Range and High Notes
Range and high notes is easily the most popular topic for trumpet players to talk about. There are many schools of thought about range but I will talk about what has worked best for me and my students.
Learning to breathe is the first step to range and high notes. Go read “Breathing Exercises” and then “Applying Breathing Exercises” to learn those techniques.
Learning to play low is the second step to playing high. To do this, work down chromatically starting at low C, hold each note and tongue it a few times. Focus on playing everything with the same embouchure that you use in the middle of your range. (You can read “The Embouchure” to find what this should look like.) Play each note every day until you get comfortable playing down to low F# and tonguing it confidently.
Something one must learn about playing high notes is that reducing and avoiding tension is incredibly important. It is impossible to play trumpet with no pressure, but it is best practice to avoid using excess pressure. The method that has worked best for me and my students involves practicing range with an alternate grip.
Note: Use this method of holding the trumpet only when specifically working on high range.
Take your left hand and hold it like this,
And hold the trumpet like this,
With your right hand make sure that you don’t use the pinky ring, instead hold your pinky up and your thumb out, like this,
Holding the trumpet in this manner can drastically reduce range at first, even up to an octave. But after expanding range with this grip, over time you will find that it is much easier to play throughout your range and you can play higher.
To work on high range, one should use the special grip and practice “building” exercises. There are many building exercises, but the easiest one is to go up a scale. Remember that your range will drastically decrease initially with this new grip. Start on a low C and go up a C scale as high as you can using this grip. Stop when you feel the need to pull harder, this is the top of your comfortable range.
To expand your range read “Breathing Exercises” and “Applying Breathing Exercises.” While practicing those techniques play at the top of your comfortable range using the special grip. You must play at the top of your comfortable range and low range every day in order to see quick results. This doesn’t mean that you should chop out or spend more than a minute or two every day, but you should touch the entire range of the horn everyday. Every few days you can spend 10-15 minutes focusing on range.
The last important step is working on other fundamentals. Without working on lip slurs, lip bends, tongueing, technique, music, and so on, building range will be difficult. Range is a small part of trumpet playing and without setting a solid foundation it is hard to build range.