How to Identify and Deal with Excessive Mouthpiece Pressure- Part 2

Mouthpiece pressure begins with the hands.

#1. The easiest solution

All mouthpiece pressure begins with the hands. Holding the instrument is the only way we can play the instrument so it is logical our first step to lesson the pressure on the lip would be to  lessening the grip on the horn. Now visit another of my blogs “Left hand Playing Position”  illustrating a “lower left hand position” which will automatically lessen your mouthpiece pressure. By using this lower, left hand position, you will begin to lessen your pressure without any major changes to your playing style.

The next area of attack is the little finger on your right hand. If you have been in the habit of placing your little finger in the ring on your lead pipe, now is the time to break that habit. Many people complain that they forget to keep their finger out of the ring and because of this problem; I have suggested that they wrap a strip of Scotch Tape around the ring as a constant reminder to keep the finger out. The little finger positioned in this ring can transfer a tremendous amount of pressure to your lip while performing. After a week of touching and replacing the tape, you should have relieved this point of pressure. If your habit returns, pop on some tape again.

#2 The more difficult solution

The next step in relieving excessive mouthpiece pressure is where I am at the current time. I have decided that even with the lower left hand position which I have used for many years, it was now time to reduce the pressure even further. For that reason I am now using a different left hand position and have made significant improvements. The accompanying photo illustrates this new left hand position. Let me be the first to say that this is more than a little unusual. All of my practicing is done this way and I am very pleased with the outcome. I have begun to play with minimum pressure and because of that fact; I have seen a tremendous improvement in my embouchure development. When you begin to perform with less mouthpiece pressure, you will notice that your embouchure will be used more efficiently and consequently increases development. I have used this left hand position on only one job so far but while playing the gig I noticed that my endurance, range, tone and flexibility had increased. I am convinced that this hand position has improved my playing and I will continue playing this way until I find something better.

#3 The most difficult solution

This exercises is the most challenging and should only be done in the confines of your practice room.

Stories have circulated for many years about lessening mouthpiece pressure. One suggestion told to me  is the “suspended trumpet” exercise. The trumpet is suspended from the ceiling by two or three strings which allow the instrument to swing freely in air. Then the player is supposed to walk up to the mouthpiece and begin to play a note. Obviously as the mouthpiece pressure is increased, the instrument begins to be pushed away from the player. I have no doubt that this will illustrate just how difficult it is to play with “no” pressure. My only question is directed to the value of this exercises, “how does this relate to real life playing”?

A similar and more practical approach to the same problem would be the following exercise. Place your instrument on an elevated table or extended music stand covered with a towel. Walk up to the instrument and begin playing a note. The towel and music stand will increase the amount of pressure you are able to place on your lip and for that reason; this exercise is a little more practical when illustrating minimal mouthpiece pressure. Start with middle range notes and gradually increase both higher notes and stronger volumes. This is only an exercise for forcing you to concentrate on the responsibility of the embouchure muscles. After a few minutes of this exercise, begin to practice holding your instrument as described in example #2. While practicing, be very conscious of the feeling of limited pressure and begin to implement this feeling into your practical playing routine.

How to Identify and Deal with Excessive Mouthpiece Pressure- Part 1

Before we get into the how and why of excessive mouthpiece pressure, we need to identify what it actually is and establish how it is produced.

What is mouthpiece pressure? When the rim of a brass instruments mouthpiece comes in contact with the lip, it produces mouthpiece pressure on the lip. Some pressure is required in order to seal the two from leaking air as the player begins to blow through the lips. If too little pressure is exerted you will have air leaks. If too much mouthpiece pressure is exerted, the player will limit the vibration of the lips and in extreme cases, damage can be sustained by the lips.

How much pressure is correct? The amount of mouthpiece pressure will vary in accordance to the volume (decibels) and range of the notes. When playing extremely loud, a slight increase of pressure is necessary in order to compensate for the increased amount of air being blown into the instrument. Less pressure is also needed when playing in the low register of the instrument as compared to slightly more pressure used in the higher register. Please note that I have described the increased pressure as being “slightly” increased for an excess of pressure is not good and now we will identify what is ideal as compared to excessive.

