how can a violinist, a guitarist, or a percussionist sound like trumpet?
July 16, 2013 6:39 AM   Subscribe

I am a violinist/violist in a band with a guitarist/vocalist and a percussionist. We are an indie folk band. For a new project, I'd just LOVE to have the sound of a trumpet play a little melody. We could just get a trumpet player for a rehearsal and the show, but we really like to try to do everything ourselves as much as possible. What are some ways we can achieve a sound as close to a trumpet as possible?

- We don't have a lot of money
- I have looked into a stroh violin. The cost is prohibitive (probably will have to shell out 700+ dollars), and online reviews say the sounds are not as great as the antique ones, which are in the thousands in terms of price

- can I hack a recorder in anyway? I can play recorder and am not too bad at it
- or a melodica?
- are there pedals I can use with my violin pickup to do this?
posted by redwaterman to Media & Arts (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
How good a tone do you need on the trumpet melody? I've heard tons of bands who can't really play hack out a tune on a brass instrument. You could buy/rent a beater horn and learn to play it relatively easily, as long as the melody isn't too sustained or high-pitched.
posted by Think_Long at 6:45 AM on July 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yes, there are effects that can get you in the ballpark. The only one I'm aware of that will sound dead-on accurate is prohibitively expensive (Roland VG-99), but there are much cheaper boxes that can move you in that direction. I'm pretty familiar with guitar effects but this isn't a sound I have ever pursued myself, so I'd rather point you toward people who can answer better: my advice is to either ask here (TGP's popular discussion board specifically for effects) or ask him (Paul Trombetta).
posted by cribcage at 7:04 AM on July 16, 2013

If playing the actual trumpet as Think_Long suggests isn't an option, I'd think that a violin or electric guitar could get a similar tone with fairly narrow band-pass filter -- play with a parametric EQ and find the part of the tone that matches up well. A bit of compression & delay might help as well. You're not going to fool anyone that it's a trumpet, but it'd be a different & interesting tone that has a similar effect in the mix.
posted by jeffjon at 7:07 AM on July 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Think you/your vocalist could mouth-trumpet with a little practice?
posted by supercres at 7:09 AM on July 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

I was thinking vocalist as well.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:41 AM on July 16, 2013

A melodica is really really easy to play and cheap to purchase. So is something like a stylophone (which isn't exactly like a trumpet but not too different in terms of single line melodies.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:45 AM on July 16, 2013

Oh shit, a Kazoo.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:46 AM on July 16, 2013

Gary Brooker of Procol Harum did the mouth trumpet thing and I always found it amazing. You should watch this video from the beginning to get the emotional context, but here's the trumpet bit.
posted by jbickers at 7:47 AM on July 16, 2013

Nthing vocal trumpet. Takes a little practice but sounds quite good when you pull it off.
posted by seanmpuckett at 8:13 AM on July 16, 2013

Best answer: Kazoo! The metal ones resonate a lot better than the plastic ones. You basically hum into it.
posted by Lynsey at 9:35 AM on July 16, 2013

Best answer: Honestly, as someone who has played trumpet and mandolin, I've performed this role in a few little bands before. I bet if you offer to barter a decent 6-pack of beer on Craiglist you can get someone to just sit in with you. That's probably the easiest thing to do.
posted by fiercecupcake at 1:01 PM on July 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Well, if it's just for one specific bit of a specific show or two, I think just finding a friend or acquaintance who can actually play enough trumpet to make it work is (all things considered) your simplest option. Obviously that'll be the most realistic trumpet sound, and there's no shame in asking around to see if someone'll do it for free beer and the fun of the gig.

Part of my reason for suggesting this is that (to me, anyway) a lot of what makes brass instruments sound like brass instruments isn't just the timbre of the instruments (the right mix of overtones that give the instrument a "brassy" sound) but also their approach to phrasing - how a trumpet sounds on the attack of the note, how the need for breath in playing the instrument affects which notes get a definite attack versus a more legato approach, stuff like that. And that, I think, is the part that's difficult to replicate, especially with string instruments that take a whole different physical approach to phrasing.

Even spending some serious money on a guitar synth system (the Roland VG-99 mentioned by cribcage above) that will give you fairly realistic trumpet sounds would still take a fairly large amount of work and practice in order for your guitar player to get his/her playing technique to trigger the trumpet sounds in a way that actually sounds like a trumpet. (I do quite a bit of work with a guitarist who uses the Roland system, and we've had quite a few conversations about this.)

And as far as pedals for your violin/viola go, I'm not aware of a single pedal that would do this, so you're talking about doing an extensive bit of experimenting with combinations of pedals (or toying with the many settings of a multi-effects pedal like these Boss pedals) and then, again, even if you find a sound that works pretty well, you're gonna have to do some serious work on your playing technique in order for your audience to hear the part and think, "Trumpet!" and not, "Cool funky-sounding violin part!"

All of this seems like a whole buncha work for a couple of rehearsals and a couple of shows. Simpler to just get an actual trumpet player.

Now if this tune becomes a regular part of your sets, so you want to replicate it often but don't wanna go through the hassle of finding a trumpet player every time, here's some ideas:

- As jeffjon suggests above, don't worry about sounding much like a trumpet, but use pedals on the guitar or viola/violin to get a sound that kind of occupies the same sonic space.

- If it's a short bit that just pops up every so often in the song, you can get a real trumpet player to record the part, and then make it a track on an iPod, and one of you just hits Play when appropriate. Or same idea on a laptop. Or get a cheap hardware sampler (Korg Microsampler or the Boss SP series are a few I've seen, and it seems they're often under $400 new, even less used) and do the same thing. Of course, all of the the above require some kind of PA system or dedicated amp and a way to connect the iPod/laptop/sampler to it.

- Pretty much every keyboard/synth out there that isn't a dedicated piano and/or organ copy or a "beep boop" electronica synth has at least a few trumpet or brass sounds in it. There are some that are well under $700 new, and of course there's always used. Keyboard companies have spent literally decades working on their sounds, so playing a keyboard in a way that gets pretty realistic phrasing out of the brass sounds is often (IMO) easier than trying to do it on guitar or violin. So you buy a cheap-ish keyboard and one of you plays the part when needed. You could take a similar approach using a MIDI keyboard controller hooked up to a laptop and use free/cheap software in the laptop to get the trumpet sounds.
posted by soundguy99 at 7:07 AM on July 17, 2013

I don't know if it's in this particular one hour instructional video, but Adrian Belew is THE master of getting his guitar to sound like, well, any kind of horn he wants without using a synth.
posted by digitalprimate at 8:51 AM on July 17, 2013

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