet lesson with John Bringetto, I warmed up at Ona Beach State Park, located 2 minutes away from John's house.

I love playing outdoors as long as there is nobody around. I thought I was alone because I saw no cars parked or people walking. I practiced with my eyes closed ... Imagine my surprise and embarrassment when I opened my eyes to see 2 people on paddleboards waving at me!


toasty, dry, and musical

2015-09-01 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON, USA -- The Willamette valley can get warm (summer daytime highs of 36 degrees Celsius are common) but the Pacific northwest coast is pleasantly cool.

We bought firewood for our wood stove. Our truck bed lacks a fence so we bought a half load for $40.

Most of the wood in this batch is birch. We stacked the wood outside our front door in a covered breezeway.

The wood stove keeps the house toasty and dry. The stove is effective all year long.

Oregon had a good blueberry harvest this year. Ice cream is obligatory when we're so close to Tillamook, a region famous for dairy products. We bought our firewood there too. Most people would not drive that far to buy firewood. We know a beekeeper who runs a small mill there.

Noriko likes fresh home-made potato chips. Heat canola oil to 180 degrees Celsius. Slice potatoes with a mandoline over the oil. Fry one layer of chips at a time (the slices stick).

The trick is letting the chips cool and dry after frying them. Don't eat them hot -- they're still mushy! Wicking away oil using coffee filter paper is best, kitchen paper towels are acceptable. We never use salt.

I rearranged the music room a bit. My iPad-mini keeps track of pitch, amplitude, and time. I love my Carol Brass horn, heavy as it is. Buying 3 horns in the 1st year or trumpet practice was excessive, yet necessary for our migratory lifestyle.

Before lessons I warmup at a beachside state park across the highway from the community where my teacher John Bringetto lives. Passersby pay no attention to my playing. Thank heavens!

John directs and plays in the Lincoln Pops Big Band. They gave an entertaining performance at the Lincoln City Cultural Center. John is standing in the rear, playing a flugelhorn for Chuck Mangione's "Children of Sanchez". Most people in the audience danced. Sorry Noriko! Maybe I'll learn how to dance after I learn to play trumpet. John says it will take 2 more years for me to play the notes I need. Can you imagine an artist spending 3 years preparing paint? That's what it feels like to practice trumpet!

chris botti concert in sapporo

2015-07-16 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- We attended a trumpet concert by Chris Botti. He was born in Portland, Oregon. Travels around the world. Wonderful and thoughtful team of entertainers. They let us photograph and video-record their performance. I won't post here on this public forum the pictures we took.

Noriko won a ticket, and I bought mine.


birthday trip and presents

2015-06-22 OTARU AND SAPPORO, JAPAN -- For my birthday this year (which is also the 1st anniversary of my trumpet playing) we took a weekend trip to Otaru, a seaside city less than an hour west by train. We visited their aquarium and relaxed at a hotel with a 24-hour private furo-style bath. On our way back I got a birthday present!

Otaru aquarium (a private institution) is located on the seaside with outdoor seawater pools for seals, sea lions, walruses, dolphins, and penguins. Indoor fish tanks hold local fish as well as species from various parts of the world. Near the aquarium (shown on the upper right corner of the picture) is the Hiyoriyama lighthouse, the oldest and still operational lighthouse on Hokkaido island.

The aquarium animals appear content. Ill or handicapped individuals are kept in separate pools so that they need not compete for food. Blindness is common with age, we learned.

hotel is a short steep climb (16 percent gradient) from the aquarium. It is located 70 meters above sea level, which is the same as our house in Oregon, except we are several blocks away, and the slope is gentler.

We had our own private furo-style bath. Because the water was somewhat lukewarm, we could bathe for as long as we wished.

At 19:18 Japan time, we viewed a sunset from the cliff above the sea. I practiced trumpet. My trumpet teacher
John Bringetto told me to practice every day. This was my first time practicing outdoors.

The following afternoon we returned to Sapporo, where at the
Yamaha music center my new instrument was waiting. I tested it in a soundproof room at the store. Noriko and Maki (the salesperson, who is also a French horn player) said that my current instrument sounds brighter while my new instrument sounds deeper. Hmm ... I couldn't hear the difference from behind the bell. The 2 horns certainly blow different. The new horn needs more air. The old horn is noticeably heavier. This suggests my new horn is made of thinner material that may dent easily.

