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Scott Burman


(Jews Harps)

MouthBows Clackamore Humanatone Recordings Publications Piano Key
The Oddtones

Tips & TricksYour Trump Conductor

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.
Here are a few tips:

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Am I an experienced trumpist or new to the instrument?

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.

A good next step may be to move up to an inexpensive steel-trump such as our Chancellor. This untuned trump has a full steel-trump sound but its frame/tongue spacing is still loose enough not to discourage the new player. With practice, you'll eventually learn to pluck straight-and-true, and enhance your breath control skills. Once you've mastered these basic techniques you'll be ready to move up to higher quality instruments and the joys they bring. The only disadvantage to the Chancellor is the the trigger is a small bend or ball rather than a loop

For an inexpensive tuned trump, I usually suggest the Hörzing Coal Black. It has a looped trigger and is fairly easy to play. However the higher the pitch, the smaller the trump, which may discourge some beginners... but the smaller size may suit folks with smaller hands.

               Parts of a Trump

  • What types of music do I generally play? What are the most common keys used?
    • Do I generally play with other instruments? If so, what kinds, and what are the most common keys they use?

    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).

    • What other trumps do I have in my collection?
              What keys? What keys do I need?
              What different sounds do I need?

    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.

    Trump Kit
    Wayland's old "Trump Kit"
    - of course he carries a lot of Clackamores too!

    Every type of trump has different qualities and characteristics: tuned or untuned; harsh or sweet; loud or not-so-loud; lots of overtones, or fewer, more prominent overtones. Consider the type of sound you want and look for trumps that fit the bill. For example, if you like to play bass lines along with a guitarist, a low 'A' Szilágyi Black Fire may be perfect. If you play traditional European folk songs, a high 'A' Hörzing is a good choice. For "Country, Western or Bluegrass" music a Whitlow in 'D' or 'G' may work well. Two trumps an octave apart is also a good idea.

    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."

    • Do I play with other trumpists? If so,
              What keys and types do they have?
              What trumps and keys work with theirs?
              Do you want to try to play chords together?

    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.

    Szilágyi Black Fire Chromatic Set

    • Do I need a set of Trumps?

    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.



    (Jews Harps)

    MouthBows Clackamore Humanatone Recordings Publications Piano Key
    The Oddtones

    Order by Phone:  208 . 841 . 8780
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