High Note Entrances Made Easier

Your exposed entrance is coming up and your chances of hitting the high C at a pianissimo dynamic level has been improving but is still at the 50% success level. Here’s the down beat and all eyes are on you. Oops! If you have ever been faced with this humbling situation, I may have the solution to your problem.

Beginning an exposed entrance in the middle of your range is not a problem for the vast majority of your entrances begin with these notes. In contrast, the upper as well as the lower notes are less frequently played and because of this fact, they are the most troublesome when beginning passages. Added practice will help you gain confidence but there is always the chance that you will over compensate for the note and what should be natural can become unnatural. When starting high notes, we most often try too hard and the notes are played with more pressure or attack than necessary.

Solution to your/our problem-

In order to use the least amount of energy and pressure to play a high note on entrances, you need to set your embouchure at the most effective position for an accurate attack. To do this you need to change the isolated starting note into a note within an easy phrase. Obviously you cannot play notes before your entrance in a concert but you can see and think of these preparatory notes. Follow the steps listed below and your accuracy should be improved substantially.

  • Copy the first four measures of your entrance on music paper and leave the measure before your entrance note empty.
  • Assuming your first note will be a high C on beat one, write in the empty measure two quarter rests on beats one and two.
  • On beat three, write two eighth notes starting on top line F and the next note G.
  • On beat four, write in the eighth notes A and Bb.
  • At this point you have in the measure before you high C rests on beats one and two, followed by a smooth run from top line F to Bb above the staff.
  • Play this run a few times and get the feel of how easy this is to play.
  • Make sure that you concentrate on each note on your page.

Now that you know how easy this run is, you should understand how you will utilize this exercise in your performance. When you ready yourself to come in on the high C, you will mentally think of playing the four eighth notes and eventually you will become the star that you deserve to be. This trick has made a big difference in my playing and I hope it works for you.

Why does this work?

More energy and pressure is exerted when we are under stress and to start a high C cold is not the easiest thing to do. What we need to do is begin a phrase in a register where you are comfortable and sneak up to the top note. You may ask, “If I’m not actually playing the eighth notes, why is it easier to play the C? Good question and the answer is the fact that we are connected from the eyes to the brain and on to the embouchure. When you see a note, your embouchure will set to play the note. Even though you do not actually play the note, your embouchure is set and the following eighth notes will lead you more easily up to the top note.

Check list for success

  • These preparatory notes must be written down.
  • You must concentrate on these notes in time before you enter.
  • Do to the fact that you have more notes to play, be sure to breath as if you are going to play the extra notes.
  • You must actually think of playing the first four notes in order for this to work for you.

This simple trick has made a big difference in my exposed entrances and I hope it will benefit you also.

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.

2 thoughts on “High Note Entrances Made Easier

  1. Tom Hodges

    Thank you,

    I have the exact same issue with a part I am playing in a concert this weekend. I am not as proficient as you and my high note problem entrance is a jump from C to high G just over the staff. But I will certainly try your suggestion, the single not C is not enough to prepare me for the G, maybe a better mental run at it will help.

    The problem piece for me is in a 10 part trumpet piece from Handel, Hallelujah. I have part 8.
    Thank you,

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