Easy Lip Control Exercise

Army Reserve 2010 Best Warrior Competition Army Physical Fitness TestBeing able to bend notes up and down can be very beneficial to a trumpet player. Adjusting notes a little in order to play them in tune as well as having the ability to bend notes in Jazz can be improved with this exercise.

When practicing this exercise, try to land solidly on the false note and remain in the center of the pitch. With practice, this will be easier.

Download practice sheet here- Easy Lip Control Exercise

Listen to example here- easy lip control exercize

Marshall Lytle (September 1, 1933 – May 25, 2013)

MarshalTo have had the opportunity to watch this legend of Rock and Roll history perform was memorable, but have had the opportunity to visit with him was a true blessing.

The information listed below was excerpted from Wikipedia were you can read more about this true legend. As one of the working musicians in Branson, Marshall could be seen around town and his smile could light up the darkest days. His laugh and stories could lift you out of your worst situations. His contribution to music and Rock and Roll in particular will be remembered for decades and as one who visited with him much too infrequently, I will miss him as will the world.

Reprinted from Wikipedia-

“Lytle was a guitar player before joining Bill Haley’s country music group, The Saddlemen, in 1951. But Lytle was hired to play double bass for the group, replacing departing musician Al Rex, so Haley taught Lytle the basics of slap bass playing. Lytle, who was only a teenager at the time, grew a moustache in order to look a little older, and became a full-time member of The Saddlemen and, in September 1952, he was with the group when they changed their name to Bill Haley & His Comets. Soon after, Lytle co-wrote with Haley the band’s first national hit, “Crazy Man, Crazy” although he did not receive co-authorship credit for it (until 2002).

Lytle played on all of Haley’s recordings between mid-1951 and the summer of 1955, including the epochal “Rock Around the Clock” in 1954 ( Marshall and Ambrose are the last living members to play on the 1954 Rock Around The Clock masterpiece). He played a late 1940s model Epiphone B5 upright double bass, purchased in October, 1951, for about $275. He used gut strings for the G and D strings while the A and E strings were wound. Lytle’s style of playing, which involved slapping the strings to make a percussive sound, is considered one of the signature sounds of early rock and roll and rockabilly. The athletic Lytle also developed a stage routine, along with saxophone player Joey Ambrose, that involved doing acrobatic stunts with the bass fiddle, including throwing it in the air and riding it like a horse.[1] This became a signature performance for The Comets that later musicians working for Haley were instructed to emulate………………..

As of December 2009, Lytle retired performing and touring with the Comets, stating 20 years was a long enough reunion for him, and he wished to try some new things including concentration on a solo project. In 2006 the group took up a long-term residence at the Dick Clark American Bandstand Theater in Branson, Missouri, performing more than 150 shows at the venue, with more in 2007. The group also toured Europe in early 2007. Following the death of Johnny Grande and the retirement from touring of Franny Beecher, both in 2006, Lytle was one of three remaining original band members still with the group. In 2009, Lytle released his memoir, entitled Still Rockin’ Around The Clock. At that time, he underwent surgery to remove part of his leg. Despite that setback, Lytle is still performing, albeit with other musicians and without the other Comets.

In 2012, Lytle was inducted as a member of the Comets into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Bill Haley had previously been inducted in 1987, but at the time the Hall did not include backing groups in its inductions; this was rectified in later years, resulting in the Comets and several other backing groups being inducted on their own in 2012″.

We love you Marshal and already miss you. None will touch our hearts as much as you have.

Famous Trumpet Solo, Little Known Trumpet Player

David_Mason_1893285cWhen trumpet players think of the most famous trumpet solos, we most often mention Maynard Ferguson’s early recording of “MacArthur Park” (February, 1970). Others mention Bix Beiderbecke’s recording of Sweet Sue (1928) and still others will mention the wealth of great solos performed by the master of trumpet Raphael Mendez (b. March 26, 1906 – d. September 15, 1981). But everyone in the world will remember the solo recorded by David Mason, even though most have never heard of this gifted trumpet player.

The trumpet solo on the Beetles recording, “Penny Lane” will arguably go down in history as the most recognizable trumpet solo in history. “Penny Lane” will last through eternity not only because it was well written and performed well, but also due to the fact that it was connected to the most famous British invasion group and featured on their most important album, “St. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”.

