Funk and R&B Trumpet Playing with Farnell Newton

How does funk and R&B trumpet playing differ from the rest? Anything specific you practice for this sound?

Farnell Newton: I always have my Caruso book, my Flexus book by Laurie Frink and John McNeil (which is still based on the Caruso Method), I keep up with my Clarke studies, and of course, LONG TONES! I may be home for two or three weeks and I might not have time to touch the horn as much, so I usually do these exercises to get my chops back in shape prior to going back on the road.

As far as the styles go, when I play R&B, it tends to be more related to jazz and a lot more laid back. While with funk, you have to be more on top of the beat with a lot of the more powerful and articulated horn lines. It’s all about having these different things under your fingers; you have to have your straight ahead jazz together to be able to go on a funk, R&B, or even salsa gig. It’s all different but it requires a lot of listening and studying.


Do you have any specific exercises you do before playing a show that make you performance ready?

FN: Usually I don’t, it’s about getting in the mind set of whatever music I am about to play. If it’s funk or Latin music, I’ll listen to that music just to get myself in the right mindset so I can bring the right feeling. While it may be nice to have a consistent warmup, it’s extremely difficult because the gig’s different every time. I might be rushed on time so I can’t do the same routine before the show, but for me, it really comes back to getting into the right mind frame.

Any advice for younger trumpet players trying to ‘find their voice’?

FN: My whole thing is always learn and listen. I’m a big advocate of hearing live music and finding the elders of that music, finding the history, and getting the nuances of the music. You really have to dive in and learn about the culture of the music by always being a student of the music. Try to listen and learn as much as you possibly can.


You’ve been the first call trumpet player for numerous funk and R&B acts including Bootsy Collins, Jill Scott, and Lettuce; how did you establish yourself as such?

FN: I just try to keep a good rapport with people. Of course, being able to play your horn is essential but also, just keeping a positive relationship with everyone is equally important. The thing about Lettuce is that I only play with them once in a while, the relationship started roughly a year ago. However, I knew some of them for a long time prior to that and I tried to keep a good rapport with them.

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