College student suffering severe range & buzzing issues - help!!!!!!!

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by Jason R., Jun 17, 2010.

  1. Jason R.

    Jason R. New Friend

    Jun 16, 2010
    New York
    Hi. I am a college student majoring in music education, and had a rude awakening this past year, which was my freshman year as an undergraduate. I've always done very well in elementary school, junior high, and high school, pretty much always getting first trumpet parts. I get to college, and the music is much harder than I've ever played in wind ensemble, which is what I expected. My problem is in my range. Consistently, I can perfectly hit up to F (5th line of staff), and can usually play the G, though the G right above that F is where problems start to rise up. I can usually play up to a B or C right above the staff in band, but in practice, I fairly regularly have to strain to hit the G sitting on top of the staff, and I regularly have trouble with the A right above that, often not being able to hit it more than 5-10 times per practice session. Above that, forget it; it's a crapshoot. I may be able to hit an A (first ledger line) or above VERY early on in the practice session, but that doesn't help very much when it comes to practicality.

    My shock came when I was pretty much expected to hit a high C (2nd ledger line above staff) like it was nobody's business, and that they treated that like it wasn't even that high. To me, the high C usually seems wayyyy out-of-reach for me, which everyone thought was odd, but I was never realllllly expected to hit it, so it was a shock to the system. Before any assumptions are made, I have been playing since 4th grade, and have been taking private lessons since then every week. I have one trumpet- a yellow brass Bb Bach TR300- which I just found out this year that it is a student horn. It is the same horn I started out with in 4th grade, and is still in relatively good condition. I did not know there was any difference, that there were such things as student or pro level horns. Besides the fact it was a student horn, I was pretty much the only one not playing a silver horn, most of which were pro horns.

    Even though I've been playing for about 10 years, I guess I hadn't really taken it as seriously as I should have since senior year of high school, which I had to for audition preparation. I've always loved the trumpet, but never practiced anywhere near what I should have. Sometimes I may have only practiced once for half an hour to and hour a week, which I now realize is TERRIBLE, but besides lessons (which I should've been better prepared for), I didn't at the time think I had much to practice.

    I now, of course, see the err in my ways, but still was thoroughly shocked when I got to college, with a High C expected as easy as a middle of the staff C. This past year, I was 4th chair of 8 trumpets, with the only three above me seating-wise being the upperclassmen, and the other four below me seating-wise being my fellow freshmen. I am miles ahead of some of my peers in terms of double tounguing, triple tounguing, sight-reading, transposing, lip slurs, etc.

    I have been told I am an upstream player, and that I press too much on the mouthpiece. I can mouthpiece buzz fine, but can't lip buzz to save my life. I usually have pretty good tone and intonation, but my range and buzzing is holding me back. When I get to G sitting on top of the staff or above, my airstream gets thin, I press a lot more, and more often than not I just get air or I chip the note down to the partial right before it (try for G, hit E). If I warm up for more than 5 or ten minutes, I almost never get these high notes, because my upper range is already shot. I get winded after about 20-30 minutes of good practice, which is awful, I know.

    So in short, I've been playing for 10 years, and can't consistently hit anything above the G sitting on top of the staff. Any suggestions on getting my range up to par? I appreciate anything and everything. :-)

    P.S. I had been playing on a Bach 5B for years, but recently switched back to a Blessing 3C, so that may be limiting me for now. If I switch back to the 5B, some of my range comes back, but it's still not up-to-par.
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2010
  2. Alex_C

    Alex_C Piano User

    May 30, 2010
    Gilroy, California
    I do a lot of lip buzzing for fun, I know the deal with lip buzzing is NO MP support, and truth is, I'm such a beginner you're Maynard Ferguson compared to me. But FWIW, I mentioned lip buzzing a while back on here and someone pointed out that somehow, a lot of the good players on here tend to be good lip buzzers.
  3. Jason R.

    Jason R. New Friend

    Jun 16, 2010
    New York
    Thanks for the advice. And trust me, I'm no Maynard. :-P

    And yeah, I know the vital importance of lip buzzing (without the mouthpiece), which is why I included it, because without buzzing, you wouldn't have a sound come out of the horn. All my teachers have stressed over and over again the importance of buzzing, particularly lip buzzing lately, but I'm still having trouble. I'm probably doing it wrong, but either way, I need to practice it more.

    I think I made myself sound like a beginner earlier. I've played all of the Hummel, Goedicke's "Concert Etude", the Arutunian, Corelli's Sonata VIII in e minor - concert d minor (originally for violin in Concert e minor), some of the Hindemith, tons and tons of Arban solos, including "Carnival of Venice", Arban's method, Clarke, Bosquet, Paudert, W. Smith's "Top Tones", Bordogni's "Twenty-Four Vocalises"-Transposition, Iron's, and tons and tons more.

    I can play the solos pretty well (not pro of course), I just lose endurance really fast, and I lose the range above F or G at the top of the staff especially quick. I do "Top Tones" p.5 every day, starting in the key of G and working up as far I can go without straining, which is usually A or Bb. I won't try what's written (C or higher) until I can master what's below it. If I can't do one perfectly, I back it up until I'm not straining at all anymore.