I thought you should know something about the player as well as the circumstances surrounding this monumental trumpet solo.

David Mason

David Mason, who died on April 29 aged 85, was principal trumpet, at various times, at Covent Garden and the Royal Philharmonic and Philharmonia Orchestras, but he became better known as the piccolo trumpet soloist on the Beatles’ 1967 hit Penny Lane.

According to the group’s producer Sir George Martin, it was Paul McCartney who had the idea of adding a trumpet solo to the song after watching Mason play in a performance of Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos. “There’s a guy in them playing this fantastic high trumpet,” Martin recalled the Beatle saying. Mason arrived at the recording session with nine trumpets and,“by a process of elimination”, it was agreed that the B-flat piccolo trumpet, an octave above the normal, was best suited to the task.

“It was a difficult session, for two reasons,” Martin recalled. “First, that little trumpet is a devil to play in tune, because it isn’t really in tune with itself, so that in order to achieve pure notes the player has to ‘lip’ each one. Secondly, we had no music prepared.” Many professionals bridled at such disorganisation. Happily, Martin recorded, “David Mason wasn’t like that at all. Paul would think up the notes he wanted, and I would write them down for David. The result was unique, something which had never been done in rock music before, and it gave Penny Lane a very distinct character.”

Some Beatles historians have claimed that his solo was speeded up on the final recording, but Mason always denied this. “They were jolly high notes, quite taxing, but with the tapes rolling we did two takes as overdubs on top of the existing song.” Once finished, Mason was told that Penny Lane was to form the B-side to Strawberry Fields. He protested: “I much prefer this to Strawberry Fields.” (“Oh, thanks mate,” replied that song’s composer, John Lennon). In the end the songs were released back-to-back as a double A-side.

David Mason was born in London in 1926 and educated at Christ’s Hospital and the Royal College of Music, where he studied with Ernest Hall. For most of the Second World War he was too young for military service and therefore picked up work in orchestras whose trumpeters had been called up. By the time he was called up to serve in the Scots Guards, he was the youngest member of the then National Symphony Orchestra.

After leaving the RCM, Mason became a member, then principal trumpet, of the orchestra of the Royal Opera House, moving on later to the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, then the Philharmonia, where he remained for most of the rest of his career. As a much-loved professor for 30 years at the RCM he taught many of today’s leading trumpet players.
Among other performances, Mason was the flugelhorn soloist for the world premiere of Ralph Vaughan Williams’s Symphony No 9 in 1958. He also contributed to several other Beatles’ songs, including A Day in the Life; Magical Mystery Tour and All You Need Is Love.

He is survived by his wife, Rachel, and by their son and daughter.

© Copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited

Do You Need A Music Riser?


When I was first introduced to the MUSIC RISER I had no idea what it was. It was explained to me that it raises the music off the stand making it easier to read. My first question was, “Why can’t you just raise the music stand”? That seemed like a legitimate question and then I was reminded that when you play in a dance band, most of the times you are playing on painfully low dance band fronts which cannot be raised. That was true and then my interest was piqued. I tried one on a job that night and have never been without one since.

The concept is very simple. Most trumpet players are in the habit of placing a plunger, mute or billfold on the shelf of the dance band stand in order to get the music up high enough to see. So someone decided it would be better to elevate the music about two inches higher whereby the bottom of the music could more easily be seen and read. Most often the ledge of the dance band front covers the lower line on each page. This really works and I have never had any problem reading the bottom line on any chart. Another benefit is that the music is higher and better lit by the stand light. The older I get, the more I appreciate these little things.

Another feature built into the riser is a place to keep a pencil for handy use during rehearsals. This must have been designed by a player! The MUSIC RISER’S shelf is transparent which is also handy for better lighting on your music. The two inch rise also gives you the opportunity to rest mutes on your stand without interfering with page turns.

From my own experience, this works very well for your big band jobs and is also handy on a Manhasset stand when you want to store your extras on the stand and still be able to turn pages. The design is simple and the workmanship and materials are first rate. The cost is $18.95 including shipping.

If you are interested in the Music Riser, contact me at this site.

Do You Ever Suffer From Stiff Chops? Part #2

Irons 001

Continuing with our discussion on the problem of stiff chops…..

