Questions & Answers About Professional Trumpet Playing

Have you ever wondered if trumpet playing is more difficult than other instruments? Trumpet playing is as difficult as you decide to make it. Good trumpet playing is pleasingly apparent, while bad technique and habits are not pleasing and are very obvious. Your ability to properly play the trumpet is a direct physical response to years of combining exercises, dedication, and emotional efforts.

If you’re interested in how to properly approach some of the technicalities of playing the trumpet, I hope to offer you the answers you are looking for! This section contains a list of answers and advice to the most common questions about the art of trumpet playing.

Trumpet High Register Warm Up. Should I or Should I Not?

Should I warm up my high notes in preparation for playing lead?

Assuming that you have already developed your upper register on the trumpet, when tasked with playing lead, you should always take a few minutes to warm up and test your upper register. Here are a few quick drills and licks I usually run to prepare myself for the demands and responsibilities of playing the lead part on any commercial gig. This allows me to get my breathing working properly, relax my body, and make any quick adjustments if needed. In the event that I have a sound check prior to the show, I take that opportunity to warm up and test my upper register rather than doing a separate warm up.

How high do I have to play in order to play lead?

In my years of experience playing shows and commercial music, the highest note I see written in my parts is a double-high G. If you can confidently and securely play a G, you should feel prepared to take on the lead part. I wouldn’t be concerned about the extremely high register.

Required Skills For Professional Trumpeters

  • Show Up Early & Prepared 100% 100%
  • Trumpet Technique 60% 60%
  • Paying Attention and Listening to the Other Musicians 100% 100%
  • First Sight Reading 90% 90%
  • Extreme High Register 3% 3%
  • Musicality & Interpretation 98% 98%
  • Having Your Equipment in Place And Ready to Go 100% 100%
I practice things I have a hard time with. Be honest with yourself and focus on your weaknesses.
Randy Brecker

What is the most difficult aspect of playing the trumpet?

The hardest part of playing the trumpet is the physical strength required to constantly perform at a high level. The trumpet is an extremely difficult instrument. It requires commitment, time, and dedication. If I’m called for a job, no matter what it is, I will perform to the absolute best of my ability. The hardest part of playing the trumpet is the time and effort required to always be at your best.

What material is a trumpet made from?

While some vendors and manufacturers are now experimenting with plastic, carbon fiber, and other similar materials, a trumpet is a brass instrument. As such, it is commonly made of a combination of 70% copper and 30% zinc. Most trumpets are gold-plated, which gives them a silver or gold appearance.

What is the best brand of trumpet?
There is a notion that the Bach Stradivarius is a very good brand and highly regarded among professional players. The truth is that Bach Stradivarius makes great professional instruments. However, choosing the right instrument for you has to do with which brand you pick.
 
The best way to select the best instrument for you is to try various professional brands until you find the one that gives you the sound quality that is right for the type of music that you are looking to play.
How can I get the best possible sound on my trumpet?

There are many great players with drastically different sounds, and that is fine. It would probably be very boring if we all sounded alike.

A good sound is dependent on a combination of factors, including free vibration, correct technique, and the equipment combination you are performing with. It is good to be able to play with a variety of sounds for different styles of music, and as a player, you should gain control over sound just like any other technique.

The most important point in producing good sound quality is not to over blow when playing. This will not only produce a bad tone but will also affect your tuning.

How much time should I put into practicing the trumpet?

Practicing is something very personal, and there is no one magic formula that will work for all. It’s a journey you have to take on your own to discover what your game requires for maintenance and improvement.

When I’m home, I usually practice four or five hours a day. I warm up for fifteen minutes to half an hour before a gig.

How do I choose the best trumpet mouthpiece for me?

The first thing to consider is that correct practice and proper technique are what are most important. The best first step is to consult your instructor and see what he or she recommends. Then go out and try a variety of choices until you find what feels like the best fit for your configuration and style of playing.

We all have different physical abilities, so it would be ignorant to think that one mouthpiece will be the best fit for all players. A mouthpiece can either inhibit or allow the player to play correctly.

A lot of players like to take credit for sounding good and then shift the blame to a “bad” mouthpiece when they sound bad. If you sound bad, it is your fault. The mouthpiece didn’t make you lose focus or miss the note.

How should I practice my instrument?

