Controlling the Higher Register Playing and Lip Trilling

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by mctrumpet98, Feb 16, 2012.

  1. mctrumpet98

    mctrumpet98 Pianissimo User

    Sep 29, 2011
    Down Under
    Hi all,

    I've been working to try and settle in with my 3C for the past three months or so. I've now completely restored my range, but I know it will take at least another three months for it to be completely settled. On average I can play an E above the staff, but I have a few problems:
    - Firstly, I have limited control when I get to C#s and higher. What can I do to get more control in that notoriously hard-to-control higher register on the trumpet?
    - Secondly, when I get to Ds I can feel myself using pressure, but I've been told by fellow trumpeters that some pressure is required to play up that high. Is this true? How can I reduce the amount of pressure I use?

    Additionally, I have learnt-ish how to do a fast lip trill or shake (like you hear James Morrison and Maynard Ferguson do). The problem is that I generally have less control in the evenness of the shake the higher I go, and I have almost no control when I reach G above the staff (the note I really want to be able to lip trill on). So how do I obtain more control? Practice the shake technique more? I've heard this is bad for you if you practice it more than two minutes in a session.

    I have a general feeling that lip slurs are the answer to my questions, but I wanted to know how the pros go about these kinds of things.


  2. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    The high register is NOT "notoriously hard to control". Bad habits are notoriously hard to break.

    Range just "stopping" at a specific note means too much pressure on the upper lip. Lowering that pressure requires better chop control, body use and breathing as well as enough practice time to become familiar with the upper register.

    We use pressure because it works (up to a point). As our plying progresses, we reach a point where it holds us back. At that point, there are two courses of action: evolution or revolution. Evolution means patiently replacing what is in the way with better habits. I teach this way and use lipslurs, longtones and easy tunes to free the vice grip on the chops. Another method is revolution which requires a new embouchure and for many results in desaster because the immediate removal of the crutch destroys endurance, tone and range until the new habits are formed.

    I'll say that in the end, we all get what we deserve. If we get a good teacher too late in the process, we have a lot more habits to break. If we start practicing intelligently too late, we have a lot of habits too break. If we follow the wind, we never get habits built in the first place. If we listen to the inexperienced, we often get pointed in the wrong direction.

    My teaching starts with body use and breathing. Once that is committed to memory and repeatable, the lipslurs and longtones take over.
  3. jiarby

    jiarby Fortissimo User

    May 7, 2011
    Practice Colin Advanced Lip Flexibilities (especially the back half!) SLOWLY... and as soft and relaxed as you can muster. Work on smoothness and evenness between the partials. Then as you master doing them slow, you can begin speeding up the metronome.

    Watch what you do with the back of the tongue. Using it correctly can really make those upper register flexibility things easier. Ahh-Eee starting on High C will pretty easily have you trilling from High C to High D.
  4. Bob Grier

    Bob Grier Forte User

    May 4, 2007
    Greensboro, NC
    You can practice smart. It's not going to happen all at once. Range building is a process of developing as a trumpet player. work on you entire range and spend most of your time in the middle and lower registers. How much do you practice everyday? Do you practice everyday?
  5. mctrumpet98

    mctrumpet98 Pianissimo User

    Sep 29, 2011
    Down Under
    Thanks for all the advice guys.

    Bob, I practice every day, usually for about an hour or an hour and a half. On weekends I might do two hours.
  6. Vulgano Brother

    Vulgano Brother Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 23, 2006
    Parts Unknown
    Sometimes alternate fingerings help upstairs, like 2nd valve for c# and open for d. The shake on G above the staff might be easier with a 13 or 12 fingering.

    Pressure isn't always bad, too.

    Have fun!.
  7. Johnctrumpet

    Johnctrumpet New Friend

    Feb 17, 2012
    It is important that you understand it is not which exercise you play on the trumpet but rather how you practice it. Correct technique and an understanding of how to achieve what you are trying to do is paramount.
    High note playing is something that a lot of players find hard to do. Playing high is not hard, the way to think about it is that without the correct approach we make it hard for ourselves. If playing a low note on the trumpet is ‘easy’, what then is going wrong as we venture into the higher range? It is important to understand the most efficient way of changing the pitch on the trumpet. Trumpet sound is created by air and vibrations. Higher notes need faster vibrations. To create faster vibrations we need faster airstream, but importantly we must not interfere with our vibrations, otherwise we are ‘wasting’ our air because less vibrations means less sound.
    The way to play is to change the airspeed before it meets the lips, they will then vibrate freely at a much faster speed creating that higher note. The strain is taken off the lips and put onto the lungs. We do this by arching the back of the tongue thinking the syllable ‘ee’ and reducing the space the air travels through, thus funnelling the air and speeding it up. The pressure is increased in the lungs and you will have to support this airflow by ‘pushing harder’. You may feel your throat open up as you play higher, this is because the air pressure has increased and your throat will swell slightly. Make sure that you do not overtighten your lips, otherwise you will have that ‘clamping down’ feeling as you go higher. This will result in going red in the face rather than in the lungs! As we overtighten the lips we usually use pressure by pulling the trumpet on to the lips. Trumpet playing is all to do with air and vibrations, make sure that you are always trying to maximise these two crucial things.

    When playing any note it is the airspeed that changes the pitch. The higher you go the more you need to ‘funnel’ your air into a smaller space. Raise your tongue towards the roof of the mouth to do this. Practice your playing using this technique whenever you play any lip flexibilities or anything on the trumpet for that matter. Lip trills are more like tongue trills, in the sense that the back of your tongue will change position fast from ‘aah’ to ‘ee’.

    I hope this helps, any questions please feel free to ask. For more info visit my blog at
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2012
  8. kingtrumpet

    kingtrumpet Utimate User

    Sep 20, 2009
    New York State USA
    actually -- it sounds pretty much NORMAL to me -- it all takes time, and repetition, and time, and effort and some technique, and patience with yourself --- some rest occasionally , some long tones, some slurs, some more time, some patience ---
  9. mtbevins

    mtbevins Pianissimo User

    Jan 18, 2011
    Phoenix, Arizona
    I am not an expert by any means, but I can play pretty well in the upper register. I will attempt to dissect what works for me. I try and practice using good posture and breathing technique. With good breathing you can apply less pressure when going high because you can move the air more freely and faster into the horn. I think we tend to press harder the higher we go because it tighten the lips, thus making them vibrate at a higher frequency. There is only so far you can do this before your lips either get pushed into the mouth piece and block the hole, or are so tight they stop vibrating relative to the amount of air you are pushing through them. The tongue plays a big role as well. My tongue comes up to the top of my mouth and curves slightly. I think this forms a venture tube of sort which accelerates the air, speeding up the lip vibration. (The higher the velocity of the air, the higher the frequency of the lip vibration) Doing lip slurs up high are good as it teaches you to be loose enough to change the pitches but still practicing the technique of playing high. I hope that helps.
  10. Bob Grier

    Bob Grier Forte User

    May 4, 2007
    Greensboro, NC
    You are certainly playing enough. The notes from High C up do require more control than the lower notes so it takes more time working up there. When we acquired range in the middle, middle high register it would come rather quickly. But above high C it come one 1/2 step at a time. don't be impatient. There are things that I work with my students on, but that would require lessons.

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