Artist Interview: Gabriel “The Gun”
Gabriel The Gun, musician and member of Grammy Award winning group No Doubt, playing with them until 1992, is a Cuban-American trumpeter, Latin percussionist, producer and arranger. He is also a lesson teacher in Music & Arts’ Rancho Cucamonga location. We chatted with him about his musical history and instrument step-ups.
What was your first introduction to music?
Being born to a large Cuban family, music was a very important part of our life. Old school Cuban music was always in the air. We would have huge get togethers where there was cooking, dancing and late night marathon domino games going on. The sound of Cuban music was always in the background. So early on, I was banging out rhythms on pots and pans.
How did you decide upon the trumpet?
I was ten years old, it was a steamy late night in Miami. There was a Salsa gig going down and there I stood at the foot of the stage looking up at this blazing trumpet player. This dude was wailing. I thought to myself, “Wow, I want to do that one day.” So, when I was in the 7th grade, I got into band. The music teacher at the time insisted that I play the euphonium, but I wasn’t having it. I told him it was the trumpet or nothing at all! So began my life long adventure as a trumpet player.
How did you know when it was time to step-up your trumpet to an advanced model?
By the time I entered high school, I knew that I was committed to the trumpet. I knew that it was something that I wanted to do for the rest of my life. My mother, seeing my dedication, bought me a professional trumpet, and I was off to the races! I was on that thing day and night.
The right mouthpiece is a critical accessory. How do you choose your mouthpiece ?
No matter what trumpet you are playing on, if the mouthpiece is not right for you, then the playability and tonality of the horn you are on will suffer. Trying several sizes and brands is crucial. The mouthpiece must be the right size. You must ask yourself, “What do I want to achieve as a trumpet player? Do I want to pursue Jazz, be a blazing lead player, or be a Classical player?” These things matter when choosing a mouthpiece. When choosing a mouthpiece consider: the outer and inner diameter of the rim, cup depth and shape, the throat size and backbore of a mouthpiece. All of these options determine the sound. Choosing the best one for you may take time, but when you find the right one, magic will happen!
Are there other accessories that can give students an advantage? Mutes, cleaning supplies, lubricant, bags/cases, etc?
Trumpet players are well known for having a mountain of gear and accessories. Get ready to make room for all your musical stuff, because it’s coming! As you grow musically, you will be called upon to have mutes, and even a flugelhorn, depending on what it is you are playing. Mutes and flugelhorns change the tone and sound of music by adding color or textures to the overall sound. You will want to get a super hip gig bag or two so you can carry all your gear in style. Valve oils and cleaning supplies are a must. So go get cracking, and clean that axe of yours!
What advice can you offer to help students pick their next dream instrument?
So much goes into picking the right horn. There are many determining factors involved. The best way to choose is to just play as many as you can. Music & Arts has a huge selection of trumpets and mouthpieces. Take your time and wail on everything they’ve got! Don’t pick a horn based on what somebody else plays. What works for them, may not work for you. So try everything and take your time choosing. This trumpet and mouthpiece is going to be with you for a while! I have been playing professionally for 30 years and in all my years as a pro, I have learned this: go for quality over price. Scrimping on your gear and trumpet might seem the right choice in the beginning. If you know you are serious about pursuing your own musical endeavors as a pro one day, go for quality over price. You’ll be much happier in the long run for doing so, trust me.
What gear are you currently playing on?
I play daCarbo carbon fiber trumpets out of Switzerland, Bob Reeves mouthpieces out of California. My studio gear is from the Harman Kardon family (JBL, Lexicon, Soundcraft, AKG & DigiTech). I also use Reunion Blues gig bags, Hercules Stands, On Stage Stands and Shure Microphones.
As somebody who has always pushed the envelope and created groundbreaking music, I always wanted to cross genres and take music to new heights. I do that in all that I do, from the music I produce, to the gear that I use. It must be groundbreaking, innovative, and push the limits of technology. When it comes to my gear… IT MUST BE THE BEST!
You are credited as a major player in the ska-punk scene, working with No Doubt, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Sublime. What are some tips you can offer students who want a career in music?
Excellence and mastery belong to an exclusive club, and to be part of it, you must pay dues. If you are willing to pay its price, it will be the most rewarding achievement of your life. To make a living playing music is one thing. Doing what you love, is a dream come true. There is nothing in the world hipper than that! Leaving a lifelong impression on people with your music, putting a smile on their face, or a bounce in their walk is what it’s all about!
Last but not least, be committed, dedicated and never give up!
Ready to Upgrade Your Sound?
This largest band event is coming to a city near you! The Horns-of-Plenty, sponsored by Music & Arts, has the widest assortment of intermediate and professional instruments in one place, and only comes by once a year. Learn more about Upgrade Your Sound now!