The most important fact to remember is that higher, faster, and louder means nothing if you can’t play lower, slower, and softer. Focus your time on achieving the best possible sound you can make and playing as clearly as humanly possible.

Use a metronome, particularly when preparing a difficult segment of music. Listen critically to yourself all the time. If possible, record yourself, then listen back and analyze what needs work. Practice what you need to perform, not what you have already mastered.

Why is my playing not improving?

The most negative and problematic attitude that trumpet students often have is the notion that progress on their instrument is totally the responsibility of their teacher. The trumpet is an extremely difficult instrument. It feels and reacts differently to the player each and every day.

Don’t act and play like you know all the answers. Find the best teacher, listen to what they have to say, and try to emulate that. It’s so important to listen to good examples of trumpet playing. Listen again and again.

Should I spend time doing long tones?

Every player should practice long tones, absolutely. When practicing, concentrate on producing the best possible tone over a large pitch range, from a soft to a loud dynamic.

When doing long tones, start as softly as comfortably possible, crescendo to a comfortable forte dynamic, and uniformly return to piano. Focus on pure sound and accurate intonation through the crescendo and the diminuendo. Breathe between each note, and rest as needed.

How did you get your endurance?

The most important thing is to conserve one’s strength and know when to stop before you get too tired. I tend to practice in concise segments, very hard, for short periods of time. It’s thanks to this self-control that I have acquired good endurance.

The most important factor in developing endurance is desire, the patience to wait, and the necessary time to acquire it.

How did you developed your high register on the trumpet?

I started making real progress once I finally realized that it was possible if I was willing to take responsibility and put in the amount of work that needed to be done. You must be willing and practice your register, no matter how absurd it may seem to you, at the moment of conception, with no consideration of whether it will be liked or disliked, good or bad, and without fear of making mistakes.

When the lip muscles learn where the notes are, stop! Feel them and memorize as best as you can that feeling.

What should I do if I can't play or develop high register?

The first thing you should do is consult a professional instructor who can assess what you may be doing wrong and provide guidance on how to correct the problem.

Most of the time, if your upper register does not speak, it is because your lips are much too tense. Most people do not play in the upper register because they depend on their mouth corners and mouthpiece pressure to create such tension.

It takes less air to play higher notes than it does to play in the low register. High notes are the direct result of blowing faster (more velocity) air on the horn.

How many mutes do I really need and which ones?

All trumpet players should own certain basic mutes. Depending on the kinds of music you perform, other specialized mutes may also be required.

Every trumpet player needs at least a good straight mute, a cup mute, a harmon mute, and a plunger. In a big band setting, the player might want to own a bucket mute and/or a SoloTone mute.

My standard straight/cup mute is the Denis Wick. I still occasionally use a Vacchiano, Tom Crown, and even my Humes and Berg mutes. Based on how much you want to spend and the sound you want, you can determine what works best for you.

How important is proper air usage in playing the trumpet?

Proper air usage is everything when playing the trumpet. To produce the best possible results when playing, the airway must always be open both in inhaling and, more importantly, in playing.

One common problem associated with improper air usage is posture. Many players slumped over or played with their heads down and their arms against their rib cage. This type of position leads to a closed throat, shallow breaths, and poor support.

By pushing your jaw slightly forward, you will notice and experience the throat opening up. This has a tremendous effect on your tone and overall ability to play your instrument.

How do I know if I am applying too much mouthpiece pressure?

When it comes to mouthpiece pressure, the idea is to apply as little as possible. Excessive mouthpiece pressure against the lips will separate your lips by pushing them apart. This lowers your range and causes a poor, thin tone, sluggish technique, and less endurance. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you are definitely applying too much pressure.

Too much pressure will cause you to tire easily. If you can’t play comfortably through a two-hour rehearsal, then you need to spend some time examining how much pressure you are using.

How does weight affect a horn?

It is believed that a lighter-weight horn tends to respond to the buzz faster. In that sense, it takes less of an impulse to create the sound. As a result, the horn will change registers faster than a normal-weight horn.

The lightweight horn vibrates more and loses some of its energy before it exits the bell. On the other hand, some argue that a heavy-weight horn is less prone to vibrating and, therefore, tends to be less flexible than a light-weight model.

So which weight horn is right for you? It is all about your individual playing, so you ought to try both types and see what your body and style of playing respond better to.