David Mason (trumpet player)

For other people named David Mason, see David Mason (disambiguation).

David Mason (2 April 1926 29 April 2011[1][2]) was an English orchestral, solo and session trumpet player. He played the flugelhorn for the premiere of Ralph Vaughan Williams's ninth symphony and the piccolo trumpet solo on The Beatles' song "Penny Lane".[2][3][4]


Mason was born in London,[1] and educated at Christ's Hospital and the Royal College of Music where he studied with Ernest Hall. His early playing career benefited from the timing of the Second World War: as a sixteen-year-old he was ineligible for call-up where many older players had already been recruited, and was thus able to pick up a lot of work in London before and during his time as a student at the Royal College of Music, which was itself interrupted by his own call-up into the Band of the Scots Guards. Before call-up he was the youngest member of the then National Symphony Orchestra.

After leaving the Royal College of Music, Mason became a member of the orchestra of the Royal Opera House, moving on later to the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra where he eventually became principal trumpet. After seven years in that role he moved to the Philharmonia, where he remained for most of the rest of his orchestral career. He was a professor of trumpet at the Royal College of Music for thirty years and thus taught many of the trumpet players who now make up the core of the profession in the UK.[5]

The Royal College of Music has awarded a David Mason Prize for Orchestral Trumpet Playing.

Mason was the flugelhorn soloist for the world premiere of Ralph Vaughan Williams's Symphony No. 9 on 2 April 1958. The novelty of the flugelhorn (often seen as a jazz or brass band instrument) being used in such a significant mainstream classical work attracted much press comment at the time, perhaps to the detriment of the symphony's overall coverage and consideration.[5]

Penny Lane

Main article: Penny Lane

On 17 January 1967 at Abbey Road Studios Mason recorded the piccolo trumpet solo which is a prominent part of The Beatles' song "Penny Lane".[6] The solo, inspired by Mason's performance of Bach's 2nd Brandenburg Concerto with the English Chamber Orchestra,[7] is in a mock-Baroque style for which the piccolo trumpet is particularly suited, having a clean and clear sound which penetrates well through thicker midrange textures.[8]

Mason recorded the solo using a piccolo trumpet in A (this uses a slightly longer leadpipe than the piccolo trumpet in B-flat, which itself is an octave higher than a standard B-flat trumpet).[9] Although such piccolo trumpet solos became almost commonplace in some types of pop, this was seen as innovative at the time and was among the first such uses: George Martin later wrote, "The result was unique, something which had never been done in rock music before".[10]

Mason also contributed to several other Beatles songs, including "A Day in the Life", "Magical Mystery Tour", "All You Need Is Love" and "It's All Too Much".[3]


Mason died of leukaemia in April 2011, at the age of 85.[2]


  1. 1 2 Thedeadrockstarsclub.com - accessed May 2011
  2. 1 2 3 "David Mason: A trumpet icon has died". Retrieved 5 May 2011.
  3. 1 2 "David Mason". London: Daily Telegraph. 11 May 2011. Retrieved 9 July 2011.
  4. Millington, Barry (8 June 2011). "David Mason obituary". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 9 July 2011.
  5. 1 2 "David Mason" by Anne McAneney in The Brass Herald, p. 38, Issue 18, May–July 2007, ISSN 1746-1472
  6. The Rough Guide to the Beatles, page 245, Chris Ingham, Rough Guides, 2003, ISBN 1-84353-140-2
  7. The Beatles: A Diary, page 228, Barry Miles, Chris Charlesworth, Omnibus Press, 1998, ISBN 0-7119-6315-0
  8. The Trumpet, p. 120, Crispian Steele-Perkins, Menuhin Music Guides, Kahn & Averill, London, 2001, ISBN 1-871082-69-2
  9. Which kind of piccolo trumpet was used
  10. All You Need Is Ears, p. 201, George Martin, St Martin's Press, New York, 1979. ISBN 0-312-11482-6.

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