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24tetQuarter Tone Trumpet Studies

24tetQuarter Tone Trumpet Studies

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Published by robertthomasmartin
microtonal
microtonal

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Categories:Topics, Art & Design
Published by: robertthomasmartin on Dec 06, 2010
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11/08/2012

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QUARTER-TONES
This section will introduce 24-div playing in reference to the first sixteen studies in the
24 Microtonal Studies
(pp. 9-31). The initial studies are written for a standard, 3-valvetrumpet in C or B flat. Although it would be possible to progress more rapidly throughthe early studies with a 4-valve, 24-div instrument, it is strongly recommended that atleast some of the studies are attempted on a conventional 3-valve instrument. Mosttrumpeters will discover both benefits to the ear and technique in undergoing this proc-ess. As the studies progress a 4-valve, 24-div instrument will be found to producemuch more accurate, fluent and more immediate results.These are progressive studies and, while all are designed to be challenging, the last fouror five require a player with considerable experience and ability to play them well. Evenwith a 4-valve trumpet, these pieces demand a very sure technique and acute auralawareness.There is, however, much here to benefit the serious player of more modest technicalability. Practice, following the advice offered, will lead to rapid developments in hearingand co-ordination which will benefit conventional 12-div playing as well as laying thefoundations for a microtonal technique. These techniques can be embedded into a con-ventional course of study, if necessary over an extended duration, with the assistance of a sympathetic and careful teacher. Composers are advised to work closely with players.
QUARTER-TONES ON A CONVENTIONAL 3-VALVE TRUMPET
The trumpet has in-built intonational characteristics which we can use to our advantage tocreate microtonal possibilities. Pitch on the trumpet is produced by lip vibration. The tube,when activated, creates pitches from the harmonic series, so these are not equally tem-pered. Also, the valves are in reality not strictly ‘in tune’ despite the fact that fingerings areoften described as interchangeable (in other words, different fingerings which use differentcombinations of valves are said to produce the same results although, in reality they donot). This is a concept trumpeters will be familiar with and why they have to subtly adjustcertain pitches to make them properly in tune.To recap, trumpet valves lower the fundamental by a tone (in the case of the first valve); asemitone (in the case of the second valve) or one and a half tones (in the case of the thirdvalve). However, the more valves that are added, the sharper the relative pitch becomes.So although valve 1 + 2 would appear to equal valve 3, in reality 1 + 2 are sharper. Finger-ings using all three valves are very sharp, sometimes by as much as a quarter-tone.As one means of compensating for this, trumpets are fitted with slides (sometimes called ‘pitch adjusters’ or ‘triggers’) which flatten the pitch only. The first valve slide (1VS) canlower the pitch by up to a quarter-tone and the 3rd valve slide (3VS), by a semitone, or alittle more, depending on the pitch and the instrument.Additionally, trumpeters are taught to alter pitch by using the lip, jaw or tongue, as a meansto adjust any given pitch so it is ‘in tune’ in any given context. In the case of C quarter-flatbelow middle C, there is no alternative but to use the jaw to lower the C because, as anopen pitch (with no valves) the triggers cannot be used. Naturally, in writing for the 3-valvetrumpet this is a pitch to approach with care.
Quarter-Tones (24-div)
Quarter-Tones – 1 of 12
 
Example 1 summarizes the nominal or theoretical pitch possibilities of the 3-valve trumpetwithout adjustment from the triggers, lip, jaw or other means. From the 8 possible pitchcombinations, 2 are the same (the fourth, where 3V, a minor third, is nominally equivalent to1+2V, a semitone plus a tone). Numbers in bold indicate a pitch higher than equal tem-perament, numbers in italics indicate lower than equal temperament.
Example 1: Nominal or theoretical pitch possibilities on a Trumpet in C 
Firstly, for clarification, there is no fundamental in the normal trumpet register. The firstpitch of each series is the second harmonic. The fundamental can be accessed by what arecalled pedal tones but these are not a part of normal usage.It will be observed that there is only one possible fingering for middle C and all but one of the pitches below it (the exception being A). However, there are four versions of the high Bflat/A sharp, all of which produce a slightly different pitch due to either their different posi-tions in the harmonic series or because they use different valve combinations or both.
Quarter-Tones (24-div)
Quarter-Tones – 2 of 12
 
These sharper or flatter alternative fingerings can be used in combination with the valveslides to produce quarter-tones. In other words, the natural inclination of any particular fin-gering to be high or low can be exaggerated by the triggers in the direction of the deviation(low pitches are made flatter, higher pitches sharper). On occasion, generally very sparingly,some adjustment of the lip, jaw or tongue can be made, as in standard tuning adjustments.To make the Quarter-Tone Fingering Chart (see Charts), all the possible valve and valve slidecombinations were tested. 274 fingering combinations were generated in all from which 63were disregarded for reasons of poor tone or poor tuning.To give one example of the possibilities offered by this chart please refer to the pitch Equarter-sharp (pitch 48). This starts with three possibilities based on the 7th harmonic of the valve 1 + 3 series (the pitch F). This is a flat pitch like all seventh harmonic pitches(thenatural seventh is 31 cents flat of equal). Combinations of the valve slides can be used asindicated. Although the third option may seem a little perverse to composers, this is a natu-ral solution for trumpeters, as they would instinctively use the lip to sharpen the ‘low’ F.The fourth possibility uses the sixth harmonic from the first valve series. This pitch is a littleon the sharp side. The use of the 1st valve slide at full extension is straightforward and ac-curate.The fifth option is the seventh harmonic from the 1 + 2 + 3 valve series. The harmonicisflat but because this valve combination is sharp, the result overall is sharp, thus requiring just a tweak of the lip to make the quarter-tone.Lastly, using the sharp sixth harmonic from the 1 + 2 series, a little lipping again brings thepitch into tune:The choice of fingering naturally, depends on context, both from the musical and technicalpoints of view.It is recommended that, wherever possible, pitches are used which derive either from ‘natu-ral’ microtones or using the valve slides although, on occasion, some adjustment of the lip, jaw (i.e. aperture), breath pressure or tongue can be made. Such physical adjustments canbe tiring, however, especially in the upper register, and their use ought to be minimised.
1
 Half-valve technique is also a possibility, although this should generally be avoided due tothe instability of pitches produced in this way (unless the change in timbre associated withthis technique is fully intended).The use of quarter-tones which employ slides at high speed can be cumbersome and thisshould be a consideration for the composer. Precision and fluency does increase rapidly withpractice, however, as does the ability of the ear to detect any inadequacy of tuning.In summary, composers are reminded that the pitches
c’ 
quarter flat and
b
quarter flat
2
aredifficult because they cannot be lowered by the slides; instead they must be lowered by the jaw or raised with the tongue from the nearest semitone below.
3
Trills need to be ap-proached carefully; some are suggested on the Trills fingering chart (see Charts). Glissandi
Quarter-Tones (24-div)
Quarter-Tones – 3 of 12
1
 
Obviously, these considerations are contextual and depend on tempo and type and degree of musicalactivity.
2
 
Helmholtz pitch notation: c’ is equal to middle C.
3
 
The instruments’ resistance dictates how far any pitch can be lipped: there is liable to be less resis-tance with a B flat instrument compared to a C instrument.

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