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Tips & Tricks
Selecting a Trump
Mouth Music offers a variety of trumps. To
the first-time trump buyer the selection can be confusing. Even the more experienced
trumpist, who's not familiar with the instruments offered here, may find selecting
one that's right a challenge.
Ask yourself the following questions:
Some trumps are more difficult for the beginner to play than others. Usually the
frame/tongue spacing is smaller on higher quality instruments and the beginner may have
trouble plucking without the tongue striking the frame. If you are new to the instrument,
we might suggest you start off with a Kubing
or Cambodian bamboo harp,
which is held against the lips rather than the teeth. By playing the Kubing, you'll learn
the basics of breath and pitch control, and develop a feel for plucking.
These two questions have a similar response and require a basic knowledge of music. If you're unsure what the common keys are for the type of music or instruments, ask your playing partners and select the key or keys they point out. We might suggest the keys of 'C', 'D' or 'G' as a starting point for use with many "western" types of music or instruments (such as guitar).
Unlike many other musicians that can play in a variety of keys on the same
instrument, the Trumpist often must select a different instrument to play in a new key. As
a result, many Trumpists carry a "kit" which contains a variety of trumps in
different keys. These kits are sometimes quite elaborate and represent the players' entire
collection. Other times you'll see "gig kits" that hold only select trumps
for the situation.
Not all Trumpists favor common "styles" of music but prefer instead to concentrate on more esoteric qualities of the sound. Maybe a harsh dissonant highlight is just what they want to hear... or perhaps a low meditative rumble. Whatever the situation, having a selection of trumps makes it more likely to find the "right tool for the job."
When several Trumpist get together, anything is likely to happen. You'll see them digging through each other's kits with near "Christmas morning" excitement and trying all sorts of combinations... "my low untuned Siberian works with your old Morsing..." If you play with the same group often, it's a good idea to keep a small notebook in your kits and log the successful combinations for future reference. You may even want to acquire a new trump that you think will work well with one of theirs.
A group of Trumpist can explore the opportunity of creating "trump chords." Select a number of trumps in keys that make up a chord (i.e. high or low 'C', 'E' & 'G') and try playing them together... or one at a time on different beats. Same model trumps work great but peculiar combinations may yield startling results.
Having a entire set of trumps of the same maker and model has certain advantages. It is not uncommon in Europe for a Trumpist to hold and play several trumps at (nearly) the same time. Since the same model is used, changing from trump to trump alters only the key, not other characteristics.
Most makers offer sets of trumps. Chromatic sets usually include a low fundamental, a high fundamental, and all the half steps in between... totaling 13 trumps. Diatonic sets don't contain any sharps or flats and total 8 trumps. Buying a set can also save you money as a set price is usually less than sum of individual trumps bought separately.
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