Friday, September 11, 2015

How to be successful as an amateur trumpet player.

This article is based on many years observation of musicians in brass bands and amateur orchestras. It is not based on any tactics I have used personally, but it might be helpful for people who have the ambition to do a lot of advanced playing.

Over the years I have noticed that some do better than others, even though their playing standards are not that different. I had a think about a number of these people and they all have a number of characteristics in common. I have tried to distil them down to a few ideas that might help others.

If you want to have a successful "career" as an amateur trumpet player and you want to play at a high level with good amateur brass bands or good local orchestras the two key things you need to be able to do are:
  1. You need to be able to play your instrument well.
  2. You need to be able to persuade other people that you can play your instrument well.
These two are not the same thing. People fixing a band will probably never have heard you play. You will not be able to persuade them you are good player by demonstrating your playing to them.  They will only know you by reputation. Even orchestras that have auditions don't run them openly - you will still need a recommendation.  

The two ways of building a reputation are by status or advocacy. 

By status - if you have studied music at University or been a military musician then your qualifications will speak on your behalf and will form a workable reputation on their own. All you need to do is make that status widely known and playing opportunities should come to you fairly easily.

By advocacy - If you are not a music graduate then you need to be good at getting other people to advocate for you. By "advocate" I mean recommend you or speak well of you if your name comes up in conversation. If you are good at this type of networking then it is possible to get further than someone who is a better player than you.

Some things might harm your reputation. For example, it might be better not to play with groups that are known to not play well as their reputation may stick to you, even if it is not warranted. If you play in a local community orchestra that does not require a certain grade standard or a fourth section brass band that is not winning any contests then it might be difficult to shake off that image. You might want to move to a band or orchestra who have defined entry standards or that are in a higher section so you can inherit that kudos as part of your own reputation.

Some things might help your reputation. For example, playing in a solo contest, but only if you have a realistic chance of getting a good result. A bad result could hinder you. As an Australian Olympic swimming coach is reputed to have told his team "show me a silver medal and i'll show you the first of the losers".

Ways you can build influence:
  1. Give conductors confidence in your playing by sight read perfectly at every rehearsal, don't miss entries and do everything the conductor requests.
  2. Accept every offer to deputise or help out other brass bands or orchestras.
  3. Identify who is making decisions about getting into groups you want to play with and find ways of getting to now them or being recommended to them.

An important part of that advocacy is impressing conductors. For players this means being a very good sight reader and being consistent (even if your consistent is at a lower level than some other people's peak playing). You do not need to be a virtuoso. 

So, if you want to make it as a top player:
  1. Be competent on your instrument and play consistently.
  2. Learn to sight read perfectly.
  3. Do lots of networking, identify key influencers and get them to advocate for you.
This will get you playing opportunities which can snowball into a career at the top level of amateur music.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Sources of used amateur radio equipment in the UK.

The following are some sources of used amateur (ham) radio equipment in the UK. I am not endorsing any of them specifically, just putting the links here for information.

Commercial Dealers

Martin Lynch & Sons

Waters and Stanton
(no used equipment page on current web site, but they have Ebay listings here.)

Jaycee Electronics



Nevada Radio


Haydon Communications

Mainly CB radios but sometimes have used amateur radio equipment for sale.

Small Ads

Buying privately means buying without any sort of warranty, but prices will be lower and there is no come back. Ebay prices can be as high as buying from a dealer so be careful.

Ideal for finding items for sale locally.


G3CWI's Amazing Online Flea Market


Various groups exist where equipment is bought and sold. Same warnings apply as for small ads.

Amateur Radio Sales
JunkSale Amateur Radio
Amateur Radio Equipment for Sale or Trade

Amateur Radio Sales UK


There are small ads in RadCom and other magazines that might be worth a look, as well as some of the special interest Amateur Radio organisations if you are looking for specialist equipment.

Monday, May 18, 2015

The origins of the Denis Wick cornet mouthpieces.

According to this 1970's Denis Wick leaflet the cornet mouthpieces were designed in association with Thomas Wilson, principal cornet player with the Scots Guards:

Here is a web page which tells you all about Tommy Wilson, who emigrated to Canada and also performed as a soloist with the Salvation Army:

In the early 1970’s I was asked by Denis Wick if I would help him develop a cornet mouthpiece – and the rest, as they say, is history. It was also round about this time I was asked by Boosey & Hawkes if I would help in the development of a new cornet for them. After a lot of hard work the first large bore Sovereign cornet was born. I still play the original prototype. It’s still going strong after over 30 years. It was stamped No. 1, (which causes the customs people more than a little curiosity when London Citadel Band goes on trips).