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Wayne Bergeron Interview – Part 3

Wayne Bergeron, LA studio trumpet virtuoso, discusses the trumpet and how to have success in both music and life, with Dan Gosling, The ChopSaver Guy.

In Part 3, Wayne discusses equipment, his philosophy on finding the right mouthpiece, what makes a good section and the value of knowing your strengths and weaknesses.

Wayne Bergeron:         So, the first meeting with Yamaha I had was the day after 9/11 happened. Because Bob Malone and I, Bob is the R & D person for Yamaha in the United States and responsible for many of the great trumpets that they produce.

So we had a dinner meeting, we talked about our plan of attack. And then we started going in, they started sending me horns, sending me stock horns to try  and we started changing lead pipes and getting different bells and Bob was very meticulous and we putting horns aside. I’d be in the pit at the Pantages Theater playing Les Misand I’d have like four horns with lead pipes taped to them, and my colleagues are laughing at me because I’m like testing these horns out. We’re trying to find-

Dan Gosling:                 Right. In the wild.

Wayne Bergeron:         Like I said, using my old horn is a guinea pig. Now I liked my old horn.

Dan Gosling:                 Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Wayne Bergeron:         So they had to make something better than my old horn for me to make the switch.

Dan Gosling:                 Right.

Wayne Bergeron:         Or I was comfortable with my old horn anyway. Let’s say that. So I wasn’t really looking for anything different. But I was looking for something, if something made my life a little easier. Now I sold that horn, which was a great horn. I sold that horn to this guy that works at Disneyland now, and I told him if he ever wanted to sell it, i would buy it back from him. Because it’s got sentimental…I played a lot, kind of famous recordings on that horn. So anyway, the horn is working out great for me now.

Dan Gosling:                 But you’ve adjusted, your body’s changed, you’re hearing things different.

Wayne Bergeron:         Everything’s changing, and I have old mouthpieces. I have one of Marcinkiewicz’ first mouthpieces he ever made. He made it at Whittaker Music, when he was making mouthpieces on the side and banging dents out of student instruments. He had this day gig in a music store, and he haven’t even opened his first shop yet.

So he made me this mouthpiece, which I still have. It’s pretty deep, it’s like a 7C kind of. It’s got a 22 drill, and what I don’t even know that parts in it. It’s kind of big for what I was doing, and I played lead on Maynard’s band on 1986 on that, and I was pounding out double high Cs on it. I put that mouthpiece in my horn now, and my trumpet sounds like it’s made of wood. It’s the most dull, un-vibrant, edgeless, I go how was I making this thing sizzle? Because I mean I was hitting some good high notes on it.

Dan Gosling:                 Yeah sure.

Wayne Bergeron:         But I was working really hard. So anyway, fast forward today, all this has happened, and it all happened for the better because it made me a smarter trumpet player for sure. I’m a smarter player and if I get into trouble again, God forbid that I get a cyst or get my teeth knocked out, I’m not going to panic. I’m just going to know that I’ll get this fixed, and I know what to do, to make the adjustment, to get back into playing again.

Dan Gosling:                 And I think the important lesson in all this is that even someone like the great Wayne Bergeron has dealt with-

Wayne Bergeron:         Can you say that again? I just like hearing it.

Dan Gosling:                 The great-

Wayne Bergeron:         My mother would love to hear it.

Dan Gosling:                 … Wayne Bergeron, has dealt with some crap, has dealt with some real … I mean, you thought your career was over type-

Wayne Bergeron:         You don’t know the half of the crap I’ve dealt with. I can’t talk about that! Yeah.

Dan Gosling:                 But not only, you got yourself through it. But I think the important part is that the way I would say it is your karma was such that even as a young kid on the road or when you were having problems in Japan, years ago, people had your back. When you’re at Disneyland, people helped you through this.

Wayne Bergeron:         Oh definitely, there was a lot of colleagues.

Dan Gosling:                 Yeah and it might not always go that way.

Wayne Bergeron:         That’s true. I mean the music business can be very cruel, what’s the line? A cruel, shallow place. And there’s a dark side.

Dan Gosling:                 There’s a dark side to it.

Wayne Bergeron:         Whatever that quote is. It’s kind of true. Because even some people that you think that are your friends, and they’re colleagues that you work with, you’re all competing for the same work.

Dan Gosling:                 Right.

