5 Areas Where Most Trumpet Players Go Wrong- #2 Air

5 Areas Where Most Trumpet Players Go Wrong- #2 Air

  • Why is such a simple function of the body so difficult to understand?
  • Why are there so many hypotheses on how the respiratory system works?
  • Why do trumpet players hold this simple “in / out” process so high in importance?
  • Why are most teachers of the trumpet wrong in what they are teaching?

“Breathing is as simple as breathing in and breathing out”.

To illustrate some of these grossly incorrect ideas, I will list just a few that I have heard from brass instructors through the years.

  1. “First fill your stomach with air”. Wrong. Your stomach has absolutely nothing to do with the respiratory system. Its function is to temporarily store food product until they are digested.
  2. “Fill your diaphragm with air”. Wrong. There is nothing in the diaphragm capable of holding anything other than muscles, tendons, blood lines and nerves.
  3. “Take your breath as if you are going to drowned”. Wrong. Breathing is not a life and death experience.
  4. “Never breathe through your nose”. Wrong. There are situations where you actually need to breathe through your nose as described in my post- “You Should Never Breath Through Your Nose, Unless
  5. “Lift your shoulders to get more air into your lungs”. Wrong. Exaggerating you shoulder position does nothing to increase your total intake.
  6. “Breathe through the corners of your mouth”. Wrong. Taking in air through the corners will not give you enough of an opening to get enough air in when time is short.
  7. “Keep your abdomen firm when you breathe”. Wrong. In order to fully expand the area used for inhalation, the abdomen must remain relaxed.
  8. “Expand you diaphragm when inhaling”. Wrong. The diaphragm cannot expand, it can only contract.
  9. “Keep you abdomen extended when you exhale”. Wrong. When exhaling, the abdomen contracts in order to expel your air.
  10. “Always fill your lungs to full capacity when playing”. Wrong. You don’t need a full take of gas to drive around the block.

I could go on but time is short and space is even shorter.

One of the best teachers I have ever had was the tuba performer known to most as Mr. Jacobs.

Arnold Jacobs (June 11, 1915 – October 7, 1998) was an American orchestral tuba player who was most known as the principal tubist for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra from 1944 until his retirement in 1988.

Jacobs was considered one of the foremost brass pedagogues of his time and was considered an expert on breathing as it related to brasswind, woodwind, and vocal performance. Due to childhood illness and adult onset asthma, his lung capacity was significantly impaired. He is best remembered for his playing philosophy which he referred to as “song and wind“.

Reprinted from Wikipedia

Another great teacher taught me many helpful things about breathing and his name among trumpet players was just “Jake” or Don Jacoby.

A Breathing Lesson With Don “Jake” Jacoby



Don “Jake” Jacoby was a noted trumpeter, teacher, band leader and author who died December 25, 1992 at age 72. He played with Benny Goodman, Les Brown, did session work for CBS, NBC and soloed at Carnegie Hall. In addition, he did much recording session work in Dallas, Texas, where he also performed with his own groups and served for a while as president of A.F. of M. Local 147.

I think you will find this video very informative.



10 simple facts which may help understand the breathing process-

  1. The diaphragm only actively functions when inhaling.
  2. Your stomach only actively functions when holding and digesting food.
  3. External intercostal muscles only contract when inhaling.
  4. Internal intercostal muscles only contract when exhaling.
  5. When inhaling, the lungs fill equally from the bottom to the top.
  6. You have more control of your air supply when using your abdomen than the chest area.
  7. Chest breathing affects only about 10% of your total intake.
  8. Expansion of the abdomen affects 80% to 90% of your intake.
  9. Always inhale for the phrase so that extra tension is not created.
  10. Keep your throat as open as is comfortable in order to take in as much air is needed in the shortest amount of time.







Bruce was a member of the faculty at the University of Northern Iowa, School of Music in Cedar Falls from 1969 until his retirement in 1999. He has performed with many well-known entertainers such as Bob Hope, Jim Nabors, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, Anita Bryant, Carman Cavalara, Victor Borgie, the Four Freshman, Blackstone the Magician, Bobby Vinton and John Davidson.