All posts by BobMcNally

Alternate Fingerings

One of the aspects of trumpet playing that differs greatly between average trumpet players and great trumpet players is their effective use of alternate fingerings.  Most players realize the existence of these fingerings but don’t have enough knowledge to use them well.  I found this chart to be a great jumping off point for amateur players to explore.  The fingerings are listed in order of: normal fingering, then the alternates, in order of intonation.


As with anything, a thorough understanding of the science behind this subject is beneficial, i.e. the production of sound, overtone series, partials, etc.

Stage Fright

Most performers deal with stage fright, at least to a certain degree.  What’s the best way to combat it? Besides making sure you have practiced thoroughly, there are several things that I have found effective:

1. Positive thoughts/visuals- leading up to performance, actually visualize yourself playing well and without anxiety.  Speaking your positivity out loud is also beneficial and is physically relaxing.

2. Breathe- being conscious of my deep breaths (both prior to and during playing)

3.  Think about the music- it sounds simple, but it’s surprisingly easy to perform and NOT think about the music.  Thinking about what you are trying to convey, how you are shaping each phrase, etc. helps.  Provided you’ve prepared well, you want to think of larger ideas and avoid analyzing every note as it goes by.

4.  Share the music with your audience- you are there to share this beautiful art with the audience, not worry about what they will think of you if you miss a note.  Keep the big picture in mind.

Hope this helps!

Two NY “Phil” Greats

Two of the NY Philharmonic’s principal players are retiring this year- concertmaster Glenn Dicterow and trumpeter Philip Smith.

I don’t know Glenn, but I have known Phil Smith since I was a young kid.  We both studied cornet with Phil’s dad, Derek Smith.  Phil and I grew up in Salvation Army circles and our dads played together in the New York Staff Band of the SA.

90167_256Phil has had an amazing career in New York.  I own several of his recordings and listen to them often.  My favorite recordings of his are his orchestra excerpts CD and the Mahler 3rd Symphony with Bernstein conducting.  Phil plays the offstage posthorn solo, beautifully as usual.

Derek taught us to play cornet and somehow imparted to his students that warm, sweet tone with just the right amount of subtle vibrato.  When I hear Phil play, I hear Derek’s tone and I think, some of my own as well.

Even though there is plenty to admire musically about Phil Smith’s playing, it’s his integrity and principles (no pun intended) that come to mind when you think of him.  Phil’s Christian spirit and unwavering commitment to Godly truth are what make him what he is, in my opinion.  How many other principal players of top orchestras would go back to the smaller organizations and play “simpler” music and donate their time to Christian service.  It’s wonderful to know that someone like him could make such an impact, and also be well respected in the secular community.  He will be greatly missed in New York.  Wherever the next chapter in his life leads him, though, he will surely give it his best, for his Master.

Online Music!

As an active performer, I am always looking for new sheet music.  Unfortunately, most of the best sheet music stores have all but disappeared.  Most everything has gone online.  And while some online music stores allow previews and detailed information on what you are buying, many do not.  This leaves it a crap shoot on whether the music that comes in the mail is what you were actually looking for.

There is a great online resource that I use frequently: The Petrucci Library-

It is a wonderful collection of mostly older music, categorized several different ways: by composer, instrument, genre, etc.   Best of all, the music is free and can be downloaded and printed instantly.  All of the music is public domain, so you won’t find much written in the past 75 years on there.  However, if you’re in a pinch and need to find a piece quickly for a wedding or other performance, you may find it here.

Here is a direct link to the trumpet music section: trumpet

Bookmark this page and use it often!



Haydn on “Keyed Trumpet”

keyed trumpet

There have obviously been developments in trumpets over the years.  The two main predecessors to the modern valved trumpet are the natural trumpet and the keyed trumpet (about both of which my knowledge is somewhat limited).

As trumpet players begin to get into orchestral playing, they may sometimes wonder why early pieces seem to have “boring” trumpet parts, always playing the same few notes.  Little do they realize that this is because the instrument was severely limited.  The natural trumpet had no valves, and this is also the reason why any trumpet part of any significance from the baroque is written in a high range.  There is less distance between playable notes in the higher range of these trumpets.

The keyed trumpet was supposedly invented by Anton Weidinger, a trumpet player for which Haydn and Hummel wrote their concertos.  This was around 1800, and while the instrument sounds like a natural trumpet in tone, it can play all the notes of the chromatic scale.  The bore has openings which are closed by the various keys.  The instrument is held differently than the modern trumpet, and four fingers of the player’s right hand must move between more than three keys, making it seemingly difficult to play.

I think it’s interesting to be able to hear how the concerto would have sounded in 1800 when Haydn composed it.  Have a listen.

International Trumpet Guild 2014 in Valley Forge!

The International Trumpet Guild’s 2014 national conference happens to be in Valley Forge!  It’s exciting to have the conference so close to home this year.  Most of the events and activities will be from May 20-24, 2014 at Valley Forge Convention Center.

I was checking out the official website and some of the familiar artists performing are:  Canadian Brass and two ensembles from my alma mater, West Chester University.  Eric Ewazen will be one of the presenters.  For more information, visit