Trumpet Performance Tips

High Range Trumpet Instruction

Expand the Trumpets High Range

Trumpet Range (high range and low range) comes as a result of three distinct factors: (1) Playing the correct mouthpiece for the job at hand; (2) Strengthening the embouchure muscles through playing correctly which means BUILDING and not DESTROYING the chops through excessive mouthpiece pressure and overtraining; (3) Learning how to properly compress the air for playing trumpet in the upper, middle and lower registers. I see many trumpet players, who play equipment that is too big; do not know how to properly compress the air and who do not hold themselves in a correct physical position whether seated or standing.

High Trumpet Range Specialist
Bill Chase

High Range Trumpet Mouthpieces

Using an efficient trumpet mouthpiece for whatever it is you are trying to perform is very important. The more you play and the more efficient you become as a trumpet player, the more discerning of differing equipment you will be. Each of us is an INDIVIDUAL so there is no one size fits all and that applies to trumpet mouthpieces just as it applies to the hundreds of other factors involved that make you an INDIVIDUAL player. YOU must decide what size of mouthpiece feels best for you as an individual. For many years, I struggled with the notion that I must play a Bach 7C or 3C trumpet mouthpiece. That was the paradigm many years ago. A Schilke trumpet mouthpiece in my day growing up was looked upon as an unorthodox "cheater" mouthpiece (although, a Schilke 24 is probably the largest mouthpiece made) etc. I read (remember there was no, and no internet) the Instrumentalist Magazine and other publications trying to learn as much as I could about equipment. I decided early on that I would emulate some of the trumpet gear choices of the professional Lead Trumpet Players that I read about and I begin buying various mouthpieces and experimenting. I learned over time, that a smaller diameter trumpet mouthpiece felt much more comfortable to me and have gradually moved to a Patrick 12C for all of my legit trumpet studies. I have learned that a 10.5C diameter works best for me. I have a very small mouth and thin lips. When I play, I have close to zero lip protrusion into the cup of the mouthpiece; thus, I can play a smaller cup mouthpiece and feel very comfortable doing so. Of course, the RULE of the day is ALWAYS going to be tone quality and the music that is being produced by the trumpet. You wouldn't sacrifice musical tone for ease of equipment etc. I gradually worked from a Back 7C to a Giardinelli Screw Rim 10C and now down to a Patrick 12C (I also have a Mt. Vernon Bach 10.5C, a LOUD 10.5C and a couple of Marcinkiewicz Claude Gordon Personal mouthpieces that I can play as well for legit studies. There is absolutely nothing wrong with trying out different gear. You don't know what fits you best until you have tried out different equipment! In my opinion the biggest factor to begin with is the trumpet mouthpiece inner diameter. Once you have that right for YOU, then you can further concentrate on rim types, the alpha-angle of the cup, cup shape, cup depth etc, throat size, back-bore size and back-bore shape. (NOTE: I use Claude Gordon Personal mouthpieces by Marcinkiewicz and two different Lynn Nicholson V Cup trumpet mouthpieces for High Range studies and playing. One has a #24 throat and more open back-bore - the Lynn Nicholson Monette Prana XLT Model and the other ... Lynn's Personal mouthpiece by James R New has a 19 throat and a tighter back-bore. Why use a Backhoe to dig out a Flowerpot? You use the most efficient equipment for the job. I can play a Double C on my high range trumpet mouthpieces and I cannot on the Marciniiewicz Claude Gordon Personal mouthpieces if I tried I'd have to press extremely hard on my chops to compensate for the voluminous V cup in those mouthpieces. There are others out there who can play powerful lead trumpet on a Bach 3C trumpet mouthpiece like Tony Gorruso formerly of the Buddy Rich Big Band and Arturo Sandoval. Both have larger lips and embouchures.

Stratospheric Icon Jon Faddis

Jon Faddis has thicker lips and plays on a very small cup mouthpiece. Again, it is an INDIVIDUAL thing that YOU must figure out through your on experimentation. No one tells you what pair of shoes feel the best to you ... you do!

Here is the Great Self-Taught Trumpet Player Bobby Shew on trumpet mouthpieces:

"The use of an improper mouthpiece equates with trying to drive nails with a screwdriver. We were all told at an early age to "do everything on one mouthpiece" and "avoid those mouthpiece traps". Well, I'm here to tell you that I TRIED that...for years and years. I kept believing that someone knew what they were talking about. After all the years in this business, playing on so many bands, sitting next to so many great and famous players, I saw a different attitude about equipment. People weren't always "looking for the magic mouthpiece".... BUT, they WERE LOOKING and Experimenting !! The activity of investigating, trying, asking questions about,'s a great adventure and you eventually really can learn some very important things about WHAT and HOW to use in the area of mouthpieces, perhaps different for different situations. Some MAJOR classical players whom I know use different pieces for different horns such as "C", "Bb", PICCOLO, etc. Some players switch mouthpieces occasionally even on one trumpet just to help improve the way they play a certain style of music. Sounds SANE to me...sorta, "THE RIGHT TOOL FOR THE JOB"!!


Former Tower of Power Lead Trumpet - Mike Bogart

You can really help your young students by being more encouraging, positive, realistic, and INFORMED about adjusting in equipment. Simply, if a kid is playing in your concert band, wind ensemble, or orchestra, it's recommended that he or she play on a lower compression (deeper cup) mouthpiece. It helps produce sounds that fit the music better and it makes the student feel greater ease in playing the style correctly. If the same kid plays in your jazz big band, suggest they find a high compression (shallower) mouthpiece which helps that player access not only into the upper register, but to just get quicker response from his or her efforts. This translates as ease of playing. Naturally, the "sensible" thing to do is to try to get a mouthpiece with a similar rim and inside diameter for both situations. This is easy to accomplish as long as the student is playing on a standard, stock piece. It doesn't always have to be precisely EXACT, just close...."in the ballpark"! The younger students won't so much notice nor be adversely affected by slight differences whereby a pro will much more likely be more sensitive to minute differences ... but not always! Don't be afraid TO TRY!! Better to explore and discover than to keep your head and mind buried in the sand of tradition (and misinformation)." !


