Playing the upper register on trumpet

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by mitzidemarco, Nov 12, 2017.

  1. mitzidemarco

    mitzidemarco New Friend

    Apr 4, 2012
    I am sure there has been posts of this topic. I have been playing the trumpet for 28 years and still have difficulty playing in the upper register. I tend to tense up and just can't relax. It doesn't help that my teeth aren't the greatest, they're crooked and a few are broken. I am way too terrified to go to the dentist and probably will never go again because of a childhood trauma but anyway I can hit high notes but it is a struggle and I usually have to really press the mouthpiece against my lips really hard. I know this is no good but that seems to be the only way I can get out any high notes.
  2. bumblebee

    bumblebee Fortissimo User

    Jan 21, 2010
    Great Southern Land
    I'm sorry I haven't got time right now to write more, but I was a high-pressure player for 20 years or so -- to play notes above the staff, or anywhere really, I'd pull the trumpet so hard against my face I'd have an angry red circle on my lips after playing, and my endurance was counted in minutes, not hours. An hour+ concert would see me shot for a few days afterwards. I never had a teacher, having learned from "A Tune A Day" when I started out as a kid, and playing along with the community band, with guys who were just learning the same way I was, and probably developing the same bad habits.
    In my later 30's I stumbled across the internet (believe it or not I NEVER thought to search trumpet stuff out on the internet even though I used it for researching almost everything else) and this article:

    I got in touch with Mr McLaughlin and he gave me some advice, and I bought his e-books which I worked on for a few months, and subsequently took a lesson with Greg Spence

    and sought out a teacher at the local university who among other things pointed me to some Schlossberg routines
    and to the technique described by Rusty Russell:

    That's my pressure-reducing journey approximately, I hope something there helps.

    Kind regards,
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2017
  3. WannaScream

    WannaScream Pianissimo User

    Nov 27, 2013
    There's no way you can mash the horn against your face or squeeze your lips together hard enough to get a useable, lasting upper register. Worse, doing that doesn't allow you to make the needed subtle lip movements. The chops need to be relaxed or the buzz won't happen. What's needed is better breath support, which provides the air stream, and a consistent, flexible set from pedal tones to above the staff. Once I learned this (with periodic help from a chop teacher), while my upper register didn't expand beyond F above high C, it became much more useable and my endurance increased.
  4. kehaulani

    kehaulani Fortissimo User

    May 14, 2011
    Hawaian homey
    As I see it two things come to mind at first, relaxation and forceful playing. First the simplest, relaxation. I recommend a regular meditation schedule. Pays off in many ways. There are tons of books available as is free internet information. Easiest, and very effective, is simple watching your breath. It doesn't have to be complex or rigorous.

    Second isForceful playing and that deals with many facets, but I'll bet much of that is due to ineffectual breath support. Keeping in mind there's a difference between proper support and just forceful blowing. Check out rowuks Circle of Breath on page two of this:

    Pedal tone workouts are not universally used, but I found the exercises in the Maggio and Claude Gordon particularly useful. Same can be said to the Balanced Embouchure exercises.

    BTW, forget the old habits, they're just excuses. Get yourself to a dentist.
  5. gmonady

    gmonady Utimate User

    Jan 28, 2011
    Dayton, Ohio
    Can't give you better advice as to technical methods than what has been given above my reply, but you already have a handle on the problem... Tensing up. And you will defeat yourself by believing you can't relax. So your first start before working on the excellent methods mentioned above is to FIRST convince that you CAN relax... and then do it with the skill sets recommended by our members.
  6. Ljazztrm

    Ljazztrm Mezzo Piano User

    Nov 15, 2003
    Queens, NY
    I was listening to this cat driving around today: Besides the breathing meditation that kehulani is speaking of, I've been finding that meditating on whoever/whatever comes into my mind and sending love out to them is extremely powerful for relaxation and overall dissipation of fear. I've studied a number of forms of meditation and this one has been the most powerful for me - I find it especially effective being a performer. Doing this meditation in formal sitting sessions helps me to carry the practice out as I go about my day. The fact that the guy in the clip, an ex-navy SEAL, was able to use this technique very effectively in combat situations is quite impressive to me. It may help with your fear of the dentist too! Best of luck with everything mitzidemarco, Lex
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2017
    mitzidemarco likes this.
  7. mike ansberry

    mike ansberry Forte User

    Dec 30, 2003
    Clarksville, Tennessee, U
    Some good info here. I was a very tense player with a tight, spread embouchure for many years.

    Rusty Russell helped me start to learn to relax while I play. I used his 19/30s exercises for a long time as the beginning of my warm up routine. I think there is a lot of similarity between Rusty's ideas and Greg Spence's Mystery to Mastery. This helped my endurance and range quite a bit.

    Now I am adding a concept that I first heard from Claude Gordon but it didn't sink in through my thick skull. I am working on my embouchure getting it to push toward the aperture. The pencil exercise, lip bends, and the B.E.R.P. have helped me do that. Now I am finding that my crooked teeth don't cut up the insides of my lips.

    Range and endurance are easier now. I still have a long way to go, but for me, this has worked wonders.

    None of these changes were sudden or drastic. They started in my practice routine and worked their way into my performance over time.
    Brassman64 and mitzidemarco like this.
  8. Ljazztrm

    Ljazztrm Mezzo Piano User

    Nov 15, 2003
    Queens, NY
    Yeah man, that Rusty Russell 19/30's exercise is great for relaxation and overall sound production..very especially for players who play with too much tension..stabilizes airflow and evenness of sound..really good!
    Brassman64 and mitzidemarco like this.
  9. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

    Oct 26, 2003
    My advice is that before you do anything on the trumpet, get over whatever fear you have of going to the dentist and get your teeth taken care of. You have one set of teeth - you need to keep them healthy or you will lose them all. It's pretty hard to play trumpet without any teeth.
  10. GeorgeB

    GeorgeB Mezzo Forte User

    Apr 13, 2016
    New Glasgow, N.S. Canada
    In total agreement here.
    Brassman64 and mitzidemarco like this.

Share This Page