    I usually play better in Wind Ensemble than I do in practice, but maybe it's because there are plenty of rests in large ensemble music. Brass Choir is a bit more challenging. Transposition I'm rather good at. It's just the consistency and tone quality of the above-the-staff range that's really holding me back.

    (By the way, I am going to be purchasing a pro trumpet sometime soon. Probably either a Strad or a Xeno, though I'd prefer a Strad.)

    Thanks for the advice, though! :-)
  4. mchs3d

    mchs3d Mezzo Forte User

    Sep 30, 2005
    Provo, UT
    Welcome to college. It sounds to me like there hasn't been much research done on your part as far as expectations go. Now is your chance to really step it up a level. Yes, the TR300 is a student horn, but most people who can play a high C can play it on that horn, too.

    My advice is to develop a regular practice routine. I don't know how much your school requires, but mine is a minimum of 2 hours for freshman and non-performance majors. Also, it is time to broaden your horizons with the world of trumpet. The best way to do that is to listen to recordings and become a member of the International Trumpet Guild. That is where I would recommend beginning. I hope this little advice is of some use. Good luck, and welcome to TM!!
  5. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    High C is a reasonable expection for a college level player.

    The only reasons that players don't have the range is lack of practice or practicing the wrong things. I find that many players are obcessed with technical studies and waste their face - bad news for endurance and range. The solution is to get a sensible 60 minute daily routine with 1/3 lipslurs and long tones, 1/3 tunes and 1/3rd technical studies - in that order. After that, you can practice other stuff like repertory.
  6. oljackboy

    oljackboy Pianissimo User

    Feb 26, 2009
    Falls Church, Virginia
    Very likely lou're using WAY too much pressure. Get a good private teacher and get the problem resolved before it ends your trumpet career.
  7. lakerjazz

    lakerjazz Mezzo Piano User

    Oct 10, 2006
    The reason why the A seems so far away from the G is because when you're working up from a D to a G, you use either one valve or no valves, so you have to push less air through to create a sound. Not only are the G# and A higher, but they both also require two valves, so it is just a matter of getting your muscles to the point where you can push through a larger amount of air. I was having the same problem earlier this year, but it was solved (faster than I thought) through daily practice. And just remember, don't be afraid to really go for it- all or nothing- especially in practice- that kind of mentality really helps you to stop shying away when you up the staff and above.
  8. Jason R.

    Jason R. New Friend

    Jun 16, 2010
    New York
    My practice routine could use a tune-up I guess. I practice every day for an hour or two, starting on the mouthpiece for 5-10 minutes doing the harmonic series is various keys. When I put it in the horn, I start below low C and down for 5-10 minutes doing single tonguing and some soft Clarke studies, then up to middle of the staff C. Then I do tons of lip slurs. I start doing scales to go up from there (Top Tones included). Then I usually go straight to rep, which is bad I guess. I go bewteen rep, Arban's, etudes, Bordogni, etc. during that middle period, then I warm-down with some more soft Clarke studies.

    My school doesn't really make any distinction between the level of ability or practicing expected from Education majors, Industry majors, or B.A. in Music majors, so that's another thing.

    In terms of teachers, I have two excellent teachers, one at home and one at college. My home teacher went to Curtis and Ithaca, and is in the United States Military Academy (West Point) Concert Band and several orchestras. My college teacher went to the Boston Conservatory when Charlie Schlueter was there, and is in the Albany Symphony and various other groups in the area. I trust my teacher's judgments, so I don't need to worry there. It's the effort on my part that needs to be ramped up some.

    In terms of mentality relating to high notes, I am certain I do have that mentality. I try to relax and just play, not worrying about range, but I guess sub-consciously I pinch involuntarily a millisecond before playing a high note. That just takes time to unlearn, I know.

    Yes I can and do play high C's and D's occasionally on my horn when the need arises. Again, it's just not very consistent. I CAN do it, it just doesn't come as easy as I would like.

    In terms of listening, I can always do more of that. I'm going to join the ITG soon, as my college teacher recommended to do so as well.

    Thanks again for everyone's advice!
  9. Al Innella

    Al Innella Forte User

    Aug 9, 2007
    Levittown , NY
    Over the summer study with someone who knows and understands different embouchure types.If you've been playing as long as you say you have ,you should have a wider usable range than you have now,especially if you had private lessons all that time, plus a year of college lessons ,somebody should had helped you by now.I think it may be time for a specialist.
  10. guyclark

    guyclark Piano User

    Feb 28, 2008
    Los Gatos, CA
    Vital importance of lip buzzing (with or without mouthpiece)?

    I don't recognize any vital importance there. I buzz into my mouthpiece when attached to the horn, and seem to do ok. I have no known big issues with my playing. I have of course, a plethora of little issues: I, like everyone here, wish I had a bit more range, a bit more endurance, a bit better tone, etc. That said, my range and endurance are almost always adequate for the kind of symphonic and brass chamber music I play, and if I have one exceptional "talent", it's probably my tone quality.

    While I see no harm from buzzing, with or without a mouthpiece, I certainly see no "Vital Importance" to it. Have I opened a can of worms? ;-)


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