Five Myths of Playing the Trumpet
MYTH #1 Only special freaks can play in the high register. Don't waste precious time trying to duplicate their efforts. There are plenty of notes below high C upon which to devote your time and effort.
FACT: Nearly any player can dramatically improve his or her high register. What is needed is the desire to do so, and a dedicated, systematic approach. The high register will not succumb to the casual player.
MYTH #2 If I could find just the right mouthpiece, I too could be a high note artist.
FACT: There are mouthpieces which facilitate brilliance and intensity of sound. These mouthpieces, sometimes labeled high velocity, are more "V" shaped as opposed to bowl shaped. Sometimes, usually at the music store when we are trying mouthpieces, almost any mouthpiece appears to be superior to the one we are now playing - hence the answer to all our prayers. But pitch is determined by frequency of vibration of your lip. If you can play a C4 on a Schilke 5a4a, you can also do so on a Bach #1. Don't get into the drawer full of mouthpieces syndrome. Choose a rim that is comfortable and learn to play it. I am convinced that a larger cup diameter and a more open throat, which permits a larger airstream, actually facilitates the development of the high register.
MYTH #3 I need a special trumpet.
FACT: Mouthpiece tapers, varying bores, different bell sizes, and various alloys will alter the timbre and playing characteristics of an instrument. But the instrument, in fact, has even less to do with lip vibration, which determines pitch, than does the mouthpiece.
MYTH #4 Playing and practicing in the high (G2 to C5) register will ruin the middle and low registers, and make my tone brittle and laser-like.
FACT: Not practicing all registers equally will allow one-sidedness to take place. Practicing the pedal register, especially, will serve to counteract the extreme compression required to perform the high register. More than likely, a piercing, laser-like sound and a too blatty low register is really the fault of a too small, too shallow mouthpiece. This combination leads to jambing the mouthpiece for the high tones, which is sure to elicit the above mentioned complaints.
MYTH #5 You must play in all registers without changing your embouchure, or play in all registers without re-setting your lips.
FACT: I don't disagree in principle with the above statement. But I believe it has been widely misinterpreted because of semantics and/or insufficient explanation. The opening quote, taken literally, is nonsense! No two tones are played with precisely the same lip setting, let alone an entire register. What is required is a constantly adjusting embouchure, capable of moving from the bottom register through to the top register without the necessity of stopping along the way to regroup your chops. Re-read the last sentence and memorize it! It is of the utmost urgency that you understand what is meant. The understanding which you believe that you have right now will probably be altered as you progress toward the Constant Adjustment Embouchure.*s Clyde Hunt Extracted from SAIL THE SEVEN C'S (C) Copyright B Flat Music Production
PREFACE to Sail The Seven C's,
It is with humility and even a bit of embarrassment that I offer to you, dear trumpeter, yet another method book - generically known as ``how to blow the trumpet''. For I am reasonably sure that: (A) I have no unique exercises. (B) I have no access to previously unknown ``truths''. (C) I am not the originator of any of these principles. (D) All players with a very great range play in essentially the same way, so that the only unique aspect of this book is the manner in which the information is presented.
I had the good fortune, a few years back, to gain access to the trumpet literature ``stacks'' at the Library of Congress. There I was able to examine virtually all of the method books which dated from well into the nineteenth century, through the early 1980's. I came away from the project, in some ways, even more confused than when I began it. There were books which were nearly illiterate, and others which really didn't attempt to verbalize. The assumption seems to have been that the exercises were enough in themselves. However, I did leave the library with a much better idea of which questions are the important ones. I was especially intrigued by authors who attacked each other's premises, but seemed to me to be wholly in agreement - In other words, they did not disagree on ``how to do it'', but their explanations seemingly clashed. I began by compiling a list of ``the most often mentioned parameters'', and proceeded to again go through each book in an attempt to see what the author had to say on the matter. The results of that compilation are available within these pages. When we first heard Stan Kenton's ten-man brass section at fortissimo in the high register, with Maynard Ferguson's trumpet screaming an octave above in the altissimo register, our hair stood on end and the goose bumps sprang forth! The high register, like the proverbial mountain, is there and so we must climb. The charts have been expanded to G3, with A's, B's, and C4's being used at endings - so it is clear that a full octave has been expanded to the trumpet literature from 1940 to 1990. But alas, we were told, as young players, that ``we would ruin our `chops' if we attempted to play above high C'' (C3). ``There are many good notes between middle C and G2, and you should concentrate on mastering them''. The truth is, very few people possess the know-how to ascend into the alt register, let alone teach young people how to do so. It becomes quickly apparent that the brute strength approach will not master the instrument. ``There must be an easier way to play the trumpet'' It is the author's premise that all good players play essentially the same way, but due to human variation both physical and mental, no single approach will be effective for all players. I have further hypothesized that the greatest stumbling blocks to teaching ``what to do'' while playing are : (A) A lack of scientific evaluative techniques. (B) A lack of standardized terminology, and (C) the difficulty of trying to externalize, or verbalize, a process which is essentially internal. In other words, most disagreements regarding playing techniques are a result of several differing verbal descriptions of the same physical much akin to the proverb of the blind men who gave conflicting descriptions of an elephant based upon the examination of a particular appendage. The range of the trumpet, as well as that of all other brass instruments, is contingent upon the chops of the player. To this end, we brass players have to devote considerable time to the physical development of our embouchure. I doubt that anyone can promise that any amount of practice will enable everyone to play the above-mentioned seven octave range, anymore than we can guarantee that every jogger will eventually be able to run the four-minute-mile. It is not given that all should be able to do so! But I can promise that everyone who seriously and conscientiously follows the regimen prescribed in this book will be able to improve his range and endurance considerably. The high register will not capitulate to casual practice - but it will yield to those who correctly persist! In this trumpet player's guide I have attempted to define, describe, and label those "questions'' which did not seem to be addressed in previous publications. At least they were not explained in a way which made sense to me. What this guide offers, I hope, is a unique personal approach which consists of: (A) A defined terminology to codify and label the parameters of brass playing. (B) A consistently programmed series of exercises which will address both the calisthenic and some of the musical needs of the player. (C) A demo CD or cassette. While lecturing on the principles of playing the trumpet in both the upper and pedal registers, it became apparent that few people really have any idea whatsoever of what all those ledger lines, both above and below the staff, feel like, or sound like. Use of the recording also allows immediate feedback as to the success of the practice session. The recording uses the ``call and response'' approach, which automatically provides the correct amount of rest, with the mouthpiece off the ``chops''. Also, the student is verbally reminded of the importance of: deep breathing, compressing the airstream, using the ``silent whistle'', and lessening the mouthpiece pressure.
The essence of good teaching lies with the articulation of information in a manner which the student is likely to understand. This means that the teacher should make every effort to say the same things in as many ways as possible. One never knows which one will ``ring the bell''. It is my sincere hope that some aspect of this guide might trigger the ``aha'' situation within the student. You, dear reader, will have to be the judge of the extent to which I have succeeded.