Simplifying the Trumpet Embouchure- Part 5 What you need to practice to build strong chops.

Long Tones!

Some may find this too simplistic and some may find me too arrogant.

There are many benefits to being old; one is the lack of concern with criticism.

The reason I have been so narrow focused in my conclusion is that focusing your embouchure muscles in an isometric condition is a fast way of developing strength in your trumpet playing embouchure. Long tones do exactly that!

For decades I have used and taught a very simple (sometimes boring) warmup exercise which focused on the embouchure muscle development through isometric muscle application. This long tone warmup was used up to the last five or six years and was eventually replaced with a chromatic warmup, used to increase my high range playing. It wasn’t until recently that by replacing the long tone warmup with the chromatic warmup, I realized that my range had increased and at the same time my endurance had diminished. Ooops!

If you analyze the action of each warmup, you may see that a long tone exercise forces the lip muscles to compete with their opposing sets of muscles and in a chromatic warmup, the sets of muscles are in a constant state of readjustment. Each octave scale acts as a very elongated slur from the bottom note to the top note and requires an equally slow adjustment back to the first note. So, chromatic scales work on your lip flexibility and the long tones incorporate muscles in a static, lip strength building exercise.

Below I have included my original long tone warmup along with helpful instructions. While you are using this warmup, constantly feel and visualize the sets of muscles we have studied and evaluate each set’s function as far as what its purpose is and what its opposing set of muscles are doing. The whole area affected by these muscles should be firm. The only exception is the orbicularis itself which should remain relaxed and flexible at all times. If you are in doubt as to what area I am speaking, cup your hand as if you were forming a claw, place your middle finger under your nose and where the other fingers and thumb make contact with your face will be the area you want to focus your attention on.

Long tone instructions-

Before you start, be sure that you have formed the proper embouchure by feeling the isometric firmness in the sets of embouchure muscles “around” your lips and especially in the firm corners.

1. Remain on each note for five seconds (watch the second hand on a clock).

2. Always take a full breath before each set of notes.

3. Do not overblow. A dynamic of mf to f is plenty.

4. Be sure to rest the full fifteen seconds after you play.

5. If the last series of notes (G-E-C) tires you, stay on the second set (E-C-G) for another week or two.

6. Be sure to use your embouchure and air to play the higher notes not by applying extra mouthpiece pressure.

7. Listen to your tone. The more overtones you have in your sound, the better.

Longtone Warmup

In our next post, I will show you how to recognize the richest, most full sound when you play.

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 “Simplifying the Trumpet Embouchure- Part 5 What you need to practice to build strong chops.

  1. Mikhail

    Speaking of embouchure , I would like to ask you a question. I’m an intermediate trumpet player. If I do long tones, or let’s just say hold a note for 2 whole notes long.My sound shacks and I can only elude that by doing a vibrato. But it hunts me because it sounds like I’m nervous. What do I to stop that and fix it?

    • Bruce Chidester

      Your situation is common and easy to solve.

      Next time you play a sustained note, lower the bell of your horn and move your jaw forward. When you do this, the pressure should be placed more on your lower lip than the upper lip. By doing this temporarily, you should be able to eliminate the shakiness for you are anchoring the vibratory area more.

      When I’m in a stressful passage and I find the nervousness creeping in, I place more pressure on my lower lip and it goes away. The is only a temporary solution but as you gain more confidence, you should be able to improve this condition.

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