My expensive new toy is a
YTR-8310Z model designed by Yamaha in collaboration with Bobby Shew, the jazz trumpet player. Notice the difference from a regular 8310Z? Mine has 3 rings. A regular 8310Z has U-shaped saddles on the leadpipe and 1st valve slide. For that minor change I paid merely $30 extra and patiently waited 4 months.

My new Yamaha case (pictured on the left) looks classy, feels solid, and I'm glad to have it. It's probably made for people who drive, and carry multiple bags. It stores 2 trumpets top side up, but nothing else -- no music, no cleaning supplies, no audio recorder. My old case (pictured on the right) stores 1 trumpet laid flat on its side (which I don't like) but has room and pockets to carry a fair amount of gear. Plus it has straps for carrying on my back. I suspect that I'll use my old case to carry my horn, and use my new case to store my horns at home. We don't own a car in Japan.

rainy season in hokkaido

2015-06-04 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Who says Hokkaido has no rainy season? Of course it does. Yesterday's heavy rain stopped trains. Being unprepared is not necessarily evidence of being unexpected. Sapporo receives snow every winter, yet is woefully unprepared. To prevent icing, they should continuously sprinkle the roads with river water (the Toyohira river does not freeze) and let the water carry the melted snow back to the river. Divert the river water upstream, and return it downstream. That should remove snow as soon as it hits the ground, and also save money. Instead they spend millions of dollars carrying the snow to dump sites. Oh well, this is a city that took 200 years to build a weather-free passageway from the central train station to the downtown financial and shopping districts. The locals complain of the winter weather but do nothing about it.

Sadly I am also guilty of lethargic ignorance. As an academic and scientist it behooves me to confirm information. Yet for shame I learned only a few days ago that my interpretation of the scientific pitch notation was wrong. I am contrite that I assumed (without checking) that octave numbers increment when ascending from G to A. I now know that octave numbers change at the boundary between B and C.

That being said, below are 2 spectrograms (that is, images produced by spectrum analyzers) that visualized my practicing scales this morning. Most musicians swear by their metronomes. Many prefer a tuner as well. I too need both, but because I cannot judge my own sense of timing or pitch, I need another source of information. Spectrograms show each note's time duration (the horizontal length) and pitch height (the vertical position).
During trumpet practice, I use an iPad-mini, its built-in microphone, and the Audio Analyzer application.

In the following screenshots, the vertical axis shows frequency in kilohertz. The axis scale is placed on the right, because on this spectrum analyzer the origin of the x and y axes is at the lower right.

The horizontal axis shows time in seconds. The values should actually be negative, because the origin of 0 seconds is placed at the right edge, and all sound prior to that are in the past (e.g., 5 seconds ago, or -5 seconds). The designer of this software application does a few things differently from what I am accustomed to as a speech engineer.

Because the spectrum of trumpet sounds contains harmonics (also called partials), that is, the fundamental frequency (i.e., the lowest frequency that can be produced with a length of tubing) and its multiples, for each moment in time there are multiple harmonics spaced at integer multiples, stacked vertically on top of each other. In this chart, about 2 or 3 harmonics are visible. Generally speaking, harmonics for trumpets fade out in intensity above roughly 3 kHz. Thus you can say that trumpets, although they play high parts of music, are perfectly audible over a telephone (the audio bandwidth of a regular phone is between 300 and 3400 Hertz).

The cursor (the thin horizontal line running across the center of the spectrogram) marks 592 Hz, which is close to the 1st fundamental of E5 (the E on the 4th space on the treble clef). This is my natural, default pitch at the moment. Some people have lower or higher natural pitches. I expect mine to rise a bit further. If I recall correctly, John Bringetto told me his natural pitch is C6. Wow!

My trumpet (and those of all other beginning trumpet players, plus those of the vast majority of professional trumpet players) is a Bb (B-flat) transposing instrument; that is, when I play a C it sounds like a Bb on a piano. When I use a piano to tune I need to play the piano key that is one whole note below what I want on my horn. There are trumpets that are pitched in other keys, namely C (for orchestral playing), E and higher (to play higher notes).

