Classical Trumpet Performance, Teaching

​John Freeman

 Clean Attacks

   Being able to start a note- particularly a high and soft note, with a beautiful clean attack is the kind of thing that really separates good players from great players.  Having struggled myself, and seen students struggle for years with either having an impure start to some notes, cracks, and/or the psychological torment not being confident on starting high notes (especially softly!) prompted me to write the following exercise. It works so well.  I wish I had had this one years ago.  This exercise strips away everything else, and gets right to the point. And builds confidence!

   Be sure to follow all the “rules” written at the top, and most importantly, use a metronome.  The whole point is that we need to be ready to produce the tone when someone else says “go”, not when we’re good and ready. The clicking metronome gives us an easy target to aim our attacks.   

    As you practice these, you’ll realize that you must really "dial up" the necessary degree of air support for each note in order to get a reliable attack.  As you ascend, each pitch requires a slightly more supported column of air behind it.  However, too much is just as bad as not enough.  For more on my ideas of air support, see "Bagpipe Analogy".  If we have the correct air support from our gut, we simply have to release the tone with the tongue, you can't miss.  Ignore your chops and tongue, pay attention to the air support down below.

   Be sure to listen to the very beginning of each note like your ears are a microscope, zooming in. Was there a slight “burr” or fuzzy beginning to the note?  Without adding any accent, make sure each note starts with a soft “ping”.  (or "Deee") This will teach your tongue and lips to synchronize the start to each note, and have the air follow immediately behind without any disruption.  This exercise starts in the middle register where everyone is comfortable because I want students to build on successful good habits, and continue towards less explored regions with the same process.  Try to keep the same easy, relaxed technique as you go higher or softer.   As you get better, continue past high G onto high C and beyond. You can also intersperse some low notes if you feel any tightness coming back in.  Good luck!