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.