Endurance and high pitch exercises for the trumpet

Introduction: ...how can I practice most efficiently?

The highest register seems to be the main concern of many a trumpet player. Mention the "high notes", and chances are that other musicians, including trumpet players, will tell you that "a beautiful sound is much more important", "trumpet players only want to show off" etc. That may be so, but the trumpet is the highest brass instrument, and a "beautiful sound" is not carved in stone. Besides, some musicians may just be able to produce beautiful high (and lower) notes... Also, society is all about competition, about going higher, faster, further. And being able to play high notes doesn’t necessarily mean that I can play a C4 or higher. To me, it rather means: "I need to be able to play the notes that appear on my score to avoid embarrassing my fellow musicians."

I’m not thinking in terms of specific notes, by the way. I’m much more concerned about what I need to do to ensure that I don’t need to be scared"”even at the end of the actual performance"”that I won’t be able to hit those high notes in the demanding encore.

One should not underestimate the comfort of being able to begin a performance without having to hope that everything will be alright. All brass players, whether pros or amateurs, can do something about that fear. Granted, musicians who don’t play their instrument for a living need to be able to use their spare time sparingly if they are serious about practicing. This calls for <u>efficient strategies, i.e. exercises likely to have maximum impact on one’s progress</u>, plus one needs to know which aspects of one’s playing are up for maintenance or an overhaul. Knowing how playing a brass instrument works certainly helps. Allow me therefore to provide a brief outline (a longer explanation is beyond the scope of this workshop). Embouchure, breathing and tongue are the three pillars that need to work equally well for a rewarding brass experience. Let’s have a quick look at these pillars:

Embouchure, the interface between the musician and their instrument

The lips sit right in between the rigid mouthpiece and one’s rigid teeth. Again a vast subject, but allow me to briefly discuss pressure-free (or low-pressure) embouchure. "Pressure-free embouchure" is nonsense, of course, because it would mean that your lips do not touch the mouthpiece. As for "low-pressure embouchure", reducing the mouthpiece’s pressure is always a good idea, although playing loud notes inevitably leads to more mouthpiece pressure on the lips. As far as I’m concerned, the best way to counter this pressure is by training your lip muscles. This can be performed both with and without the trumpet, provided the lip muscle contraction increases as you imagine or play higher notes.

Breathing, the energy source for brass players

This is where the "Ps" originate that need to be expelled loss-free (knock on wood) towards the lips. One useful exercise in this respect is called "Breath Attack". The lips are closed and the note is only initiated with air. Be sure to have the release of your "support" coincidence with the onset of the note. See Exercise 1 for an application example:
Exercise with scores for trumpet - Breathing

The tongue: for articulation and more

The tongue is in charge of articulation and modulating he pitch. There are a lot of exercises out there that allow you to work on your tongue. I myself like to play scales in one or two octaves and concentrate on moving my tongue for each higher note. By "moving" I mean that the tongue narrows the oral cavity. This modifies the resonance space and causes high notes to respond more smoothly.
Glissando exercises also require precise movements of the tongue and are equally effective. Start with one octave, then spread it over two, or even more.

Glissando exercises for trumpet players
Have fun with the exercises. I’m sure they will help you strengthen your endurance and allow you to play those really high notes!

Videos about the exercises described above:


Breath attack for trumpet players
Scales and glissandos on the trumpet


Joachim Kunze


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