Trumpet Players Directory

Bobby Shew - Famous Jazz Trumpet Player

Famous Jazz Trumpet Player Bobby Shew

Bobby Shew - Famous Trumpet Player

Famous Trumpet Player Bobby Shew - Behind the Scenes

Bobby Shew Wedge Breathing Demonstration

Famous Jazz Trumpet Player Bobby Shew was born and grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico. At an early age, famous trumpet player Bobby Shew began trying to play his step-dads $39.00 Montgomery Ward Trumpet that was stored in the family closet. Bobby would play the trumpet when his parents were away making the sitter promise not to tell. Harry James "James Session" was one of the few jazz albums in Bobby's mother's album collection. After a short six month stint on the guitar, Bobby took up the trumpet at the age of ten as he was transferring to Public School from Parochial School. Bobby's one and only private trumpet instruction was his one session with his step-dad who actually knew very little about playing. Bobby recalls, "He was the perfect teacher as he didn't know anything. He told me to pretend that I had something on the tip of my tongue and to spit it out. He taught me how to buzz. I followed his instructions but nothing much came out of the horn until he told me to drop my jaw." Bobby's step-dad went on to teach him how to finger a C scale and that one session was the extent of Bobby's trumpet instruction. Within 48 hours of his first beginning band rehearsal, Bobby was seated second chair in the Advanced Band. Within three months, Bobby challenged for first chair and was then seated first chair.

Bobby had a natural feel for the trumpet as well as an excellent ear and good musical memory from the beginning. When Bobby was twelve years old he had already began learning to improvise on the trumpet and was making money playing in a local dance band. Bobby practiced his band music from school and began playing trumpet solos such as "Hora Staccato" and "Zigeunerweisen" after hearing Raphael Mendez at an All-State Music Conference. Bobby continued to practice his trumpet playing more by ear and listening than by using written parts or trumpet method books. By the time Bobby was fourteen, he was a member of the local musician's union. At fifteen, and still in high school, Bobby had a steady six night per week job from 9p.m. until 1a.m. at The Sunset Inn with a five piece jazz combo. Bobby would get to bed at around 2:30a.m. and get up for school at 7:00a.m. Bobby would take a nap in the afternoon and do his homework on the gig! While a Senior in high school, Bobby bought himself an Olds Ambassador Comet. His favorite players early on were Don Fagerquist, Chet Baker, Art Farmer (his favorite Flugelhorn player), Shorty Rogers, Kenny Dorham and Conte Candoli. Later on, Bobby listened to Donald Byrd, Dizzy Gillespie, Bill Hardman, Lee Morgan, Blue Mitchell and Clifford Brown.

After high school, Bobby went to the first Stan Kenton Clinic at Indiana University and then spent the rest of that summer after graduation in New York visiting the jazz clubs around the town. In 1960, this schedule essentially repeated itself. Then, in 1961, Bobby received his draft notice. Luckily, Bobby met a friend Ben Jaramillo in the local music store who played tenor in the NORAD (North American Air Defense Command) band that was playing at the Officer's Club at the Kirkland Air Force Base. Bobby was told that the band would be holding auditions that night for an opening in the trumpet section. Bobby sat in on the last set, sight read a couple of charts and took a couple of solos. After the gig, the Colonel typed up orders essentially guaranteeing Bobby a seat in the band after Bobby finished his basic training. Bobby went ahead and enlisted for three years.

The NORAD Band would come into Radio Recorders Studio in Los Angeles three or four times per year to tape music for Armed Forces Radio Broadcast. While there, Bobby would have a blast visiting Shelley's Mane-Hole, Calicchio's or Purviance's. The NORAD Band played mostly at military bases; however, they also performed at the New York and Seattle World's Fairs and various park concerts all over the country. It was a good musical experience.

