How many of you taught yourself to play?



  • I did. My folks had an old York trumpets around the house. One day while in the 7th grade I became inspired listening to some Bix on old 78s. I picked up the trumpet and started. This was in '61. I could read a little music from earlier piano lessons. There had been a school band in the town years before, but it folded. One of my sisters wrote my out a fingering chart as best as she could remember from playing clarinet. I learned mostly alternate fingerings. For me, Bb was all three valves, D was 1st/3rd in any octaves. One day the other sister heard me trying to play repeated notes. "Why don't you tongue those?" she I asked. I had no idea what she meant...lol. After a while, the former director began coming back to his music store in town on Saturdays. I took some lessons and got a beginner book from him. When I hit 9th grade our school re-started band. I went on to major in music in college, get my BA, MME, Specialist all in music/music ed and taught for 40 years.



  • In reflection, I think I always had lessons. I have played a number of instruments but have always had lessons.

    My teachers had a lot of professional experience and showed me ways of developing things, either technically or musically, that I might not have discovered myself. This was supplemented by reading books on the subject and casually from other pros in personal, non-lesson environments.

    When I wasn't taking lessons, I built on, and developed, what I had been shown by my teachers and mentors.

    I think a person can be mostly self-taught and have no prejudice against that. I just think from my own experience, that a good mentor can condense the time spent and they can show you techniques and short-cuts that might take you longer, if ever, to discover.



  • I did. When I was around 38, I got some unexpected overtime and my wife said I could treat myself to something. I’d always fancied playing a trumpet, so I went into a music shop and bought a trumpet and Tune a Day book 1. I taught myself to play and read music at the same time. Never had any lessons. After a couple of years I joined a local Brass Band, where I discovered that what I thought was an A was an E. who knew? Anyway I gradually learned the correct fingering and improved. 30 years later I’m still playing. And sometimes get paid for theatre shows.

    Still no lessons. However that is my biggest regret. There are huge gaps in my knowledge, range and skills that I lack. I was on shift work in the police, so rarely had the same days off, which, along with the cost, made lessons impossible.



  • I did not. Started formal training on flutaphone during early grade school that went right into our public school band system, where a Richard Westrich began to instruct me during my first phase of learning. Then classical performance at the University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music.

    HOWEVER, I was self taught at Rock which started with a band audition while still a student a the University of Cincinnati. It was one of my Rock band mates that challenged me to take formal lessons in jazz. I went back to the College Conservatory of Music and auditioned for jazz lessons before the CCM Jazz Program Director, Frank Brown. He stopped my audition withing minutes of my starting and said, "You don't need jazz studies, you need to be in my Big Band.. So I learned jazz less formally, by playing around others So in that way I guess I started at being self taught. That is until I moved to NYC and then will into my first decade of self taught jazz performance, finally started formal jazz training with Claudio Roditi.



  • That last post got me thinking about my teachers. I've has some remarkable teachers on French Horn, Trumpet, Saxophones, Violin and yes, Irish flute. All top professionals and it just got me thinking how fortunate I've been. At least for me, the high quality of these people has just made me see the real value in such instruction/mentorship.



  • @Rapier232 Man, this replicates my personal experience to T. Came to the horn relatively late in life, bit the bullet and bought a trumpet and Tune a Day book and persevered. I could neither justify or afford the cost of lessons, so did it the hard, very hard way. They say it is character building! That said, the sense of personal achievement in doing it myself and then joining 2 Community Bands, is something I will always carry with me. Would I recommend it? Absolutely not. Then again, the realisation you have achieved something personally significant cannot be replaced.



  • Sort of. I had piano lessons through most of elementary school, which I neither liked nor excelled at. When I got to Jr. Hi, I wanted to be in the band, partly because it seemed like fun and partly because I thought it might get me out of piano lessons. My cousin had played the cornet for a year or two before quitting, and my mom gave her sis $20 for the old cornet. I already knew how to read music, so I got out the fingering chart and figured it out by myself. After a couple of years in band, I convinced mom to buy me lessons first from a local symphony player and later from another guy that played in a jazz club and the pit orchestra for the local ballet company, among other gigs. ...but playing the trumpet never got me out of piano lessons.