THE BOSS - Maynard Ferguson

High Range Trumpet Embouchure

There are various dogmatic schools of thought that dictate that you MUST use this type of embouchure or that type of embouchure and YOU must play dead in the center of your chops etc. This whole thought process becomes ludicrous if one just begins to study the various high note embouchures of some of the greats. Maynard Ferguson did not play in the center of his chops; Bill Chase did not play in the center of his chops; Jon Faddis does not play in the center of his chops etc. etc. As Maynard, Bill Chase, Arturo Sandoval, Jerry Hey, Roger Ingram, Bobby Shew and a whole host of others have stated, you find what works for YOU as an individual. I play off center to the right slightly and anchor the mouthpiece on my upper right lip. NOT centered and that is how I have played for the past 50 years with great success. The determination should be your ability or inability to play with a good tone quality. If you can play with a good tome quality, everything else can be built with the right equipment, practice time, desire and correct breathing/compression. The trumpet high range is like riding a bicycle ... once you learn how to get up there ... then you always retain that know how. It just becomes a matter of staying in good playing shape or practicing. I can play an hour or a 90 minute practice session and NOT have a single mark on my lips. My lips are so small and thin, the slightest bit of pressure would probably make me bleed. Jon Faddis is big on Herbert L. Clarke's Technical Studies (particularly Exercise #1) for building range; Tony Kadleck has mentioned Lip Slurs; Brian MacDonald & Roger Ingram have both suggested glissandos with bugle valve combinations; Bill Chase was a big believer in Long Tones as was Cat Anderson. Playing Exercise #1 of Herbert L. Clarke's Technical Studies for the Cornet forces you to use your air compression if you play the studies sixteen times and in one breath at p or pp in dynamics. Maynard Ferguson and Eric Miyashiro (a totally self-taught trumpet player) have suggested playing melodies up and octave or a third or a fifth etc. I always use a Metronome and rest just as long as I play between exercises etc. BUILD don't DESTROY the chops.

BMac - Brian MacDonald
Lead Trumpet - Airmen of Note

Air Compression for Trumpet High Notes

As Nashville Studio First Call Trumpet Player Steve Patrick has stated, playing the trumpet effeciently is totally a synergistic thing. Many parts must be working together in harmony for the machine (YOU) to function properly and so it is with trumpet high notes. Assuming your chops are in good playing shape, and you aren't trying to use a Back Hoe to dig out a Flower Pot then what is left is air compression. You can compress any amount of air! You can play a very high note with very little air is the air compression is what produces the sound. For me, I sit on my practice chair ...feet touching one another with knees out ...back straight and chest up. As you naturally take a breath, your mid-section (the sternum) and chest will rise slightly. The compression occurs from your chest down and all the way around your torso including your back. Having played for fifty years and competed in Powerlifting in four different states over a thirty-year period ... this was not hard for me to learn nor identify as I use it. Squatting 500 lbs. in a Powerlifting Competition absolutely requires air compression though out the mid-section or one could get very seriously hurt. I have done thousands of sets of squats through the years with each set requiring a tightening of my abs and lower back to survive. If you stand straight against a wall and have someone gently hit you in the mid-section ... you will probably tighten up as they hit you out of a defensive reflex ... that is what the abs feel like when you are supporting with your air compression. The higher the note, the harder the compression must be. When compressing the air however; the upper torso from your chest up must stay relaxed. Allen Vizzutti has deemed this a triangle of relaxation of sorts. You must not tighten your throat or use excessive mouthpiece pressure ... the air has to do the work.

Frank Greene
Lead Trumpet Player - New York City

Bobby Shew On Air Compression:

"This is one of the areas of brass playing that causes a great deal of confusion. Much discussion about the importance of the diaphragm has sent many a player down the road to confusion, inability, and bleeding lips. The upper part of the torso contains a large FAMILY of muscles that all have been designed to function in a teamwork fashion specially when we do something requiring FORCED EXHALATION, i.e., blowing out candles, spitting something out of our mouth, OR BLOWING ON A WIND INSTRUMENT.

There are 3 layers of abdominal muscles from the groin to the sternum (breastplate); there are 2 layers of muscles (inner and outer) in between the ribs; there are back muscles from the lumbar region upward to the shoulders; there is the diaphragm just below the lung sacs; and there are muscles coming-down diagonally from behind the ear which connect to the top of the rib cage. When a person does a "forced exhalation", the entire family is activated as a "one-family" movement. They ALL simultaneously increase their tension levels in order to raise the internal compression level (PSI) in the lung chambers. This moves the air FASTER which is one of the first necessary things that must occur when a player moves "upward" in the register. The area that the player needs to become aware of is NOT in the diaphragm but in the center of the abdominal muscles, approximately near the navel. The body has a natural way of centering itself if you only just try to blow suddenly as if spitting a piece of rice or blowing out a candle. By learning to control the variance of tension, either isometric for holding a compression level or by tightening and relaxing the degrees of tension based upon what you are playing, one discovers that it is really the abdominal support that controls the air. This ab support certainly influences the diaphragm, but it is NOT the diaphragm alone that moves the air. It is the FAMILY of muscles, all guided by the abdominal centering." - Bobby Shew

Articles by Bobby Shew

Bobby Shew on Air Compression

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