How do you know if you are using too much mouthpiece pressure? The usual signs of excessive mouthpiece pressure are-

  • Bruising or pain under the rim of the mouthpiece while playing or after playing
  • Long lasting (ten minutes) dent in lip after removing mouthpiece
  • Thinness in tone in all registers
  • Split lip caused from playing for long periods of time and/or in high registers
  • Ridges forming on the inside of your lip where your lip makes contact with your teeth
  • General lack of endurance
  • Inability to play very soft passages
  • Difficulty starting notes at soft volumes in all registers
  • Excessive tension in neck and shoulder muscles after practicing
  • Lasting (ten minutes) dent in your little finger of your right hand where you hold your instrument
  • Left hand tends to go to sleep during long (one hour) playing sessions
  • Soreness or stiffness in your jaw area after long playing sessions

All of these are signs of possible excessive mouthpiece pressure and now after pointing out the signs, we move on to what can be done to alleviate the problem.

What can be done to lessen excessive mouthpiece pressure? If you are a beginning player, you have a definite advantage over an older player for your habits have not yet become established and consequently the time needed for the correction will be lessened. For a long-time player, the correction time will take longer but the advantages you will gain will be well worth the effort. In my next post I will describe three methods which should correct your excessive mouthpiece pressure problem and I will begin with the least aggressive and continue with more difficult exercises.

Advanced Midi Arranging- Part 2


“Air from Water Music Suite in F”

Download instructions and examples here- Midi Arranging Advanced-Pt 2

Adjust note values

Midi files will write exactly what was played when the music was first entered and for that reason, many of the notes will be cut shorter than what we would like. The amount of editing will be a personal choice and in many cases you may alter the original in a way that is not historically or musically correct. Just remember, it’s your choice and if it works for you, go for it. There will always be people out there taking shots at you for what ever reason so go for the sound you like. Who knows, maybe the composer would prefer your version over his/hers.

SAVE your work

6. Transfer to another score to shift parts for easier playing

Create another score with extra staffs in order to move parts around more easily. Usually one additional staff works but for this example, I have set six lines. First you decide which players will alternate playing the melody. This will enable each of the two players to take frequent periods of rest even though they may be constantly playing. Just a few second parts will make the players feel rested when they again play the melody. I have decided to split the first player’s line with the third player’s line. The fourth part will be played by a flugel horn so that must be kept in tact.

Select and copy the fourth part and paste it into the sixth line.

Now select the second part and paste it into the fifth line.

Re-label the bottom line with “4rth trumpet” or flugel

Re-label the fifth line with “2nd trumpet”

Select the first trumpet part and paste it into the top line of your work score.

Re-label the top line as “1st trumpet”

Select and copy the third part and paste it into the third line of the work score.

Rename the third line “3rd trumpet”

Remove the text in the second and fourth lines

Your working score should now read from top to bottom-

  • 1st trumpet
  • Blank
  • 3rd trumpet
  • Blank
  • 2nd trumpet
  • 4th trumpet

SAVE your work

7. Shifting the work load between two players

The advantage of the extra lines will be apparent for now you can copy phrases and paste them into empty lines so that they can be moved around more easily. Alternate the melody line from the first part with the third part and try to make the end of one part move smoothly into the melody in the following section.

8. Transfer to final score

Open a new and final score with four staffs. Enter all of the final information such as names of parts, title, composer, transcriber (you), key, time signature, number of measures, etc. Save this score under the name “Final Score”. Work back and forth between the six staff score and your “Final Score” to transfer the four lines to the appropriate lines in the “Final Staff”. By placing double bar lines at the beginning of phrases, your two melody players will be prepared to enter in the next solo section and back again on their harmony parts. At this point you should also mark rehearsal letters so that your rehearsals will be more effective. Add the appropriate dynamics to each section and in this case use dynamics only at the beginning of sections. No crescendos or decrescendos in this style of music.