While teaching lessons at my university, I realized that many of our students were complaining about stiff chops or the lack of flexibility. Along with this problem invariably was the observation that their lips seldom felt good. After collecting information of such students practice habits, it became obvious that they were overdoing their time in the practice rooms in order to get all their lesson material accomplished. And because they were expected to practice one hour a day for every hour of credit, it was time to figure out a way to improve their musical development and at the same time feel good about their embouchure.

The solution to this problem was the introduction of a more complete “warm down” exercise which would relax the embouchure more quickly for a more complete recovery from a hard day of playing.

Two elements were added to their practice routine which included-

1. Lip flexibility exercises.
2. Soft volumes during the cool down.

One of the best books ever written for lip flexibility is Twenty-Seven Groups of Exercises by Earl D. Irons. This treasure of exercises has been around for a long, long time and is still recommended by most trumpet instructors. In addition to the lip slurs which extend upward to include playing to G above high C, are great exercises in multiple tonguing.

To include a “cool down” segment into your regular routine, begin with group #6. Start on the last line of that exercise and work towards the front of the book. Remember to perform these slurs at a very soft dynamic level for you are playing in order to relax you lip, not strengthen it. Continue with group #5, then #4 and so forth until you reach the first lip slur in the book.

Another exercise which will quickly relax your embouchure would be pedal tones. Play these notes also at a very soft dynamic level and soon you will begin to feel a slight tingling sensation in your lips. The soft, slow vibrations of the lip are what you want for this action speed up the recovery time in your embouchure. This more rapid recovery time will be felt the next morning when you begin to play, for the more rapid replacement of oxygen in the lip with help you regain that friendly feeling in your chops.

Now, let’s talk about trombone playing….

As I mentioned in my Part #1 of this series, I have found some remarkable benefits for trumpet playing from playing trombone. In the morning I warm up to an F above high C and put the trumpet in its case for the rest of the day, unless I have to record an arrangement later that day. In the evening I put in anywhere from thirty minutes to two hours practicing my trombone. Each day that this routine is continued, I have noticed that my trumpet playing improves as well as my trombone playing. In an earlier life, I would not have even tried this combination but at this point in my journey, it works well. The added meat in the trombone mouthpiece seems to help strengthen the same muscles needed for trumpet playing and the low frequency of the vibrations help to relax my embouchure for my trumpet playing the next day.

In our next post we will interview a professional trumpet player who had just gone through an extensive period of playing shows and will share with us his thoughts on coping with stiff chops.

We Have A Winner! 11 Giant Steps for Mankind (Trumpet Duet)

5642884133_0696ba732bHere is your challenge!

Congratulations to Josh for his continued research and investigation into the multiple connections of the title of this piece.

Thanks to the others who participated and we will do this again from time to time when I can’t get to sleep and have the uncontrollable urge to generate another puzzle.

A free copy of Besame Mucho has been sent to the winner and we hope more will be participating in out next contest.


One small step for man (leap for mankind),. (John Glenn)

The 11 was also a reference to Apollo 11. (John Glenn)

Giant Steps by John Coltrane.

Tone rows normally have 12 different pitches. Mine only had 11. The note missing was the F. If you look at Coltrane s recording of Giant Steps the fourth note in the melody is an F which I left out in my tone row.

Do You Ever Suffer From Stiff Chops? Part #1

lip plateThe number of people complaining about stiff chops seems to be growing and for that reason, I thought it time to address the problem.
Symptoms of “stiff chops”-

1. Each morning when you begin to practice, your lips seem to be leathery or inflexible.

2. Many times your tone quality seems airy when you begin to play.

3. Flexibility exercises seem difficult.

4. More air is needed to start a note.

5. Playing soft tends to be difficult while playing loud is easy.

6. Low notes are a problem at the same time your high notes must be played loud in order to come out.

7. Flexibility is more of a problem than is endurance.

If any of these symptoms are common to your playing, I will try to address the problem and make a few suggestions on solving this condition.

Answer these questions-

Does it feel better to play in the afternoon or evening than early in the morning?

