Hopeless trumpet players: have you met them?

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by DiaxII, Feb 6, 2013.

  1. DiaxII

    DiaxII Pianissimo User

    Oct 22, 2009
    Can you please share with me from your experience (school years, teaching, etc.) if you've met people along the way who tried really hard, practiced diligently for months and years but just couldn't play above the staff regardless of whatever they tried and were eventually tagged as 'a hopeless trumpet player' (go play the sax please)?
    I'm sure there are/were such people but I mostly read success stories and confident advice on overcoming any difficulties that leads me to believe I'm the first hopeless trumpeter in the world.

    I'm thinking of giving up torturing myself trying to reach any note above F on the top line in the staff which actually feels to me like the last note on the trumpet possible and just accepting the fact that I'm one of those who just can't make it (if there are more of them out there). I want to pack up my horn judiciously if I do with a rational realization that what I'm trying to achieve is simply beyond my capabilities.

    I'm out of supply of MY 'smarts' what Robin Rowuk likes to call them. Since November 2012 I've tried everything I could including: lead pipe buzzing, soft playing, slurs etc. etc.

    - I've learned to buzz the lead pipe (I couldn't in November), two partials;
    - I've learned to play soft (I couldn't in November);
    - I've learned to slur well (I could barely do it in November);
    - I've learned to play below Low C in a relaxed (well, you can't do it otherwise) manner.

    I can play within from low Gb up to E on the top space in the staff with the F being the cut-off note and nothing exists above it. I can overblow on the top space E blowing the roof off but it won't change to G on top of the staff. I mean I know it's not the proper way to go but it could work as an indication of its existence. Oh, I mean I tried it soft and loud slur and tongue, whatever. No way.

    I mean I could do all the things I've mentioned before up to the top line F and now I can do them very well but it didn't move me a half-tone higher from where I've been in November.
    Imagine a baby who first can't walk well, falls down here and there but he can't run. He says: 'OK, I'll try to learn walking well first.' He learns to walk vey well but still can't run. Literally, 'hitting a wall'.

    I've learned to change partials by raising my tongue (consciously) and tightening the corners of my mouth and a combination of them and I can slur confidently up to Eb from the middle B (talking of the "true slurs" here) and to E from middle C on a good day.

    What saddens me me is that I understand that most people get to the E in the staff after 4 weeks of trumpeting. Is that correct? I've been "playing" for over three years now and I've been through various degrees of frustration and now I'm coming to the state of resignation, realizing that there are people who possibly just cannot play trumpet above the staff.
    I'm 41 and I've used the best intelligent approach I've been able to apply to my "development".

    The most natural note on trumpet for me when I put the MP to my mouth and begin to blow in a relaxed manner is Low C. I have to start "working" to get the middle G out.
    I can play from Low C down to Low Gb all day long and it feels natural.
    I can get the pedal C out without a problem.

    I have a few horns (cornets and trumpets), all being in order and I can pick up any of them with whatever MP is on and without adjustment do what I can do: play from Low Gb up to F. Nothing higher after months of specifically targeted (and overall a few years) of diligent practice. I mean I've practiced on one trumpet all the time but any of them indicates my limit of top line F.

    So, is it smart to say to myself at this time: "I've honestly tried to learn but I have to accept that it's beyond my abilities"?
    What I mean is that I want to make music and I could be better off spending my time with another instrument rather then struggling with the trumpet to get the reasonably useable range.
    Most of the common tunes go up to at least G on top of the staff and that's beyond my "cut-off" range. So, I'm left only with a "Twinkle, Twinkle... you know".

    You see, I've used to beg here for an "intelligent advice" over a few years and I've got quite a bunch - THANK YOU GOOD PEOPLE of the TM!
    Now, I want to simply know if my intention to quit is wise enough and you've met people who did the same for a reason. I'm still struggling with myself because I don't want to feel like I show the lack of spirit though.
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2013
  2. BinaryHulledIon

    BinaryHulledIon Piano User

    Nov 23, 2012
    Spartanburg, SC
    Everybody has a different learning curve. Sometimes it's just a matter of finding what works best for you.

