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Wayne Bergeron Interview – Part 4

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 4, Wayne explains the physics of playing high, how you build a good reputation to insure success as a musician, and how he takes time off from the horn.

Dan Gosling:                 Obviously, a lot of people like to hear Wayne talk about playing the trumpet, playing high, playing lead. There’s actually a good amount of information like that already, like I referenced earlier, already on YouTube. In fact, you did a thing for Yamaha Europe, or just a new project?

Wayne Bergeron:         Yeah, just last year. Yeah.

Dan Gosling:                 Where you talk about playing?

Wayne Bergeron:         Yeah, it was all about playing. And we did one long interview on the deck of the USS Rotterdam, which is kind of interesting. It’s a hotel now, kind of like the Queen Mary in Long Beach.

Dan Gosling:                 Right. Right.

Wayne Bergeron:         And that ship, I worked on in the ’80s. I worked on that ship, and so it was my hotel. It was just so bizarre to be there. I’m going, “I’ve walked these halls before.” You know? And so we did the interview on the deck of that ship.

Dan Gosling:                 That’s really cool. So if you want to access more of the trumpet-geek stuff, how to play, it’s out there. And more of it is coming out soon. But if you would just touch on your philosophy about, you know people say, “I want to build my upper register.” And you’re not a fan of the word “build.”

Wayne Bergeron:         No, because it kind of alludes to we need to be muscular. You know, there’s a certain amount of muscle. You can do something to make this really strong, you can play… and that’s just not true, because it’s physics. It’s a reed, and air speed, and resistance, which makes range. And tongue level and all those things, that kind of go together, go hand in hand. But to think just because you have a strong embouchure, or you’re going to build something… I mean, you can practice something… I mean, you know my opinion, you can practice something over, and over, and over, and over. And get to your plateau, whatever that is, the top of your range. Nothing is going to improve. You’re going to get better and better at playing that, that range is not going to go up until something changes. Something physically changes.

Dan Gosling:                 Right.

Wayne Bergeron:         A direction of the air, a shift in pressure, any of those things. And I’m an example of that, because my range is the same now as it was when I was 12. It literally is. I have no more notes now. I could play double high C when I was a kid. It wasn’t, you know it probably sounded like somebody putting a cat in a blender you know, but I could play double high C. And I would just pinch, press, and play, and squeeze, and jam the horn down my throat. But I could do it. I had no embouchure strength.

Dan Gosling:                 Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Wayne Bergeron:         You know, I wasn’t practicing. I didn’t do any range exercises, or range building things. I just happened to have the air going through the mouthpiece the right way. The drummer in my high school band, and I’ve use this example on several videos. But the drummer in my high school band, this guy named Ron Crow if Ron watches this, was a great drummer and we were two peas in a pod in high school. He was a year older than me, and we’d go see Buddy Rich’s band and Maynard’s band together. But he loved high-note trumpet, and so he’d pick up my trumpet, and he’d put it up there and he would just wiggle his fingers like … And he could play up to a double high C. Well, he didn’t have any embouchure strength. No training. You know, he didn’t do any range exercises, or mouthpiece buzzing, or play the-

Dan Gosling:                 Yeah, and we hate that.

Wayne Bergeron:         Or play a double high C in 37 seconds book.

Dan Gosling:                 Right, right.

Wayne Bergeron:         You know, he didn’t do any of that. It’s a physics equation, and if you can figure that out, you can discover that range. So I like to use the word “discovery.” So we practice to discover. And it doesn’t mean that it’s all trickery, but a little bit of it is. And not trickery, maybe that’s not the best thing to say. But it’s about doing some different things.

You watch many trumpet players, and the stuff they do. The motions with their horn, their head tilted down when they go to this note, or down, or off to the side maybe a little bit. You know all of them, Arturo Sandoval, everybody moves around. Except for Al Vizzutti, who happens to be perfect. We hate you for that. No, but Allen is the most perfect looking trumpet player ever.

Dan Gosling:                 Right.

Wayne Bergeron:         And most perfect playing. He sounds, you know that should be our example of efficiency. You know, how we want to play, and we all kind of strive for that and he set the bar very high for that.

