Classical Trumpet Performance, Teaching

​John Freeman


    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 seen students struggle for years with either having an impure start to some notes, as well as not being 100% confident on starting high notes, especially softly, prompted me to write the following exercise.  It works so well.  I wish I had had this exercise years ago.  This exercise strips away everything else, and gets right to the point.  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 “commit” the necessary degree of air support or air speed for each note in order to get a reliable attack.  As you ascend, each pitch requires a slightly faster and more supported stream of air.  Also, when you are about to make each attack pretend you’re about to hold the note for several beats.   This tricks the body into getting ready to really support the tone.  It’s too easy to just use lip muscle strength and not full air support if all we have to do is peck out a quick short note.   

   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 “ping”.   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 because I want students to start where it's easy and build on successful good habits.  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.