Poorly played notes between C5 and Bb6. The unevenness of the time durations (that is, the horizontal lengths) of each note shows that I am insecure about how to play the next note. The notes having weak acoustic energy between harmonics were played clean (that is, with clear and compact tone), whereas notes with a lot of color markings between harmonics were played dirty (that is, with diffuse and airy tone).
150604_recording 4 IMG_0976

This spectrogram shows me playing the E major scale below my natural pitch of E5. Notes at or close below one's natural pitch are easier to play. The relative absence of colored markings between harmonics shows that I produced good tone. The time duration of each note is more uniform. Overall, I am doing much better (although far from perfect) than the notes I played in the spectrogram above.
150604_recording 10 IMG_0982

Even to the untrained eye the geometric symmetry of my second spectrogram should be an obvious clue to better performance. Astonishingly, spectrograms are rarely used in music schools. In fact I have read of and met musicians who knew nothing about spectral analysis. Maybe music schools accept only students who do not need spectrum analyzers. I envy them in that sense!

neil stalnaker performs at d-bop

2015-05-26 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Neil Stalnaker, a former navy bandsman who relocated to Japan, played his Besson trumpet at my favorite jazz spot D-Bop in Sapporo. Neil had studied in person with Carmine Caruso in New York. That made a connection to me because I play Caruso's "6 notes" and "seconds" every day.

Neil told me he had not warmed up that morning, and needed to ramp up his playing during his gig. His first song was pretty energetic. Steamy warmup!

What warmed me and the rest of the audience was that 2 middle school kids (who came with their parents) joined the stage and blasted away on the trombone and trumpet! The kids were awesome! If I could play half as good as them I would be ecstatic. The 5 adult musicians were kind and encouraging. Here are pictures of the members of the quintet, along with a flyer of the event.


trumpet clinic

2015-05-24 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- I attended my first trumpet clinic. Although I had read about trumpet clinics, this was my first hands-on experience.

A trumpet clinic is a one-time trumpet lesson, typically given by a well-known trumpet player who is touring the area. A parallel at a university would be a guest professor giving a one-time lecture and answering questions from students and professors of the host institution. Participants of clinics cannot claim to be students of clinicians -- that title is reserved for people who receive regularly scheduled instruction. For clinics, I suppose the apt term is attendee.

The guest professor today was
Shunzo Ohno, a soft-spoken gentleman who grew up in central Japan and has spent almost his entire professional career based in New York. Noriko (who missed the clinic as she is visiting her parents in Tokyo) is fascinated by Shunzo's biography. His experience with a lip injury somewhat parallels that of Louis Maggio.

Shunzo performed in downtown Sapporo yesterday evening. From the front row I watched him play. The clarity and purity of his sound captivated me. That's the tone I want! Maybe half an octave higher though, because that is where the center of my range is.

Although naturally I was eager to learn from Shunzo, I was rather apprehensive because I expected advanced amateurs to ask advanced questions, and I did not want to dilute the level of instruction by being a dunce. I was also scared that I might be asked to play in front of strangers.

In fact that did happen and I was in panic! My first public performance was a series of long tones that broke up before they left the bell!

Shunzo was kind and gentle and spent considerable time (perhaps 15 minutes out of the 120 minutes for class) to show me how to set the embouchure (don't fidget!) and play. He knows I live in Oregon so he switched to the English language to teach. Shunzo is clearly more at ease talking about trumpet in English than in Japanese. Much of the instruction Shunzo himself received was in the English language. He grew up in a working-class family, and he was self-taught in music until he moved to New York as a young man.

I am not sure what the rest of the audience felt with how Shunzo and I interacted. They were probably unhappy that I was wasting precious time. In my weak defense I might mention that the 11 other students were not entirely enthusiastic about asking questions. Shunzo was disappointed, and maybe that's why he was generously responsive to me when the group lesson period ended. He gave me extra personal teaching for quite some time afterwards. We also showed each other's trumpet bags. His is ultra-minimalistic. Mine is full of gear, ready to fight a war. Except I don't know how!

Flyer from Shunzo Ohno's performance in Sapporo.

Shunzo demonstrates lip buzzing, mouthpiece placement, and mouthpiece attachment.