Dan Gosling:                 Right, right.

Wayne Bergeron:         But you know, his changes happen inside the mouthpiece. I mean, he moves a little bit, but not much. But the rest of us mere mortals, we’ve found… I’ve found that if I kick out my jaw a little bit when I get over high F, that that high A comes out pretty good, you know?

Dan Gosling:                 Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Wayne Bergeron:         If I try to just blow it like I blow a high C, and don’t change anything, I can’t get it.

Dan Gosling:                 Yeah. And that came from just figuring it out?

Wayne Bergeron:         So, there’s no extra strength there.

Dan Gosling:                 Yeah.

Wayne Bergeron:         It’s changing the mechanism, and so I had a student who could hit high E, and couldn’t play a note higher. And I started messing with his bell, and I pushed it-

Dan Gosling:                 Right, you told this story. Yeah.

Wayne Bergeron:         Yeah, I’ve told this story many times. Pushed on his bell and he went to a high G. So…

Dan Gosling:                 You didn’t practice high G’s, you just-

Wayne Bergeron:         Didn’t practice high G, he found it. And then was… And now he knows what it feels like, and what to do, now you can develop that and make it stronger. You can develop things, and that becomes easier. And then you can break through the next thing, with some little change. Eventually we hit the ceiling. I mean, I guess there’s no limit, but you know there should be because it sounds awful over and over. I mean, if there’s a lot of players that play triple high C’s, but I’m like, “You know, well great.” That’s like, being the best kazoo player. You know, it’s like… It doesn’t sound good.

Dan Gosling:                 So that leads to my next question. How do you… You know, people think it’s just about getting those notes. You play high, scream, whatever. And there’s a certain thrill factor to that, that’s attractive.

Wayne Bergeron:         It’s like rock guitar.

Dan Gosling:                 Right.

Wayne Bergeron:         If you think about it, a Rock and Roll guitarist can play all the wrongest crap you’ve ever heard, and we’ve heard them.

Dan Gosling:                 Yeah.

Wayne Bergeron:         You know, they don’t know the difference between a flat tire and flat nine, but they’re … Everybody’s going nuts … You know, that’s the high note trumpet player, in a nutshell, for many players. Which I hate.

Dan Gosling:                 So the kid that maybe can do that, in a sense, “Hey, I want to be in the studios. I want to make a name for myself.”

Wayne Bergeron:         There’s a very limited studio of call for that.

Dan Gosling:                 Right. Right, right. And so it’s more about, you know, how do you develop a reputation, a name for yourself, so to speak, that enables you to work?

Wayne Bergeron:         Yeah. I mean, like you know somebody asks, “How do you make a name for yourself?” Well, if they’re asking that question first, they’re putting the cart way before the horse. Because your name comes from your quality of whatever you’re playing, or whatever. You know, your work is going to do the talking for you. And so saying, “I want to… ” Like, saying, “I want to be famous.” Right, because you can make a name for yourself like I said. You know, can run out into the street naked in New York City, you’re going to be in the paper. You’re going to make a name for yourself. You’re going to be forgotten very quickly.

If you play really well, and bring something to the table, something special. And you’re a good person, and you know you’re a nice person, and you treat everybody well… That news travels fast. If you don’t play well, and you’re not a nice person, and you treat people poorly, word travels really fast.

Dan Gosling:                 And in your case, if you’re a great person and you’re not playing so well for whatever reason-

Wayne Bergeron:         People will help you.

Dan Gosling:                 People will help you.

Wayne Bergeron:         People will accept you. I mean, I’ve had a lot of help through my career. And through, you know the problems I’ve had, people have had my back.

Dan Gosling:                 Right.

Wayne Bergeron:         So I try to have other people’s backs as well, you know when they’re in trouble. I mean, there’s a couple of my colleagues, friends going through some trouble on his bottom teeth. And I was up in Sacramento, he lives up there, and I was working with him on that. And this guy is a great trumpet player. I can’t teach him anything, but he’s struggling right now. And so I kind of just gave him the advice, I go, “Man, get your head out of the game, here. Get your teeth put back close as you can to where they were before, and start-

Dan Gosling:                 Because you’ve lived through that?

