HBM – Upper Range

SOAP BOX – band director’s purpose:  teach music and life, so set goals that allow you to teach process, NOT by rote!

Therefore, MUST allow time for brass players’ warmup

Range and Endurance

Tone quality is the most important thing – if not, the student is playing incorrectly which limits their growth

Brass Bulletin – late 1960’s – range can’t be taught, but Jacobs says ANYONE can play high IF the musical motivation is strong enough

So, the way to play high must be discovered by the individual (it’s not the same for all of us)

Have to practice high to play high and have to practice long to have endurance

Warning:  most trumpeters have range envy and think the player who can hit the highest note is the best

Range and endurance will develop naturally with proper practice if air and embouchure are correct – this means they need to be started correctly and maintained as they get older; lots of air and firm corners in the correct place and flat chin

Upper and lower ranges should be extensions of the middle range and need to be approached musically; tone quality!

Jacobs – easier for some than others, but anyone can do it if the musical motivation is strong enough

Wayne Bergeron – first note on trumpet = double C; I got lucky and found the combination the first time

The natural – tough, easy to vibrate lips (guy lifting tractor with 4 guys on it)

Lillya – Singers analogy; how many altos wish they were coloraturas? make a game out of it

The person makes the pitch, not the machine; brass instrument is only a microphone

Things take time:  2 to 3 months per half step for more advanced players

Day 1 – infinite progress – from 0-1, Day 2 = 100% progress – from 1-2, Day 1,000 = 0.1% progress – from 1,000-1,001

Low C = 10; a 10% increase adds a half-step, so low C# = 1

Tuning C = 20; a 10% increase adds a half-step, so tuning C# = 22

High C = 40; a 10% increase adds a half-step, so high C# = 44

     4 times greater than 2 octaves lower to go ½ step

Low C = 5 oz of air pressure, Low C# = 5.42 oz of air pressure, increase of .42 oz

High C = 20 oz of air pressure, High C# = 21.67 oz air pressure, increase of 1.67 oz

Higher requires:

Smaller aperture – controlled by pitch in brain

Faster lip vibrations – controlled by pitch in brain

Strength in lips and blowing muscles – developed by proper practice

Increased air pressure – created by increased air speed

Air – the only thing we can “control” while we’re in the moment of playing

Define the problem:

People are almost always too tight because they are stiffening, not creating air pressure

Tubist Tom Stein – trumpeters stiffen against resistance; inhaling muscles kicking in against blowing muscles = illogical

Lungs are a bellows which require motion and a shape change

How does putting concrete around a balloon change air pressure?  No motion, no shape change, no pressure change

Air pressure doubles for each octave up – low C concert (middle C on piano) = 5 oz of air pressure, tuning C concert = 10 oz of pressure, high C concert = 20 oz of air pressure (not even half of what we can do); same air pressure for the same concert pitch, regardless of the instrument, which is why tuba players last so much longer than trumpeters – the key to a good upper register is an easy middle range

3 psi max out of 125-150 psi, so not much percentagewise (only 2-2.5%)

Air vs. strength, flab is your friend – but not “relaxed” – use only what is necessary – minimal strength

Spread the workload over the entire torso – like a number of people pushing a car instead of one; stay more relaxed

Thick vs. thin air – thin = red in the face; thick = power and volume

Jacobs:    |
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Always changing; Jacobs:  “Pitch is a variable” and so are the things that create pitch

Create air pressure:

Misconception:  The body is the pressure tank and we bleed air into the horn

Need to raise the pressure in the mouthpiece (which backs up into the body, creating back pressure; trumpeters stiffen against this, fight themselves with their inhaling muscles)

Blowing outside the body; increase air pressure in mouthpiece, not in your body (not literally true)

Ray gun and Arturo – Arturo is the air compressor; the mouthpiece is the air tank (even if inaccurate, it’s the right controls)

Faster wind speed; faster air generates air pressure outside the body (theoretically)

Low range – 100 molecules/second through throat which takes 100/molecules per second – no problem!

High range -400 molecules/second through throat which takes 100/molecules per second – increased air pressure

Upper notes are further away – not about air pressure psychologically

Pull stomach in to raise air pressure without stiffening

Maynard – body posture

Lack of air – most critical – can cause other problems

1.  Not enough – quantity and/or speed

2.  Throat too tight – caused by stomach too tight, pull stomach in full breathe=air pressure for high C – create compression pants too tight need movement, not stiffness – bellows without movement

3.  Tongue is arched too high – too little air makes the tongue arch – thin/thick air; tongue arches because of a lack of air

Tongue Position

Most books advocate          ee     high        for all brass instruments

ah     low

Bernoulli principle:  airplanes, fluid or gas compresses in a smaller tube but decreases in a larger tube

Trumpet to tuba; Vinnie DiMartino – trumpet should use a higher tongue position all of the time – makes high range more accessible –

Method Books – there are quite a few of them

Everyone needs their own combination, so no single method will work for everyone; the book that works for most has yet to be written; Kurt Thompson has many approaches – no single approach will work for everyone, but something is bound to work for everyone

Practice Techniques

Must listen – Leyva – experience things vicariously; can’t play higher than you can hear

10% maximum of practice time to avoid overtiring/damaging the lips; avoid neglecting everything else; high range is so easy to measure and equate with who’s the best player; Doc Severinsen – a high note specialist and onlyi 10% of the time above high C

3 strikes and you’re out – minimizes injury (ice down lips)

Practice high to play high; give the body time to learn how

For most:  use it or lose it, but not Georgine’s mom – high C after 30 years of not playing!

Maynard – learn a song, take it up ½-step; double C first year he played (a violinist); Clark No. 2 works great

Let low notes teach the high notes:

Range expansion slurs – TONE STUDIES!  Easy Street; must always start with first exercise; first exercise is intentionally easy to establish relaxation, air flow, focus on tone, confidence; listen for the first deviation in tone and focus on that spot; volume also begins to decrease

High notes every other day – meat packers and weight lifters; 37 weeks every other day – Didricksen:  try it

Mouthpiece practice:  6 reps at 6 seconds of the highest note you can buzz; builds lip muscles; be careful of using pressure instead of the muscles

Mouthpiece has a break; partially cover end with hand or pinky; saw rim off mouthpiece

Play low to play high – pedal tones – totally different face muscles, but massive air flow

Laubach low, then up 2 octaves

Clevenger:  1st get the pitch, then go for quality; like a weight lifter barely raising the bar – it’s going to shake at first

Finger pop – combine with leak and seal

Problem Solving

Excessive tension closes throat; natural reaction to tight torso

Passing out = blood vessels constricted when playing, then head rush when relaxed, too much oxygen to the brain

Never mind his back, see if his chops are hurt – HO 6, pp. 3-12

Practicing high too much = decline in ability; Kenton:  road chops from overwork; see article on embouchure as muscles (HO 4, pp. 3-5)


Equivalent of touch down – not good enough??!!!  Celebrate any success

Must expect progress (Doug and John Currie) and that any given note will become easier and easier and take a smaller percentage of your increased strength – constantly need to reevaluate how much perceived effort is required, or you can get stuck, using much more effort than is needed.  Verne Reynolds, Ronnie and Todd at WCU

Not literally high, just faster lip vibrations (most people are afraid of heights); keep high notes at eye level (Barbara Butler)

Farther away notes (tilt the stand) rather than high

Language:  support = stone columns = stiff

Clues – tone, pitch, visual

lack of practice in general and high practice specifically

sharp = lack of air & pinching, stretched corners (thin tone) and teeth too close (Cat Anderson)