Join HI-YR-BY-A-THIRD today! Lesson 3 Review

This was the week that got me my first G in many years. To some that might not seem like much of an accomplishment but to me it was a welcome occurrence.

My F and F# got much easier and after finally breaking into the G, I have been able to go up to a very think A above high C.

Review of this week’s work.

1. I was able to use last week’s recording for this week’s material. In Part I, I hold the first two half notes out for four counts each and the last half note for six counts.

2. In Part II, I gave each of the half notes one beat and held the last half note out to the end. This also works with the recording.

3. Part III is a great way to loosen the lip before resting for a hour.

4. CG’s additional lip flexibility exercises are wonderful for as we gain strength in Parts I and II, we also need to work on flexibility so that our chops do not become too stiff.

5. Practicing in the morning is definitely better for at that time of the day, I’m more rested.

6. I have been using less mouthpiece pressure this week which is a very good sign. As we get used to playing in the upper register, the notes become more of a friend than before.

So far I am on a very consistent rehearsal schedule and I’m seeing slow but regular improvement.

Let me know how the rest of you are doing and if you have any questions or observation, let me know so we can share them with the other working on this project.

I have been checking the number of visitor on this site and have noticed that the number has remained about the same during the past week. This means that we have new players coming on line and we are also seeing some dropping out. This is common for the players who think there is a trick to gaining higher range are the ones who drop out. For those of you who are working regularly on this project, I commend you for you are the ones who will succeed.

We will now continue with Lesson #4 for this week.

Please welcome Victor Haskins

When I first listened to Mr. Haskins play, I was instantly reminded of the great rock guitar player Jimi Hendrix. You might wonder what the two musicians could have in common. Both musicians impressed me as being able to instantly move from mental creation to artistic technique. Both players, even though using different instruments and styles of music are/were able to perform whatever comes/came to mind without any technical difficulty.

When listening to most musicians, I hear the same licks and worn out patterns but in Mr. Haskins case, he seems to be free to reach down into his deepest areas to bring out new and refreshing ideas long overdue on our musical scene. Mr. Haskins seems to be fused mentally, as well as physically, with his instrument to produce pure musical creativity.

If this sounds as if I like his playing, you’re correct.

Everyone needs to listen to this young man for he has a musical depth known only to the very gifted.

Could Meditation Help In Playing the Trumpet? Part 2

Starting to Meditate

Now that you have decided on a mantra to use, we will now begin our crash course in general meditation. I am in no way instructing you to use the Transcendental meditation form for I am not a qualified instructor and to do so would be against my better judgment. What I will share with you is a similar exercise which has been published in magazines and newspapers around the world. This is a very general yet effective exercise which can be used by anyone.

1. Sit comfortably in a chair which is for the time isolated from distractions, i.e. TV, radio, children, fireworks, gun ranges and earthquakes.

2. Slowly close your eyes and begin to think of your mantra; repeating it over and over slowly in your mind.

3. As thoughts come to you as you sit there, do not try to avoid them but gently return to your mantra again.

4. Each time thoughts come to you, return to thinking your mantra.

Continue this resting and returning to the thought of your mantra for twenty minutes. Some may ask, “When my eyes are shut, how do I know when the time is up”? That was my first question also and my teacher told me to peek. Who said meditation had to be boring?

Your meditation periods should be two twenty minute sessions every day. I have found that the best time for me would be one in the morning and one in the afternoon. It is not advisable to meditate before going to bed for you will eventually gain energy from the exercises and if done before going to bed, you might have a difficult time getting to sleep.

Things to remember when meditating

1. Your mantra

2. When thoughts come to mind, replace them with your mantra.

3. When you remember that you needed to do something, replace it with your mantra.

4. When you are upset about something or someone, replace it with your mantra.

5. Your meditation will only last twenty minutes at a time so whatever you are concerned about, it can wait for the twenty minutes.