Most agree that starting to play in the early morning is more difficult and reasons for this would include the fact that you have not spoken much in the morning and the lack of motion of your lips could affect you lip flexibility. Another element would be the fact that you have been sleeping for several hours during which time your lips have sustained dryness through the constant exchange of air between your lips.

Do you experience more stiffness the day after a long practice session or rehearsal than when you have had a day or two off?

The heavy demand on your chops through hard practice and/or rehearsals tends to carry through to the next morning while a couple days rest gives the lips a chance to relax and regain flexibility. The problem with taking off a few days is the fact that we don’t have that luxury.

When you have been away from your horn, does it seem that your range is up but your endurance is down?

These two conditions are very common for the days of rest tent to relax the lips which in turn make high notes speak more easily and the lack of practice hinders good lip endurance. It seems as if one area is improved just as another is hindered.

So, what is the solution?

After many years of dealing with the question “how can I build my chops and at the same time sustain my flexibility and range”? I would like to make a suggestion, but first…….

Last Christmas my wife gave me a P-Bone and after the Christmas trappings were picked up and the kids and grandkids returned home, I began to practice my brand new BLUE trombone. I have been at it now for about four and one half months and have discovered a very strange development. MY TRUMPET PLAYING HAS IMPROVED”. My range, flexibility, endurance, tone and a wonderful feeling in my chops seem to be from the trombone practice. You might ask, “Could it be from practicing the trumpet”?

The last time I practiced trumpet was the week before Christmas!

Stay tuned for more on this situation and find out if I will be switching to trombone or continuing my current practice patterns.

You mat also find this page helpful- Rest as Much As You Play

Vibrato, Lip trills and Shakes made easy!


You might wonder why these three techniques are grouped together. The reason I am discussing them as a group is because they are all three related. The shake is just an extension of a vibrato and the proper use of lip trills (tongue trills) is the bridge between an applied hand vibrato and a shake.


Introduction to the application and use of vibrato

Performing a solo without vibrato is similar to eating a perfect steak without seasoning. Even the best steak will be improved with just the right amount of seasoning. Vibrato can be described as “the icing on a cake”. We all know what vibrato sounds like and most believe they know how it is produced or applied to the sound of their instrument. Vibrato is used differently on each instrument as well as the human voice. Vibrato on a trombone can be made through the use of the slide (slide vibrato) or the lip (lip vibrato) or even the use of the air stream (diaphragmatic vibrato). On a euphonium, vibrato can be activated through the use of the air or jaw vibrato. Vibrato, when applied to a trumpet, can also be done by many techniques and I will try to explain the advantages of each in my next posting (Application and use of the hand vibrato).

Through the proper use of vibrato, the performer is able to add an additional dimension to his/her sound. A non vibrato note has a single dimensional sound and has its proper application in many of our performances. As an example, a straight (non vibrato) tone is expected when playing in a trumpet section of a big band. The responsibility of a section player is to play the notes in tune with no vibrato so that there is no conflict of vibrato with that of the lead player. You may have also run into material which has printed n.v. (no vibrato). Practicing tones with no vibrato is also a great way to break your sound quality (timbre) down into its most basic elements. When trying to improve the openness of your sound or improving your tone, there is no better way than playing long tones without the use of any vibrato.

As stated before, there are several ways to add vibrato to your sound and each has some advantages over the other. It is my opinion that the best vibrato for trumpet playing is a hand vibrato and in the next posting, I will explain why and how to execute it properly.

Introduction to the application and use of a tongue trill

Please note that I have used the term “lip trill” only because this is the most recognized and most often used term for what I am about to explain. Even though this term is the most widely used description of the technique I will be using a far more accurate term- “tongue trill”.

Developing a tongue trill can be of great use to every trumpet player and achieving a high degree of ability is not very difficult if you follow my exercises in later postings. Whether you are performing tongue trills on a Baroque solo or just showing off on a theme and variation, its use can add tremendously to your over all performance. After you have accomplished a tongue trill, the mystery and amazement will be made clear- “it ain’t that hard”.