9. Print parts from Final Score

Open a template parts page and enter all text information, ie. title, composer, tempo, etc. Save as TRUMPET PART. Add the required additional measures to this page. Select and copy first trumpet part and paste it into the trumpet part page. Save as trumpet 1. Replace double bar lines and rehearsal letters if necessary. Continue with all parts and double check your work. After checking play back your score and read every part for any errors. After you are convinced the parts and score are correct, pass the parts out and see what happens. Sfter doing several of these mid transcriptions, you will gain both confidence and speed.

Advanced Midi Arranging – Part 1


“Air from Water Music Suite in F”

Download instructions and examples here- Midi Arranging Advanced-Pt 1

1. Original

Open Finale Song Writer.

Use wizard to set score for four trombone lines.

Change first three lines to treble clef and keep the fourth line in bass clef.

Save as “Water Music- Trumpet Score”.

Open another window and paste the following Url into the “open” window. Change file type to “Midi”

http://www.amclassical.com/midi/handel_waterair.mid

Save this score as “Original Midi Score”.

2. Remove Horn Parts

Select “Staff Tool” (second line, second button from the left, top of page).

Click on box just to the left of the treble clef sign on the Horn 1 part.

Hit “Delete” key on keyboard to remove horn 1.

Repeat with horn 2.

Save work.

Print score.

3. Change the following

Part placement, remove trills, change names on score, change bass clef to treble, raise bottom line an octave, and change time signature

Click on the “Selection Tool” button (second line, first button) and select the melody in the fourth line by clicking in the area between the flat and the time signature.

Copy the line and paste it into the top line of “Water Music- Trumpet Score”.

Continue copying and pasting the remaining lines into your new score. Make note of order of parts in score.

Change the remaining bass clef line into a treble clef line and transpose it up an octave (utilities at top, then transpose, then up an octave from box).

Play your score and see if it all fits. It should sound acceptable even though the bottom line is an octave higher than the original.

Remove trills- Trills can be a problem at this point and it will take time and careful editing to remove the midi executed trills. Take the trills out and replace the removed notes with a more basic note line. The trills will be replaced at a later time.

Change time signature from 8/8 to 4/4 by clicking on “Time Signature” button and them on the first measure of the top line. Change the 8/8 to 4/4.

4. Transpose to a better key and adjust range

This number is written in the key of F (one flat) and after viewing the score, I noticed that by changing the key from F to G, most of the notes in the bottom part could be played by the fourth trumpet so you now need to transpose the score up to the key of G. To do this, click on the key signature button, third from the left. Next, click in the middle of the first measure, top line in your score. This brings up the area you will be able to change keys in your score. Use the up button to change the key from F to G the click OK. Your score is now in a better key to perform.

Save work.

The top three parts are in good shape for range but the fourth part as in most cases must be altered to fit in the range of the instrument. When ever possible, try to keep the part as low as the instrument can perform which means lowering notes when ever possible and raising notes which are out of the range of the instrument.

Save work.

5. Shorten score

In most midi scores, there will be a lot of repeated material and in order to save time in editing, you need to find out what material is repeated and use repeat signs to save time.

Use your select tool and click in the first measure of the first line of your score. All of this line will be selected and now open a new window with an empty lead part window. Paste the first line into this page. Now you will more easily be able to see the repeated sections.

The basic form of this piece is an ABABDCD which means you can put in a repeat from the end of measure 36 back to the beginning, cut out measures 37- 62 and continue to the end. That will save a tremendous amount of duplication when editing. It also gives you the option of taking the repeat or cutting it shorter with no repeat.

Save work.

Stay tuned for the final episode of this program!

