Sunday Scales 7: Return of the Stamp

Back to Stamp this week for another classic pattern:

VII - 0 - Concentration original

As we did in part four, let’s break this exercise down:

Stamp has very helpfully provided us with a written-out practice variation, titled “preparatory version.” On the same page, he also writes out the exercise in four more scales (all starting on C): a series of augmented seconds, harmonic minor, whole-tole and diminished. The note at the bottom reads: “Play many times then by memory and in all keys.” There are two big ideas here:

Pedagogy: the title of the exercise, “Concentration,” hints at Stamp’s intention: the exercise is deliberately confusing and not written out in every key so that we can be challenged while practicing it. Stamp was a brilliant teacher and pedagogically he was ahead of his time. He understood intuitively that we learn the most when we are challenged – not by repeating a simple or comfortable task over and over.

Trumpet-specific: like most of Stamp’s exercise, helpful concepts are embedded already, so we can get the maximum benefit from the study with the minimum amount of mechanical thought. Instead we can focus on the basics: good sound, precise tuning and musical line. Let’s look at those concepts:

Preparatory version (first line):

This version is simplified – the “trill” figures are removed and pauses are added to the highest notes of mm. 3-4. You’ll also note that stamp pauses on the offbeats – helping us hear the rhythmically/harmonically weak notes more clearly.

Exercise (second line):

The alternating notes and repeated figures help us hear each step precisely, ensuring good intonation and a very clean connection (this is what that odd tetris symbol above/below the notes implies). As you change modes, notice the different interval sizes – semitones vs. tones. Repeating intervals also helps us play them more accurately, rather than proceeding in a vague “upwardish” motion.

The recent book, Stamp, Supplemental Studies edited by Thomas Stevens has this exercise written out in major-minor-whole tone with no break between each, and comes with an accompaniment CD for practice (at a very challenging tempo). Talk about concentration!