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How to play dixieland trumpet!

How to play dixieland trumpet

Well, the first thing you must do if you want to sound like an authentic dixieland trumpet player or any other type of jazz trumpet player come to that, is listen to players that are amazing in that genre.

Here is a list of some amazing trumpet players that play in the dixieland/traditional/hot style. Where applicable I have add ed a link to their websites!

Of course, the first trumpet player that I am going to recommend you listen to is the greatest of them all (in my humble opinion) Louis Armstrong.

Louis not only influenced trumpet players, but other types of instruments, singers, composers and arranger, so great was his influence!

One of the iconic solos from Louis' early recording career (from a list of many) is Potato head blues.

Louis use of rhythm, melody, swing and feel is unsurpassed in this genre! The energy in his playing as a young 26 year old is breath taking!

Another trumpet player from this period was Bix Beiderbecke. Bix played in a much more relaxed style than Louis but still swung like crazy. Check out this recording of Bix on the old standard 'Singing the blues'.

Here is a link to a transcription I did on this solo a few years ago, it's a free download. Playing the solos of the past masters is a great way to develop your own playing in this style but I strongly recommend you try to transcribe solos yourself, without writing anything down if you can! This was, you really develop your inner ear, learn the articulation and phrasing as well as building your own jazz vocabulary!

Of course, we can't talk about dixieland trumpet players without mentioning the father of them all King Oliver. King Oliver was a cornet player from New Orleans who mentored the young Louis Armstrong and gave him his first big musical break in Chicago in the early 1920's.

Here is King Oliver playing his own composition 'Dippermouth blues' including a young Louis Armstrong too!

Sadly all the players listed so far have passed away.

I thought it would be a great idea to include some players that are very much alive today and sounding great playing this wonderful music!

The first player is someone I got to speak to and interview link, the New York based trumpet/cornet player Jon-Erik Kellso. Here is a link to his Facebook page -

One of my favourite youtube videos is of Jon playing the old standard 'I never knew'.

Another wonderful player is the American cornet player Warren Vache -

Warren plays in a beautiful melodic style that always sounds great. Here is a young Warren playing great on the old standard 'After you've gone'.

A British trumpet player who plays in the hot style is the wonderful Enrico Tomasso. I have had the pleasure of working with Enrico many times with bands such as the Cotton club orchestra!

Here is a link to Enrico's Facebook page -

Here is a fantastic video of Enrico playing the old standard made famous by Louis Armstrong 'Swing that music'

So, there are a few suggestions on some great players to listen to but I know what you're thinking, I still haven't answered the question to this post!!

How to play dixieland trumpet

I think I have though!

Learning to play any type of jazz should be learn through listening!

As the great trumpet player Clark Terry used to say

Imitate – Assimilate – Innovate

What does this mean?

The quick answer is

Copy your favourite players.

Find a simple tune that you love to listen to (that your favourite player has recorded).

Listen to this recording over and over again. Listen to it so much that you can sing a long perfectly with how they play the melody and improvise their solos!

By doing this, you are really internalising what they are doing and developing your own inner ear and finger/ear coordination.

That is the 'Imitate' part.

Next, practice parts of the solo in different keys, try to work out the chord changes or find a good reliable lead sheet with the changes on. Can you try and identify your favourite parts of the solo? What are the changes? Can you practice this in different keys and apply to different tunes (maybe not yet, bit that will come)?

This is the 'Assimilate' part. Assimilate as much of their language or vocabulary as you can! What do they play over a C7? What do they play over a C-7? What do they play over a Cmaj7?

Can you learn this vocabulary?

The innovate part come when you have internalised lot's and lot's of language and vocabulary and then start to make it your own! If your favourite player goes up, what happens if you go down! Or as Clark said, if they make a right turn, what happens if you make a left?

Don't expect to be playing authentic dixieland jazz within weeks or even months. Learning to play jazz is a lifelong journey where the learning never stops!

In my next blog post, I will show you how you can take some simple syncopated jazz rhythms and create a jazz solo only using the triads of the chord changes!

Make sure to sign up for the blog, there is going to be lots more interesting posts!

Warm regards, Darren.

PS - I am going to be creating a lot more (hopefully) helpful blogs in the upcoming weeks and months. Topics will include trumpet playing, practice, jazz vocabulary, jazz etudes... and much more. Remember to join the blog for all the latest!

PPS – If you would like a bunch of jazz etudes I created for intermediate players, sign up for the Jazz Etudes news letter! It's free and I only tell you about offers, sales, upcoming projects and free resources that I create!

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