Getting Started At Midi Arranging


Download work sheet here- Getting Started At Midi Arranging

Listen to MP3 examples here- MP3 musical examples

1. Access material for project

Open your Internet Browser and paste this URL in the box at the top.

http://www.barbershop.org/document-center/category/19-free-music-for-printing.html

2. Print sheet music

Print out sheet music for “You’re a Grand Old Flag”, second song from the bottom of the            page.

Page #1 of downloads

3. Set up score in Finale-

Start your Finale program and set the Wizard for SATB. Set it up for cut time, four flats, half note pickup and 69 measures in length.

4. Enter individual parts to SATB lines

Change Alto line to bass clef (click on clef tool at top of page, double click on pickup       measure and when option box comes up, double click on the bass clef sign- fourth from           the left. Repeat on the first full measure). Manually enter all of the notes from the Tenor,         Lead (Alto), Baritone, Bass lines on the corresponding lines of the score into Finale    (Song Writer). For this exercise, you need only to transfer the first page. If you want to             complete this number for future use, continue as far as you wish.

Important Comment: At this point you may wonder what arranging midi file has to do with your first four instructions for we have not yet modified any midi files. I wanted you to be able to enter notes from an existing printed score before we start on cutting and copying midi information. Many of the tunes that you will want to arrange may already be in hard copy form and with this post, you will understand how these printed sheet can be modified for your use.

Now that you have entered each note from the original score into your four lines in your Finale program, make sure you save this material before continuing on to the next instruction.

Page #2 of downloads

5. Sustaining notes

Combine every repeated note to give more of a more choral sound rather than a choppy,    mechanical sound. This is much more instrumental than the first version.

Page #3 of downloads

6. Adjusting Range

Alto and bass lines are changed to treble clef and both are raised an octave. The Tenor      line is also lowered an octave and now becomes the third part. The fourth part is checked         to make sure that all notes are playable. If fourth part is below the playable range of the            instrument, the whole chart must be transposed so that it fits within the range of every        instrument.

Page #4 of downloads

7. A Simple Arrangement

To illustrate how this material can be altered to resemble a real arrangement, I began with the original melody of eight measures and then added the soprano or the third part for the        next eight measures. After that I added the bass part, again for eight measures and finally     added the alto part for the last eight measures. To give it a more interesting close, I just            copied and pasted the last four measures in as a tag.

High Range Methods- Current Approaches

This posting includes a warning! “What you are about to read and view, can be of help to playing more easily in the upper register. This material includes very reasonable and sensible methods and, if followed carefully, should improve you high notes. Also in this post are examples of extremely high playing and in no way should you try to achieve today what these players have developed through years of practice. Any attempt to duplicate their high notes can and will spit your lip wide open and cause massive bleeding and unmatchable pain and suffering. The author of this blog accepts no responsibility for any damage or discomfort done to any individual who does not follow the included instructions as stated.” With that said, let’s get into the study of high note playing. Oh, one more thing. If you get dizzy, while playing these exercises, SIT DOWN IMEDIATLY!

The accompanying written material is highly recommended and should be read completely before beginning to play.

Trumpetstudio.com- Free

There are many similarities between these exercises and those done in the Roger Spalding and the Glaude Gordon Methods. These are proven examples of high range practices and should help you.

StudyMusicOnline.com This video explains a very thoughtful approach to high note playing. Please note the use of low tones performed after the high note exercise. This is very important for it gives the embouchure a slight chance to recover as well as reset your mouthpiece placement and embouchure formation.

215thArmyBand The player in this video will share many important hints which you should consider. During the video, two very helpful etude books are recommended. The first is the Earl Irons, twenty-seven Groups of Exercises. This was a required book for all of my students at the University of Northern Iowa and I am very pleased that it is still valued so highly today. The other etude book is the Walter Smith Top Tones for Trumpet, also one that I required of my students. Playing repetitious scales can become very boring and the Top Tones will give you more of a melodic approach to high note playing.

