Interview with world renown trumpet teacher Clint 'Pops' McLaughlin.

by C.R. Jones

Reprinted by permission.


Trumpet website of Clint 'Pops' McLaughlin

What got you interested in the trumpet?
Well when I was growing up the Tonight Show was all that was on TV after the news. I got to see Doc and the band every night in the summer time. They were exciting and Doc was a showman. I also heard Al Hirt and Herb Alpert on the radio all of the time. They sounded like they were having lots of fun.

What was your first trumpet?
We were not very well off but my mom knew I wanted a trumpet. We saw a Pan American at a yard sale and she bought it for me.

How did you learn to play?
There was an old retired couple that lived about 5 blocks away from us. He taught music for free to the kids in the neighborhood. Teaching kids helped him and his wife keep from being lonely. It was a huge stroke of luck for me because Arthur Ford was a student of H.L. Clarke. He started me buzzing loosely and mouthpiece buzzing...
In fact I started in the summer before 9th grade and I was second chair on the first tryout. I did better later. LOL

Somewhere I heard that you studied all of the embouchures. Is that true?
Yes. I got braces in High School and had to relearn to play. I learned the Stevens from David Wright who had taken over 200 lessons with Roy Stevens in NYC.
I learned the Stevens so I could play with braces and nor cut the lips so badly. Less pressure, lip curl...
After the braces came off I wanted a fatter sound. The Stevens gave me a sound that was much smaller than the buzzing embouchure was.
Jack Smith taught me the Maggio Embouchure and it had more resonance but it wasn't really focused.
I had been trying to get in to take lessons with Don 'Jake' Jacoby and he had a waiting list. I was visiting my old teacher Mr. Ford one day and told him that. Mr. Ford excused himself for a minute. He came back in a few minutes with an address and told me my lesson with Don Jacoby was at 9 am on Saturday. Mr. Ford proceeded to tell me stories of a young Don Jacoby still in the E.S. Williams school. He said that they used to watch young Don Jacoby play the Clarke solos with the Sousa band in Central Park in the summer.
Jake blended the Maggio I used with my old buzzing embouchure to focus my resonant sound.
After I left school I learned the Superchops and then TCE because I was teaching and I wanted to know everything that I could learn.

I read somewhere that you took lessons on teaching as well as playing from Don Jacoby. I that true?
I was taking trumpet lessons from "Jake". I played around town, in bands at school... I finally did a real world tour. I loved the groupies and the fact women threw themselves at the band. I hated the bus and I hated the drug buys that other band members would do. You never knew when a dealer would show up or if cops would show up. Those fools had the ability to get all of us in serious trouble.

I talked to some old-timers who said that would be a constant issue. I decided that I liked the stability of teaching more than touring to play.

So after I told "Jake" that I wanted to teach more than play, he let me sit in from time to time and he started to explain things in more detail. Not just so I could do it but so that I would know when to teach it or when to do something else.

What if a famous band wanted you?
I was asked to audition for Maynard's band. It was in the middle of a semester and I would have gotten a bunch of WF grades because of how late in the semester it was. I couldn't do that to my GPA. Plus I really couldn't live on the 250 a week the job paid way back in the day.

Why the internet?
Locally a teacher can reach hundreds of people but online you can reach hundreds of thousands of students.
At first it was my books, forum posts, emails and people coming for in person lessons. It wasn't until after 10 years online that I started doing lessons on the internet. I did lots of tests with my students to get used to how things look and sound.

And now how are online lessons?
Well I do them all of the time. Some people live in places where they do online lessons or never take a lesson. But it is really much better than people think. Some of my long time in person students are online students now and they love it. They say I catch their problems and they get more done because they can take lessons more often.

So what else is going on?
Well, I got interested in relationships and relationship counseling about 10 years ago. I took courses and did seminars and took things online too. I have written several relationship books and have worked with many people as well. It is rewarding to fix a broken embouchure but fixing a broken family is a much bigger thing and the rewards to them and to me are huge.
It even has spilled into my teaching because so many people follow what I do that they know I do counseling and they ask during lessons for relationship help.
I want to branch out and do some more help with people in their spiritual well being too. I took courses and was Ordained about 15 years ago but Trumpet and Real Life and Relationship Counseling kind of fill up my time.

That seems like an odd combination.
Not at all. Relationships with people are better when we have a good relationship with God. The two things, marriage counseling and being Ordained go hand in hand.

