Bert Lochs

I am a professional trumpet player, composer of both jazz and classical pieces for small and large ensembles alike and a teacher. I am leader/initiator of two trio's: Trio Bert Lochs and Lochs/Balthaus/Herskedal and I play in the Guus Tangelder Bigband, Pieter Basts E.S.P and the Jasper Somsen Group. With my trio's I made some very well received CD's and I played at the North Sea Jazz Festival and a lot of Dutch and German venues. I teach at home and at the music school of Alphen a/d Rijn. One of my main skills is teaching the Balanced Embouchure method. A method of trumpet pedagogue Jeff Smiley. I discovered it in 2002 and it helped me play a LOT better, and it completely turned around my view of how to play and teach the trumpet.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Homo universalis

As a professional musician you have to be a kind of homo universalis. Just playing is not enough by far.
If you want to have gigs, you need to do and know all kind of things that aren't even remotedly related to music.
It starts with being able to talk about your music in a coherent way, writing coherent articles about what you do, writing them in your own language and preferably in one or two other languages as well. And then convincing other people that your music should be heard, booked or sold. That takes a salesman's mind and attitude. Selling your music also takes a number of skills not really music related: making a website, taking pictures, or at least being able to recognize a picture that will sell your band or yourself. Making a CD, which is fun to do, but also makes you a producer, mixer, masterer, technician. I mean, it is pretty hard to play well in a studio situation, but that is what you are supposed to be able to do. But after that (if you don't have a record company or a lot of money) comes the editing: most musicians are capable of that themselves by now, because of nice applications like Logic or Cubase, but you have to learn it. Then there is of course mixing. That is a very underestimated skill. It is a craft not any musician can do, but is often performed by musicians with Logic or Cubase. Personally I don't do this. I leave it to the pro who has done this numerous times and likes to do this. I hate it, I don't know how to listen beyond the music and take it to a technical level of listening to sound and trying to optimize the music from that perspective.
Then comes of course the making of a cover. I happen to have a brother who is a graphic artist, and he makes the most beautiful things, but I also have to decide what I want and have to have an opinion about these things. At least he or other artists expect an artist's view from me or musicians in general.
Then there is of course the bookkeeping, knowing the roads and bumps to subsidies, knowing the rules on taxes, keeping your own books and paying your fellow musicians without breaking the rules.
To sell your band it is also useful to be able to edit some movies for Youtube, to know how Blogging works, to know Facebook and other social networks, to know how applications like Finale or Sibelius work  (for writing and publishing music), to keep up with the newest developments in music in general, music that you play, the instrument you play, and then I forget the educational part of being a musician: most of the musicians I know also have a teaching job which require totally different skills yet again.

Wow, and only because you loved playing a trumpet, or liked the sound of a piano when you were seven years old and appeared to have a certain talent.

I want to stick all the musicians a feather in their cap for being so versatile!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Christmas music

Since I am a teacher on a music school, it is impossible to ignore music for the festive season. In Holland there is another phenomenon called Sinterklaas (yes, that sounds a lot like Santa Claus, but it is another person. I am told that he was a Turkish bishop from Myra, living several hundreds of years ago. On his birthday, the 5th of december, he and his helpers bring gifts and a lot of candy to the children) and there are a lot of Sinterklaas-songs. For beginners these are nice to play, because every child knows them, so they are easy to learn and the kids are eager to play them. After that comes Christmas, and of course there are a lot of christmas songs. I especially like the English carols and the American musical kind.
I wanted to organize a special christmas recital for my pupils this year, so I went looking for some new music. I found a very nice book by De Haske. Festive Christmas for trumpet. This is a set of very good pieces, not all acknowledged christmas music, but very good for the occasion. There is a CD included on which top trumpeter Frits Damrow plays all the pieces so you can listen how to play them, and the book comes with the piano/organ parts and accompaniment only, on the CD. For the rest I was a bit dissapointed. I wanted some duets, trio's or quartets to make a few ensembles, but I couldn't find much original stuff. That surprised me, and it made me think of writing some myself.
Some years ago De Haske published some books with quartets for trumpet that I wrote. They appeared to suit for saxophone, clarinet and flute as well, and it became a very usable and popular series of quartets. They sell all over the world. Once I saw a Canadian girl play a piece of one of these books on Youtube! That was weird, hehe. Anyway, I decided to try and write some christmas quartets in this fashion. A lot of people asked me if  I was going to write more quartets, and yes I am going to do that. I asked De Haske if they want to publish these again, but since they are taken over by Hal Leonard, it has gotten a bit harder, but I will try anyway. If they don't publish, I want to try and sell the pieces through my website, but I am not really sure how to do that.
The first of these quartets for christmas is ready, and I think it works very well. Work in progress. But if you are interested, please let me know.