    Learning a musical instrument, especially if you've never really spent any time with one before, is a long process. It appears that you're thinking in terms of months, but you need to be thinking in terms of years. It also sounds as if you have some issues to work out with yourself that are bleeding over into your opinion of your ability to play. As I'm not anywhere near Europe and don't have the beginnings of a psychology degree, I'll let that sit on its own. I can only recognize it due to having tortured myself similarly in the past, albeit via other arts. The bottom line is that you shouldn't let yourself get too worried about not being able to jam like you were the lost Marsalis brother. I started playing in the Reagan administration, and I'm probably one of the younger guys with less experience than most of the people here. I consider a high A as the top of my range, which really isn't far off from your F.

    As far as range is concerned, newer players tend to psych themselves out about how hard it is to hit a note. Here's a better way to think about it. Play a low C. Now go through the fingerings down to a F#. Each fingering brings the note down. Now, work on slurring from low C to high E with nice, long tones. Do the same slur through each fingering. When you get down to F#, try to add the next note up. You're just playing a high C# now, but keep on adding that harmonic back as you climb up the semitones. It's equivalent to a high G, and while hitting a C# with a 1-2-3 fingering might be easier than actually hitting the G, understanding that principle will help bring those higher ranges down off of the pedestal. The slotting might be a bit loser, and you might not have good control on it, but the pitch is there. Feeling the slotting by using alternate fingerings will help you get a grasp on playing that interval on any fingering. You might not find that G at first, but keep practicing and it'll come.

    Also, damn, a pedal C. That's brag-worthy right there.

    The thing that's going to help you the most is finding an instructor. There's a lot of variables that could be holding you back without realizing it. Even more frustrating: once you do find an instructor, following their instruction might actually decrease your range as you learn new habits. But, as with any instrument, only perseverance will pay off.
  3. coolerdave

    coolerdave Utimate User

    Nov 7, 2009
    San Pedro
    Well .. first you are suppose to enjoy playing. If you really want to play, could you possibly afford a private teacher? There are so many things a one on one with a qualified instructor could check. Your mouthpiece might not match you or your horn. You might have dental or physiological reasons.
    Since you are considering tossing in the towel I am going to go out on a limb and just say the things I would look if you were my student.
    My "gut" is that you have the mouthpiece too high, meaning too much upper lip in the cup. You want the ring to extend on to the white part of your lip at the center but not too much.
    Your MP cup is too large and possibly the rim too thin ... perhaps a wider rim and smaller cup size. It's hard to tell without listneing to your tone.
    The size of your aperture is too large. It's one thing to practice playing soft. It's another thing to try to do this by creating a lazer small aperture. A large aperture may sound great but it can cut your endurance and range down.
    Your breathing is not providing you the support needed. If you are getting all tense and hearing little sounds come from your throat you are making playing much harder.
    I would give you a range exercise to practice at the end of your daily session. There is nothing magic in those routines. Most of them, have you play a pattern, like an ascending arpeggio, and then rest for a second and play the same pattern a half step higher ... then the same pattern .. you keep doing this until you can play any higher. The play some dscending pedals to loosen you lip up.
    Finally, I would load you up with sharp tonguing exercises (ie 125 in the Arban's). You can also play the Clarke's tongued .. but I am talking tongued .. tagging them. I would have you play them into the music stand and listen to your attacks.
    Hope things work out for you on this.

    Concerning experience ... I am seen so many players (in high school) that really never improved until they received private lessons.. then it was off to the races.
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2013
  4. tjcombo

    tjcombo Forte User

    Nov 12, 2012
    Melbourne, Australia
    Hi DiaxII, I won't try to analyse or advise on a technical level, but can offer some observations - in answer to your big question, "yes" I've seen lots of players that never make much progress, but it seemed that they lacked the application, interest or motivation to put in the necessary amount of time at the mouthpiece and eventually just drop out. From your post you don't seem to lack motivation.

    I don't recall you mentioning a teacher in your post - do you have someone that is observing and advising you on your playing?

    You mention that you've been trying various things since November last year - two or three months may not be enough time. I see that you can now do some things that you previously could not - that's great. I've found that progress is not always linear, the only constant for me is that the more mouthpiece time I spend, the better the results. Improvement is not just the highest note you can play. It's way down the list in importance compared to the quality of sound that you make, the way you articulate, read and translate the dots on a page into music.