Bobby Shew left the NORAD Band two and a half months early to take a gig with the Tommy Dorsey Band under the direction of Sam Donahue. Soon after, Bobby received a call from Bill Chase asking him to join Woody Herman and The Thundering Herd. Phil Wilson had recommended Bobby for the job. It was the great 1965 band with Sal Nistico, Don Rader, Chase, Dusko Goykovich and Jake Hanna. Bobby then received an offer to play lead trumpet in a sextet backing Della Reese in Las Vegas and Lake Tahoe for a lot more money. Bobby met his wife Lisa who was dancing in one of the shows and they got married. A tour with Benny Goodman was followed by a tour with Maynard Ferguson and then Bobby was back with Della Reese. In early 1966, Bobby got a call from Buddy Rich and joined the Buddy Rich Big Band in the jazz chair. Bobby began to incur some serious chop problems after Buddy moved him into the Lead chair during rehearsals. At the time, Bobby was playing a Benge with a Giardinelli #2 mouthpiece and he just did not know how to play the Lead chair. In September of 1966, as the band recorded "Live At The Chez" ... Bobby approached Calicchio and asked them to make him a trumpet that he could play loud lead parts on. Calicchio made one with a extra large bell; however, Bobby soon got a split lip and double hernia requiring an operation and some time off. After an eleven week recovery, Bobby began playing at The Dunes and Vegas shows in other casinos. Bobby recalls, "Playing Vegas is a tough gig. Two one and a half to two hour shows a night; six and sometimes seven nights a week. You play hard and almost continuously. The gig is ALL! It really stunted my growth as a player and stifled my spirit."

Soon, Bobby was on the road again this time with Robert Goulet who Bobby recalls as a good financially rewarding boss. Back in Vegas after this tour, Bobby got a call from Tom Jones to play lead with his band. The Tom Jones gig paid really well. In 1972, Bobby worked with Paul Anka; however, he was beginning to get fed up with the whole "Vegas routine" and with the Don Adams Show just reached his saturation point. Bobby talked things over with Lisa and gave his notice between shows. In September of 1972, Bobby and Lisa made the move to Los Angeles.

After a couple of weeks of just hanging around, Bobby dropped into Donte's to catch the Louie Bellson Big Band. Bobby knew the entire trumpet section and when Chuck Findley found out that Bobby was in town and looking for work he said, "what are you doing tomorrow?" Bobby got busy very quickly and within a month was a regular member of the Bellson Big Band. One thing led to another and Bobby even began playing in the various studios. The business got more and more competitive and Bobby continued to practice to be a better player; however, he soon found his inner fire smothering once again.

At this point in his career, Bobby began doing clinics. Because of his wide experience in many areas of the music business, Bobby began to get a lot of calls for clinics and guest appearances with college bands. Bobby enjoyed getting out and playing in front of live audiences. One night in 1982, Bobby heard Sal Nestico at Carmelo's and was so inspired that he decided to leave the studio scene for good. Bobby began doing more clubs and clinics. Bobby has recorded with The Capp-Pierce Juggernaut; The Toshiko Akiyoshi - Lew Tabackin Big Band; The Louie Bellson Big Band; The Woody Herman Thundering Herd and The Buddy Rich Big Band. He has worked with Art Pepper; Frank Strazzeri, Frank Rosolino, Sam Most, Dave Pell, Bud Shank and Horace Silver.

Trumpet Player Bobby Shew wants kids to fall in love with music and to support live music. Bobby had to learn his trade by trying to solve his own problems and thinking. Bobby as well as his revered student, Roger Ingram, both state that there is no "one way to play" as some would have us believe. Students should learn to work things out for themselves. In private lessons, Bobby basically trouble shoots almost every student coming to him. He addresses their warm up; their air support and compression levels; their aperture control; and selection of a sensible mouthpiece which might (and usually does) include playing on more than one mouthpiece. A most important goal is to encourage and enable each student to become their on trouble-shooter / teacher. Bobby states, "every good trumpet player has become good primarily because of their on efforts to think through the problems that they encounter." Bobby states that "aperture control" is the most commonly misunderstood fundamental. If the aperture is opened up by dropping the jaw and separating the lips the sound will open up. The trumpet player needs to learn to "calibrate" this opening to fill their needs.

Bobby Shew's Trumpet Gear

Bobby plays on the Yamaha YTR 8310Z Bobby Shew Custom Series Professional Model Bb Trumpet and the Yamaha 8310Z Bobby Shew Custom Series Professional Model Flugelhorn both of which he helped Yamaha Winds design. Bobby also uses trumpet and flugelhorn mouthpieces of his own design made by Marcinkiewicz including the Shew 1, Shew 1.25, Shew 1.5 and Shew 2 and Yamaha Bobby Shew Model Flugelhorn Mouthpiece. (NOTE: I use the Marcinkiewicz Shew 1; Dave Monette's Prana version the BL2 S3 as well as the Yamaha Shew Flugelhorn Mouthpiece.)

