Thomas Stevens

The How-An Update

  • For Trumpeters Only

By Request: Some additional information re: the subject of the previous post.

I have received several comments from former Vacchiano students who are generally of the opinion the previous post (“The How”) was too cavalier and simplistic in describing a typical transposition lesson with our teacher of record. They have pointed out that Mr. ‘V.” demanded more than just the correct pitches in the exercises; he also expected everything else to be executed “correctly” (“The Rules”-see previous post: “For Trumpeters Only”#9).

Therefore, in order to keep the peace, included below are three follow-up items using the first three and one-half measures of the previously posted Sachse #58.

1.The rhythmic placement of the slurred, gruppetti sixteenth-note figures should not be compressed (the compression of slurred rhythmic figures frequently being the case with many student performers). The rhythmic placement of the figures should be the same as in an articulated version of those same notes since slurs should never affect rhythm.
2. In the first two measures, the second-beat quarter notes are longer in duration and higher in pitch than the preceding notes. In addition, the composer added accents to them. A confluence of these three elements could give those two quarters an exceeding amount of emphasis/weight to the point where they could sound as downbeats, turning the meter upside down, as in #2 (below). There should be a feeling of 2/4 against which the second beat accented quarter-notes would sound as such. This is a variation of the common definition of syncopation, to wit: It is an "against-the-beat" accent, which, by implication, means there must be a “beat” or feeling of meter against which such an accent could be placed.


3. Coming off tied notes in time is a problem for all musicians, and it is extremely important in ensemble contexts. There is only one sure way of doing it, and that is to prepare by subdividing in one’s head the exit units (in this case, sixteenth notes) while playing the tied notes, as in #3 (below).


4. When I first "read" Sachse #58 for Vacchiano, he stopped me after I had played the first three measures, and told me what I had played "wasn't even in music!" Quotable: "Stevens, not only could I not write down or follow what you just did, but you couldn't do it, either." His observation was correct, at least at that time; however after many years as a teacher and having heard numerous felonious assaults perpetrated on the studies of poor old defenseless Ernst Sachse, I have written down what I think I did to it during that fateful lesson (Example #4, below).