By Mike Vax
The proper way to build range is to increase it gradually over a number of years, always using as natural an embouchure as possible. Students need to learn to let the air do the work instead of the chops. And always, always, always avoid false or trick embouchures like the plague!
Always remember that range comes from endurance, not the other way around! After you gain the support and muscle control to play for longer periods of time, you begin to have the basic foundation to start increasing your range. Working to extend range by half step increments, over a long period of time, insures control, confidence, and consistency in the upper register that will last for years. There is no deep dark secret that will increase your range overnight. It takes hours of hard practice and concentration. There is no shortcut!
Young players trying to stretch into the upper register too quickly can face quite a few problems. Gaining the ability to reach up high should be thought of as a marathon rather than a sprint. A student can injure muscles in the embouchure as well as other parts of the body by trying too hard to hit the upper registers without first having the knowledge and physical stamina to play up there correctly. Rushing it can also be a detriment to other aspects of playing.
There was never a time in my life that I spent hours a day just trying to “honk out” high notes. The upper register was just one of the many facets that I worked on with regard to my overall playing. Instead of focusing only on high notes, I try to point out to students the importance of working on technique, articulation, flexibility, reading, and endurance. If all of those are mastered, the ability to hit high notes will follow. I also stress to students that the measure of a player is not how high he/she can play for one, forced note. The real measure is how high he/she can play both consistently and musically. I urge them to remember, that the main consideration of trumpet playing is to achieve pure musical sound in all registers of the horn.
Things To Focus On To Extend Range
- Flexibility studies
- Long tones
- Pedal tones (with natural embouchure)
- Endurance builders (such as the characteristic studies in the back of the Arban’s Book and the Daily Set-Up drills of Herbert L. Clarke)
- Chords and scales that gradually go higher
- Breathing exercises. (AIR is your real “octave key”. When you SUPPORT your sound properly, playing high becomes much easier)
- Walking, running, biking, swimming, etcâ€¦ (the better shape your body is in, the better chance you have with both endurance and high notes)
Warning Signs Young Players Are Rushing The Upper Register
- Loss of flexibility
- Airy tone
- Trouble with lower register
- Loss of control and consistency
- Loss of endurance
- Inability to center pitches