This article will address
a topic which has been of interest to brass players for many years;
THE CONCEPT OF DOUBLING. I will approach the subject from my own
personal experience, with the B-flat trumpet being our primary instrument,
not focusing on the professionals' "given" doubles which
include the piccolo and "C" trumpets and the fluegelhorn.
Our new instruments of interest, namely the trombone, baritone horn
and the French horn, also require a new embouchure.
A wonderfully insightful conversation occurred years ago between
Dizzy Gillespie and a young Miles Davis in which Miles asked Dizzy,
"Why can't I play high like you?", to which Dizzy replied,
"Because you don't hear up there". Of course these legends
were speaking about a difference in register and not instruments,
yet it clearly demonstrates that a musicians very conception is
determined by how they hear. An innate and intrinsic quality as
unique as your own signature will determine whether you actually
hear other brass instruments, which may fuel a desire to study
and incorporate them in your performances.
An initial barrier which must be overcome before you begin the
doubling experience is the concern over what the new embouchure
will do to the existing one, especially if a consistent upper
register has been developed. Proper common sense can deal with
this concern before it manifests itself into fear which causes
the barrier itself. I strongly suggest that a brass performer
not begin studying another brass instrument while performing professionally
at a demanding level. Try to begin when your performance commitments
allow for periods of inactivity. Do not put additional pressure
on yourself which may strengthen the barrier mentioned above,
we can dissolve with common sense. The process we are attempting
will have stressful moments and a active performance schedule
may adversely affect already altered virgin lip tissue. I can
only recount my own experience and hope that it may be adapted
to another trumpeter's agenda. In essence we are trying to develop
an embouchure within an embouchure.
Begin by playing normally on your primary instrument, in my case
the trumpet, for a short period. Rest and then try to produce
sounds from the trombone or new horn. Rest again and go back to
the primary horn or trumpet. Repeat this process several times,
playing for longer and more intense duration while resting for
shorter periods in between. Initially you can expect this to have
a detrimental effect on your trumpet embouchure. It's at this
point that we've reached our moment of truth and must have perseverance.
To quote a great poker player, "faint heart never filled
a royal flush". Stay focused and you will begin to build
our embouchure within an embouchure. In time you'll find that
one instrument may actually enhance the other. When you are confident
enough to begin utilizing the new instrument, you may be delighted
to find that each of the horns you're performing on may develop
their own personalities.
In closing, I would like to offer several purely subjective ideas.
The value of doubling is that you can offer your audience a wider
variety of musical expression via a change of color and mood,
which can only enhance your performance. Endeavor to perform on
your various instruments as tastefully as possible and never with
the "look how many horns I can play circus-like carnival
I hope this article can be helpful to those who may be pondering
studying another instrument. The brass world has had many wonderful
multi-instrumentalists including Maynard Ferguson, Mic Gilette
and James Morrissey; Who knows, MAYBE YOU!