Classical Trumpet Performance, Teaching

​John Freeman


“Practice scales, scales, and more scales until you become one with the trumpet.”

-Rafael Mendez, one of the greatest players ever

    Learning and memorizing the 12 Major Scales is a must for every musician, and trumpet players are no exception. In practicing scales, we develop fingering dexterity, lip control, even rhythm, and one learns the different tonal keys. The developing student should practice scales in every practice session.  I suggest taking one or two scales per day, and drilling them up and down over and over until you can play them without even thinking about which notes come next.  Each one perhaps 30-50 times.  Practice them slurred, then tongued, and in different rhythms.  With any difficult fingering passages on the trumpet, it is helpful to think of shapes or patterns to the fingerings. This will help you mentally “chunk” certain parts of the scale, or the whole scale into one mental unit.   

    If you have been playing the trumpet for more than 2 years, you should by now have all 12 Major scales thoroughly under your fingers.  At this point, you can start working on 2 octave scales (start with G) and then the minors.  Memorization should be a goal, but if you have practiced them the way I suggest above, that will be already built in.

   Another thing that I find particularly helpful for any student wanting to increase finger dexterity (speed) are what I call Half Scales.   That is essentially playing the first 5 notes of a scale up and down fast, slurred, over and over and over.   Repeat this until you have it memorized, and push your fingers to go fast and smooth while keeping all the notes sounding perfectly equal.