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.

How Can I Learn To Play Jazz?

I have been involved with jazz music most of my life and have been asked that question often. Many books and systems have been written on this subject and most will improve your ability to improvise, but I have learned through close observation of many players, not everyone can excel in this field. This situation can be attributed to several factors and one I hold to be true is that not everyone can learn to play jazz at an acceptable level.

One of my very best musician friends was an avid jazz enthusiast and spent most of his life listening to and playing with every recording he could find. For hours he would sit next to his record player and try to imitate the music coming out of the speakers. To his last day he was not able to achieve what he wanted most. He had taken classes at a leading university and had collected every method and exercise book he could find, and still he was unable to improvise jazz. This has made me conclude that some people just can’t learn to play jazz. Then why am I writing this post? I wanted to explain to those of you who have the desire and have spent the time trying to be a jazzer, you might realize that you could be built in such a way that you never will learn to play jazz. I’m sure many of you did not expect that, but some people are not equipped to learn to improvise and my first in this series will illustrate to many of you, your patience and dedication to learning how to improvise may be something you are not able to control.

Why are some players gifted at improvisation and others are not.

Ask yourself this question-

1.      Am I better in art or math?

2.      Am I a leader or a follower?

3.      Do I get bored easily doing repetitive chores or do I enjoy repetition?

4.      Does my mind tend to wander or can I keep focused for long periods of time?

5.      Are you more theoretical or practical in everyday matters?

6.      Are you more interested in theory than fact?

7.      Are you good at keeping your checkbook balanced or do you hate the chore?

8.      Do you enjoy starting new ventures or do you enjoy long term projects.

9.      When removing a new product from its box, do you start putting it together at once or do you read the instructions?

10.  When listening to someone tell his/her story, do you want to jump ahead because you are impatient for the person to finish what you already have concluded, or do you wait patiently for the story to end?

11.  When you are driving your car, do you know at all times where you are going or do you have the route already fixed in your brain?

12.  Do you forget important dates or do you plan ahead for every occasion?

By now you realize that I have divided the dreamers from the planners, the artists from the engineers. If you answered strongly positive on the first option of each question (10-12) you have strong tendencies to help become or are an accomplished jazz improviser. If you fall into the middle section (4- 9) with positive on the first option, the prediction of success is very good. But if you answered only 1 to 3 of the first options as your preference, don’t be surprised if you have had or will have a difficult time turning yourself into a true Jazzer.

Due to the answers you have given to the above questions, I would recommend that you approach the study of improvisation from two distinct directions. If you are the creative type, I will suggest how you might approach jazz improvisation and if you are attempting to develop your improvisatory ability from the re-creative side, I have a different approach for you.

Earlier in this post, I described my good friend who was unable to learn to improvise well. He was a very brilliant engineer and draftsman who was extremely factual. A person as opposite to me as anyone could be. I was amazed at the preciseness he lived his life.

An informative blog which was posted earlier explains the difference between the two approaches and I strongly advise you to read this post at this time- Classical Musician and Jazz Musician – What’s The Difference? In it I describe the two sides of the musical brain and this material may answer some of the questions you may have at this time. My following post will give information to those who answered the majority of my 12 questions positive on the first options. The post after that will deal with the other group who favor the middle and I will try to make some suggestions to those of you who rated high on the second option to each question.

Buying Music in a Tight Economy- Part 3

Inexpensive High Range Duets

You may be wondering why I would be suggesting a clarinet duet book for high range practicing rather than a trumpet duet book. The fact is the best high range duet book I have seen is the old Bud Brisbois trumpet duet book “Trumpets Today” and is currently out of print. But, because of the wonders of the internet, it is available to you free of charge at http://webpages.charter.net/bvessey/ . In addition to the music, the host of this site has included recordings of each duet so that you have someone to play the parts with. That’s about the best deal I can find for you and check it out before the site is taken down. Now back to the clarinet duets.

My recommended duet book for high range trumpet playing is Selected Duets for Clarinet Volume 1 (Easy-Medium) Compiled and edited by H. Voxman and published by Rubank Educational Library No. 137

Price: $8.99

Features of the Book

  • 17 Duets by Klose
  • 12 Duets by Magnani
  • 7 Duets in Canon Form by Saro
  • Nine Duets by Berr
  • 24 Duets by Gliere, Hohmann, Pleyel, Spohr, Volckmar, and others
  • 7 Duets by Moxart

Total pages 72

Advantages of using a clarinet duet book

The upper register of the clarinet, written in this book is ideal for trumpet students wanting to extend their high range for each duet is written in a very melodic fashion and to be able to actually see the notes above the staff will help develop confidence in the player. Too many times we are encouraged to play our middle register notes up an octave, but unless you can actually see these notes on the page, little is done to develop confidence in playing the written notes. You need to see the note as it is actually printed. Although the duets do not exceed a high C until duet #14, reaching these upper notes are more difficult than if they were written for a trumpet. Because of the ease with which a clarinet can maneuver from one note to another, some of the intervals will be challenging for a trumpet. Because of this advantage, the clarinet writing is a great way to test your ability when moving from one note to the next. I find the difference in writing style to be refreshing and challenging. It tends to polish our musicality and technique.