Likely benefits of Meditation

1. Clarity of mind

2. Added energy

3. Improved calmness

4. Added focus to what you are doing

Disclaimer from your author:

Many people have not tried meditation for they believe that it is an Eastern religion and to those people I would like to say, “Meditation is a simple exercise in gaining relaxation and better concentration and is in no way connected to any religious belief. I have practiced it for half of my life and I still consider myself a devout Christian”.

The Hoffman Brass Ensemble

Music and the Internet are two elements which have worked well together for through the marvel of science, we are able to share performances with likeminded musicians throughout the world

Such is the case here where a good friend from Australia has allowed us to attend, if only second handedly, a recent concert in the far off continent.

Elaine Johnson has been very active in sharing her musical talents as well as her true love for music with musicians around the world and for that reason I wanted to applaud her for her endless drive and refreshing enthusiasm for our art form.

Her promotion of chamber music as well as live concerts should be an inspiration to us all.

Now sit back and observe a true worrier for our cause.

Could Meditation Help In Playing the Trumpet?

A Little Information and History about Meditating

Meditation is many things to many people. Some think it is a religious experience. Some think it is a cult. And some, including your author are aware of its benefits to better health. I will try to summarize the technique and benefits of meditation as completely as I can in this post.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The term meditation refers to a broad variety of practices (much like the term sports), which range from techniques designed to promote relaxation, contacting spiritual guides, building internal energy (chi, ki, prana, etc.), receiving psychic visions, getting closer to a god, seeing past lives, taking astral journeys, and so forth, to more technical exercises targeted at developing compassion, love, patience, generosity, forgiveness and more far-reaching goals such as effortless sustained single-pointed concentration,[3] single-pointed analysis,[4] and an indestructible sense of well-being while engaging in any and all of life’s activities. Thus, it is essential to be specific about the type of meditation practice under investigation.

The type of meditation I and my wife have practiced for the past 36 years is called Transcendental Meditation or TM for short. The benefits we have gained include more energy, better mental focus and a very deep feeling of relaxation and release of tension. It requires two 20 minute sessions each day and should be a major requirement in our schedule. Unfortunately like many things good for us, we sometimes forget to do it.

The basic exercise begins with sitting comfortably in a chair for approximately twenty minutes without thinking of anything. This sounds very simple but if you try it, you will find that it requires regular practice to accomplish this seemly simple chore. Try it and you will agree that with our busy schedule and life styles, being able to sit quietly without thinking of anything, is not that easy.

How does Meditation work?

Your twenty minute exercise begins with sitting in a comfortable chair. You may rest your arms at your side or on the arms of the chair for the most comfortable position is most important. If you spend most of your time shifting around to gain comfort, you are wasting time. So….get comfortable. For your first attempt I would suggest that you be alone with the TV and/or radio turned off. As you gain experience at meditating, you will be able to do it even in the most distracting environment, but for now, keep it quiet and peaceful.

After you have become comfortable in your chair, relax and close your eyes. Sit there for a few minutes or until your body has begun to relax. While sitting there, you will be distracted by your environment with sounds and movements. As these distractions enter your mind, do not linger on them nor try to force them from your thoughts.

At this point a practitioner of TM would begin to mentally repeating his/her mantra or special sound given to him/her by their teacher. A mantra is a sound or word which does not represent anything known or visual. If you think of the word elephant, you will create a picture in your mind of that animal. If you think of the word car, the same thing happens. A mantra is basically used to fill your mind with something which does not represent any recognizable image or thought.

The mantras only function is to help you concentrate on nothing!

What you use as a mantra is entirely up to you but as you try to create your own mantra, keep these things in mind-

1. Mantras are usually short (one to two syllables).

2. Calming letters (E, D, J, L, M, O) are better than the more explosive letters (B, K, P, T).

3. Mantras are not spoken outwardly but are repeated in your mind.

4. A mantra should not bring up an image.

5. A very popular mantra is the syllable “ahmmmm”. Notice when you think the syllable, an image is not generated, unless it is a picture of a monk sitting in a full lotus position on the floor. If this does come to mind, then you need to find another mantra. Other possibilities could be “Dah,Wah, Sha”.

Now that you have created your own mantra, I will begin our next post with instructions on how to use it and possibly gain the benefits of the exercise.

