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Sound the Trumpet: How to Blow Your Own Horn Review by Gwen Toliver

Jonathan Harnum, PhD
Sol-Ut Press
Jonathan Harnum
Chicago, IL 60626

I knew that Sound the Trumpet was not going to be a dry, ordinary music instruction book when the first chapter title caught my attention: “Chapter 0: The Chapter Everyone Skips”.

This 260-page softcover book is in its second edition, and for good reason. Harnum provides small doses of instruction in a way that keeps the budding trumpeter interested. The book is intended to be a supplement and is not intended for complete theory instruction. In fact, Harnum takes for granted that you already have prior musical knowledge. From my experience in music and teaching, most instrumentalists already have musical knowledge; often, an instructor will require a couple of years of piano lessons before starting an instrument such as trumpet. So this prerequisite should not keep the average beginner trumpeter from benefiting from the book.

Harnum starts with the history of the trumpet starting in the 1300s. Poland is the locale for the fascinating story of the trumpeter of Krakow and the reason behind the broken ending of the Heynal. Ironically, I recently finished reading a book on that historical event to one of my boys, so it really intrigued me to hear the same story but from the perspective of a professional trumpeter.

The trumpet has two purposes, according to Harnum: war and worship. The author develops that concept throughout the chapter on the trumpet’s history.

Even though I was a music major in college, my knowledge is fairly limited to piano and trombone, so I was not sure if I would be able to follow the book. Harnum, however, keeps the reader’s attention. He makes you want to keep reading; chapters are written in short, easily absorbed lengths.

From the history of the trumpet, the author moves into an extensive listening list. He includes orchestral, ensemble and solo pieces for both jazz and classical styles. I absolutely love this and it made me want to add to my CD collection! This resource in chapter two would be tremendously helpful for trumpeters of all skills to develop a good, listening ear that becomes trained to listen for the right thing.

Embrochure is such a fun word, isn’t it? (The pronunciation is AHM-ba-sher) I was unfamiliar with it until my son started trombone lessons, but it’s a French word that refers to the position and use of lips, tongue, and teeth when playing a wind instrument. Harnum clearly explains embrochure and buzz in chapter three – a difficult task to explain these concepts on paper, but he handles it well and also gives some creative buzzing exercises.

The book includes lots of preparation before you get to the actual playing. He does address possible frustration with this method with his wonderful humor, which is seen throughout the book. Once he gets you playing the trumpet, he quickly introduces basic pieces, which I know children love. This is important for all musical instruments, and this shows Harnum’s talent as not only an author, but also as a teacher.

Harnum doesn’t say that this book is a substitute for private teachers, but it does give a tremendous amount of material that the private teacher would never have time to cover. One thing I especially appreciated were the details he gave for the ideal practice session; in my experience, this information is something many music teachers neglect.

I have always believed that the two best ways to grow as a musician are to have a genuine appreciation for the greatest music of the genre, and to have a full understanding of the science and technique of your instrument. Harnum does a masterful job of instilling both of these things in the reader as well as creating a desire to learn more.

Despite the author’s humor and light-hearted approach, this book is no trivial treatment of the trumpet! Sound the Trumpet is an invaluable resource for trumpeters of all skills and is one you will enjoy perusing over and over.

Product Review by Gwen Toliver, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, July, 2014