Learning to play the trumpet as an adult: Tüüüü, teeee, blubber, blubber

Learning to play the trumpet as an adult: Tüüüü, teeee, blubber, blubber

Our author has recently started taking trumpet lessons. He has not yet played the post horn solo from Mahler’s 3rd symphony. But soon. Certainly.

Trumpet on a gray background

Let’s start with pieces from the “Trompetenfuchs” Photo: Larry Washburn/imago

I opened the door and entered the room. A hose half the size of a garage, needle felt on the floor, a piano, windows to the courtyard, two chairs, two trumpets, a young man – the trumpet teacher. I closed the door and he seemed surprised. Where is the child who wants to learn the trumpet, he asked with his eyes. I said: “Hello, I’m Felix, I would like to try the trumpet.” – “Ah, great! Gladly!” His questioning had given way to an open, friendly look.

Trial day at the music school in Oldenburg, all instruments can be tried out. Sniffing sounds like: for children. And I had told my children about the day too; one daughter was still looking and might want to play the violin or the flute. I thought: Oh, I’ll go with you. Good opportunity to blow a trumpet. I had been thinking about it for a long time. I would scurry into the trumpet room while my daughter was trying out the violin.

Well, I went alone because my daughter preferred to meet up with a friend. I was very determined right away and said to the trumpet teacher: “I have a goal. I would like to one day be able to play the trumpet so well that I can do the post horn solo Mahler’s 3rd create.” Now his look changed again – an oh-there-you-have-you-have-a-very-nice-up-to-do-yourself-look, but also quite encouraging, I mean.

For me, the post horn solo from Mahler’s 3rd symphony is one of the most beautiful episodes in the whole great world of classical music. It’s called a post horn solo, but it’s mostly played on the flugelhorn or trumpet. It’s magical when this wonderfully longing, nostalgic, emotionally gripping melody rises from a shimmering sound carpet of the orchestra over violins, high clarinet, trumpet, flute and oboe and floats through the concert hall, fading away and reappearing several times. The composer and conductor Russel Steinberg describes this passage, which spans ten minutes, as a “moment that stops time”.

Mahler used a simple trick here: the soloist should play “as if from far away”, so he is not in the orchestra but somewhere else. In the Berlin Philharmonic, in which I have already heard Mahler’s Third three times, there is no fixed place for it, press spokeswoman Elisabeth Hilsdorf tells me. Who conducts decides. Sometimes the post horn solo is played behind the orchestra on the same level with the door open, sometimes higher up on one of Scharoun’s balconies, there in the hall or outside the door, but mostly somewhere “upstairs right,” says Hilsdorf.

Back to the taster day at the Oldenburg music school. The trumpet teacher gives me a mouthpiece and a ball, I’m supposed to blow into the smaller opening and hold the ball in the wide opening of the mouthpiece. If you do it right, the air flows around the little ball in such a way that it doesn’t fall down, but floats in the draft. I can do it, the teacher is enthusiastic. I seem to have talent. The first step on the way to the post horn solo.

The second: I put the mouthpiece in the trumpet and at that moment I already felt a little like Guillaume Jehl, the solo trumpeter of the Berliners, waiting in a corridor of the Philharmonie for his entrance. I blow, sounds come. Not that difficult, just a bit wobbly at the end. Could be free jazz. Shortly afterwards: almost circulatory collapse. Phew, exhausting!

The trial lesson is over after ten minutes. The teacher encourages me to start playing the trumpet. He doesn’t say that one day I’ll play the post horn solo. But I think he thinks so.

I’ve been taking lessons for about half a year now. Sometimes I have to sing “Tü-” on the trumpet and blow “te”; sometimes the teacher says, “Now let’s bubble,” then I put the mouthpiece in a garden hose and blow into a water bottle. I bought the hose from Obi. I can already play C, D, E, F and G and small songs.

At the music school, I’m the only adult who only has an instrument with me and not a child as well. Most of the others are mothers – always mothers – with children and tiny violins or guitars.

I can’t play the posthorn solo yet, not for a long time. Right now I’m practicing the “Cowboy Song”, number 38 in “Trompetenfuchs. The ingenious and fun trumpet school”. But I’ve already learned three things:

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1. You can still start playing an instrument as an adult. It’s good to have a clear goal.

2. I do not admonish my children to practice their instrument. I’m very relaxed. I also practice too little and then stand nervously in front of the teacher, who is always very friendly.

And 3. The trumpet teacher told me a pro trick. Some post horn soloists play the piece with trumpet because it’s easier and then have a post horn with them on the podium at the end of the applause because it looks better.

I’ll do that too.

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