Monday, November 22, 2010


I've been busy playing for two weeks, something that does not happen that often, despite the fact that I have to make a living playing, hmmm. Anyway, I had a nice little tour with Lochs/Balthaus/Herskedal. We played in Orgelpark, Amsterdam, which is a brilliant spot. 4 majestic church organs to choose from, a heavenly sound (if you play without a drummer, haha) and some great music to play. Daniel wrote some new music especially for the occasion and Dirk practiced on all the organs so as to get the best sounds possible. It was a great concert and we made a very nice recording and even a little movie.
After that we went to Haarlem to play in a woodshed, which was totally crowded with an enthousiastic audience. We played very well there and we had a nice meal and a couple of fruitful conversations.
Then we went to Belgium to play in the Hopper, a well-known place, in the beautiful city of Antwerp. We had a very nice meal there, a very tiny siteseeing walk, and a good concert.

After a few days off, we went to Oberhausen for a gig in our favorite hangout: Polish cafe Gdanska. Actually a very nice theatre cafe, nice audience, grand piano, good music. The organizer, Kuro, always makes a very nice drawing of the band whenever we play there. I want to post one of these, but I am not sure if that is going to work.

The best concert was yet to come on sunday in Mülheim, Jazz in den Häusern. In Art Gallery Ricarda Fox we did a great concert, great audience, great food afterward, simply brilliant! I think that was the concert where everything came together. We were in the zone, so to speak, everything just went exactly the way we wanted. Daniel even made a lady cry with his tuba solo, which almost makes me cry everytime I hear it, to be honest.

Wow, that was a great little tour with a great little band. (Photo's by Naual Abu el Hayy)

Right after that I fell into a new project we recorded last year, but that we never played with before. A quintet with Florian Zenker on guitar, Pieter Bast on drums, Jeroen van Vliet on piano and Rhodes and the boss: Jasper Somsen on bass. Music of Enrico Pieranunzi. Really lyrical music, very hard to play right, but ever so beautiful and well written. After a good rehearsal we did a first concert in hotel De Wereld (were peace was agreed upon in 1945). In a really packed hall, we played two sets. Mostly Pieranunzi's music, but some new songs by Jasper as well. Super!
As a little intermezzo, I recorded some film tunes for Florian, who stayed at my place, and is busy writing a lot of music for a film project. Saturday we did a live show on Radio 6, Shouting Bootz, and we played as a trio (actually my Trio Bert Lochs, which is part of the Jasper Somsen Group), music of Pieranunzi and some of my own songs. After that we went straight to Utrecht to play the CD release concert in Muziekhuis XXI. A good concert in a nice hall with virtual acoustics. A bit strange to my ears, but we got used to it, and I think we did a good job, soem of the material was really hot, and some of it decent enough, but we have to really do a couple of concerts to get this difficult music to flow and groove.

Well, I guess that is enough for two weeks. Very fruitful, and also on a personal level I was very satisfied. I play lovely music with lovely people, what more can I wish for?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

On networking

I went to a Dutch networking event for jazz musicians. This is not something I particularly like to do. I want to play the trumpet and play with my bands. And that is exactly why I have to go to these gatherings. To meet the people that have the stages, and to meet the musicians to play my music.
One of the big dilemma's is, that I am a good trumpet player but a lousy networker. I owe it to my art and talent to make the best of it and try to get gigs. But the talent that is needed to get those gigs, is the talent to convince people to book you without playing one note. And I don't have that talent.
I had a conversation with a filmmaker whom we had already contacted about making a registration of one of our concerts. At a certain point he asked me if I liked doing an interview and mixing this with footage of the concert, and I said that I didn't really like that, because I want to show and let hear the music, not me talking. He didn't understand, and he said that the audience wants me to talk about my music. I really don't get that. Why should I talk about my music, instead of playing it? That is the second dilemma. If you deal with your audience, which is of course an important network you have to dedicate yourself to, what is it they want from you? I guessed it was hearing me play my music, but when you are at a networking event, or mingling with your audience after a concert, apparently they want you to talk about your music, which in a way, I find stupid. What can I say about my music that cannot be heard when I play it?
Music is a totally abstract art, which goes beyond language. That is the power of it. I cannot say in words what my music can express, that is probably one of the reasons I make music.
Anyway, I will try to find a way to deal with these dilemma's. I am not an unfriendly person to talk to, I can be convincing when I believe in something and I've learned to take care of business. So there is a chance that the networking I do is not doomed to fail, but it will never be a thing I do very naturally. I'd rather be on stage, playing my music for people that want to hear it, and if they don't want to hear it, I, myself, want to play and hear it. That is why I started to play in the first place.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Hope to get old like that!