Spectrogram of Shunzo's scales. Fast and clean! Even on my best day I cannot achieve this. The horizontal cursor at 591 Hz marks Bb trumpet E5 (concert D5). Shunzo excels in the lower and middle registers. He focuses on melody.

goh's 2nd trumpet

2015-03-02 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON -- I am ecstatic with my new instrument! It costs double of my 1st trumpet, and even to my novice eyes the difference is apparent. No, it doesn't make my playing better. But it does make it easier, because the notes slot better, especially in the higher registers.

Favorite things come in brown paper packages!

I knew exactly what the case would be like, because I have another one for my Zorro trumpet that I play in Japan.

Silver is a good color for me. The bell reflects the view around the room too.

Noriko congratulated me for producing good sound from the get go.

Carol Brass uses stainless steel pistons. The pistons and valve casing must be thoroughly cleaned daily for the first 3 weeks. Note the dark residue on what was a bleached white towel. California Music Supply (CMS) sold me a soft and easy-to-use valve cleaning brush. Highly recommended! I am scared of those cleaning rods because they might scratch the inside of the instrument.

CMS gave me spare parts for free!

My new horn is considerably louder than my other horn. I need to stand away from the window and mirror to avoid reflection of sound.

The view out of my music room (spare bedroom). Sometimes deer walk past.

All those goodies piled up in my trumpet case. Handkerchief, audio recorder, spare parts, tuner with metronome, mouthpiece, valve oil and grease.

goh's 2nd and 3rd trumpets

2015-02-25 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Noriko and I split our time in 3 places: our school in Hokkaido, Japan, our home in Oregon, USA, and with our families in Tokyo. Because flying with a trumpet is not recommended (my teachers had negative experiences) I decided to own 3 trumpets.

Trumpets are expensive. While they are considerably less expensive than other brass instruments, and ridiculously cheaper than woodwinds, the absolute cost makes me hesitate. Somewhere between 500 and 4000 US dollars would get you a respectable brand-new instrument. My first trumpet (that I ordered on my mother’s birthday last fall) cost 750 dollars. That felt pricey.

After becoming numbed to the cost of music, we twice visited the Yamaha music store (which sells many brands including Yamaha) to choose which one I should get for playing in Sapporo.

I was surprised to discover that different makes and models felt quite different. Some were easier to play than others. After comparing 6 models plus my rental and my $750 horn for Tokyo, my choices narrowed down to a Bach
180S37 (the world’s best-selling professional trumpet) and a Yamaha 8310ZS (developed with input from the jazz trumpeter Bobby Shew). I chose the Japan-made Yamaha over the USA-made Bach partly because in Japan it is slightly more convenient to have the trumpet repaired or serviced. Besides, American instruments are less expensive in America.

I ordered the 8310ZS with O-shaped finger rings on the leadpipe and 1st slide instead of the factory-standard U-shaped finger saddles. O-shaped finger rings allow me to carry part of the weight of the trumpet on my left thumb. Japanese businesses including Yamaha are not as open as European or American firms regarding modifications (try substituting an ingredient at any restaurant in Japan) so the seemingly simple change of 2 pieces of metal necessitates a 4-month wait. The paperwork for the special order went through a few weeks after Noriko's birthday. It feels auspicious to make positive decisions on birthdays of my loved ones.

The Yamaha will be delivered shortly after my birthday and 1st anniversary of embarking on my musical adventure. What a nice present! My Sapporo teacher Izuru Konishi plays a 8310Z himself, which he let me try. The higher notes came easier compared to the Yamaha 3335S I was renting at the time.

In parallel to choosing the Yamaha, a few days before Bruce's birthday, I ordered a
Carol Brass 6580, sight unseen, untested, purely based on reputation and reviews. I hated to do that but there were no music instrument stores that carried them. This horn took 80 days to be delivered to Oregon. It should be waiting for me when we return home next week! I can hardly wait! I will ask my Oregon teacher John Bringetto to play it, and breathe life into the instrument. A high-performance sports car must be driven by a capable driver at least once, in order to bless it and to show the student driver what the vehicle is capable of.

I tested 6 trumpets on 2 occasions at the Yamaha music store near Sapporo central station. Each time, they gave me a large soundproof room and plenty of privacy. They’re expensive but provide excellent service.