Wayne Bergeron:         And so that brings an element of even when your friends, we’re competing for the same work. So when work gets thin. People start, those knives start coming out a little bit and there was somebody in LA that actually said, when I was going through this, they told a major contractor in town, “Oh Wayne’s done.”

Dan Gosling:                 Wow.

Wayne Bergeron:         So then you plant that seed-

Dan Gosling:                 In a town like-

Wayne Bergeron:         … To a contractor, then all of a sudden, they’re going to disregard you. Like, “Oh he’s not going to be dependable anymore.” And so that, when I heard that, it got back to me. I mean, I was hurt first of all, because a person that said it was somebody I know, and I considered a friend of course, and I made it a mission, it was my mission, “Okay, I’m going to come back from this-

Dan Gosling:                 You used that as fuel.

Wayne Bergeron:         And this is motivation for me, and I’m going to come back, and I’m going to be back from this, and I came back and just like I did the first time, I became a smarter player, I came back stronger. I came back from this stronger. So I can look back now, I have a little timeline to look back on so I can see where I faltered during my career in the things that happened, and the problems I caused and some problems I didn’t cause, and I can look back, and I can tell you that I’m going to be 61 in a few weeks, and a 61 year old Wayne Bergeron can kick a 25 year old Wayne Bergeron’s butt all over the stage. And not every 60 year old can say that, and I think it’s because of just some good advice I got along the way, maybe something I absorbed, watching people play. When I see somebody that plays more effortless than me-

Dan Gosling:                 You want to know how they do that.

Wayne Bergeron:         Yeah I look at them I go, “Yeah. I don’t want to look like I’m straining so much.” So you start thinking about that. So your body starts making adjustment. Getting advice from Bobby Shew. Bobby Shew’s probably done more to educate the brass world than … I won’t say than any educator in history. But he’s right-

Dan Gosling:                 He’s right up there. Yeah.

Wayne Bergeron:         … In that. He’s done a lot. I mean, to use Bobby’s line, he’d say, “Many of the old teachers and the old teachings that we still look at … And we’re looking at these books that were written in 1911.

Dan Gosling:                 Right. Right.

Wayne Bergeron:         That’s still the Bible? I mean, yeah. There’s great information in there. But we’ve learned a little bit since then. We’ve got technology on our side, and we’ve learned a lot about stuff.

Dan Gosling:                 And the demands of playing are different.

Wayne Bergeron:         You can keep your head stuck in the sand of tradition. You have to move forward. So Bobby would say a lot of things that were different from that teaching. It’d go against the grain of traditional teaching. But you listen to him play and Bobby is older than 70 now. I don’t know how, sorry Bobby, I don’t know how old you are. But I think you’re 74 now, and he’s kicking… if you don’t mind me using foul language … he’s kicking ass, and it’s because he’s such a smart player. And those many players, disciples of his, and I’m one of those included, that took that little bit of information from him, and it started running about the air and how to use our body to produce, to make the air come out the correct way and how to make the aperture function to make the sound big and how to play more efficient equipment and still get a big sound. I mean, Bobby has a great sound. He plays smaller equipment, and it’s just great. You don’t have to have big stuff to do that. So that’s an old school way, we need to be big. I tend to think that we start young students, for mouthpieces for instance, when you get somebody that’s 10 years old, learning to play the trumpet, and you give him a 3C, a 3C is this to them.

Dan Gosling:                 Right. Right. Yeah.

Wayne Bergeron:         This little tiny face. They develop embouchure problems early on. They have nothing to blow against. There’s no resistance. So they struggle, they develop aperture problems, and they give up. The trumpet’s hard enough. I mean I would think a 7C comes with most trumpets, because it’s the middle. For young kids, I think it should be a 10, or a 12 even. Because it matches the face. You wouldn’t where a size six shoe or a size 15 shoe. Because it’s going to make you fast. It’s too big for your setup. So there’s a reason they make all these different sizes and going to the extremes, I would only go to the extremes if somebody had small or giant lips and that’s somebody with really big, fleshy lips can play a bigger mouthpiece. Because the lips go into the mouthpiece, and they take up some of the cup volume. So they make that mouthpiece shallower. So it’s not one size fits all. I hear a lot of band directors and stuff, making their students, “Everybody has to play a 1 1/2 C.”

Dan Gosling:                 Right. So we all sound the same.

Wayne Bergeron:         No. They’re not going to sound the same.

Dan Gosling:                 Right.

