Pip Eastop, Horn player, Photographer, Trumpet player

Horn player, Photographer, Trumpet player

Posts tagged “timbre

The “EaseStop”

The “EaseStop”Good news for horn players with small hands!
This invention came to me while trying to help a female student of mine improve her handstopping.Women tend to have smaller hands than men and since most horn players in the past have been male the bell throat dimensions of horns have evolved to work best with the average male-sized right hand. Handstopping can be a nightmare for any player, but it is even worse if you have small hands.
Obviously, the smaller the hand, the further into the bell will be found a good stopping position.I imagined it would be helpful to have a device which would widen the right hand so that in its fully handstopped position it would be a little further out of the bell. This, I hoped, would sort out the intonation problems experienced by those with small hands.
After a few experiments and with the help of my student, Kelly Griffiths Hughes (who has tiny hands), I settled on the idea of a specially shaped block which sits between the thumb and the index finger.
To our delight, Kelly and I found that not only was the intonation corrected to perfection, but that the actual timbre of the stopped was much better – louder and fuller. All stopped notes over the entire range were made considerably more secure.
I made the first “Ease-Stop” out of FIMO (which I stole from my kids’ art box). FIMO is brilliant stuff. It’s a PVC based modelling material, made by Eberhard Faber, which can be molded into any shape by hand and then hardened in a domestic oven (at a maximum temperature of 130C or 265F – not very hot).FIMO is not expensive, and you can get it in almost any colour from almost any art shop. You can even mix colours to get swirly effects. Another student of mine, Helena Giammarco, made a flesh coloured one and had the nerve to use it in her final recital at the Royal Academy of Music, to great effect.
To find out more about FIMO:

Click here

Since the “EaseStop” is mostly used by female players, and since female horn players are generally discriminated against in the music business, I have decided to “shareware” this idea, rather than patent it and make a fortune.

“Shareware”, means that the idea is free for you to use.
In return please observe the following:

  1. If you make an “EaseStop” using my instructions, and if it helps your handstopping and if you use it in your playing I would love to hear from you.
  2. Please also let me know if you come up with any improvements to the basic design.
  3. Please call it an “EaseStop”. This won’t make me rich or famous, but that’s okay because I’m already rich and I don’t want to be famous. (You might not like the name but what would you have called it if it was your idea and you were called Eastop?). You could even inscribe “EaseStop”, or www.eastop.net on the FIMO before baking it…
How to make your own “EaseStop”
Start of with a nicely softened
sphere of FIMO, about this size.
Bear in mind that the hand
in the photo is a big one.
Squidge it around and make it soft with
the heat of your hand. Then make it fill up
the space between your thumb and index finger,
as in the photos. The photo on the left shows the
concave inner face which forms a hard reflective
surface after baking. In this photo you can
see that the underside is roughly triangular.
The edge joining the bottom two points
of the triangle forms a large
comfortable hook which
helps the “EaseStop”
stay in your hand
so you don’t
have to
grip it.
Spend at least ten minutes pressing and prodding it to make sure it fits exactly the contours of your hand where it touches.Its flattish upper side (photo to the right) must continue the shape of your hand and not bulge up too much. It spreads out across this widest part, anvil shaped, to help form perfectly fitting grooves for the thumb and the index finger. As it is molded to your hand it will fit perfectly.If, while you are shaping it, you discover you have too much FIMO, simply break off a bit and continue molding. Similarly, you can always add a bit more. Don’t worry, your first one isn’t going to be perfect. Expect to make a few before you get it right.
You may have realised by now that the “EaseStop” is not much more than a cast of the exact shape of the space between your thumb and index finger.The two points, which look a bit like a slug’s eyestalks, form the “hook” which helps it to stay in your hand without you having to grip it.

This animation might give you some idea of the shape.
My thanks to Jon Farley for creating it.

First lesson with Martin Shaw – before and after

I’ve been practising pretty regularly and, I feel, steadily improving but increasingly feeling myself to be in a musical vacuum. What I need now is fresh air, not my own stale stuff to breathe; so with that in mind I’ve arranged to have a lesson with Martin Shaw, who has been enthusiastically recommended by both John Barclay and Derek Watkins. 

