Welcome to Part 3 in our continuing series on high notes.
If you missed Parts 1 or 2, you can find them here:
There are a lot of wacky ideas out there about how to approach the upper register. Let’s try and keep this simple. I believe the goal is to play the entire range of the trumpet the same way. More than anything else, this takes coordination. We started building that coordination with half-steps. We’ll continue today with lip slurs.
Today’s magic number is 5. We’re going to start on low F# (yes-low F#!) and slur out 5 notes in this pattern: 1-2-3-4-5-4-3-2-1-2-3-4-5. Then do the same thing on low G, Ab, A, Bb, B, and C. Here’s a demonstration:
Easy, right? I thought so.
Next we jump up an octave and start of F# in the staff and do the exact same thing, using the fingerings 1-2-3 for F#, 1-3 for G, 2-3 for Ab, 1-2 for A, 1 for Bb, 2 for B, and 0 for C, so that we connect all of the partials of the overtone series:
The concept remains the same- take a easy breath and blow through the entire line. Aim for consistency of sound and no air between notes.
Guess what’s next? That’s right- we move up another octave, keeping the same concept:
The concept is simple, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. This is the range of the trumpet where people start doing anything they can just to get notes to speak. When they find something that works, they proclaim they’ve discovered “The Secret!” And here’s the problem: sometimes these techniques can work. But now you’re playing the trumpet in (at least) two different ways. This makes playing music harder.
Now there’s one more step. And this is where it gets really fun. We’re starting on F# (fingered 1-2-3) on top of the staff, playing 1-2-3-4-5, then sliding out to the F# above. I write “sliding” very intentionally. This is the part of the horn where the valves don’t help very much, so we must blow out until we find the center of the note we’re looking for, building the coordination of how to find it into our entire body (which includes the ears!). Continue through the rest of the valve combinations (G: 1-3, Ab: 2-3, A: 1-2, Bb: 1, B: 2, C: 0). This gets us all the way to double C:
I believe the sliding part to be very important. It can be tempting to try and force that last note out by any means possible. What I want is for you to build each note as a natural result of blowing consistently through the entire range of the trumpet.
A short word about equipment- I practice this exercise on the mouthpiece I use for lead playing (and yes-I use different mouthpieces for different jobs). There are a lot of trumpet players that have a mouthpiece for lead playing, but they don’t practice on it. This is a mistake. If you want to feel as comfortable as possible on a mouthpiece, you should integrate it into your practice routine. That means practicing both technique and music on it regularly.
This is an exercise you can do every day. Place it at the end of a session in which you’re practicing fundamentals. Play each step focusing on an easy breath, clear and full sound, and smooth transitions between notes (no air!). Play until the top note doesn’t speak (this won’t always be the same each day). It doesn’t take that long, but can help build the coordination so that your entire range is always available to you.
This exercise is offered as a simple way of building a consistent approach to the entire range of the trumpet. It’s 4 steps to double C- how much simpler can it get? Go back and watch the the first segment of each video. Notice how similar the setup is each time. If you’ll take the time to learn to play the trumpet one way, it’s actually considerably easier in the long run.