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    Well, this is the perfect place to tell my particular relationship with the trumpet. I always loved the instrument - from three years onwards. I once, at age five, even got a toy trumpet, even made of brass!, with ten "valves", each of which was confined to one note. They don't make them any more... at any rate, I loved that thing, but it did not feel right. It had too many of these round things sticking up above the leadpipe. Proper trumpets had only three, I knew for certain. So one day I sneaked away into the basement with my grandpa's small metal saw, and started working... neatly sawed off seven of the ten "valves". So now it not only looked like a proper trumpet, you could actually grip it like a proper trumpet. I was intensely proud of this achievement and showed it to my parents who were unaccountably angry. They were talking about, "you're always ruining things" and when I said that I wanted to learn trumpet, they told me I would only break it like the toy trumpet... so I was thrown onto piano and violin (both were already in the house).
    And I hated it. They soon realized I was hopeless with the violin, but kept my nose to the grindstone on piano. The local music school would not do, so every second day, they carted me to a neighbouring town for lessons with a very special, very old-school teacher: A spinster of about 69, complete with moustache, and a wooden ruler lying on the piano to whack a student's fingers with. For seven years they forced me into this kind of thing, and I became quite good at piano - out of sheer self-defence! - won a few local competitions... until I boldly told them that they could throw me out or beat me to death, but I would not go to that teacher again... They tried a different teacher for another year or two, but by this time I was refusing to practice so piano lessons ended, after nine years or so. And quite a few years later, at age 22, I won a trumpet in a raffle. Well, a bugle. No valves or anything, just a tube with a bell flare and something that could imaginatively be called a mouthpiece.
    OK, I thought, this looks like fate. How do I get this thing to work? So I got out a Maurice André record cover - 1970 vinyl, in fact this album https://www.cdandlp.com/maurice-andre/l-extraordinaire-maurice-andre/33t/r118969818/ - retreated in front of the big bathroom mirror and looked closely at how Maurice's lips were shaped on the mouthpiece. Tried to emulate the shape, put some tension on and - - - toot! Since then, I styled myself "student of Maurice André". It became true about ten years later...
    Next day, I went into the local music shop and bought myself a trumpet kit - Chinese "Comet", complete with 7C mouthpiece, cleaning set, wooden case and set of white gloves, for 99 Deutschmarks. Continued to work with "Maurice". After two days, asked my choir director to find me a trumpet teacher. Which he did. And only a week later, accompanied me to a specialist shop where I bought my first "proper" trumpet, a Bach Strad 229 C/Bb... new, for a whopping 2,999 Deutschmarks (we're talking 1988!). No stopping now...



  • These are great stories, guys, Thank you for sharing. After my 10th grade year I attended band camp and took lessons from a Chicowicz student. I went on to study w/him in college. I wish I had lessons when I first began. I had a few with the old director, as I said. He once held the trumpet up to catch heat from the blowing heater. "You have to warm-up first," he said 😉 My definition of warm-up changed later!



  • I took lessons until I was good enough to teach myself.



  • I did not teach myself trumpet...but I used that knowledge to teach myself French horn, euphonium, piano, and various percussion instruments.

    Once you have the basics, many instruments are fairly easy to pick up.

    Mastery generally requires coaching though.



  • In my younger playing years I started with some formal training ( a few months at a music conservatory and a year taking lessons from a great local professional trumpeter ) and that formal training stayed with me and got me back in the saddle when I started playing again after a 50 year hiatus.
    But age did change things for me and there were a few problems that a local semi-pro friend of mine was able to help me with.



  • @GeorgeB said in How many of you taught yourself to play?:

    But age did change things for me and there were a few problems that a local semi-pro friend of mine was able to help me with.

    Was it age or overuse? I ask this as I have notice aging as a benefit in that experience has provided more keen insight as to how to maintain my steady progress. There was a time I felt aging may have been a feature, then I found through practice and getting help from other trumpet players (many of which are teachers) it was more an efficiency issue.... and wallah! After correcting for inefficiencies, I was young again.