Today, in addition to a busy performing and private teaching schedule, Bobby spends a considerable amount of time actively involved in the educational system, conducting trumpet clinics and master classes at high schools and colleges all over the world. Bobby has been active on the Board of Directors of the International Trumpet Guild, and has acted as National Trumpet Chairman for the International Association of Jazz Educators for many years. Bobby also enjoys reading great books.

Bobby Shew Trumpet Clinic Articles:

Bobby Shew's Advice On High Range For The Trumpet

*** NOTE: Thank you to Trumpet Player Augie Haas for permission to use the following information. ***

  • QUESTION - What equipment do you use for upper register playing and why?

    Of course, I use the Bobby Shew Model YAMAHA 8310Z that I helped design along with Bob Malone of Yamaha. This is a medium bore instrument that is designed for maximum efficiency for my personal needs and for my particular way of playing. I previously played large bore instruments because I had senselessly bought into the old rumor or consideration that one needed to play large equipment if one wanted a big sound and ease of playing. Of course, anyone with any knowledge would now know that this is not true. I found that by reducing the demands of the instrument to activate the scientific principles necessary to make it play, the process became less demanding and therefore efficient. As for mouthpieces, certainly an essential and perhaps even MORE important part of the equipment question, I believe in using "the right tool for the job." The scientific principles in mouthpiece design have to do with controlling the air velocity primarily. A deep mouthpiece would cause an energy loss as the air leaves from the vibrating lips which in turn, decreases the velocity. A shallower piece will lessen the energy loss and help maintain air speed. Acoustically speaking, the larger, deeper cup will "open and possibly darken" the sound whereas the shallower cup will tend to add brightness to the sound. There are other factors as well but this is basic to the equipment choices.

  • QUESTION - What is the effect of the proper equipment on upper register?

    A lot of this is answered above in response (a) but simply put, what is required to play the upper register is fast moving air (velocity). The higher the note, the faster the air. The velocity increments are minute and often difficult to discern at the extreme upper register because the degrees of velocity change are minimal from note to note as compared to the lower register.

  • QUESTION - How does a player go about finding optimal equipment?

    One area that is so overlooked in pedagogy is teaching and/or learning HOW to test equipment properly ( read sensibly ). Of course, each individuals' role in life as a player will differ greatly especially as one matures so the method of testing will become much more personalized and specific. Trying to write a book chapter on this subject has been difficult because of these variables. I would say that there must be fundamentals that under lie the test process in order to make it a valid experience. Of course, a sensible warm-up especially one that does not overtax the players "chops" but does enable the player to be able to move around his comfort zones with reasonable ease. The first item would be to use common denominators. That means to select or create a particular sequence based upon the players skill level, and his goal(s) in doing the search. This could be as simple as using a chromatic or diatonic scale that does not exceed one's comfortable range. As an example, on your regular mouthpiece, play a diatonic scale from low C to high C, sustaining the top note for 3 or 4 seconds only but long enough to measure your effort level and your sound. I suggest doing it at least 3 times in succession, trying to do it the same each time. Then switch to another horn or mouthpiece ( one or the other, depending upon which one you are looking for ). Do exactly the same scale again, maybe at least 3 times to make the same measurements. You might be able to tell on the first attempt whether or not the change made things easier or more difficult and / or whether or not it improved your sound or made it less desirable. If you are trying several horns or several mouthpieces, set aside any that make things worse and delete them from the test. If you are testing several items, it might be a good idea to makes notes on paper as you go, but DON'T get hung up on this. Use your ears and your feelings. Sometimes it helps a great deal to close your eyes while doing the test to internalize and heighten the inner sensations. After awhile, you can increase the test process by adding on a note or two at the top to see where things separate into "yes and no". I would not suggest playing your favorite ego-gratifying licks, favorite etudes or tunes, and especially not trying to rip up to the extreme high register ala Maynard. Keeping your ego (self-importance) out of the entire process ( and your life ) will prevent you from ruining the test experience.

  • QUESTION - In your opinion, approximately what percentage of high note playing is mental vs. physical?