Wayne Bergeron:         Yeah, I’ve… He’s switching mouthpieces. I go, “Play what you know, and let this adjust.” You know, and so I’m… Hopefully he’ll be okay. But he’s a good guy, so of course you help people that way. And I mean, it’s important to be in all walks of life. There’s enough A-holes in the world, you know, to be treating people poorly. I mean, I hate that when I see it, and I see a lot man. Musicians can be some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet, and also some of the worst people I’ve ever seen in certain situations.

Dan Gosling:                 Right.

Wayne Bergeron:         No names.

Dan Gosling:                 Right.

Wayne Bergeron:         But I know some very famous musicians, there’s a couple, I’m not going to mention their names. But a friend of mine that was teaching at Ball State, and I did one of his last guest artist things, and you could probably figure out who that is. But he said, “There’s two players that will never set foot on my campus as long as I’m here, again. And they are such and such, and such and such.” Who will remain name… And you know who these players are.

Dan Gosling:                 Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah.

Wayne Bergeron:         They didn’t treat the students well. You know, like when you’re at these kind of things, you’re expected to sign autographs, and kids want to meet you and they want to take your picture. And I want to leave the legacy of being a… I mean, I want to leave a legacy of being a good trumpet player, of course, but I want people to remember me like they remembered Uan Rasey. Uan Rasey was always a nice person, and he helped people, and his playing spoke for itself. And so I want to be remembered like that. You know, I don’t want to be remembered as a high note trumpet player, I want to be remembered as somebody that kept learning up to the day I stopped playing.

Dan Gosling:                 Right.

Wayne Bergeron:         And that’s how I live my life. I mean, I’m trying… Whenever I’m in a town or whatever, because I travel around and I do this like, La La Land Live show and I meet different trumpet players. I went to Cleveland Orchestra and played a few years ago, played this Pixar show, and Michael Sachs is there. Undoubtedly one of the greatest orchestral first trumpet players of our time.

Dan Gosling:                 Right.

Wayne Bergeron:         You know, old-school. He bridges the gap between the old-school orchestral first trumpet player, and today’s trumpet player. I took a lesson with him, man, and he took his time. And I sucked, man. I sat there and I, you know I sounded like an amateur.

Dan Gosling:                 What did you work on? What did you…

Wayne Bergeron:         We played a little bit out of the Arban’s book, and we played simple things because we were working on tone production. And he told me to do some buzzing things that I don’t do, and he goes, “Well, do me a favor and humor me, and do this.” And he put me through this little thing where I buzz my lips, and I buzz the mouthpiece, and then I played. And we did it through a couple times, and then he goes, “Now play your horn again.” And I played, and he goes, “Do you feel like your sound is more resonant?” And I go, “I do.” And he goes, “Well, do it. Whether you like it or not, do it.” So I kind of do this little thing.

Dan Gosling:                 You incorporated it.

Wayne Bergeron:         It’s the first page of his book.

Dan Gosling:                 Right, yeah.

Wayne Bergeron:         So, do I do everything he told me to do? No, because I don’t have time. But I took that bit of information, and I listened to him play, and I listened to his sound. And I tried to learn from that, and internalize that. And so when I’m making a sound now, a big sound I’m thinking, “Man, how do I make that sound that he made?”

Dan Gosling:                 Mm-hmm (affirmative). Right.

Wayne Bergeron:         So wherever I go, you know I’ll take a lesson. And you know I’ve taken a lot of lessons, you know? And I’ll continue to do that until the trumpet tells me it’s time to stop playing.

Dan Gosling:                 What do you do away from the trumpet, that helps your trumpet playing?

Wayne Bergeron:         You know, I for many years-

Dan Gosling:                 Do you take time off?

Wayne Bergeron:         I don’t like to, because as you know the trumpet, you take one day off you lose a day.

Dan Gosling:                 Right.

Wayne Bergeron:         Take two days off, you lose three days. And if you don’t have to worry… Like, I took a… My wife and I went to Hawaii two years ago, 10 days. So I didn’t play the first three or four days, and I felt good. I was like, “Oh, man.” But you know I didn’t have any… But I did have a session the day I got back, okay.