From duet #14 to the end of the book, you will be asked to play notes from high C to G above high C. These duets are generally written about a third higher than we are accustomed to seeing, which is perfect for the more advanced student requiring more of a challenge in high range playing.

Disadvantages of using a clarinet duet book

Due to the fact that the clarinet’s range extends below the usual range of a trumpet, the player will occasionally find notes written below our low F#. Although there are a few of these notes, you will get used to recognizing there names and some of you will be able to put them up an octave or if you really want to learn every aspect of your instrument, you can lip them down for better lip control.

Suggestions when using this book

The use of this book can be approached in different ways. If you have a friend who would like to play duets with you, read the book. If you are playing it by yourself, you can record the second part and play along with it on the first part. Another way to use this book would be to play the first phrase on the top parts and the next on the bottom. In this way, you will be able to get a few measures of easier playing and thus prolong your lip.

When considering trumpet duet books written for the upper range, you will be paying somewhere in the price range of $10.00 to $15.00 for five duets. For my money, I think this will get you more “bang for your bucks”. 76 duets for under $9.00!

Buying Music in a Tight Economy- Part 2

My second recommendation for purchasing music on a budget might seem more expensive than expected. The price may seem high but the importance of the book far out weighs the cost. I would consider the H. L. Clarke Technical Studies for Cornet to be the second most important book written for the cornet/trumpet. Of course, the Arban Complete Method for Cornet would be the most important document. Every trumpet player has been subjected to some of the most difficult fingering exercises known to man from these pages and we all have gained from them. The most famous would be line #31 from the second Study which introduced us to the complexities of trying to play in the key of B below the staff. At times I have wondered if my fingers would fall off trying to negotiate that line with accuracy and speed. To this day I still run through it from time to time.

What benefits are gained from this book?

Although this book was written to help develop finger technique, many other benefits will be developed-

  • Gradual increase in range
  • Increase in flexibility
  • Finger coordination
  • Mastery of keys
  • Increased breath control
  • Improvement in slurs
  • Gradual increase in range

Gradual increase in range– Each exercise begins at the lowest range of the instrument and very gradually ascends to the top of the trumpets practical range. Most material for the trumpet at the time this was printed tended to limit the player to the note high C. This continuation into the higher notes is very valuable to the younger student. It is very helpful to actually see the notes above high C when developing the upper register. Even the Arban Method was guilty of this limitation. Although the notes above high C are not included until page 24, there are plenty of exercises from High C up to G above High C.

Increase in flexibility– Every exercise includes slurred scales and arpeggios which is the bases of good flexibility. Dynamics are also indicated and tend to be on the soft side throughout; another important element when practicing flexibility exercises. My personal favorite flexibility exercise is the seventh study.

Finger coordination- As I stated before, the second study is one that can be practiced every day and you will still need to develop some of the keys such as #29, 31 and 33. In these lines, you are required to coordinate difficult fingerings which include our weakest and least coordinated third finger. Through regular practice you will gain both of these abilities and hopefully gain the same amount of control and speed as the other exercises.

Mastery of keys- This book takes you through the entire major and minor keys and although the exercises sometimes become tiring and uninteresting, they all will help you to become an accomplished mover of the valve.

Increased breath control- The author has carefully notated the breathing expectations throughout the book. One particular etude will always remain in my memory; Etude V. One day I noticed the suggestion at the top of the etude which read, “Play the entire page in one breath”. This was the challenge that I was waiting for. For a solid month, I worked on the fingering so that I could play the etude with the suggested breathing challenge. I eventually was able to play the entire page in one breath so the next step was to try to play it twice in one breath. Once I had that down, I was ready to impress my teacher at that time. I began my lesson as usual with small talk and local chit chat and eventually got around to mentioning that I had read that the fifth etude was to be played in one breath. My teacher shared with me the fact that none of his students were able to do the page in one breath. I casually mentioned that I thought that I might be able and that perked his attention. I took a deep breath and proceeded to play down the page, start at the top and continue to the middle of the page before I had to stop for a breath. As I remember to my best recollection, my teacher stood up, walked out of the room, knocked on the studio next door, and proceeded to rave over the fact that one of his students had just performed the fifth etude one and one half times in one breath. I guess he was impressed. The rest of the lesson was filled with praise of my recent feat of ability. I never told him that I had set him up by practicing for a month on the piece and while he was talking and just before I started to play, I was hyperventilating to the point of almost passing out. Isn’t it great to have those kinds of moments and still have the memory to remember them?

Improvement in slurring- Every exercise is slurred. There are suggestions for single, triple and double tonguing but for the most part, everything is slurred. I am a strong supporter of massive amounts of slurring for I have seen that constant slurring tends to open your throat and thus open your sound. In addition to the open throat, you will also play with your tongue lower in the oral cavity which also improves your tone. Slurring also promotes a more gradual approach to embouchure change and thus improves endurance.

Gradual increase in range- Every exercise raises your notes by one half step. This is very important when you reach your highest notes. The small increase in range is controllable and your expectations of success are also predictable. A sudden and radical jump in range induces bad habits such as great amounts of embouchure change.

Even though this material is relatively high in price, the benefits far out weigh the initial cost. Take care of this book for you will have it around for a long time.

Free Trumpet Duets – Your Ultimate Source

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