I’m taking a trumpet and a flugelhorn but no books or printed stuff of any kind – jazz is supposed to improvised – plus I don’t want to be telling Martin the way I want the lesson to go.

What do I want? Not sure, but I’d like him to get me to loosen up my playing and then guide me towards better ways of doing it. The fact is I don’t know if I’m any good at any aspect of it. John Barclay has been vey encouraging, even flattering, as have Valentin and Dan Newall, but I don’t really know if I’m heading in the right direction, hence the need for a lesson …or several.


Well, that was amazing. Martin Shaw is a terrific teacher, and very generous with his time. He gave me two hours! It felt like half an hour. It seems that I’m basically on the right track and he was very encouraging about my attempts – after hearing me struggling through All The Things You Are, although several things came up which I’m writing down now to remind myself about.

1. General articulation: I’m doing it too softly! My tonguing needs to be more positive, or harder, less “classical” – this surprised me but he demonstrated the difference and convinced me. It’s part of coming from my highly classical horn technique and rounding the starts of the notes. “It’s a beautiful sound but not right for jazz trumpet”, I think he said…  So I must try to remember that.

2. Learning the modal flavours: Up and down scales thinking in terms of raised and lowered 2nds, 3rds, 6ths etc.. Make cards or use Psion… Go to the ninth and back down each time. Then learn them from the ninth down then up. Then in broken thirds, fourths etc…

3. Playing Aebersolds using only the chord notes. Up, then up and down the scale notes.

4. Playing Aebersolds up and down the straight simple scales notes – so, for example, when encountering the altered scale Calt, just stick to C7 (for now).

5. Same as above but improvising using only the scale notes first in minims, then in triplet minims, then crotchets, then triplet crotchets then quavers, then, triplet quevers etc…

6. Don’t use double tonguing in the fast stuff – it’s almost never done in jazz. The fast licks seem to all be slurred pairs or threes, across the main beats.

7. Learn the closed-tongue Clifford Brown thingy sound. Like muting the sound by putting the toungue against the teeth so the air has to squeeze around the teeth to get through. This is a new departure – something unheard of in classical technique and I don’t think it’s been analyzed much by jazz trumpet players. They just seem do it. I don’t know what it’s called, even.

8. The timbre can be less bright – Martin’s was considerably smokier, or more lush than mine. No idea how to do this.

9. Chromatic scales: very useful and need to be clean and accurate and fast. Good for warming up. Use a more postive finger action – slam the valves down a bit more !

Valves v. pistons

Having got back from holidays with the cornet I had to check my hornplaying was still working before heading off to Edinburgh with the Britten Sinfonia, to play some stuff by James Macmillan. This would be followed by a week of film sessions (Peter Pan) for Joel McNeely. To my great relief the horn playing seemed hardly changed. Perhaps a little unfocussed in the high register but elsewhere, if anything, improvements had taken place. How completely brilliant! I really didn’t know what sort of damage I might have done so I was very relieved. 

What struck me most of all was the difference of practice technique. With the cornet I had been playing scales and arpeggios and improvising bits of melody and jazz licks. With the horn, on the other hand, I found myself playing long tones with crescendi and diminuendi and bathing in the sheer loveliness of the sound. The cornet is nice but it really doesn’t have that fascinating, hypnotic timbre. I don’t think I could have spent thirty years practicing long notes on a trumpet like I have with the horn.

Another difference which became obvious was that rotary valves sound very different to pistons. I had no idea about this before learning the cornet. It’s not just a left hand versus right hand thing, it’s a different mechanism with a different sound effect. The rotary valves of a horn are capable of giving a very quick change, more like a switch than a valve, whereas the piston can be moved slower if required and the half-valve sounds are more useful and easy to use than those of the horn. I wonder now what a modern piston horn would feel like to play. I must earmark that idea for a future project.

I’m still working at Locrians (Ø), diminished whole-tone scales (C7+9), and Diminished (beginning with the semitone) (C7-9).