Wayne Bergeron:         And the beautiful of music is everybody doesn’t sound the same.

Dan Gosling:                 Right.

Wayne Bergeron:         So uniformity, everybody playing the exact same violin or drum corps tries to go for uniformity. Well you can go for that. But if you want to sound like a synthesizer. The beauty in music or in a great sounding trumpet section, is this one person has a dark, fat sound and this lead player’s got a bright, brilliant sound. Maybe this person’s got a fuzzy sound.

Dan Gosling:                 And that doesn’t always work. But if people are listening-

Wayne Bergeron:         But if they play the music well and everybody matches, those colors … I mean it’s like a palette of paint. You can blend those colors into a lot of things. Everybody’s really bright. You’ve got four lead players that all play bright. They play really shallow. You get that kind of lead trumpet sound. You get four of those, it doesn’t sound good and once somebody likes that plays by themselves, the sound is not good. But you can take somebody with a thin sound. Maybe they’re edgy, and I don’t want to use any examples. But there’s players from the past and stuff that we know that had thinner lead sounds. But they were loud, and they had a lot of chops. But you put a good section under them, with some fat tones and that sound up there-

Dan Gosling:                 Works.

Wayne Bergeron:         … Can get supported by that and then that person can sound pretty darn good.

Dan Gosling:                 Right.

Wayne Bergeron:         And maybe that’s the sound? So I’m not against any of that. So uniformity doesn’t always work. But making a young person play on something that’s too big, you’re going to develop problems early on.

So like I said, I would recommend a 10D, not even a C. Too deep. Not enough compression. Give them something to blow against, so the air can hit the back of the mouthpiece and reflect back on to the lips and make vibration happen. If it’s going straight through, they’re not getting that reflection, they have to blow harder to make sound. So that becomes a problem.

I even feel that when I play something that’s too big, and I even think that professional players, even orchestral players and matter of fact, we were testing trumpets for Yamaha today, and I was listening to a really great trumpet player from Chicago here, Rob Parton play, and he’s a fantastic player. And he was playing his lead piece, and he’s got a great sound, and he was playing some orchestral stuff out of his lead piece and then he put in his biggest mouth piece and all of a sudden, I mean he had a darker sound. But it was cloudy, and I told him I go, “This one’s cloudier.” And then we had his conversation about it.

Dan Gosling:                 Right.

Wayne Bergeron:         I go, “I’ve got a mouthpiece that big too. But my middle of the road mouthpiece between those, has a better sound than my big one.” Because for me, that’s where it needs to be. So a lot of times, we go to the biggest thing even as professionals and Jens Lindemann and I have talked about this and Al Vizzutti talks about this and you can think of this two different ways. You can say, “Get the smallest mouthpiece you can get and play with a quality sound and do everything you need to do or, that can be the biggest mouthpiece you get.” And it’s the same equation.

Dan Gosling:                 Right, right.

Wayne Bergeron:         The answer’s the same, just depending on how you want to think about it and I think that’s where we start and so, I mean, I think it’s okay to switch mouthpieces. Maybe we have some things for different kinds of music. I know that some trumpet players that play the Brandenburg, they have a mouthpiece just for the Brandenburg or a special horn, where there’s a picc in C or Dave Washburn was here, great, great. He owns The Brandenburg. Everybody else just leases it from him. He owns it and I think he plays it on a C picc. So not everybody does that.

Dan Gosling:                 Right.

Wayne Bergeron:         But that’s his thing. But he’s got a mouthpiece that he plays that on.

Dan Gosling:                 It’s a setup that works.

Wayne Bergeron:         It’s okay to have those things. I don’t think we need bandito belts full of mouthpieces to play. But I have a few different things and if I’m going to play fourth trumpet in an orchestra, which I have to do and the parts are all banging out low Gs. I’m gonna bring, let me take a mouthpiece out that gives that to me a little bit easier.

Dan Gosling:                 Do you own a C trumpet?

Wayne Bergeron:         I did and I sold it. Because I’m a gentlemen. I tried playing a C trumpet for a while, because my colleagues were playing it. Matter of fact, I did Phantom of the Operafor nine months and I was playing second trumpet to John Lewis, who’s one of the finest trumpet players in the world.

Dan Gosling:                 Right, right. Yeah.

