I teach many students each week, and they are all interested in one thing: playing high notes on the trumpet.
I’m not sure where this fascination that taller is better came from (well, I guess we could do it with Maynard Ferguson), but it’s typically the area that most students, old and young, want to improve in.
Unfortunately, students are often pressured to play high. A first-party trumpeter in high school is expected to play a level higher than C staff; sometimes up to D. Because the student does not want to disappoint the conductor or appear foolish in front of the rest of the band (the trumpet is a very strong instrument and mistakes are projected as much as the correct notes), he or she will do whatever thing to create these high notes. Often the wrong method is used. The most common is using too much pressure.
Some pressure is required to play the trumpet. However, too much pressure can create problems, such as loose teeth and fatigue. As a victim of too much pressure, I know firsthand the dangers that can occur. After 15 years of playing with a lot of pressure, my two front teeth came loose with a creak one day while playing. Five trips to the dentist and $ 5,000.00 later, I began researching methods to play with less pressure.
Many factors must be considered before attempting a field construction exercise. One factor that is often overlooked is how the student holds the trumpet. The student must know that the trumpet must be gently held by the left hand; the right hand is only used to press the valves. The student should avoid putting a “death grip” on the trumpet with the left hand, and should avoid using the pinky ring on the right hand.
Once this is established, a correct nozzle must be formed. There has always been a lot of controversy about the perfect mouthpiece. However, one that usually works well is a combination of smiling and frowning. The student is asked to smile and then slowly purse his lips while still smiling. The result is a mouthpiece with firm corners and a center loose enough to vibrate (after all, playing a trumpet requires vibrating your lips).
Finally, I will reveal the secret to correctly develop rank in students: AIR. This generic, frequently used solution really works. It is common for many teachers, when all else fails, to blame the problem on air support. In this case, it is air, but it is also a combination of other techniques.
To begin, the student must get used to breathing deeply. To observe what the student thinks is a deep breath, ask him to take one. You will most likely breathe hard and fast, and your chest will visibly swell. THIS IS INCORRECT! The student is only using half of his lung capacity. I like to use the analogy of breathing like a baby. Every time you watch a baby breathe (especially when sleeping), his stomach rises and falls. By observing this, we can come to the conclusion that we must breathe deep down in the stomach (or you may think about dropping the diaphragm). Try this: have the student breathe to the stomach; tell them to inhale and point to their toes. They will probably still breathe hard and fast, but it will be deeper.
To improve this, we must help the student to breathe more openly. My favorite tool is an empty toilet paper tube. Try this: Take the empty toilet paper tube and place it inside your mouth (about 1 inch of the tube will be in your mouth). Seal your lips around it and inhale. First, you will notice how much air you are swallowing, and second, you may notice that the back of your throat feels cold. THIS IS HOW ALL BREATHING SHOULD BE DONE! Have your students try this. It may be funny or ridiculous, but it will help. As for breathing without the toilet paper tube, have the student imagine they have a baseball in their mouth. Ultimately, this will also lead to more open breathing.
Now that the breath has been covered, the scope can be focused. The best range building exercise I have used is the one I got from Bill Adam’s routine. This exercise involves starting on a second G line, playing it as a long tone, and then expanding both ways in long tones. For example, you would start with G and then play F #, then G # / Ab, then F, then A, and so on. Go as high as you can safely and as low as you can (pedal tones work great for range exercises). Also be sure to play each note as a long tone. You can assign a specific number of counts (such as playing each note for 8 counts) or just playing them until you run out of air. By expanding, you are not only building range, but you are also getting your lips used to different partials and developing your ear when playing long intervals. It should also be noted that the low notes are just as important, if not more so, than the high notes. Good three-dimensional sound should always be achieved.
The most important part of this exercise is not to play higher than is comfortable for you or the student, as injury could occur. To avoid this, tell the student that the mouthpiece (lip position) should never change; just the amount of air. As the range expands upward, air must be pushed from the muscles of the diaphragm (stomach).
I have used this method in beginners, and now all of those students have a comfortable range of at least 14 after 2 months of weekly lessons (the average range for beginners is a range of one seventh after one year). With this method, the student will be on track to play solid at all ranks.