California Music Supply sold me the Carol Brass 6580 (a CTR-6580H-GSS-S to be exact). They took a picture of my purchase before shipping it to our home in Oregon. The trumpet comes with a bunch of extras, including an alternate tuning slide and valve buttons. I swapped the hard case with a soft backpack. They use UltraPure oil and grease, made in Philomath, Oregon, a few hours from our home.

trumpet factory visit

2014-08-19, CORRECTED 2015-02-25, CANBY, OREGON -- (Editing note: This article was corrected for factual accuracy regarding the affiliations and job titles of the people mentioned. I apologize for the delay in effecting the corrections.)

Noriko and I visited
Marcinkiewicz Co. Inc., which manufacturers trumpets and mouthpieces the old-fashioned way.

Zack Marcinwiekicz grew up in the family business and now is the general manager. (His father Joe owns the company, and his older brother Yasha is the production manager.) Zack graciously told us stories and gave us advice for well over an hour.

We also met John Duda, owner of
Calicchio, which rents factory space from Marcinkiewicz. John followed his father and became a brass instrument craftsman, including years at Benge, Olds, Kanstul (where he made tubas -- didn’t know they made them) and worked at Marcinkiewicz for a short time in the early years.

I don’t have pictures of these illustrious gentlemen, mostly because we were so enthralled with Zack and John’s stories, and also because we thought taking their photos would be inappropriate.

However Zack did give us permission to photograph their building and their lobby. So here they are!

Above: Marcinkiewicz is located in Canby, a community with nice houses surrounded by farmland, located between Portland and Salem. Oregonian pilots will be familiar with Aurora state airport, situated several miles away, and home to kit plane manufacturers. Perhaps the region’s build-it-yourself, self-reliant spirit plus a labor base of skilled metal craftsmen accustomed to tight tolerances is why we find trumpets (Marcinkiewicz, Monette), aircraft (Van, Sportcopter), and bicycles (Comotion, Bike Friday) being manufactured in Oregon.

Above: Marcinkiewicz prefers their customers to visit the store in order to custom-tailor instruments. Clients are typically advanced players who know what they want. The trumpets in the glass showcase shown in the picture are prototypes -- trumpets that were made by combining various bells, lead pipes, and materials. The black flat boxes on the shelves behind the glass showcase contain mouthpieces, some differing in dimensions at merely half the thickness of a hair.

Above: Marcinkiewicz started out similarly to Vincent Bach in that in both cases their founders were trumpeters who chose to augment or stabilize their income by making trumpet mouthpieces and instruments. Today, many trumpets are mass-produced in factories. Some musicians insist on hand-made instruments, however, leaving a niche market for companies such as Marcinkiewicz. John told us of a trombonist who could accurately distinguish hand-hammered bells from machine-made bells. (Calicchio also produces trombones.) John also told us that where the seam of one-piece bells goes -- bottom or the side -- makes no difference. But two-piece bells do suffer from uneven thickness. John can make tubas with one-piece bells, but the price is prohibitive.

Above: The lobby is adorned with photographs of trumpeters holding Marcinkiewicz instruments. We smiled when we saw a picture of Bobby Shew as a young man, already hairy and beardy if not more so. In the picture above, located in the center below the blue whale is Herb Alpert, my idol, who was a business partner with Marcinkiewicz from 1983 to 1989.

Above: Zack gave us 3 Marcinkiewicz pencils. One goes to Izuru Konishi, my trumpet teacher in Sapporo. Another goes to John Bringetto, my trumpet teacher in Seal Rock. And I get to keep one, too.

goh's first trumpet

2014-11-11 TOKYO, JAPAN -- I’m getting my own trumpet!

Since 2014-07-01 I’ve been renting a Yamaha YTR-3335S. I’ll return it to the Yamaha store in Sapporo on 2015-01-31. Because Noriko and I often travel to Tokyo (partly for work, and partly to visit our parents) and because flying does no good for musical instruments, I ordered a trumpet so that I can practice in Tokyo.

My trumpet should arrive the evening of 2014-11-13. I can hardly wait!

There were a few minor hiccups but the trumpet arrived and I showed it to my parents. I wonder when I’ll become able to play the trumpet instead of playing with it.

Carol Brass Zorro II




more trumpet lessons

2014-09-20 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON -- Learning the trumpet has become a major part of my life. Trumpeters practice religiously. I aspire to do the same. Since renting my instrument on 2014-07-01, I have not missed a day of practice.