I recommend all three of these sites and would expect you to try all three. Try all three, one at a time and decide which approach works best for you at this time and then stick with that one alone. If, in the future you become tired of your first choice, or if you do not advance in your high range playing, try one of the other two for a while. There is no way in the world anyone could tell you which method will work best for you but at least now you have three possible methods to try. Only you can be the judge on which is best for your situation.

High Range Methods- Pedal Tones

The use of pedal tones is like eating Chinese food; you either love it or hate it. I’m not sure who should be given credit for the use of pedal tones but my guess would be that it had something to do with playing the Circus. If you have ever played the circus, and I am speaking of the Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey circus, you know what I am talking about. I’m sure that there are trumpet players around who enjoyed the experience and I am also confident that those players also enjoy have a root canal done on them during a lightening storm.  The after affects of such an experience will teach one the fine art of flapping ones lips or as you will see, playing pedal tones.

What are pedal tones and what do they do for you?

Pedal tones are the notes below the usual low register of the trumpet which would begin on our written low F, one-half step below our normal low range. In order to produce this lower half step, all you have to do is relax your embouchure to the required note. Once you have a good F (and can this even be possible?), continue down to the next half step below. Continue lowering your notes until you are unable to go lower. With a little experimenting and a little less mouthpiece pressure, you will suddenly produce a whole new world of strange vibrations which, if continued too long, will begin to make your nose itch. Yes I said that your nose will itch. The reason for this is that your lips are vibrating at such a slow speed and your lips are relaxed to such an extreme that your whole face will begin to feel this relaxed condition. This extreme relaxation of your facial muscles is the reason we practice pedal tones. Pedal tones not only relax facial muscles but also super charge the meat with added oxygen for a more rapid recovery from tired embouchure muscles. After an extended time playing pedal tones, you feel as if you had just received injections of collagen in your lips.

How can pedal tones improve playing high notes?

There are many theories on why pedal tones help increase our high register. Some players feel the added oxygen is the reason. Some feel that by having puffed the lips up with the pedal tones, more meat is under the mouthpiece and consequently you have an added cushion of embouchure to work with and some believe that you play in more of a pucker position under the mouthpiece. Whatever the reason, those who practice the use of pedal tones, all agree that pedal tones do help with upper register performance.

What method books utilize pedal tones in their material?

No one is sure who was the first to promote in print the pedal tone concept but two of the earliest could have been the Roger Spalding Double High C in 37 Weeks (not currently available) method and the Claude Gordon Systematic Approach to Daily Practice method. Another important method around the same time and possibly the predecessor to the first two might have been the Carmine Caruso method.

I have practiced out of both the 37 Weeks and the Systematic Daily Practice methods and was pleased with my increase in the upper register. I would recommend either but for the reason that the Claude Gordon book is a complete practice routine, including additional material (Clarke’s Technical Study book, and lip flexibility books), I would get the Gordon Method for it’s complete approach to your development.

High Range Methods- Traditional

I will group the “Old School” approach to improving high range as any method using traditional methods which would include improvement one half-step at a time over a period with constant repetition.

The highest note in the entire Arban Method is only a high C. Did you ever wonder why this appened.? Why was such a popular and authoritative work so limiting in the upper register? I’m not sure anyone would have the real reason for many factors affected the material at that period of time. It is interesting to read the review of  Arban’s material when he submitted it to the Pasis Conservatory’s Committee on Music Study. Their replay stated, “This work is rich in instructive advice, is based on the best of fundamental principles, and omits not a single instructive point which might be needed for the development and gradual technical perfection of a player.” The Arban Method contains three hundred and forty-seven pages and, when considering the amount of material, there is a complete exclusion of anything above a high C.