OK I saw a karate book that you wrote. How did that come about?
I started taking martial arts when I was 10. One of my uncles served in the war in Vietnam. When he got back he wanted to keep practicing karate. He didn't have any kids so he took me twice a week. I liked it so much that I added Judo twice a week. Through Jr High, High School, College and the first 15 years out of College I did martial arts classes in several different arts. For a long time I was going 6 days a week.

I became a Black Belt and an instructor. I had a small school and I taught weekends at a huge regional training center. They had 1500 students and over 150 Black Belts there. I taught the Red and Black Belt Advanced Classes and the Street fighting class every weekend.

Historically part of advancing is to advance the art in some way. I wrote a self defense book almost 30 years ago as part of that advancement. I redid it as an ebook about 8 years ago.

Back to trumpet. How many books have you written and are you through yet?
I have written books on embouchure, books with only music as practice material, books which are mainly links to videos that are hosted on another website and server. All together I have over 20 trumpet books. I am writing more. I am doing a step by step range test and weekly range extension book. It holds your hand as you work on things.
The more I write the better I get at explaining things and everyone benefits.

I heard that you do lots of experiments with students. What do you experiment on?
First you should know that I only experiment with volunteers. They get REAL lessons (not experiments) to pay for their time involvement in the experiments.

I have done experiments with teaching different embouchures in different and sometimes unconventional ways.

I did experiments with players showing how changing mouthpiece depth alters the sound and again with changing diameter, adding tone boosters... This one turned into a video Ebook on mouthpieces.

I did experiments with how tension affects resonance and volume in maintaining an even scale. I repeated after teaching tongue arch to see the difference that arch made.

I did experiments with the "Aperture Tunnel" (TM) which is a phrase I coined about 25 years ago to describe the front to back action of the lip vibration. I also used Spectral Analysis charts of the players sound as we varied the depth of the "Aperture Tunnel".

I did a thermal video study on players so we could see what muscles were used and how strongly they engaged as different notes wee played. This was the first time a video study was ever done and the first time the thermal camera was used on people while they were playing. The other study took pictures before and after playing but in mine you saw the instant change in heat from muscle use.

I did a study with using lots of different methods to teach players how to relax and what things worked the fastest.

Those last two studies lead to the Tensionless Playing Video Ebook. It is very popular and gets talked about a lot.

What kind of trumpet do you play?
I play a Flip Oakes Wild Thing Trumpet for most things. I would say in my case 95% of the time. I play an Adams A-7 for when I am in a very small room; which is why you see it sometimes in videos from my office. I play Mark Curry mouthpieces in the .680 size with a bored out throat to 22.

I hear that you are in a comeback. Tell me about that.
I was born with a couple of heart defects. I have had serious angina pains my whole life but since I have had them from birth, I thought they were normal. I thought everyone had them.

I had a really big event with pain, shortness of breath... and we rushed to the ER. They diagnosed me with Heart Failure and after a heart cath they saw the 2 defects. They said I shouldn't have lived through childhood. I was given a short time to live and told to stop doing things that caused an increase in my angina. Playing always caused angina so I had to stop playing.

Well 20 years later and open heart surgery and 3 different types of rehab... I can play without increasing the level of angina I experience. I have to stay low (for me) and stop at F above High C but if I don't play any higher than that I don't get any angina.

So I started playing again. I still teach, write, do counseling... and so I don't have lots of time to practice but I try to play 20 or so pages of music or exercises every day. That is about 1/3 of what I did in College so it will take a while to get my skills back up to my standards.

Tell me about your typical student.
I don't have a typical student. I give lessons to comeback players, college students, jazz pros, symphony pros, I have have given lessons to people in symphonies in NY, London, Hong Kong, help someone who got a job in The LA Phil. I have had students on dozens of TV shows and play in countless movie sound tracks.

When I open my email or answer the phone, I never know who it will be. I have answered the phone and trumpet legends were on the other end like: Herb Alpert, Jon Faddis. I have had guys from Tower of Power call. I have had screaming pros at my house, Andrea Tofanelli is one of them. Life is a wild TRIP.

So I don't have a typical student. I get lots of people who others turn away and give up on. I have some with Dystonia, Bells Palsy. I have helped some of those who other teachers gave up on, to achieve things they didn't think possible. Several are playing full time, a couple are playing in the service, some were able to finish advanced degrees and teach.

Anyway that's about all I have time for today. I have a lesson to give in a few minutes.

Thanks for the interview.
You are completely welcome. Can I host a copy of this interview on one of my sites?

Feel free to use a copy.
Thank you.