I came across this video of trumpet legend Bud Herseth talking about his trumpets and mouthpieces.
Man, does this look like my own life over thirty years? I hope so. I already have the mouthpieces, some of the trumpets, and I hope the good humour and health , too. I will never make it to the legend he is, though, but never mind.
Love his 'jazz' playing, haha!

Friday, October 29, 2010

The inspiration of sound

I saw this really inspiring interview with Belgian trumpet player Bert Joris, and one of the things he was talking about is the way his sound influences his inspiration and ideas. That is a very interesting thought.
In my case I am certain that I play differently on trumpet than on flugelhorn, really different notes and licks, just because they sound different. When I got my Van Laar B8 trumpet, I instantly could play a ballad on it, something I just couldn't do on my former Holton MF Horn. The sound just wasn't right for that. On the Holton I could play in a bigband very well, it was a bright sounding, light playing horn, but whenever I had to play a solo, I wanted to switch to flugel, because the sound didn't inspire me to play a good solo. The moment I had my current Van Laars, I had to reconsider all my concepts and I had to experiment a bit with what sounded best and what felt best for a certain piece. I have to say that it is not a very conscious process, it has a high degree of subconsciousness, but it matters a lot. Some pieces I cannot play on flugel and the other way around. Or maybe it is more like I cannot find the right inspiration for a certain piece if I don't play it on the right horn. It even goes as far as a different mouthpiece can give a different sound and feel and give me a totally different angle. That is what I like about the Curry TC. It gives me instant access to another part of my brain to play different things.

So sound is, at least to me, very important in terms of inspiration. That can be very annoying if you have bad sound equipment on stage. If the sound from the monitor isn't right, it instantly cuts off some inspirational directions. I have to be very aware of that and try to concentrate on my inner voice for inspiration. But it makes it harder to play the way you want. It can also enhance your performance if the sound is right, or even simply change the way you play on a given moment, if the sound coming from the monitor is different, because it can give you different ideas. If for instance, a monitor has  much high in it, I like to take my trumpet and inspiration goes in the direction of lots of notes, bravoura kind of playing. I shouldn't take out my flugel then, because all the 'flugely' ideas immediately drop down on the floor and never hit my soul (or anyone else's for that matter).

So, yes, sound is a very important inspiration.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Read this!

I got the link to this article from CDBaby. Great stuff to think about. And I think we all use these incredible tips sometimes, don't we?

Monday, October 25, 2010

And the winner is.....

I am sorry to have kept half the world out of sleep with this mighty cliffhanger, but I am now very close to revealing the winner of the mouthpiece that won the headpouch. I had a terrific concert with the Guus Tangelder Bigband featuring Jasper van 't Hof on piano, who is really amazing, check this guy!, and I played the 8.5C Curry and the flugelpiece with the same rim. And they made it to the headpouch!!!!!!!!!!!! Yes, I am officially playing the Curry 8.5 now. It still needs some finetuning, but the sound is bigger and more open, and endurance is good now. It is easier to keep open for a whole concert than the smaller 10.5, which tends to go out of control when the lips swell a bit from playing. The only thing I want now is the 8.5TC to make the set complete. I simply love the feel and sound of the TC, and don't want to give that up.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Will the 8.5 make it to the headpouch?

Tomorrow is an exciting day! Will the Curry 8.5 make it to the headpouch? In other words, will it be my main mouthpiece or not? If not I will put my 10.5 back in the pouch, and that'll be the end of the experiment.
I have to play a bigband gig tomorrow, and that is always a good testcase for new mouthpieces. If I can make it through the gig in one piece without loosing teeth or blood spreading all over the place, then it could be the mouthpiece I need to become the best trumpet player in the world. If, however my teeth start rattling and my eyes fall out of their sockets within two sets of bigband playing, then it just isn't meant to be.
I will report tomorrow (if I am not looking for lost teeth and bits of lip).

What a cliffhanger! Tomorrow we will all know!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

rest-home for brass

A former student of mine, Han Savelkoel, has a beautiful site with pictures and info of Dutch and Belgian brass instruments, plus some oddities. Once in a while I visit this site and I can really feel and smell these dear, old horns. I started on a Schenkelaars flugelhorn when I was 8 years old, exactly the same horn that Han has a picture of.

A sentimental yourney for me and maybe other brass players, too. I know that he is always looking for new stuff and tips and information about the horns on his site, so take a peak and enjoy.

What is also very nice, is that in maybe hundred years ago, Holland and Belgium had a fine and acknowledged brass instrument builders culture. The last one-First Brass-closed not so long ago, but there is fresh blood, and he is getting famous very quickly: Hub van Laar. He continues the tradition that once was.