How to play high notes on trumpet (the 3 essential tips)
Here are the three tips you need to play high notes on the trumpet, and a simple exercise to test how much the tips are coming together to make the higher register more accessible for you.
High register development, if done the right, is going to give you more than just high notes. Here are the three essential tips keeping you from playing high notes on the trumpet.
You might be thinking, what's the point? You don't play the trumpet up there anyway.
Well, playing high notes is going to dramatically improve your control, your efficiency and your stamina and your confidence as a trumpeter.
For you to develop a really, really, mature high register, the first thing you need is the potential to play high — the right technique.
Let's dive right in.
Here are the three essential tips:
When you deliver the air through the instrument, just sigh.
Just take in a full breathe and sigh out the air — this is a really relaxing thing to do.
It's a very neutral way of taking the air in blowing the air out, but it's so easy to get wrong.
What you notice about the sigh is, it doesn't engage any other muscular activity except for the muscles that are required to draw the air in, and sigh the air out.
There isn't any muscle contraction activity in your face or throat. Everything calm and neutral as far as drawing air in and blowing air out.
Try it again. Beware if the sensation in your face and in your throat. Make sure that it's not triggering any unnecessary responses.
Next, let's try that on the instrument.
Just play a long note such as open G or low C, it doesn't really matter what it is. Play the way that you normally play to begin with. Just get the note going.
See if you can transition what you're doing into a sigh being really aware of the sensations.
Are there any changes? Can you feel the difference between what you do and when you start to sigh through the instrument?
That awareness is so important.
Once you try it that way, then you can try starting the note by sighing so you get used you to drawing the air in and sighing it out.
Once you've done that start to move up the register. I wouldn't go too high to begin with because chances are you're not going to have enough resistance to get up there.
It's more of a sensation thing that feel of sighing through the instrument.
Another good way to practice this, or, at least, to get the sensation of what we're after, is to play a long note on your instrument, freeze all of a sudden, stop blowing, take your instrument away maintaining your embouchure, and then sigh through that embouchure.
Doing this, you can really feel your exhalation muscles working, but again, the only activity on your face is a natural one because you are maintaining your embouchure.
Keep your top lip relaxed as much as you can, as often as you can.
Your top lip needs to be relaxed because it needs to move incredibly fast. Much much faster than the other brass instruments, because we play so much higher.
For a high C, for instance, your top lip needs to move approximately 1000x a sec. Your lip should be free and relaxed enough to vibrate that fast.
If you do a lot of lip buzzing and mouthpiece buzzing, just think of the amount of tension when you do that. Could you free that up? If you can free that up, then your lip has greater potential to vibrate faster.
In order to access a double high C, for instance, your lips need to move an insane 1800x a sec. That's almost double the vibration speed for a high C!
Also consider the aperture of your embouchure. If you can, gradually experiment with opening your aperture up to different degrees.
Having your lips together before you initiate the sound is not an efficient way of playing. It's definately going to slow your lips down when you need them to accelerate.
If you are having problems with your embouchure, have a look at how to form a trumpet embochure in 4 easy steps. That's a definite guide where I detail how to form a perfect brass embouchure step-by-step.
Embrace air pressure, not airflow, not air volume — air pressure.
This is a controversial one because it goes against the grain of conventional thinking.
If you compare the trumpet with the tuba for instance, everything is opposite. The trumpet is small, the tuba is big, trumpet is light tube is heavy, trumpet plays high tuba plays low... you can go on and on with that until we get to the amount of air that you use or the way you use air to play those instruments.
All of a sudden, things become the same.
The trumpet needs high air pressure. You can only achieve high air pressure if there is a low flow rate.
The tuba has a high flow rate. It plays at low pressure. So the trumpet and tuba are completely different in that sense, it's a good comparison to make.
Where more air pressure results in a higher pitch or a higher note is down to resistance.
So focus on your resistance.
It's really important that you know where your resistance is coming from. It doesn't necessarily have to come from the lips. In fact, the most efficient way is for it not to come from the lips.
Try to maintain your resistance when you go low.
Here's a simple exercise that will tell you whether these tips are working for you, and how much they are working for you (if they are working).
Here's what you need to do:
What we're after is for the pitch to go up. It doesn't really matter by how much. We just want it to go higher without your involvement. All you do is just sigh through the instrument.
Now, as you go on with these tips and start to put them together, we want the pitch to go up higher and higher each time.
It's really an indication of where you are at the moment.
After doing this exercise for a while, you'll notice that when you remove the trumpet, you'll end up with the same pitch despite the note. That is the fundamental pitch of the mouthpiece.
Your lips will be so relaxed that they'll be drawn to the natural note of your mouthpiece.