Ledger Line Syndrome

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by schleiman, Oct 21, 2012.

  1. schleiman

    schleiman Piano User

    May 12, 2010
    Austin, TX
    At sectionals some months ago my community band director, who is a fantastic trumpet player, asked me to play a line that started on G above the staff and stopped at the B below High C. He told me to play it with a good sound and make it sound lyrical. Well, I tried and he stopped me, and he said "It doesn't sound like you are comfortable up there, take it down." He also mentioned that I might have "ledger line syndrome" I would really love to have a solid high C but I am miles away from this. My main focus is to try and blend with everyone well, play in tune, and generally contribute to the section sounding good. BUT, I am really frustrated with my lack of range. It's my understanding from my teachers that playing higher is really about speed of air not amount of air. I can't figure out how to speed up the air past a certain point. I understand that most trumpet students struggle with "high" notes, but I always assumed most people that picked up the horn and practiced diligently would be able to at least get up to a high C in a few years. I'm just wondering if this sounds normal or if it sounds like I might be doing something fundamentally wrong? I am willing to accept whatever the reality is and move on continuing to work at it. What do you guys think?

    If you need visual or auditory reference, here is a video of me playing :

    Dido - YouTube
    Last edited: Oct 21, 2012
  2. BachStrad1

    BachStrad1 Pianissimo User

    Apr 9, 2012
    Kalamazoo MI
    I know it can be frustrating. You leave out some information for us to give whatever limited assistance we can. What part are you playing, how long had you been rehersing? Were you just tired, nervous? How long have you been playing trumpet, are you a comebacker (no shame there, a lot of us are, me included). Was the passage slow, legato and soft or loud and stacatto? I can offer moral support and tell you that to play high, you have to play high, and if you are playing 3rd part, you don't often have occaision to go out of your comfort zone as far as range is concerned. That doesn't sound like moral support, does it? But keep hacking at it. There are three things that will improve anything you endeavor: 1. Practice 2. Practice 3. Practice. In your case, spend slowly increasing amounts of time in the higher range, focusing on your airstream and you should improve. It won't happen overnight, but it should happen. Hope this helps a little.
  3. schleiman

    schleiman Piano User

    May 12, 2010
    Austin, TX
    How silly of me, I forgot to mention, I have been playing for just over 2 years, I played in 6th grade but never went very far with it. I was playing 2nd part at the time, and it was at the beginning of the sectional, and the harmony I was playing was supposed to be legato. Because of my lack of control, I just couldn't do it up high. I have two pieces that I'm playing first on this season, and one of them has a nice intro solo that I feel like I'm playing well and got good mentions from the guys at rehearsal last week. But most of the higher stuff I have to take down to keep the overall sound together because I don't trust my higher range.
  4. BachStrad1

    BachStrad1 Pianissimo User

    Apr 9, 2012
    Kalamazoo MI
    Okay. That gives me a bit more to comment on. 2 years isn't a really long time to have a really reliable high range on, especially if it is legato and blended. The higher range requires a lot of air support to come out and stay in tune and will often come out sounding harsh or strident and not blend if you are trying too hard. Kudos to you for scoring some first parts in your community band and an intro solo! The control issue is about breath control. Too much air forced through the horn will make your tone and intonation go downhill to the barnyard, too little air support will give you a weak sound and again, tone will suffer. It seems a little counterintuitive, but it takes just as much air to play soft as it does loud, just more of it goes to supporting the sound at the lower dynamic levels. Think of a garden hose on the stream setting. Low water pressure will make the water just dribble out the nozzle, while too high pressure will take the paint off the deck. Keep a steady stream of air supported by the diaphragm and let it fountain out the bell of the horn. Keep practising and working the high range. You will get there, just give it time and (sigh) more effort. I don't think you're really off the mark for your experience level. Don't think of it as a struggle, but as a challenge you must get through to get to the next level. Again, hope this helps some.
  5. schleiman

    schleiman Piano User

    May 12, 2010
    Austin, TX
    Thank you! I appreciate the insight very much!
  6. dorkdog

    dorkdog Pianissimo User

    Oct 14, 2012
    I've been playing a month and I can only reliably get to the note that is on I think the third space (open note) reliably - I think that's a C... on the bari it was a Bb.