It is not to say that the cornet was not playing the notes above high C for the virtuosic soloists of that period were regularly pushing the highest limits during their solo performances. Even with today’s standards, they are considered some of the greatest high note players, and on some of the most primitive instruments when compared to what we have today. If they could play that high, why did it not reflect in their method books? Arban died in 1899 and within a relatively short time, material to study in the upper register began to change. In nineteen twenty-four Walter M. Eby published his book “Eby’s Scientific Method for Cornet and Trumpet. Within his method were some of the most humbling high range exercises ever written to paper. On the first page in his Part 4- Professional book, the first exercise includes its first high C and on page three-hundred ten you are served your first double C and further down the same page you are shown what a triple high C might look like. That must have been a real shock to the players back then! I highly recommend adding this method to your library but unfortunately, it is no longer available in stores. If you happen on a copy or notice it on sale on Ebay.com, be sure to make a bid, for it will be a sought after collectable in the future.

I can recommend a book for your study which will help with a traditional approach to high range development and it is FREE! This material was published years ago by the well known high note player Bud Brisbois. It is available at Bud Brisbois’ trumpet method Trumpet Today. While you are at this site, also download  Bud Brisbois’ Jazz Trumpet Duet book Trumpets Today. Both the method book and collection of duets (with on site recorded examples), will serve you well in your quest for just another half step in a traditional approach to high note playing.

High Range Trumpet Methods- Introduction

One of the most asked questions from students is this, “How can I learn to play high notes?” Seldom do players ask how they can improve their tone, endurance or any of the equally important areas of development. While giving clinics both with the faculty brass quintet as well as individual clinics, I have often been asked, “How high can you play?” My answer to that question was usually “I can play one note higher than I am asked to play”. Although they seldom understood what I meant by the statement, my response did answer the question. I have never been a high note player. At my very best I was able to play an Eb above double C. To many that sounds impressive but when that was accomplished, I was a graduate student at North Texas State and I was determined to work up to my first double C. I got there, I exceeded my goal and shortly there after returned to my usual range of reasonable D above high C. Upper register playing has always been a struggle for me and that is why I am very content being a decent second chair player in a big band. I have been blessed with good chops (not exceptional), above average reading skills and an acceptable ability to improvise. I was told by one of my music department director’s years ago, “Not every horse is a race horse”. His statement to me was directed toward one of my students but the inference fits me very well also. So if I am not blessed with high chops, why am I posting information on how to increase your high chops?

Some are blessed and the rest of us sweat.

If you are one of the fortunate that sail through the air with the greatest of ease, I am envious. For the other 80% of us, this article has been written. I am reminded of an experience in Lancaster, Texas one afternoon when a young man (10-12 years old) wandered into the band room where I was teaching private lessons. He asked the usual questions and I handed him my trumpet after he asked what it was. This total non player’s first note out of the horn was around an F above high C, with no effort. When I speak of the gifted 20%, this young man was best example I could offer. With no past experience or knowledge, his first note was higher and more effortless than what I could play. “Life is not fair and then we die”.

If you are among the 80% who work for every half step, you may find this post helpful for as a member of the same group, I understand what you have and will be going through to reach your upper goals.

Traditional approaches to high range playing.

When we first began to play our instruments, we were limited to the number of notes available for us to play. As we continued to practice, more notes were possible. After years of regular practice, the increase in number of upper level notes began to slow. The low range was not a problem for obvious reasons but what used to take a few months to increase was now taking years and eventually that ceiling stopped moving up.

A traditional approach to high range improvement would be an extension of what we were using at the beginning of our career as a musician. If high C is a good note, then continue with your same exercises until you can play a C#. That’s as traditional as it gets. You work and work until you get the next half step then you repeat until satisfied. That’s not rocket science, dude!

In my next post, I will be demonstrating this concept in a very fine method book written by the late Bud Brisbois called Trumpet Today. This is a wonderful method and an example of the more traditional approach which I have described above.

The introduction of the use of pedal tones to improve high range playing.

Many years ago, we were introduced to a new concept of lip development called pedal tones. Everyone at the time began to fill practice rooms around the world with these, unmusical, low frequency sputters which sounded more like an outboard motor than a musical tone. Top musicians joined the fraternity of pedal tone players and we all were using different versions of this technique. It did and still does have value in increasing your high register and in a following article, I will compare the attributes of two of these earlier methods- Double High C in 37 Weeks by Roger Spalding and Systematic approach to Daily Practice by Claude Gordon. Both of these methods have been very beneficial to thousands of struggling players, including myself.

