Return of the trumpet?
April 8, 2011 12:53 AM   Subscribe

TrumpetFilter: After a year and a half of no playing, I've got three months to improve as much as I can. How can I make the most of my time?

So, it's been a year and a half since I last picked up my trumpet, and I've come to realize that I really miss playing in a jazz ensemble. My university has an extracurricular big band specifically for non-music majors, and I've promised myself that I'll sign up for auditions in August. (Hey, if nothing else it'll at least give me something to work at during the summer!)

I play a bunch of other instruments, I've got a decent ear and a good sense of rhythm, so I'm mainly after things related to the physical aspects of brass/trumpet playing -- tone, range, etc. I know from experience that if I just dive in without thought I'll try to do too much too soon and blow out my chops and get really frustrated, so do any of you trumpet-playing Mefites have any tips? General advice, recommendations for exercises, good online trumpet resources, anything is appreciated.
posted by btfreek to Media & Arts (9 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
You might want to chase down an Arban book. It'll have exercises to help your embouchure and range, tricky fingerings to work on, and suchlike.
posted by rewil at 1:37 AM on April 8, 2011

Can't comment on trumpet as I play sax, however there is a trumpeteer in the sax forum I frequent with good advice, perhaps join there and post a question?
posted by TrinsicWS at 1:46 AM on April 8, 2011

As a non-music-major trumpeter, I found the Arban's to be very useful for increasing certain technical skills, particularly double-/triple-tonguing, but my range plateaued at high E, and I didn't have any real staying power in that range. That didn't bother me as I never wanted to put in the time to be a screamer.

On the other hand, one of my trumpet major friends who was very much into jazz band and wanted to have a strong upper register reported a lot of success improving his range in the matter of a few months by following the Claude Gordon method. Specifically, playing lots and lots and lots and then some more of pedal tones to increase his control of airflow, and inverting the embouchure normally taught to beginners, setting the mouthpiece such that 2/3 is on the UPPER lip rather than lower.

Once in a seminar I was at, a trumpet professor suggested that you need not have your trumpet with you to practice. Carry a mouthpiece and buzz it whenever you can, or even buzz without, was his advice.
posted by solotoro at 5:14 AM on April 8, 2011

also WW player - play the (%@rinet (those unaware of the rivalry should know that we always use the profanity filter symbols when spelling the other instrument, ex. t#@mpet )

however, I think the principles are the same for any instrument, esp. any wind instrument:

- suggest you get at least one lesson with a music prof on campus if you have somebody there who teaches brass. He or she could do a lot for setting a practice schedule.

- practice EVERY damn day, even if it's only 15 minutes on a day you're pushed. I think if you were a good trumpet player before, and you've got 3 months, that's a lot of time to knock off only 1.5 years of rust. I played very seriously in high school and decided to take clarinet back up after NINE years. Felt like I'd had a stroke. But even at that, I was much better in 3 months, probably almost as good as I'd been in high school (which was All-State level).

- agreed that blowing out is a major concern, esp for brass where the lips are the media of tone production. A teacher might have a better idea, but approach it like working out. Set a timer. Day one, 10 minutes, week 2, 20 minutes, and so on. When the buzzer goes off, you're DONE. No "I'll just work at it until I get this note better" stuff.

- Arban, etc. is good as a "bible" of interval studies, but my experience with those old books (like the Klose for clarinet) is they give nada for modern rhythm studies. See if the band will copy you some charts they play a lot, and practice those.
posted by randomkeystrike at 6:42 AM on April 8, 2011

I should add - in ADDITION to the arban studies, etc.
posted by randomkeystrike at 6:50 AM on April 8, 2011

Trumpeter here. Not a music major, but I did marching/classical/jazz in high school. Nthing the Arban book, definitely, for classical technical skills - if you're playing in a big band, though, you're going to need a pretty different skillset. Get the charts they're playing as early as possible. Carrying the mouthpiece around and buzzing is also very handy for control practice. Don't be afraid to look a little ridiculous.

Also, I and every marching band member I've ever known swear by Burt's Bees. This will make your thoroughly blown chops feel a lot better. This is not a tool for practicing longer, it will just make you feel recovered more quickly. Good luck!
posted by DoubleMark at 7:06 AM on April 8, 2011

Focus on your tone. Play scales & long tones. I do major scale exercises. For example, CM: - Play C 2counts, Play D 2counts, then C again for 4counts. Next note - D, 2counts - up to E, 2counts, down to D 4counts, etc. etc...
Do that with Major & Minor scales. Your tone will improve a lot in just a few weeks. Make sure you can hold a note for a long time, and keep it in tune. It helps to do this in front of an electronic tuner. Try going from ppp to fff, back down to ppp & make sure you don't go flat/sharp with the transitions.

I play flute, btw - but this applies to all instruments that rely on breath control. Good Luck!
posted by DizzyLeaf at 10:32 AM on April 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

Another 'practice away from the trumpet' tidbit. Buzzing is good, but I found practising scale patterns with the three fingers on my right hand awesome. Just tapping out scales like I was typing when you have spare minutes cemented them into my brain. When it was time to play in whatever key or mode, the pattern way ready to roll without thinking. Handy if you are doing improvised solos.

Have you toyed around with your mouthpiece size at all? If you happen to be using a particularly deep mouthpiece could you get something a little shallower while you are rebuilding your chops?
posted by Trivia Newton John at 7:50 PM on April 8, 2011

Also, I and every marching band member I've ever known swear by Burt's Bees.

When I was in marching band/drum corps back in the late 80's/early 90's it was all about DCT, made by the Carmex people IIRC. Mind you not Carmex proper, that stuff was Satan in a porcelain jar. Interval exercises/pedal tones, Arban, all the things already mentioned here. Something that I learned in drum corps for sore/tight lips was making horse lips sounds for several seconds whenever I was sure there was noone in listening range of course.
posted by mcrandello at 6:11 PM on April 9, 2011

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