We use a spare bedroom as a music room. During the day I practice without a
practice mute. I prefer no mute because the air flows differently with the mute on. The mirror reflects the image of my embouchure (the configuration of the lips, cheek, tongue, and jaw). The mirror also reflects the sound projected from the trumpet bell. The sound bounces off the hard glass surface, giving me strikingly different acoustic feedback compared with the sound heard directly from the horn that I would hear were I playing in an open area.


On Saturday mornings we drive 35 miles for trumpet lessons at
John Bringetto’s house. We want to arrive a few minutes early so as not to make John nervous (“Are they coming?”) but not too early as to be a nuisance (“Would you like some tea?”). So we leave home way early, and park and practice for half an hour at the Brian Booth State Park (formerly known as the Ona Beach State Park) across the highway from where John lives.


This morning we brought John and Amanda cookies from Japan. Plus a lot of questions written in my notepad. John patiently answered each one.


We finally established a good embouchure! I was set back 2 months. Think that’s bad? John spent a year in high school re-learning his embouchure that he had for 2 years.
Louis Maggio (whose method was incorporated in the practice book that John uses daily) was forced to re-build his embouchure following a terrible accident that destroyed his lips and teeth. Compared to them, I am phenomenally fortunate. My mistake (at least this one) was nipped in the bud. Thanks John!


Many people strengthen their “chops” (muscles in the lips and cheeks) by holding a pencil between their lips. Another training method is to pass a piece of thread through a button, putting the button between your lips and your teeth, and pulling the button with the thread.
One manufacturer sells a specialized training tool called the “P.E.T.E”. I fabricated my own with a bolt, washer, and nut. I use it when I get bored.


After lessons, Kero insists we have a nice lunch in Newport, roughly halfway between John’s house and ours. Today we went to
Mollie’s Food Follies, near the Hatfield Marine Research Center. Big buttery veggie omelet!


Our next lesson with John will be in March. Until then, I’ll study with Izuru Konishi in Sapporo.

our trumpet teacher performs

2014-08-16 NEWPORT, OREGON -- Noriko and I listened to my trumpet teacher John Bringetto and his buddy Jim Cameron play music at the Cecil’s Dirty Apron restaurant in Newport, about 25 miles south of where we live.

John is a sailor, musician, and
teacher. We are just starting to learn of his extensive adventures. Tonight he and Jim entertained us with favorite jazz tunes.

Above: Cecil’s is off US 101. Live music is offered frequently. The box on the wall next to Noriko (seated at the far left) is a modern jukebox. Insert your credit card and apparently your song is downloaded to the jukebox in case it’s not already stored locally.

Above: Cecil’s serves Louisiana cuisine. Their gumbo is a complete meal in itself. Next time, we won’t order the hamburgers!

Above: John and Jim have been playing together for 4 years.

Above: Both John and Jim sing. John switches instruments -- trumpet, flugelhorn, saxophone, flute. While he sings, he plays bass on the keyboard with his right hand, so that the keyboard has 3 hands playing on it simultaneously.

Above: My eyes were glued to John’s lips. Embouchure (the configuration of primarily the lips and secondarily the cheek, jaw, and tongue) is paramount to playing brass instruments. I need to learn the embouchure appropriate for me.

Above: Between bites of food, I would breathe with John’s playing -- that is, while he was playing notes, I would try to slowly exhale. I couldn’t keep up! John seems to have an endless supply of air. I’m in trouble!

Above: After the 2-hour performance, Sirokuro “flying puppy” and Kero “pink frog” were introduced to the artists.

Above: It was a mesmerizing night. Thanks John and Jim! We’ll see you here at Cecil’s on 2014-08-30!

Above: We’ll be attending more performances by John Bringetto and his band. Y’all come and listen!

remembering a friend

2014-08-08 MARGATE, FLORIDA -- Noriko and I visited Edith, the sister of our late friend Bruce Lowerre, at her home in Margate, Florida.

Bruce lived 5 houses away from Edith. We visited them several times after Bruce moved there to be close to his family.

As we had in the past, we stayed in the guest bedroom at Bruce’s house. The house was empty without him. I could barely bring myself to take pictures.

