Beginning Trumpet Tips – Readers’ Collaborative Post
In our recent survey, we asked Band Directors Talk Shop readers, “What is the best tip you have for helping beginning trumpets as they are first playing higher in the beginning range?” With hundreds of responses to the survey, we came up with this categorized list of your answers to that question! Thanks so much to all of our readers who took time to fill out the survey. Keep an eye out for more Readers’ Collaborative Posts in the future!
- Faster air.
- Relax chest up and push from diaphragm.
- Faster air, push out the wall of the classroom.
- Aim air up toward your nose for higher notes. Treat each partial like you are shifting gears.
- Air, air, air! Make sure you are teaching them how to breathe correctly.
- Imitate a siren on your mouthpiece.
- Blow through the instrument while checking for firm corners.
- I always tell them to get angry and try to blow me over.
- I will use the flute tool as a visual aid so they can understand the change in air direction.
- 50/50 lip ratio and keep the trumpet angle high enough. Too many players point to the ground with a very loose upper lip.
- Raise the back of your tongue.
- The arch of the back of the tongue is so important. I start it when teaching the siren buzzing.
- Don’t pinch! Take it slow.
- Open teeth.
- Keep lips rolled in.
- Lip flexibility exercises.
- Smaller hole.
- Let the air do the work, keep your embouchure firm and don’t push back.
- Long tones and one semi-note at a time. It’s important for them to not put any pressure on their lips. In the long run it’ll be better for their sound and technique.
- Don’t tighten the throat. Garden hose analogy. If you kink the hose no water will come out. However, if you tighten the hose at the very end (the lips) the water (air) will squirt further and higher.
- Make sure the dry parts of the lips are vibrating- the wet part vibrates at a lower frequency, and the only way to speed that up is to muscle it, resulting in a tight sound.
- I tell my students to arch their tongue, blow faster air, and think of a target across the room and aim the air in that direction.
- Don’t show them the note on the staff, it freaks them out. Just sing or play the notes and have them match.
- Bite a piece of celery (evens top and bottom teeth).
- Suck air through a soda straw, hold the straw and blow.
- Demonstrate, demonstrate, and demonstrate.
- Blow into a bucket of water. That was very interesting.
- Use coffee stir stick with only lips, no teeth, to set embouchure and identify muscles.
- Try changing air direction. Hold a hand in front of your face and move the air up and down like a sprinkler (without moving your hand).
- Go slowly, one note at a time. Going too fast creates embouchure problems.
- Practice in front of a mirror and make sure embouchure is correct.
- Free buzzing and mouthpiece buzzing. If they can buzz it, they can play it.
- Play through every tetra chord they can play every day. Use tetra chord Olympics. Use them to build strength.
- Lip slurs are great exercises for building range. You can also use flow studies.
- Practice blowing a piece of paper on a wall so students understand how much air/how fast their air needs to move in order to play higher notes.
- Practice going from G-C, slowly and build speed. Then practice going from G-D, slowly and build speed.
- Have them play twinkle twinkle with just their mouth piece to experience the different embouchure need to play. Directors need to demonstrate this too, to show they can do it.
- Work on long tones…A LOT!!! Do not have students put their pinkie in the pinkie ring because of the tendency to push the trumpet into the embouchure.
- Have them sing and voice the note. Do roller coasters with the mouthpiece and think of the difference between “ahh” and “ehh”.
- For struggling students who seem to use a high amount of mouthpiece pressure, try moving the mouthpiece a little higher on the top lip and angling the trumpet downwards very slightly until the student produces a solid tone at the desired pitch.
- Take a ping pong ball and a trumpet mouthpiece to demonstrate the air needed for a strong sound. Place the shank in between your lips, place the ping pong ball against the rim, and blow. The air encircles the ball and keeps it suspended as if attached. The kids love to try it and they understand the concept quickly.
Think over This
- Slur up using long tones, starting with the highest note that is COMFORTABLE in their range and slurring up a half step and holding that higher note out as long as possible. Do that until that upper note becomes comfortable. Then repeat this process to slowly stretch upward in the range. This should be done during every practice session. They may only be able to “add” one or two notes every few sessions, because they need to build up their embouchure muscles.
- Crucially, it can be damaging to think of it as “high register.” Everything comes from air flow and aperture size. In order to understand how the aperture and air flow are controlled, it can be useful to change these two parameters on a C (Bb concert pitch) and hearing how the sound is changed, if the air flow is positive, it can be hard to keep the note centered without jumping to the next harmonic.
- Don’t tell them that it’s high, or challenging, or difficult. Explain the inverse relationship between the pitch and air (pitch goes up as your air gets aimed down) and the direct relationship between the tongue position and the higher notes (tee syllable instead of ta). When you relate it to science, it clicks for some.
- If you don’t tell them that it’s high, they don’t know! I do lip slurs with the valves down and in different combinations and have them match what I play. Many times, the will play higher than they think they can!
- I constantly tell my beginners to practice 15 min a day. I also tell my brass players to buzz on their mouthpiece (till all the woodwinds get their instrument together.
- I tell them to raise their eyebrows. I have been told this doesn’t work, but it at least lets the student know they can get the note out. Then you can fix minor embouchure problems.
- I used this illustration with a kid whose dad was an Air Force pilot last year and it worked really well: Low notes are like a C-130: They take a longer period of time to travel a short distance. High notes are like an F-16 jet: the take a much shorter period of time to travel a great amount of distance. I relate that to how their air should function. It worked almost instantly for a fifth grader who was struggling to play a high C.
- My BIGGEST tip for my students is that we all progress at different rates, and to always keep that in mind. My second trick is to play along with them, never utter a negative word, and to applaud even the slightest indication of a higher note – seriously, most of the time my beginners are their own worst enemy with high notes.
- Three elements create the pitch: wind speed, embouchure size and tongue position. Faster wind speed – higher pitch; Smaller hole – higher pitch; Higher tongue position – higher pitch. If they are having difficulty it is because one of these elements (or two) is not creating the same pitch/matching the others. Often tongue position is overlooked by non-brass players and the change in wind speed is underestimated. Get them to think more of an ‘ee’ shape INSIDE the mouth for higher notes (written G and C in the staff). As they ascend they should ride on the air stream that is getting faster. Imagine it is the air speed that is pushing their fingers and valves up as they ascend A, B, C.
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