Disclaimer from your author:

Many people have not tried meditation for they believe that it is an Eastern religion and to those people I would like to say, “Meditation is a simple exercise in gaining relaxation and better concentration and is in no way connected to any religious belief. I have practiced it for half of my life and I still consider myself a devout Christian”.

Check back to our next post for we will start our exercise in meditation.

Join HI-YR-BY-A-THIRD today! Lesson 2 Review

This completes the first full week on Lesson #2 of the Claude Gordon book and most of you have been finding some improvement.

What have we learned?

Some have reported that they have gained more range than they expected in one week. Some have reported that their range has remained the same but their original high note has improved both in consistency and sound. And some have found that their range had actually gone down. All of these reports are common and I will explain each as we go through this post.

“After one week of regular practice on the CG book, my range went up three half steps”.

Congratulations but don’t expect that to happen every time. Many times when first starting on a project like this, some players find immediate improvement in their range. More often than not, this sudden improvement means that a large fluctuation in success is in their future. Sudden improvements many times are followed by sudden drops in range. What we are striving for is a slow and consistent improvement each week.

“After one week of regular practice on the CG book, my range stayed the same but my upper notes were easier to play and sounded better”.

Congratulation for this is what we are working for. Notes which were the highest are now improving and the notes which were impossible are now only difficult to play. A good way of looking at this is “improve what you have and the impossible will become the difficult, but also the improvable”.

“After one week of regular practice on the CG book, my range went down”.

Congratulations for you are on the right path but you may be walking in the wrong direction. After one week of consistent practicing on this method, you should have gained some success and for that reason I will review some of the most important aspects of Chapter #2.

Areas to concentrate on in Chapter #2.

Part 1

1. Big breath- many players do not understand the concept of a BIG BREATH. Everyday breathing is called “Tidal Breathing” and works very well in keeping us alive. Playing a brass instrument goes much farther and is call “Forced Inhalation and Exhalation”. Both expanded inhalation and exhalation require more effort when taking air in and more contraction when pushing the air out. Because of this unusual practice, the body must learn to adjust to this exchange of air. This is also why I spent so much time explaining the possibility of dizziness in Chapter #1. If you are breathing as you do throughout the day, you are not using the air to its full advantage. Learn to breath deep and extend your phrases.

2. Practice slowly and meticulously- One of the advantages of practicing with the prerecorded tape in this chapter is the fact that it dictates your speed and trains you to practice in a regimented style. Another advantage is that once you start the tape, you will be more likely to continue with the exercise. Still another advantage is the fact that some of you might not be able to play as high as the tape but by listening to it and practicing with it, it is similar to having someone else in the room with you.

3. Hold the last note as long as you have air- Use discretion on this one.

4. Take a breath when needed- good advice.

5. Rest as marked- good advice.

6. Continue down- good advice.

Part 2

1. Big Breath- essential.

2. OK

3. Tongue notes- I prefer slurring.

4. Rest- good advice

5. Think “Teee”- as you go up, think of blowing farther.

6. Crescendo on last note- Realize this important fact- “Playing your highest note requires a lot of air. If you use up most of your air on the lower notes of the arpeggios, this leaves less air for the top note. It would be better to start your lowest note softly and conserve your air until the top note”.

7. Keep going as far as you can- great advice.

Part 3

1. Practice legato- I prefer slurring.

2. Tighten and relax- good advice.

3. Top note should be the strongest- good advice.

I have been contacted by a longtime student of Mr. Gordon and he has agreed to contribute his views, and the author’s views of the method. As we get further into this book, we will share ideas and try to give a true outlook of Mr. Gordon’s teaching methods.

Some have asked how my improvement has been and I can say that I land in the second group for my F and F# have improved but the G is still untouchable for me. Stay tuned for more updates as we now begin Chapter #3.

Gap Or No gap? That Is The Distance.