Noriko and I intend to return when I can play a few songs on my trumpet for Bruce and Edith. I would like to play “Gonna fly now” (the theme from the movie “Rocky”) for Bruce, because grieving for my friend is so hard now, and because he should be flying. For Edith, I would like to play “Anchors aweigh” because she is USN, Ret.

Above: Bruce’s study. Most of his books and equipment are gone. Hanging on the wall is his CMU PhD diploma.

Above: Bruce’s belongings are slowly being given away to his surviving relatives.

Above: Edith, Pat (a neighbor), Noriko and I had lunch at the Big Bear Brewery, where we once had lunch with Bruce.

Above: Edith rescues injured or neglected pets. Sassy is one of her most recent house guests.

Above: Edith formerly played the French horn for the US Navy. She took me to a local well-stocked trumpet store, where a trumpet instructor suggested I try the Bach 3C mouthpiece. He and Edith believe that the Yamaha 1335 mouthpiece that came with my rental trumpet is too small for my mouth. They may be correct, given that most players of the rental trumpet are Japanese middle school students (who tend to be smaller than adults), and I am larger than most Japanese adults. The Bach 3C has roughly the same rim size but a shallower alpha angle (the angle between the rim and the cup). I did notice a slight improvement in producing notes. The white ornament is a toy I got at the Moomin art exhibit in Sapporo, Japan.

trumpet lessons

2014-08-03 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- I started taking trumpet lessons.

Above: The Yamaha YTR-3335S trumpet for beginning students. $800 to buy new, $200 to rent for 7 months.

I have no musical training whatsoever. Never learned to play an instrument, nor read sheet music, nor sing. I can’t even whistle in tune.

Listening to music has always been a pleasurable yet passive, unconcentrated activity for me. I would turn on an internet radio station, perhaps in the smooth jazz or easy listening genre, and let the music play. I wouldn’t pay much attention, and wouldn’t miss it if the music turned itself off.

During childhood I fantasized over playing the trumpet at a level of seriousness similar to becoming a superhero. Knowing this, Noriko took me to a free trumpet lesson at the Yamaha music school for adults on my 53rd birthday.

Above: The Yamaha school moved to its Sapporo-station-front location 12 month ago. We live 5 minutes away.

Above: While waiting for lessons, students study by the window overlooking the train tracks.

Above: Yamaha manufactures all sorts of musical instruments. I don’t know yet which make or model of trumpet would be best for me. I’m renting until I know what I want. It would be a wonderful Christmas or New Year’s present.

During our free trial lesson, we interviewed Izuru Konishi (a big band jazz trumpeter). We liked his life experience, personality, and teaching style, so we signed up for lessons. I say “we” but Noriko isn’t taking lessons -- she’s my adult guardian. My mental age is around 8. I would fall apart if I went to lessons alone.

We’ve had 4 lessons so far including the first (when we learned about the teacher, not the instrument). Each lesson is just the 3 of us (teacher, guardian, student), lasts 30 minutes, and meets 3 Tuesday evenings per month.

During the first 4 lessons, I’ve changed my embouchure (lip and mouth shape) 3 times already -- we’re looking for what is best for me. The one I’m practicing now seems like a winner, at least for high notes. I produce C6 fairly consistently, although I still hunt for notes. My low notes suffer though. Now I can’t produce C4 (middle C).

Today at the time of this writing my trumpet is in a suitcase traveling to America. I’ll take
lessons in Oregon, too, because Izuru recommended it, and because I want to be bilingual in music.

Above: The mouthpiece I’m using feels tiny to my big lips. Practicing the trumpet improved my whistling.

Above: Izuru signed my textbook. At that time, I didn’t know it was forbidden to place items on the piano. Sorry!

Above: The trumpet has 3 piston valves. I incorrectly imagined that the valves create 8 notes (2x2x2=8). Turns out they lower the note in 6 half-note steps (0, -0.5, -1.0, -1.5, -2.0, -2.5, and -3.0).

Above: My goal is to play “Happy birthday” on Noriko’s birthday. I have 7 months to hit G5!

Above: I bought a bunch of books. I started to read and listen a lot about music theory and trumpet playing on the internet. I also subscribed to a bi-weekly magazine for jazz appreciation. Being an academic, hitting the books is something I know how. Translating that information to mouth, breath, and fingers is an entirely different challenge.