How To Make Upper Slurs Smoother

title page to upper slurs 001Many trumpet players find it difficult to perform upward slurs smoothly without catching all the notes between the bottom and top note. Most feel it necessary to crescendo into the top note when in fact, “it is easier to slur up using a decrescendo”. This seems contrary to nature and for that reason I have included exercises to help you with the problem.

The first time I was shown this easier way to smoothly slur up was during a lesson I had with a great trumpet teacher and good friend, Mr. John Beer at the University of Iowa in Iowa City. After a short time listening to me play, he noticed the difficulty I was having when slurring to an upper note. His comment was brief and to the point, “You’re making a crescendo to your top note instead of a decrescendo”. This had never been pointed out to me and after just a few attempts my slurring world had been turned around.

Through the attached exercises and a small amount of practice, I hope you will have the same success I had that day in Iowa City.

I have included 10 levels of exercises in order to cover all players abilities while practicing these exercises.

Instructions for the use of these exercises

1. Everyone must begin with level 1, no matter what your ability.

2. Dynamics have not been included for a reason.

3. Most players may begin to find it more difficult on level 4.

4. If level 4 is a problem, stay on that level until you are able to make the slurs without playing the notes in between.

5. On level 5 you will need to accent the notes indicated with force.

6. On level 6, again you will need to accent the marked notes and imagine you are bouncing off the bottom note to the upper note. Be sure to exaggerate the dynamic changes.

7. If you are unable to perform this level with ease, stay on this page until it becomes natural to you.

8. Level 7 will be the majority of the player’s most difficult page and for that reason continue on this page until you are able to play it with ease. This is the level where you will learn the correct method to accomplish your slurs. If you have skipped ahead to this page before playing all of the previous pages, shame on you.

9. By the time you are playing measure 334 on level 8, you need to keep this point in mind, “your bottom note should be at a f dynamic level and your top note should be performed at a pp dynamic level”.

10. Level 10 is your ultimate goal and should not be attempted unless you are able to perform all the previous levels with ease. The goal on level 10 is first to play each slur with ease with the accents played on the bottom note. After this has been mastered, begin to minimize the accent to the point where the slur is made without the accent.

What we are striving for is a better control of the lip muscles used in slurring upward. The vast majority of players who are able to follow these exercises have been able to develop upper slurs with ease. There will be a few players who are still unable to slur upward and not play the notes along the way. My instruction to those few players would be this, “did you follow all of the instructions and all of the exercises”?

Upward Slurs

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 “How To Make Upper Slurs Smoother

  1. Gregory Alley

    Excellent material on the upward slur! I learned this very early in my player from a teacher, a student of the great Cliff Lillya, who taught this as well from pages 6 & 7 of Lillya’s “Trumpet Technic” (now published by Balquhidder Music).

    This is a basic trumpet skill and your approach is right on the mark as I understand it, anyway! Thanks for the tip! Keep writing!

    • Bruce Chidester

      Thank you for your comments and also for the background on the concept.

      Stay well and live long.

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