    My big question for you (the one that made me reply) is - do you enjoy playing? - notwithstanding the frustrations you've expressed. Do you like the sound that you make? If so, why not focus on playing music that is within your range. Find tunes that you like and play them within your range and take the joy it brings you. Not sure if you're playing with a community band - many of the 2nd and 3rd trumpet parts may be within your reach. There are guys in my local band who have a range similar to yours. They enjoy coming to rehearsals each week and to gigs and fill a valuable part of the band.

    Take the pressure off yourself, get a decent teacher (or change yours if you're not satisfied), but most of all enjoy playing. The larger part of the population doesn't have the privilege of making music that we all share.

    best of luck

    BinaryHulledIon likes this.
  5. Peter McNeill

    Peter McNeill Utimate User

    Jan 30, 2009
    Melbourne Australia
    Play Bugle calls for a while to develop the open notes and develop range.
    Get a teacher
    And yes, this is TM not TH.

    I think there are people that cannot play trumpet, you may be one of them, but if you want to and you have the sound in your head, then I believe with intelligent practice regimes to build muscles, you can play and enjoy yourself in a band.

    I know a couple of trumpet players who do not go above a G, and are really good musos. They have reading strengths, and know rhythm and are great to sit next to in a section. Reliable and in tune with the horn.

    I think you know if you're not happy with the trumpet. You don't need others to tell you. You either have it to make it into a band, and work at it to get the gigs, or you don't.

    BTW 1 to 2 hours practice a day is what I would call commitment. If you do not put the hours in, then go get a tin whistle, it is easier to learn, and you can still enjoy some music.

    ps there is a difference between a trumpet owner and a trumpet player. If you make it to be a player, then that is already a step in the right direction. I would say that at the moment you are a trumpet owner and a music student - in time you may make it to be a trumpet player. Or you may not - life goes on.

    Last edited: Feb 6, 2013
  6. misty.sj

    misty.sj Forte User

    Jan 27, 2008
    Brisbane, Australia
    Did I miss it or don't you have a teacher? That's what I would do. And play tunes you like. Easy low ones. Have fun.
  7. DiaxII

    DiaxII Pianissimo User

    Oct 22, 2009
    Thank you all for your replies so far. I see you mostly try to motivate me rather than concur with me on the idea to quit.
    You know what made me conscious of my limitations? When I search online for range problems I mostly see people cry out: 'Please, help me! I can't play above high F with a good sound!' That's an octave higher than my full (not even useable) "range".
    I feel their pain... well, kidding of course :)

    Regarding enjoing music... I'd like to enjoy! Yes, I like melodies and I especially like pop tunes and evergreens but most of them contains that darn G on top of the stuff. When I see it in the score all the joy goes away. And I'm not talking about solid G, just some squeaky thin G would give me a pleasure to be able to play the tune.

    I mean, I know the trumpet player's range in the beginning is measured by how well or how confident they can play a note, not by the fact they can honk it out. If I'll be completely honest with you but you can see it for yourself from my initial post, my useable range (what sounds confident and natural) is up to middle C after three years of diligent practice.
    I've never been able to honk or squeak a note above the staff, not talking of a usable note at all.

    If you noticed I mentioned that I get the low notes out easily down to Low Gb (123). They just 'feel natural to me'. Is that a sign of something like I could be much more successfull with a trombone for instance?
  8. DiaxII

    DiaxII Pianissimo User

    Oct 22, 2009
    Corrected! Never trusted that TH, by the way ;)

    Yes, I know, I'm guilty of that! Also a sax collection but no problem with those: with them I sound like I'm a sax owner and a sax player at the same time :)
    With the trumpet: you can see, if I pack it up I'm still the owner but... the unsatisfied one :-(
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2013
  9. Peter McNeill

    Peter McNeill Utimate User

    Jan 30, 2009
    Melbourne Australia
    You can always try a valve trombone, you may be more suited to deeper brass.

    The questions:
    1. Do you have a teacher?
    2. Is there any band that you can join in your area? Church/community etc. You may not be ready for it, but you will know the levels required for different chairs in the section. A lot of 3rd and 4th chairs can drop down an octave and seill sound OK in the section.
    3. How old are you?
    4. Honestly answer how many hours per day do you play?
    5. What do YOU want to do with music? - Your goal is,,,,,?
  10. Dupac

    Dupac Fortissimo User

    Aug 19, 2008
    Bordeaux, France.
    6. What is your mouthpiece ?
    I do not want to make you believe that the choice of the mouthpiece is the miracle solution, but this information may be important, as envisaged by CoolerDave…

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