Introduction to the application and use of a shake

Shakes are most often encountered in jazz music and most particularly in big band literature. I can remember the first time someone showed me how to do a shake. It seemed like the whole world opened up to me. Until that moment, my shakes were something of an embarrassment. If it weren’t for the fact that they were so bad, I would have found them comical. My moment of awakening occurred during one of my lessons with Don Jacoby in Dallas. I remember distinctly everything that transpired that day in his home. “Jake” asked me to play a shake on top space G. My teacher was too nice a person to laugh out loud but I could sense a slight snicker in his voice when he asked politely, “Who taught you to do that”? Now he had my total attention. In the next four hours he told me, and showed me how to accomplish your next goal. When I say that my lesson lasted four hours, you need to know that your one hour lesson would be interrupted by several phone calls, golf matches and baseball games on his television as well as people stopping by to visit. If you were lucky enough to finish your lesson near dinner time, most often you would be invited to share dinner with both him and his wonderful wife Dory. Please excuse my ramblings but thinking back to my visits with Jake bring back recollections of precious moments with a great man and teacher and friend to many of us. We miss you Jake. Now back to the lesson. At the end of my lesson I was given the concept and the suggested exercises to build on and within a week, I had a shake even I was proud of. As you read my last posting in this series, you will also gain the wisdom from that lesson, even if it is second hand.

I feel that these three techniques are very important to learn properly and for that reason I have decided to describe them individually even though they are related techniques. I do want to restate this point- IT IS VERY IMPORTANT THAT YOU READ EACH OF MY INSTRUCTIONS IN THE ORDER THEY HAVE BEEN POSTED.

You may also find this helpful- Shakes

Hypnotic Brass Ensemble

HbeIn our never ending quest to bring to the surface brass ensembles worth watching, I thought you might enjoy this more recent offering which has its roots in a far off time and space. The time is the 1950’s and the space reference is Saturn where an important figure influenced the direction of this ensemble.

A big influence in the development of Hypnotic Brass Ensemble was the father of these brothers and an important influence in the fathers life was Sun Ra, an interesting figure in the 70’s who professed to be from the planet Saturn.

How more wild can it get than that?

You will find an unusually large collection of videos on YouTube documenting the history of this group and to save time, I have selected the video which I feel is the turning point of this group which started playing on the Chicago streets and eventually developed into an interesting performance ensemble. I believe the turning point of their development came when they became associated with the drummer Tony Allen seen in this documentary.

I have also posted one of my favorite videos of the entertainer (?) Sun Ra to give you some background of the father’s interests and direction so that you will understand what preceded the formation of the group Hypnotic Brass Ensemble.

HBE are eight brothers from the south side of Chicago. They come from an extraordinary musical family. Other sisters and brothers are professional musicians, their mothers are singers, and Philip Cohran, their father, has roots running back to Mississippi, his time in the musical hothouse of 1940s St Louis, and his seminal role with Sun Ra in Chicago in the 1950s. When Ra left for the east coast in 1960, Phil stayed in Chicago.

Sun Ra – A Joyful Noise

Are you suffering from Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis?

Obama care
Recent studies have found that musicians are subjecting themselves to mold and/or bacteria which may lead to the development of hypersensitivity pneumonitis (HP), a lung condition characterized by shortness of breath and cough. The mold or bacteria has been found in virtually every instrument tested by Dr. Mark Metersky (University of Connecticut Health Center). His complete story can be read at –


Read also a brief News report published in the September issue of the professional journal Chest



Article | 09.07.10

Brass musicians may unknowingly inhale mold and bacteria from their instruments, which may
lead to the development of hypersensitivity pneumonitis (HP), a lung condition characterized by
shortness of breath and cough. In separate reports, researchers from the United States and France
identified cases of HP in a 35-year-old patient who played the trombone and in a 48-year-old
patient who played the saxophone. In both cases, patients had no other medical or environmental
exposures that could have led to the condition. Analysis of the instruments revealed the presence
of mold and/or bacteria contamination within the instruments. In both reports, researchers
studied several other musicians and their instruments. Almost all instruments were contaminated
with mold and/or bacteria, although no definite additional cases of HP were diagnosed.
Researchers speculate that since most brass and wind instruments may harbor large numbers of
mold and bacteria, many other musicians may be at risk for HP. The reports are published in the
September issue of CHEST, the peer-reviewed journal of the American College of Chest
Physicians: CHEST September 2010 138:754; doi: 10.1378/chest.10-0374. CHEST 2010;

Be sure to  share this information with fellow musicians.