Classical Trumpet Performance, Teaching

“Golden” Rules for Trumpet Players

​John Freeman

    Having taught hundreds of students, a teacher begins to see the same types of bad habits, mistakes and common problems.  If all my students (and players everywhere) followed these simple rules, they’d save themselves lots of problems and wasted time and effort.

1. Keep your instrument CLEAN.  Inside and out.  Most students would be amazed how much better they can sound right after cleaning their horn.  Anything um, extra... inside the trumpet creates turbulence as the air tries to get through.  This can cause all sorts of intonation, response and tone problems.  Think about it.   

2. Start with a good breath.  Breathe in through your mouth (never the nose), or the corners of your mouth once the horn is touching your lips.  Nose breathing is shallow, tight, and inadequate for trumpet playing.  Plus, if you have a cold or stuffy nose, you’re really in trouble.  Try to keep your lungs between 50%-90% full when playing.  Playing on less than 50% can cause strain and unsupported sound.  Only do that when necessary to make a long phrase.

3.Have good posture!  Sit up straight, and keep your bell higher than the lip of the music stand.  Do not touch your elbows to your body or curve your back out. When playing, your back should not touch the chair.  Hold the weight of the trumpet in your left hand, let the right hand sit lightly to move the valves. 

4. Conditioning.  Trumpet players must consistently practice just to maintain their ability, not just when they need to learn something new.  It’s muscle building and training- use it or lose it.

5. When practicing, rest as much as you play.  Play a 20 second phrase?  Rest 20 seconds before going on or trying it again.  It takes discipline to remember that, but you will be able to practice so much more without wearing yourself out.  Trying fingering through it during the breaks.

6. Do not move the trumpet while playing.  No bouncing, waving back and forth. No self conducting, especially on entrances. It’s taken me years to break this one, but it really helps.  Makes everything easier in fact. You will crack less notes and use less energy.  Just freeze when you’re blowing air through the trumpet. Concentrate on sounding musical, not looking musical.

7. Avoid all tension when playing, particularly in the upper register.  Tension is the body working against itself and is completely counterproductive.  Constant supervision is necessary to avoid th

8. Figure out what you’re going to work on in a practice session before you start.  This will reduce most of the 
wasted time/chops we spend noodling and playing through things we’re already good at.

9. Tell your brain what you want, not what you don’t want.  Hear the sound you’re going for in your head before you play it.  When you’re coming up to a critical note, hear yourself playing it beautifully, don’t think about all the ways you could mess it up.  Only concern yourself with the sound, not how to make it.

This is a growing list, I will be adding as I see fit.  Let me know if you think of any others.