With a trumpet in his hands, Eric Miyashiro is a force of nature. The powerful sound, blistering range and flamboyant lyrical playing suggest a very different personality to the one that I met! Eric is one of the gentlest, nicest people that I have come across so I was thrilled when he agreed to spend some time doing this interview for Mouthpiece Online…
What drew you to the trumpet as a child?
My dad was a well-known trumpet player in Honolulu, Hawaii, so music and trumpet came naturally. It was like a “toy” for me, I really don’t remember when I started to play!
Who are/were your main musical and trumpeting influences?
Well, there are sooooo many… my dad, Maynard, Bobby Shew, Snooky, Doc, Herseth, Vizzutti, Jerry Hey, Chuck Findley, Freddie, Stahl, Chase, Audino, Clark Terry, Faddis, Wynton… too many to list. I like everybody! I always try to find something in a player that I like, and then learn from them.
As a young pro, one of your first big touring band gigs was with Buddy Rich – What was it like as a young player going into that environment on lead trumpet?
To tell you the truth, I was too green to take that chair, I was not ready… but I think that Buddy saw something in me and he let me grow in to that chair. It was brutally a tough, difficult book to play. Buddy’s energy was so strong that you can’t help but to get caught up in that typhoon of power – it was real tough to try to keep up with him. But it was also the best, and the most fun I had on the road… I would not trade those years for anything!
You have worked with a few manufacturers over the years on custom mouthpiece and horn designs. Can you give us any insights on the design process from a players’ perspective, particularly in relation to your GR mouthpiece and Yamaha trumpet?
Over the years, I was able to meet and work with most of the famous makers. Each company has their own philosophy and systems in designing their products, some of them contradicted the others, but overall the science is the same. Yamaha and GR are at the highest level of product tolerance control in my opinion. To me, the horn and mouthpiece are just tools, it really doesn’t make you sound any different or better then you are capable… depending on how long the “honeymoon” period lasts!
But having a horn that is easy to work with is the key to letting your personal voice come through your playing. I have had about 600 mouthpieces, 47 Bb trumpets, 2 MF Firebirds, 5 flugels, 4 piccolos, 3 melophoniums and a superbone. I have tried all the gadgets known to mankind, and my conclusion is in the end, it’s you and your “voice” in your head that matters. You can change the way you sound by finding a sound that you want and need, that comes from listening, and trying to get a strong image etched in your head. Your priority should be finding equipment that is easy to handle. Only then can you concentrate on the music at hand, rather than fighting the horn, and blaming the horn and mouthpiece for your performances.
Mouthpieces are like your shoe size, bigger is not better! And resistance, from your horn or mouthpiece, is your friend. Learn how to use resistance. Lean against it, and let the resistance help to keep your buzz from opening up too much.
In some recent ‘clinics’ of yours that I attended, you discussed some really interesting approaches to playing high notes! You demonstrated with a leadpipe and some tissue paper that it is not necessarily about airspeed. Can you share some of your thoughts, theories on this? How did you come to start using these techniques?
I always knew from early on that it wasn’t all about the “Air”, “Tongue Arch”, “Pedal Tones” etc. Everything is important, and it’s about balance. We often base our playing on physics with fluid dynamic and acoustic theories. What we do is completely unique. There are very few detailed, and scientifically proven studies done on the physics of brass playing. Any studies are not accurate and reliable because of the player’s physical and personality differences.
The amount and the speed/pressure of the air is a factor that will come into play with the lip tension, tongue position, mouthpiece design, the horn, acoustical condition and the size of the room etc… and on and on… So many factors are involved, but one thing that is certain, is that we “overblow” when things are not working with the chops.
I know this because I am guilty of having done this for most of my life. So, I have been doing my share of studies and experimentation to figure what does and does not work. The bore size, bell size, venturi size, or the gap and drill size on mouthpieces does not necessarily determine the resistance. It is the balance between all of this, plus the most unstable factor, you and your preference.
For you, what are the key factors in keeping on top of your playing when you are travelling?
Sleep, (which is hard to do….) Lots of water, avoiding alcohol, (which is really hard to do)… and keeping your chops in shape by carefully maintaining the buzz centre and the mouthpiece position.
If you could give any advice to a teenage Eric, or suggest that he does things differently, what would you say?
Take lessons!!!! I have never taken a lesson in my life, I am self-taught so I have many bad habits!
Please visit www.ericmiyashiro.com to find out more.
To see the range of GR Mouthpieces, please visit Thompson Music and purchase with an additional 11% off over Thanksgiving weekend.