How do you pronounce your name?
It's pronounced VEE-veck puh-TELL.
Where are you from?
I grew up in Porterville, CA, an ag town in the San Joaquin Valley.
When did you start playing the trumpet?
I started playing in fourth grade...around 1995.
Do you play any other instruments?
I can play piano, drum set, guitar, euphonium, mellophone, trombone and French horn, but not to performance standard. I use them primarily as tools for composition. The computer is also a powerful musical instrument. I use it to sequence backgrounds for the trumpet.
How can I improve my sound?
Play long tones with a tuner and aim for the resonant center of each note. Also listen carefully to master musicians who have good tones and phrasing. This develops a mental schema that you can access as you play.
You use vibrato sometimes. How did you develop it?
I'm not sure. It seemed like the natural thing to do and my jaws started moving to accommodate the impulse.
How can I improve my rhythm?
Play slowly with a metronome and focus on subdivision, swing, and groove.
How can I learn to improvise?
Transcribe solos, play along with recordings, go to sessions, and jam with musicians who are better than you.
How do you approach composition? Do you start with melody, harmony, rhythm or form?
It isn't a hard and fast rule but I typically start with a harmonic progression and come up with a melody later. Sometimes I get lucky and everything falls in place simultaneously.
What brand trumpets/mouthpieces do you use?
Trumpet: Bach Stradivarius 72 with Parduba 7.5 mouthpiece.
Flugelhorn: Kanstul ZKT 1525 with Monette FLG 4S mouthpiece.
How can I improve my articulation?
Play through classical etudes and exercises with a metronome.
How can I improve my finger speed?
Many musicians swear by running through chords and scales, but I've found more luck learning melodic fragments in all twelve keys, slowly at first and progressively faster over a week or two. Do it with a metronome and a chromatic tuner.
Who is your favorite jazz trumpet player?
Freddie Hubbard was the best ever, IMO. As far as living players go, it's a toss up between Nicholas Payton, John Swana, Wynton Marsalis, and Tom Harrell.
Why did you choose the trumpet?
I originally signed up for drums in elementary school but the band had already met its drummer quota, so my mom took me to the local music store and I chose the cheapest instrument: a student model Bach trumpet.
How can I improve my sight-reading skills?
Find and play through new music with a metronome and tuner as frequently as possible. Try sight-transposing music in different clefs and keys as well.
How can I improve my range?
Here is an exercise John Swana learned from Jon Faddis. Set your metronome at 60 bpm. At the softest dynamic you can manage, begin at middle C and ascend chromatically in quarter notes until you reach high C. Hold high C until you run out of air. Rest for four bars and repeat the exercise, but transpose it up a half step---start at middle C#, ascend chromatically in quarter notes, hold high C# as long as you can, then rest for four bars before repeating the sequence for D, then Eb, E, F and so forth. Continue upward until you encounter a note that you can't play. Give it three attempts and if it still doesn't come out, you can call it a day.
Do you listen to instruments aside from the trumpet?
Yes, of course. I don't listen to much trumpet tbh. It's usually saxophone, piano or guitar. They seem to have a lot more going on harmonically.
Who are your musical influences?
In no particular order, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Freddie Hubbard, Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, McCoy Tyner, Oscar Peterson, Keith Jarrett, Sonny Rollins, Kenny Garrett, Pat Metheny, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Chick Corea, Clifford Brown, Michael Brecker, Cannonball Adderley, Wynton Marsalis, Tom Harrell, Joe Henderson, Kenny Kirkland, Bud Powell, Chris Potter, Clark Terry, Kenny Wheeler, Paquito D'Rivera, Dave Liebman, Horace Silver, Dexter Gordon, Bach, Steve Swallow, Max Roach, Brad Mehldau, Marcus Miller, Claudio Roditi, Toshiko Akiyoshi, Wes Montgomery, Kenny Barron, John Williams, Benny Golson, Bob Brookmeyer, Jerry Bergonzi, Mozart, Duke Ellington, Joe Lovano, Maria Schneider, Harold Mabern, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Zakir Hussain, Hariprasad Chaurasia, Louis Armstrong, Mahler, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, John Scofield, Lee Konitz, Stan Getz, Jaco Pastorius, Miguel Zenon, Alex Sipiagin, Meshuggah, Buddy DeFranco, Benito Gonzalez, Eddie Daniels, Ahmad Jamal, Stravinsky, Art Blakey, Don Byas, Vincent Herring, Johnny Griffin, Fats Navarro, Lennie Tristano, Jaki Byard, Wynton Kelly, Bob Moses, Chopin, John Swana, Mark Turner, Bill Evans, J. J. Johnson, Ravel, Roy Hargrove, Benny Green, Bob Berg, Nicholas Payton, Roy Haynes, Ran Blake, Woody Shaw, Yusef Lateef, Joshua Redman, Beethoven, Warne Marsh, David Kikoski, Phil Woods, Zoot Sims, Sonny Stitt, Sarah Vaughan, Mike LeDonne, Dream Theater, Planet X, Booker Little, and Michel Petrucciani, among others.
How can I strengthen my embouchure?
Try some combination of mouthpiece buzzing, lip flexibilities, long tones, articulation studies, and isometric exercises.
How do you form your embouchure? Do you have any tips for making an embouchure change?
I form my embouchure by saying "em," curling my lips in slightly, and placing the mouthpiece outside the red of my lips. My tone, flexibility, articulation, and range were decent before I went to music school, but my mouthpiece placement was off axis and very much on the red, so the first thing I was required to do when I got to NEC was to undergo an embouchure change. My playing fell off a cliff---my tone was blatty, I had zero flexibility, and I couldn't play quietly---, but my embouchure started stabilizing in the summer before senior year ('07), and I'd regained most of my facility by '09 or so. My advice for making an embouchure change is to stick with it. You'll be embarrassed and sound awful for 2 to 5 years but it's worth it in the long run.
What is your practice routine?
1. Mouthpiece buzzing (~3 minutes).
2. Long tones (~2o minutes).
3. Scales, intervals or Clarke studies (~20 minutes).
4. Articulation studies (~20 minutes).
5. Whatever music I'm working on (>30 minutes). I practice slowly and focus on difficult sections.
Who taught you to play the trumpet?
I taught myself to play by reading method books, listening to trumpet recordings, and conducting research online, but I recommend private instruction if you can afford it. My first trumpet instructors were John McNeil and Charlie Schlueter at the New England Conservatory.
What is it like to be a professional jazz musician?
I can't say. I haven't made a living as a musician. I funded my music career by working in unrelated industries including retail, sales, construction, hospitality, education, and healthcare. In my view and that of many leading virtuosos, the term professional musician is an anachronism. There aren't enough resources to sustain gainful employment in music at this time, not to mention that the industry is controlled by a half dozen criminal interests. This shouldn't deter you, however. You can accomplish your musical goals without a single penny. All you need is intelligence, willpower, passion, courage, grit, resourcefulness, confidence, and the capacity to sacrifice everything for the art.
My son/daughter is a profoundly gifted musician and is considering conservatory training. Is this a wise decision?
An evil man would say, "Yeah, go for it. The world is your oyster, the sky is the limit," however I can't parrot these words in good faith, particularly in light of pervasive crime, collusion, corruption, and abuse in the music industry. Crime is the primary currency---the very lifeblood, no less---of the music industry, including high art genres like jazz and classical, so investing in a conservatory education is like paying someone to rob you now so that you are prepared to be robbed by someone else later. Please don't do it, even if you are a musical genius, especially so. Your gifts will only widen the target on your back. You will be the ripest berry on the vine, and all of the beasts in the jungle will line up to consume you.