Wayne Bergeron:         John and I work together a lot and talk about somebody I’ve learned from. Oh my God, this guy is just … So we’re doing Phantom of the Operaand he plays on C trumpet almost everything. He plays Bb great and Eb. So he says, “Why don’t you play your C here man? Kind of good for you to practice that.” Learn the introduction. So I started playing C and then when we get to the harder cues, I pick up my Bb. Now one time, now we’ve done this show several times on C. But I hadn’t played those harder cues. So right before one of those cues, he was ready for me. I went to put it down. He grabbed my Bb and he pulled it away from me and he made me play it on C. So I played the whole show on C trumpet and you know what? I did it.

Dan Gosling:                 I’m sure you did.

Wayne Bergeron:         I did it. I got through it pretty good. So I started playing the show on C and then I started feeling, when I played first, when I moved up and played first, I went back to my Bb. Because I was just scared.

Dan Gosling:                 Yeah.

Wayne Bergeron:         And I was practicing on it. I’d warm up on my Bb, then I’d play some Clarke studies on it every day and as I started embracing it more, I started liking my sound more. But I’d always have to play a bigger mouthpiece on it. Because with my lead piece, it sounds really horrible.

But I would play it and I just notice it has a more elegant sound, a more elegant attack. So I was embracing that and I was starting to like it. It records really nice. But I wasn’t comfident enough to … So anyway. To make a long story even longer, when Phantom of the Operaended and I would get on dates and I’d go, “I want to play my Bb.” I stopped practicing on it and I just sold it.

So I just figured, I just started going, “Okay, I’m a Bb trumpet player.” That’s what I do. I play Bb, picc, flugelhorn, cornet. I can do all those things pretty well. I’m a good piccolo trumpet player I think, for a high note jock. I try not to sound too obnoxious on it.

Understanding now what I understand about the aperture and stuff, how it works now. I mean, I used to think, like everybody else. When you play lead trumpet, we want to sound like a classical player. So we go get the biggest mouthpiece we can get. But if you don’t know how to make the correct sound, you’re still making that same vibration into just another mouthpiece. So it’s the same crappy sound. It’s garbage in, garbage out. It doesn’t matter what mouthpiece it is. The signal’s got to be right. So the reed’s got to be just like a classical saxophone player, with a certain mouthpiece setup. Maybe the reed’s closer to the top of the mouthpiece so they can play softer, in a more elegant front end. That would be a C trumpet. It’s got a little more resistance.

So you go to a deeper mouthpiece, now you’ve got less resistance. So for somebody like me, it’s more work. So making the adjustment here. So maybe this is smaller at a soft volume. This is our volume control anyway. The aperture, the wider the aperture, the louder you’re going to play. The smaller and if you don’t understand how that works, you can’t play soft. If you’re somebody that plays lead trumpet all the time and doesn’t understand this has to be soft. There’s the players that you’re going FFFah… when they hit the front of a note or they have to go PAH… to start every note. It’s because this is not set correctly. The reed’s not in the correct position for a soft volume. So now that I understand that, now I can go to a large mouthpiece and then I can set this up the way it’s supposed to be setup and now I get a more elegant sound. So that’s transferred over to my piccolo trumpet playing. Which I’m not, Maurice Andre by any stretch of the imagination. But I played piccolo trumpets on movies. I’ll play a passage on it. Not if it’s written that way. But sometimes we got high Fs to play.

Why not play it on the right tool for the job. Make it easy instead of trying to bang it out on a Bb trumpet and give myself a hernia. So I would play it on that and it would sound better and now I’m comfortable on it. My intonation’s comfortable. So now it’s a tool in my arsenal, just like my other mouthpieces are.

I’ve got all these different tools and is that cheating? I mean some people say, “Oh you’re cheating. You should practice hard and play the mouthpiece that came with the trumpet.” There’s people that say that kind of stuff.

Dan Gosling:                 I don’t think that’s cheating. I think that’s smart.

Wayne Bergeron:         Well thank you.

Dan Gosling:                 It’s just you want to sound good.

Wayne Bergeron:         It’s smart. It’s making the music sound easier. So the easier you can make it, efficiency wise, if that’s cheating then classical trumpet players have been cheating for years because they switch horns. You put something in C trumpet or D trumpet to make it more accessible. Instead of why would you play something that’s going to put something in a horrible key. Why would you put it in the worse key where you’re going to throw in the slides and be clumsy because of the fingering? Put it in the right key. The trumpet’s hard enough. Let’s not make it any harder. So anyway that’s how I think about it.