  • @Dr-GO
    No, Doc, in the early stages of my comeback there were some minor things, but mostly I needed advice on finding the right mouthpiece. The Bach 10.5C that I used in my teens and twenties just didn't work for me in my 80s. Too much in the chops had changed, including a full upper denture that I didn't have in my younger playing days.



  • I taught myself trumpet, I started maybe four years ago after teaching myself trombone a few years before that so I could play along with my son. After a couple years I stopped getting better, I couldn’t play much above the staff, so I started taking lessons. I would still be a pretty mediocre player if I didn’t make that step.

    I was also doing odd things like naming the notes in concert pitch, so for example what all Bb trumpeters call G I would call F. It took me a long time to un-learn that bad habit..


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    @scottfsmith said in How many of you taught yourself to play?:

    I taught myself trumpet, I started maybe four years ago after teaching myself trombone a few years before that so I could play along with my son. After a couple years I stopped getting better, I couldn’t play much above the staff, so I started taking lessons. I would still be a pretty mediocre player if I didn’t make that step.

    I was also doing odd things like naming the notes in concert pitch, so for example what all Bb trumpeters call G I would call F. It took me a long time to un-learn that bad habit..

    It's not a bad habit, it's just a different way of looking at things. I started off in a Lutheran Brass Ensemble, fingering concert pitch (C = 1+3)... had myself made slides in Ab ...



  • If I understand correctly, for those American readers, Lutheran Brass Ensemble doesn't mean the same in Germanic countries as it does in America. Most areas in Germany only have either Protestant or Catholic churches. (Evangalisch/Katholisch). There are exceptions but not for the purpose of this discussion.

    Protestant (Evangelisch) churches follow the Lutheran lineage but are not sect-specific, like Lutheran, Methodist, Reformed, etc. Rather it's an all-inclusive term.



  • Since I have never had a trumpet lesson, I guess I taught myself. I had lessons in my first instrument (violin) but when we moved to Virginia from North Carolina as a boy the local schools had no string program. I then switched to the French Horn, which I played through college. No lessons there except for reading Farkas' book/booklet. It was years before I grasped the range of that instrument. After graduation I started singing in a band which had a saxophone player. Since my brother played trumpet, I had noodled on it and bought one to play with the sax. Have been playing trumpet ever since. The "lessons" I get these days are from knowledgeable posters on trumpet sites and respected players on Youtube.


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    @Kehaulani said in How many of you taught yourself to play?:

    If I understand correctly, for those American readers, Lutheran Brass Ensemble doesn't mean the same in Germanic countries as it does in America. Most areas in Germany only have either Protestant or Catholic churches. (Evangalisch/Katholisch). There are exceptions but not for the purpose of this discussion.

    Protestant (Evangelisch) churches follow the Lutheran lineage but are not sect-specific, like Lutheran, Methodist, Reformed, etc. Rather it's an all-inclusive term.

    Yeeees... but even within the term "Evangelisch" there are two different sects: The "Evangelisch-Lutherische" church which means "Evangelical within the confines of the Augsburg Confession" (i.e. Lutheran), and "Evangelisch-Reformiert" which means Evangelical, but not Lutheran, i.e. mildly Calvinist. The Lutheran Brass Ensemble or Posaunenchor is a purely Lutheran thing, developed by Lutheran pastor Friedrich Kuhlo who wanted brass instruments to accompany the organ and be an extension of it. Therefore, all organ music was to be played on brass instruments as well (hence the concet pitch reading), and therefore he had the Kuhlohorn developed, a circular-shaped narrow flugelhorn (in his day, most trumpets were rather shrill pea-shooters).

    And you are correct in saying that many regions only have Catholic or Evangelical churches. Yes; but Catholic can - in some regions - mean Old Catholic as opposed to Roman Catholic, and Evangelical can be either Lutheran or Reformed.



  • Everybody teaches themselves to play! A teacher can motivate and focus on things good for the player, but at the end of the day, it is the student that has to untangle what they have been told, sort it and apply it.


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