    When I started that was a climb. I can do it now, reliably, and the secret was just what the man said ^^ - not blow harder but support (pinch?) more. I can get that C out with very little air, and I have the embouchure set to make it happen.

    Now, I am going to the next note up - on the last line (D?) and I am able to play it, just not reliably and with good tone. So I'll play it. I'll hit it legato from C and from every other note. I find doing this that the C that was my goal last week is a cinch now that I'm concentrating on D.

    Keep in mind that I'm new at this trumpet/cornet thing. I'm a comebacker from bassoon and bari/tuba who doesn't want to be laughed at anymore or carry around a 20 lb instrument.

    What I do next is to go into my studio software and ratchet all the midi songs I use for accompaniment up a half or whole step and start playing the tunes I'm familiar with higher up.

    Really it's all about the exercises you choose. You're building muscle memory and you have to get to the point where your embouchure sets for the note you're playing - like playing a trombone in tune. Your embouchure is exactly the same in theory. In the higher register (for me, not for some of you guys who know what you're doing) I spend most of my efforts on a clean attack... if you can't start the note properly what diff does it make how you finish it.

    Keep at it, a little at a time. If it were easy there'd be no challenge. If you're older (I'm 54) you'll find that it takes longer to lip up than it did when we were kids and you've got to pay attention to warmup/warmdown and rest as much as you play - all that stuff may help.

    Also there's talk about asymmetrical mouthpieces supposedly increasing range - I received one with a horn I purchased and I can see the intent from observing its design but have not the expertise to evaluate its usefulness in supporting those claims. I will try it and report back somewhere.

    At the end of the day it's not so much about hitting the notes you can't hit, but more what you do with the ones you can.
  7. SteveRicks

    SteveRicks Fortissimo User

    Aug 15, 2009
    First, I would drop the "ledger line syndrome" terminology as it will only limit you. Second, while range comes easily to some, it takes much more time for others. Years ago I played many gigs, including many paid ones, so range isn't everything. I usually peak at an E above C - and that is after 50 years of practice. Keep working at it, but don't let the range issue worry you.
  8. tobylou8

    tobylou8 Utimate User

    Dec 22, 2008
    Never ever heard that term. If you want to play there, practice there.
  9. jiarby

    jiarby Fortissimo User

    May 7, 2011
    An old teacher of mine used to say that you should think of the ledger line note as being farther away rather than higher.
    Then he would flatten the music stand so it was horizontal instead of vertical to demonstrate... "See... they are just farther away, not higher."

    If you are blowing a candle out that is 2" away from your mouth then it is easy. If the candle is 24 inches away you can't use that 2" airstream. You have to focus it and push the air farther.
  10. richtom

    richtom Forte User

    Dec 7, 2003
    Rafael Mendez put it this way.
    If you want to play high, learn to play low first.
    If you was to play loud, learn to play soft first.
    Why did he say this? It is all about air flow. Period. Scales are as good for this as anything. Get the Chicowicz Long Tone Studies and read the text. These are simple like long tones, but you move from note to note. This not only gets your air moving in the proper manner, you get the benefit of learning the extremely subtle differences in various tones (notes) going up and coming down. Some of the world's greatest players use the Chicowicz concepts every day in their practice routines. Players like Manny Laureano, Tom Rolfs, Bob Dorer, Neal Berntsen, John Hagstrom, Charles Davall, Mark Hughes, Charlie Geyer, and Barbara Butler to name just a few use and teach these studies.
    I hear what is missing in your playing, which is pretty darn good for two years, but you do need to work on air flow and sound concept. With proper, intelligent practice they will come at the same time and sooner than later.
    Rich T.

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