To most players, the depth that the trumpet mouthpiece extends into the mouthpiece receiver means nothing. To some, it is imperative that the distance be calculated and established. To some, the controversy has never come up. We will try to first explain what is meant by the gap, then how it affects the trumpets playing characteristics and finally show how you can make the necessary adjustment in order to possibly change your instruments playing characteristics.

What is meant by the term gap?

The term gap refers to the distance from the end of the trumpet mouthpiece to the beginning of the lead pipe when inserted into the trumpet. If there is a great distance from the end of the mouthpiece to the beginning of the leadpipe, this distance will affect the tone and response of the instrument.

How the gap affects the trumpet’s playing characteristics?

Usually an extended gap will increase the brightness of the instrument as well as affect the smoothness between notes. As the gap decreases, the instrument tends to play with a darker sound and notes tend to be more flexible in pitch and response.

For years the debate went on between the Bach followers and the Schilke followers for both men felt that their mouthpiece depth was the only correct choice. Mr. Bach insisted that there should be a gap and Mr. Schilke believed that there should be a smooth transition from the mouthpiece into the leadpipe. That was one of the reasons that the earlier instruments had the sound and playing style appreciated by the two camps.

How you can make adjustments to the length of the gap.

Ways to increase the gap

1. Cut off the end of your mouthpiece. (Ouch! Not recommended)

2. Rap Scotch tape around the shank (the part that goes into your mouthpiece receiver). (Much better way.)

By cutting the end of the shank off, you will increase the gap but also you will probably ruin your mouthpiece. If on the other hand you rap a single piece of Scotch tape around your mouthpiece, you will increase the gap. Additional tape will again increase the gap and you still have a workable mouthpiece.

Ways to decrease the gap

1. Drive a Morris tapered instrument into the mouthpiece receiver. (Not recommended unless done by a professional instrument repairperson).

2. Sand down the silver plating on the outside of the shank of your mouthpiece. (Realize that what you take off cannot be replaced.)

If you do decide to sand down your mouthpiece, you can always start putting Scotch tape on it again. (This is a solution for your first mistake but can save an otherwise ruined mouthpiece).

The debate as to which would be the best continues to go on today- Gap or No Gap. I am not recommending either but I thought that some of you might want to know what all the shouting was about.

If you are interested in experimenting on gaps, I would recommend that you first play your instrument for about thirty minutes while listening to the sound and evaluating the response. Then wrap a small section of Scotch tape around your mouthpiece shank; just enough to extend your mouthpiece out the smallest amount. Play your horn again for a couple of minutes and continue adding tape to see what changes are made on your playing. This will only cost you the time spent and you will then be able to voice your opinion on which is best- Gap or No Gap?

This was sent in today from a reader who has suggested this video.

From Kris……….
Here is a video in which Jason Harrelson, trumpet innovator, explains mouthpiece gap. Perhaps some would find a visual/audio companion to your article helpful. Cheers.

Thanks Kris for the information.

Mouthpiece Gap with Jason Harrelson

How to Play a Low F in Tune

Not often, but enough to learn this trick, we are asked to play a low F. Usually it is required by someone who knows nothing about our instrument or acceptable orchestration practices. Or, in the case recently, where I arranged a number which required the first trumpet to exceed what I considered a reasonable high range and I decided to lower the key to solve the problem. Unfortunately by lowering the key it placed the lowest note in the fourth trumpet part down to a low F. Not being one to change the F to one an octave above, which would be the easiest solution, I decided to keep the F and included a trick which I learned from the master trumpet designer, Renold Schilke many years ago.

Seldom are we required to play a low F and in my lifetime I can only remember two occasions. The first was in the third cornet part in the Ringling Brothers Barnum Baily Circus in Dallas, Texas and the other was in a Symphony long time forgotten. But if you ever have to play a low F without lipping it down, here is how you do it.

Extending our third slide will give you a solid low F when fingered 1-2-3 but by extending the third slide to get the note, you will throw off all other notes using third valve. As an example I have included the trumpet part which has the alternate fingerings which I mentioned earlier.

