25 Trumpet “Secrets”

1. The more you practice correctly, the faster you improve.

2. Some things get better ONLY with repetition – you have to put in your reps!

3. Be sure you ALWAYS play correctly!  If it doesn’t sound good, it’s not right.  How do you know what sounds good?  You have to LISTEN to great players!!

4. The most important part of trumpet playing is the SOUND of the instrument:  it’s what you listen to, your friends listen to, what your director listens to, and what the audience hears.

It also is the best way to know if you are playing correctly – doing things right = a great sound

The opposite is also true – doing things wrong = a less than great sound

5. You have to hear the pitch accurately and in tune in your head to get the right notes with a great sound.  Moving the fingers tunes the trumpet to your lips.  This is not a woodwind instrument where moving the fingers gives you the correct note!

6. It takes 5 fingers to play the trumpet, not 3!!!!!!!  You MUST use your valve slides on low D and low C# or everyone will think you have a bad ear!

7. Fingering is the easiest part of trumpet playing, but done incorrectly it will make you sound bad.  Hold your hands correctly and move the valves fast:

Bang the valves down…hard!!  (Doc Severinsen)

The valves need to click.  Valves are up or down – there is no in-between.  Practice fingering without playing – make the valves loud!  (Buckner)

Loosen the top valve cap to hear the upstroke better (Jose Sibaja)

8. The pinky ring is for one-handed playing ONLY!  Any other use slows you down.

9. The thumb goes under the leadpipe between the first and second valve casings.  This helps with hand vibrato, helps take some of the weight off the left arm, and puts your hand in the same position that piano players use…and who knows more about finger motion than piano players???  We need to do what they do!

10. There are some pretty amazing trumpet players that don’t do this…it’s too bad…they’d be even better if they did things correctly!

11. To play high, you have to practice high.  Maynard Ferguson learned a tune; when it sounded great, he took it up a half-step.  He repeated this process and within a year had a double high C (super C).  It’s the same process weight lifters use.

12. To play low, you have to practice low.  The muscles are NOT totally relaxed – low range requires different muscles to put the lips into a position to play low notes.

13. The same is true for EVERYTHING on trumpet:  lip slurs, tonguing, loud, soft, you name it!

14. Special secret to lip slurs – there MUST be a siren between notes, and it has to be FAST!  Especially if you have to skip over notes with the same fingering.

15. The sound between the notes includes a hint of a siren, even in classical music.

16. Fast tonguing requires CONSTANT air!

17. Rhythm is EVERYTHING!  No, TONE is everything!  The truth?  You must have both!

18. Accurate rhythms over a steady pulse sound MUCH better than approximate rhythms.

19. A steady beat coordinates weird things, like lining up the fingers, lip, and tongue to move precisely together.

20. When things go wrong, blame the air first.  Make sure you are breathing fully and moving a LOT of air when you blow.

21. If that doesn’t solve the problem, blame your rhythm.  Intensify the pulse and make sure it’s rock solid.

22. Numbers 20 and 21 will solve virtually everything problem you encounter.

23. There are NO shortcuts!!  But, there ways to do things that take much longer – avoid them!!

24. Trumpet playing is like life – whatever you settle for is what you will end up with.  If you want to be a great player, NEVER settle!

25. But realize that you may not get what you want today…or tomorrow…or next month…  Keep after it and you WILL reach your goal!