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Trumpet - High Notes
Up An Octave

Copyright January, 2014 by Robert Weagly
All Rights Reserved

~ Introduction ~

It seems like every trumpet player either wants to know the secret to playing high notes or is offering to tell the rest of the trumpet players what the secret is.

I have spent most of my life researching this topic and attempting to teach it to students. Now, I will condense my experiences and present them for your edification.

What is the right method or approach ?

I say it's the method that works best for you. In many cases it may be a blend of methods, that you construct for yourself. In your life - you are the final authority. We live in a world of experts, who often think that their's is the only right answer. Don't buy into that philisophosy.

Return with me now, to the first time you attempted to play the trumpet.

Just making a sound was a big victory. It then took an extended period of time to get good at making the sound you wanted, at the time you wanted. Your dedicated application of time and practice resulted in -you becoming good enough to be reading this disortation. The expansion of you're range will follow the same path. You must begin playing high and be persistent, in order to see results.

I found this website and must say that his comments about having a good work ethic concerning practice are well stated.

I'm never afraid to present the thoughts of others nor should you be afraid to study and possibly try the works of others.

~ Up An Octave ~

I can not give you all of the assistant that you might receive, if you were taking lessons. But I will give you enough information that you should see undeniable results. Together with your resourcefulness, this may be all you need.

You will need a trumpet book 1 to use for these exercises. If you like the way things are going, proceed to book 2. Do not rush the process - you should advance to the point of playing major portions of the book, up an octave with ease.

Be sure that you can play the exercises well - as they are written. Knowing the exercise in it's normal range helps. You will be sure you are playing the same thing - but up an octave. Playing along with another trumpet player, one on the written part and one up an octave, can be an aide. You could also record the written part and play along with yourself.

I recommend that you use a method that presents exercises in the form of little songs. You want the exercises/songs to sound good when you play them up.
Accent On Achievement, as an example. Currently (2014) priced around $ 8.00

Before you attempt to play up an octave you should always warmup. In fact, a good daily warmup should be part of your routine regardless of the playing being done.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

We'll keep things easy for now.

1. Use the same fingerings that you are use to.
2. Play the exercise in the normal fashion.
3. Read the exercise as written, but play it up 1 octave, using the techniques that follow.

P.S. - Playing up an octave from your written music part can be a handy skill. Also, "real-time" transposing from music written for C instruments ( ie. piano and guitar ) is a skill all good trumpet players should develope. Transposing and being able to move between the normal and high registers can be useful. Others skills might include major scales, minor scales, pentatonic scales and blues scales ( in normal and high register).

Playing up an octave should make playing in the normal range easier and produce desirable changes in the sound you are producing.

~ Techniques ~

At first, when you attempt to read and play up an octave, keep your eyes on the written part. Reading the exercise as written is intended to help you maintain the embouchure. In the beginning, little change to the embouchure is needed. The change in air flow is what is needed. The speed of the air does the most of the work. Eventually, your body will become a high pressure air pump and your embouchure ( aperture ) will act as an adjustable valve.

* See Embouchure online in Wikipedia.

In other words, it helps to fool your brain into thinking that you are playing normally, as the notes are written. I have found that wind instrument players and singers often make too much of a change when progressing thru the octaves. Or, moving to that next note, that is just out of range.

Your mouthpiece should be just fine for these beginning efforts. The mouthpiece should be set roughly in the middle of the mouthpiece, with the aperture centered in the cup of the mouthpiece.

This should result in a mouthpiece that is set over the middle of the lips where all of the muscles can be used to produce positive pressure to make a seal, for air leaks. Also, you want to be able to bring all of the muscles into the act of forming and changing the shape of the emboucher and aperture.

Any extra pressure used should come from your air pressure and the lips pressing out (slightly). Do not use extreme pressure - pushing the horn back toward you lips.

I recommend that you use a method that presents exercises in the form of little songs. You want the exercises/songs to sound good when you play them up.
Accent On Achievement, as an example. Currently (2014) priced around $ 8.00

Before you attempt to play up an octave you should always warmup.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

We'll keep things easy for now.

1. Use the same fingerings that you are use to.
2. Play the exercise in the normal fashion.
3. Read the exercise as written, but play it up 1 octave.