    The mind is senior to the body. There is another possible concept here as well. That is "spirit." Not everyone agrees on the existence of this (especially closed-minded psychologists and psychiatrists) but as an option, look at spirit-mind-body, from the top importance down. If you don't want to think of anything spiritually, then just go with mental / physical. Anyway, your body and its kinesthetic memories are being dictated to your body in the form of muscle, skeletal, and neurological responses. These dictates come from either the conscious or sub-conscious mind, often referred to as the subliminal mind. A negative thought in your mind can wreak havoc on the kinesthetic responses and cause disruptions in your natural ways of playing. Performance fears are essentially ( in my opinion ) caused by the ego ( self-importance ) becoming a part of the action. Therefore your body cannot function at its best as long as anything from the mind over-rides it. This has been known to cause players to increase mouthpiece pressure, over blow the desired velocity, pinch their aperture too tight, etc., all of which destroy your hopes of playing well and efficiently.

  • QUESTION - Is upper register playing a learned trait or is it based on natural ability?

    It is strictly a learned ability but there are cases of people who have learned to play in a non-conventional, teacher-less way who give observers the idea that they are just "natural." Of course, there are many variables in "genetic gifts," things that are referred to as talent. I myself did not have lessons as a kid. I did attempt to get a couple of lessons from a local player who disliked jazz first of all, and who did not have good teaching skills or a clear understanding of principles about playing. I stayed away from him, nice man that he was. When a young player gains a special attraction to a player such as Maynard Ferguson, a frequent icon in this situation, the young player keeps the sound of his icon "in his head" ( mind & spirit ) and when practicing, tries everything he can think of to try to emulate and learn to gain the abilities of said icon. In the case of "gifts", some players really learn to play similarly or at least "on the path" without ever understanding the principles of HOW or WHY they are able to do what they do. This is OK except for those times when something occurs that creates a situation where the "chops" don't want to work. The lack of understanding prevents resolution to the problem and then panic sets in, fear surfaces, the mind interacts and you're in trouble ! I am a great supporter of the self-teaching concept but in coincidence with highly principled guidance based upon fact rather than opinion. I think that students who are strictly book learners have less of a chance of success of attaining high levels of musicianship than those who develop from the "inside." The variables here, though, are tremendous from person to person.

  • QUESTION - What is your philosophy on breathing concerning the upper register?

    As you may know, I have for many years become associated with the teaching of the Yoga Complete Breath which was introduced to me by Maynard Ferguson in a book by Yogi Ramacharaka. It was Bud Brisbois, however, who knew how to show me how it worked and he is responsible for "teaching" it to me. Aside from this method or any other ideas on breathing, one's ability to use an efficient method of breathing is of extreme importance. A simple explanation as to what makes a wind instrument work is that we take in air, compress it to varying degrees, and then send it outward thru either vibrating lips or a reed on a mouthpiece at the desired ( learned, hopefully ) velocity for the desired note and the desired dynamic. Whatever method of breathing a person has been taught and more importantly, chosen to use, it cannot be taken lightly.

  • QUESTION - How does air compression effect upper register playing?

    I think this is answered above. I do not know of any way of playing the upper register without compressed air, even the tiniest squeek.

  • QUESTION - Should a player be able to execute upper register playing both with and without compressed air?

    Even without a big breath, if you merely squeeze your facial muscles together and squirt a note through a tiny aperture, your are still compressing. If anyone can demonstrate this to me without any compression, I'm an eager learner and would welcome this entry into a world without science.

  • QUESTION - How and what do you practice to be able to play consistently in the upper register?

    As for practicing in the upper register, I believe gradients are necessary for learning ANYTHING. Thru my time with Bud Brisbois, he showed me that doing glissandos thru the partials and clicking on each slot as I ascended, enabled me to get a feeling of ascending without over-blowing. As I became more familiar with it, I was able to change my aperture and therefore the dynamics. This resulted in my pretty quickly being able to ascend all the way to Double C without exaggerated pressure and pinching in the lip area. I still use it as a primary means of keeping my chops in shape without having to do excessive practice regimens. I also like to extend this routine by playing melodies in the upper register to work on the aspect of dealing with interval adjustments. I prefer to do them on the mouthpiece first and then transfer them to the horn.

  • QUESTION - Please provide any additional comments you feel would be helpful in advancing the knowledge of upper register playing?

    A fantastic quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson: "As to methods, there may be a million and then some, but principles are few. The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods. The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble." One cannot eliminate the principles (facts/science ) of wind instrument playing and still expect to attain any decent level of skill and understanding. The age-old methodologies beg for re-assessment in our current day of extremely high technology and access to a clearer understanding of scientific principles.

To contact Bobby Shew for SKYPE trumpet lessons online
... you can visit Bobby's website at

Bobby Shew's Trumpet Method Book


Trumpet Player Bobby Shew's Discography

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