Dan Gosling:                 Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Wayne Bergeron:         Now, I didn’t know exactly what it was, but I knew it was me playing some solos and it was at Sony, and it was for the movie Sing. Which I played a lot of stuff on that movie. So I said, “I’ve got to start practicing.” So I went and found a ball room while my wife was still asleep, and I’d go find a ball room at the hotel in Maui there, and I’d go practice for a couple hours. And the next day a kid came in, heard a trumpet playing, and he goes, “Are you Wayne Bergeron?” I felt like, I was going, “You know, I have arrived.” I was like…

Here I am in Hawaii and this kid, and he’s from California, and I go, “Yeah.” And he goes, “I’ve been… ” I forget what school he was from. And I go, “Do you have your horn?” He goes, “I do.” I go, “I’m very proud of you. Go get your horn.”

Dan Gosling:                 Go get… Oh, man.

Wayne Bergeron:         So I made him go get his horn, and his dad is a photographer, so his dad came down and took a bunch of pictures. So I sat and I practiced with him for like three hours. And we just played stuff, and showed him stuff, and we hung out and took pictures, and it was really fun. And the next day I went and practiced, he came in again, and we hung out a little bit you know. And so I practiced every day after that, just in the morning for a couple hours. And then went on with my day and didn’t think about the trumpet the rest of the day, and it was kind of nice.

But I’m glad I practiced, I’m going to tell you why, because I get to this recording session and it’s just me. It’s at Sony, I’m figuring, “Oh, it’s the orchestra.” We did some orchestra calls, and you know I missed one of the orchestra calls because I was on vacation. So when I get there, there’s a stack of music in front of me, and it’s all these solos. And they had recorded some of them I guess, but they wanted to redo them. And there was some high licks that needed to be played that I wasn’t there for, and there was some solos, and some kind of quasi-classical soaring solos. So a stack of music. “You’re going to play from bar 268 to 300.” You know, “We need to get this again.” And it’s just me, you know butt naked in the middle of the studio, basically. You know, having to play this stuff.

Dan Gosling:                 Right, right. Nowhere to hide.

Wayne Bergeron:         And nowhere to hide. And if I wouldn’t have practiced, I would have crashed and burned so hard, because it was hard. I mean, I had to play some really high stuff. You know, this one lick and one of those … It’s a double high D, and you don’t see many of those in the music, but they wanted it you know. Because they know I can get that note. I’m going to stop advertising that, because I don’t like doing that any more. As I get older, I like it less. I’m starting to enjoy the flugelhorn more as I get older. So, anyway, it’s a good thing I practiced.

But I took some time off once before, years ago on another vacation, and I had to play when I got back. And I was so out of shape that I scuffled when I got back, and I go, “I’m never taking a day off again.”

Dan Gosling:                 Yeah, yeah. Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Wayne Bergeron:         But even through that I came back and I was fine. So, now you live and learn man. You learn that you can take some time off. And taking a few days off, it can be good. Especially if you’re going through a chop slump, and recently I did. Because I’ve, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I’ve lost a few pounds here.

Dan Gosling:                 Yes, yes.

Wayne Bergeron:         I’m down 30 pounds from where I was a couple, few months ago. And with weight loss, as I talked about earlier with my weight loss problems, your chops… things change, and my body hadn’t adjusted to my weight loss, and my loss of mass. So I felt like I was… Now I was very careful about it, because of what happened to me before. So I just, you know I haven’t had to do too many really hard gigs. And now it’s leveling out, so I’m playing very carefully, and I’m warming up very carefully. And I’m aware that I can’t push too hard, you know because of the less mass there. And now my body is adjusting, and I feel like I’m back.

But I went through a little problem with this weight loss, putting my chops… But now I know, because I’ve done it before, so I wasn’t panicking through it. I go, “I’m going to be okay.” I’ve just got to realize I’m going to be a little… I could still play most things I ever play, but I’m chipping some notes, and I’d miss a high F# here and there. And just stuff that’s usually money for me, but I’d get it. You know, “Give me another take, I got it.” You know?

Dan Gosling:                 Yeah.

Wayne Bergeron:         And even with that, my friends that know I’m going through this, they’ve got my back.