In the fourth trumpet part of my arrangement of Les Pecheurs de Perles by Bizet, I needed a low F. To get this note as you can see, I suggested that the player use the indicated alternate fingering. In measure 17, the first note is a normal low D (1-3) followed by an E. Notice the alternate fingering on the D. The player was instructed to extend the third slide in measure 16 which meant that with the slide extended, the normal fingering in the next measure would lower the D to a Db and hence the suggested alternate fingering of 2-3 (Eb), which would be lowered now to the D.

Normal fingering is used through measures 18 and 19 then, in measure 20, we have another D followed by our low F. With the slide already out to play the D, the low F uses the usual fingering of low F# but with the slide still extended, it brings the note down to a low F. Measure 21 continues the alternate fingering with the extended third slide but when we are to play measure 23 we have a problem. The Eb cannot be played with a normal fingering (23) with the slide still extended for it will play a D. So………I instructed the player to play the E with the third valve (alternate fingering for the note E) and with the third slide already extended, the slide brings the note down to the Eb we are after.

Does this sound a little confusing? Sure it does but practicing these alternate fingerings will give you a solid low F rather than a funky, “lipped down” and out of tune F with 1-2-3 fingerings. Try it a few times to get used to the concept and I think you will agree that with a little practice, the concept works. It has for many symphony players around the world and you might enjoy the challenge.

Download example here- Les Pecheurs de Perles- Trumpet 4

Speaking of a challenge, I remember one concert with our faculty brass quintet when I challenged myself to use alternate fingerings on every note in our program. If you want a challenge to your mind, try that on a live concert!

Join HI-YR-BY-A-THIRD today! Lesson 2

I have included two recorded samples with this lesson for two reasons. Most players who begin these exercises, have a difficult time keeping their notes in tune when playing pedal tones and when playing in the upper register, struggle with hearing the higher notes. For those reasons I have recorded these samples for you to practice with.

Another advantage of playing along with a recorded example is that it will dictate the amount of time to play as well as rest during your practice time. This is very important for many players actually overdo the playing and underdo the resting.

Now that we are started Lesson II, I feel that we can start to develop our upper range. If you have not read the posts on “passing out” on this blog, do so at this time for there was a reason I posted them before we got started on Lesson II.

Use the recordings below as a guide to Lesson II and be sure to indicate on your highest note on your work sheet.

Be kind for all of my recordings are the first and only take.

Lesson II Part #1- Lesson II part 1- Revised

Lesson II Part #2- Lesson II part 2- Revised

Why Do Trumpet Players Pass Out? Part II

Five possible causes of passing out with similar conditions to playing and releasing extended high notes on a trumpet.

Material taken from

1. Syncope (faint) is a sudden fall of blood pressure resulting in loss of consciousness.

2. Valsalva maneuver or Valsalva manoeuvre. The Valsalva maneuver is performed by attempting to exhale against a closed airway. This can be done by keeping the mouth closed and pinching the nose while trying to breath out. This maneuver greatly increases pressures inside the chest cavity – which stimulates the vagus nerve and increases vagal tone.

3. Orthostatic hypotension, also known as postural hypotension, and colloquially as head rush or dizzy spell, is a form of hypotension in which a person’s blood pressure suddenly falls when standing up or stretching.

4. Hyperventilation can sometimes cause symptoms such as numbness or tingling in the hands, feet and lips, lightheadedness, dizziness, headache, chest pain, flexor spasm of hands and feet,[3] slurred speech, nervous laughter, and sometimes fainting, particularly when accompanied by the Valsalva maneuver.

Notice that I have mentioned FIVE possible causes and have listed only four so far. The fifth will be explained at the conclusion of this post.


The vagus nerve also called pneumogastric nerve or cranial nerve X, is the tenth of twelve (excluding CN0) paired cranial nerves. Upon leaving the medulla between the medullary pyramid and the inferior cerebellar peduncle, it extends through the jugular foramen, then passing into the carotid sheath between the internal carotid artery and the internal jugular vein down below the head, to the neck, chest and abdomen, where it contributes to the innervation of the viscera. Besides output to the various organs in the body, the vagus nerve conveys sensory information about the state of the body’s organs to the central nervous system. 80-90% of the nerve fibers in the vagus nerve are afferent (sensory) nerves communicating the state of the viscera to the brain.[1]

The vagus is also called the pneumogastric nerve since it innervates both the lungs and the stomach.