Current sources for upper range improvement.

The market for high range playing instruction is constantly building. Many of the new ideas are just revamps from earlier methods. Some are quite distinct and helpful. Many are a waste of time and money. Many times the gifted high range player thinks that they are obligated to share their great ability with the world but forget that some of us are not able to accomplish what they find easy and consequently this information is useless to many of us. If you have ever frequented a trumpet convention, picking this player out of a crowd is easy. All you have to do is follow the screamingly high noise and there the person will be, expounding on how, with only five minutes and his book, you will also be able to play notes only dogs can hear. When you are visiting with such a person, be kind but don’t believe everything you are told.

Why Should I Extend My Third Slide On Low D?

Band directors are constantly asking their students to adjust their instruments on out of tune notes and unfortunately many students are unaware of the need. I will try to first identify the most difficult notes and suggest some exercises which will help students know exactly how much adjustment needs to be made.

What notes are the most out of tune and why?

All instruments with three valves face the same problem. Because of the length and acoustics of our instruments, there will be some notes or partials which will not be in tune. If you begin on the lowest open note on a trumpet, you will play our lowest C. There is another partial or fundamental tone below the C but it is not a note we are capable of using. As we ascend from the second harmonic or partial, the next will be the note G, second line, which is followed by C, E, G and so forth. If every instrument were perfectly in tune, each note would be centered and additional adjustments would not be necessary. One such harmonic is the E, top space or the fifth harmonic. This note tends to be flat and addition adjustments may need to be implemented. The two most out of tune notes on a trumpet are the low C# and its neighbor D. The D is sharp and the C# is very sharp and both need to be lowered substantially.

How far do I have to lower these notes?

A very simple way to find out how far you should extend your third slide to put these two notes in tune would be as follows-

1.      Play second line G with your conventional fingering (0).

2.      Now play the same note with the first and third valves (1,3).

3.      Alternate the two different fingerings on the same second line G.

4.      Extend your third slide until the two notes have the same pitch.

5.      This is the distance your slide should be extended when you play your low D.

6.      Now finger your second space F# with the usual fingering (2).

7.      Play the same note now with all three valves depressed (1,2,3)

8.      Alternate the two different fingerings on the same first space F#.

9.      Extend your third slide until the two notes have the same pitch.

10.  This is the distance your slide should be extended when you play your low C#.

Most performers adjust pitch on these two notes by extending their third slide but adjustments could also be made by extending their first slide if it is equipped with a ring or saddle. For many years I used my first slide rather than my third and had no issues with the alternate slide. One advantage the third has over the first is that you can lower the pitch further with the third than with the first slide. To be truly effective in slide extensions for pitch improvement, you should be able to move each whenever the situation dictates. Several of your first valve notes will need to be lowered and they cannot be adjusted with the third slide.

In some instances, alternate fingering may be used for troublesome intonation. On early trumpets and cornets, the fifth harmonic, (top space E) played more flat than our modern instruments and this could be the reason why the great jazz cornet player Bix Beiderbecke may have chosen to play this note with an alternate fingering (1,2). Jazz enthusiasts have criticized Bix for his practice of alternate fingerings, saying “Bix didn’t even know the correct fingering for his instrument”. I’m sure Bix knew the correct fingering and may have chosen to use the alternate fingering so that his note would be more in tune.

The ability to play in tune is challenging for even the best players for in many cases when performing in an ensemble, you will be expected to adjust your pitch even when you are perfectly in tune so that the overall intonation of the ensemble would be improved. Most of my playing requires me to play the second part in ensembles and in that position, I am more aware of intonation problems than if I were playing the first part. If the lead player next to me is playing sharp, I adjust my pitches to help the intonation by pushing my notes up a little. Life is full of adjustments and you should be ready at all times to make these changes.