P.S. - Playing up an octave and "real-time" transposing from music written for C instruments are two handy skills for any trumpet player to develope. Others might include pentatonic scales and blues scales.

Playing up an octave should make playing in the normal range easier and produce desirable changes in the sound you are producing.

~ Daily Warmup ~

Remember this - long tones build muscle and slurs provide flexibility.

1. Long tones

Start on low C and proceed up using the chromatic scale until you achieve failure.
Start on low C and proceed down using the chromatic scale to F#, then ascend to the low C that you stared on. I recommend 4 to 8 counts.

2. Scales

I recommend that you play through the major scales. Using quarter or eighth notes
You may use any or all these ideas.

Ascending and descending thru one octave - slurred and tongued.
Ascending and descending thru one octave - slurred and tongued. Up 1 Octave.
Ascending and descending thru two octaves - slurred and tongued.
Ascending and descending thru multiple octaves - slurred and tongued.

If you reach a point of failure that's okay - resound the note before faulure and begin descending.

3. Slurs

I recommend Walter M. Smith's, Lip Flexibility on the Trumpet - 41 Studies for Embouchure Development, published by Carl Fischer. Currently (2014) priced around $12.00

Additionally, and prior to the use of the Smith studies, you may use the exercises I have provided.

4. Use the beginning trumpet method books to practice playing up an octave.

The End

~ Tonguing Syllables ~

Many trumpet players have not heard of or used syllables as a tonguing technique. Arban's Complete Concervatory Method for Trumpet, ( aka "the trumpeter's bible" ) , introduces the use of syllables.
Reference Jean-Baptiste Arban at Wikipedia.

Syllables produce a consistancy of sound and help shape the emboucher. Moving the jaw into position and regulating the opening of the throat, etc...

The syllables change depending on the range being played in and the articulation - double and triple tonguing for instance.

I was first introduced to syllables by Kenneth B. Slater, ( U. S. Marine Band and U. S. Army Field Band ), from whom I took lessons.

I find syllable usage useful and suggest that you may want to investigate this topic online and/or with teachers skilled in their use. Ken Slater always stressed the idea that the individual player should be aware of the syllables and experiment to see if syllables of their making might work even better for them.

~ Breath Control~

The diaphragm ( a dome shaped sheet of muscle and tendon ) is an involuntary muscle - meaning that you can not take direct control of it's movements. Consequently, we use the muscles in the abdomen ( stomach ) to produce the result we want.

I like this definition, from wikiHow. "Breath support is being able to use your abdominals and sometimes arms, legs, glutes (butt), and other muscles to help you play/sing difficult notes at any volume while still being on pitch."

1. Take a deep breath - your upper torso should expand.
2. Push the air out of your lungs by pressing out ( as if against a belt fastened around your stomach ). Notice I said press out - not pull in.

Observe Maynard Ferguson's stance and ask yourself, could he be pulling in ?
His knees are bent slightly, he is leaning back and you can see his abdomen pushing out.

You will not play like this, in the high register, without working up to it and you may never match his efforts. However, you can become a different trumpet player thru the application of the techniques presented here.

I always found it to be more fun to be able to play passages of a song in the high register as opposed to hitting the occasional high note.

~ Important Notes ~

Results will vary for each student.

All wind instrument playing - but especially trumpet high notes many induce an increased risk of uncovering health defects or simply cause physical distress in real time. If you feel at risk, I say stop. You may always try again later and/or seek the advice of a medical professional.

~ Additional Thoughts ~

In recent years, music education in our public school system has suffered. Please support music in the schools. Schools have become the only source for many kids to experience and enjoy a music education.

That having been said, I recommend that the most serious music students learn more than one instrument. This provides a greater path to enjoy making music for your entire life and may pay big dividends to those who seek a vocation or avocation in music.

I encourage my private students to include the following instruments in their studies. Guitar, Keyboard, Drumset and Electric Bass - as these are the 4 pillars of the modern popular band.

I like this definition, from wikiHow ( http://www.wikihow.com/Use-Breath-Support ).
"Breath support is being able to use your abdominals and sometimes arms, legs,

Observe Maynard Ferguson's stance and ask yourself, could he be pulling in?
(
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hvW9PVhUsfE ).

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