The motor division of the vagus nerve is derived from the basal plate of the embryonic medulla oblongata, while the sensory division originates from the cranial neural crest.

The vagus nerve includes axons which emerge from or converge onto three nuclei of the medulla:

1. The Dorsal nucleus of vagus nerve – which sends parasympathetic output to the viscera, especially the intestines
2. The Nucleus ambiguus – which sends parasympathetic output to the heart (slowing it down) and
3. The Solitary nucleus – which receives afferent taste information and primary afferents from visceral organs

Also from

Nucleus ambiguous
The nucleus ambiguus in its “external formation” contains cholinergic preganglionic parasympathetic neurons for the heart.[1] These neurons are cardioinhibitory.[2]This cardioinhibitory effect is one of the means by which quick changes in blood pressure are achieved by the central nervous system (the primary means being changes in sympathetic nervous system activity, which constricts arterioles and makes the heart pump faster and harder). That is, through integrated and antagonistic system with sympathetic outflow from thevasomotor center of the brainstem, the parasympathetic outflow arising from the nucleus ambiguus and dorsal motor nucleus of the vagus nerve acts to decrease cardiac activity in response to fast increases in blood pressure. The external formation of the nucleus ambiguus also sends bronchoconstrictor fibers to the bronchopulmonary system, which can produce reflexive decreases in pulmonary bronchial airflow. The pathophysiologic relevance of this system, which may act in concert with the cardioinhibitory system, is poorly understood, but likely plays a role in bronchospastic diseases like COPD/emphysema (in which inhaled anticholinergic medications such as Spiriva/tiotropium oripratropium are standard-of-care treatment) and asthma, particularly for exercise-related asthma exacerbations, which may have a component of autonomic dysregulation.

Now that we have seen material which means very little to the average trumpet player, what does it all mean?

Causes not particular to our trumpet situation-

Hyperventilation may be the reason for passing out for anxious moments in a performance can and does bring on lesser symptoms of what we are studying. But the more savvier symptoms of our cases are more aggressive than mere anxiety and we need to look deeper into the cause.

Orthostatic hypotension, although similar to our situation, it does not take into consideration the element of restricted back pressure in the respiratory channel.

Causes similar to playing and releasing high notes-

Syncope certainly fits the form for our study for a sudden drop in blood pressure could be the cause of passing out.

The Valsalva maneuver is performed by attempting to exhale against a closed airway which is exactly what we are doing when sustaining and eventually releasing a high note.

And Now……..

Possable reason #5

All of this information explains how a drop in blood pressure can cause a blackout, but could there be another reason (reason #5) for the drop in blood pressure? Could there be something in the action taken by the player that triggers the loss in blood pressure?

During most of my teaching history, I taught my students that the real cause of a blackout was caused from the expansion of the throat against the blood vessels in that area. I also taught, and still do believe that the release of the note and the sudden decrease in the restrictions in the area of the throat allowed the blood to suddenly resume its travel into the brain which caused the player to become dizzy and possibly pass out.

An additional instruction was that as the feeling of dizziness starts to set in, the player should tuck his/her chin tightly into his/her chest and the affect of the blood pressure change could be substantially minimized.
Fortunately or unfortunately, I have not had the dizziness symptoms for many years and am unable to test this theory. When I was experiencing the dizziness, the “tuck the chin” exercise worked every time.

When trying this movement remember to tuck the chin in tight and stretch the back of the neck as much as possible.
Some might ask “What does this movement have to do with the blood flow. I believe that the “tucked in position” slightly restricts the sudden increase of blood to the brain enough to lessen the sudden impact of the blood rush.

Sounds very brutal doesn’t it?

Let me assure you that it is not as dangerous as it sounds. The only reason I have discussed the “Pass Out” subject is to give you a warning for the only real danger you might be faced with would be waking up to find you might have fallen and damaged your instrument.