Today I want to share the technique I use to play high notes on trumpet.
It happens to a lot of people that they start to have problems as they start going into the upper register on the trumpet.
These problems don’t just come out of nowhere.
If you follow through and use this technique, playing high notes on your trumpet will be as easy as playing the middle and lower registers.
If you’re practicing and you’re trying to expand your range upwards. This will be super helpful.
Let’s get started.
How to play super high notes on the trumpet step-by-step
Step #1 — Try playing softer, as you go higher
If you’re practicing and you’re trying to extend your range upwards, one of the things that you can do right away is that as you’re going up higher, stop playing louder.
Play softer, instead.
Or, at least, maintain the same volume. But, try going softer as you go higher.
For instance, take a low note like a Low Bflat. Now try to play the Bflat above it softer.
Step #2 — Try keeping the same embouchure as you had on the lower range
When you play softer as you go higher try keeping the same embouchure as you had on the lower range.
The only thing that really needs to move is very middle part of the embouchure called the aperture — that little hole.
What we’re trying to do is keep the aperture from popping open. The aperture pops open when we force a lot of air through the lips.
As soon as the aperture opens, we lose the focus that we need to play higher.
What most people don’t know is that playing higher isn’t necessarily harder physically, it is just harder in terms of co-ordination.
If you consider the harmonic series as we go from the lowest notes to the highest notes on the trumpet, we have a lot of room for error down low because the intervals are really wide apart.
As we move up higher the harmonic series becomes smaller and smaller, in terms of the distance between the notes.
This means we have to be more exact in how we’re playing high notes.
For instance, take a low note like a Low Bflat, as we did earlier. Now try to play the Bflat above it with the same setup as the Low Bflat and softer.
What’s going to happen when you do this is that the lips are going to come in a little bit, and the tongue will come up a little bit, as you back off the air, completely on their own, like when we whistle. You almost don’t have to do anything.
Do not actively try to change your embouchure at all.
Just do the same thing and go up to the next octave. Whatever small change is happening, you’re not trying to do it at all.
This is how you get the lips to focus smaller and smaller while you lift the tongue up at the same time.
Think of how you whistle lower and then higher. You’re not thinking “put the lips tighter” or whatever. In fact, by backing off the air, you lips will start to come together naturally exactly when they need to.
Again, start down low and get the setting, then carry that setting all the way up.
Step #3 — Put less pressure as you go higher
You might feel like you need to use a lot more pressure as you go higher, and the reason people do this is because they’re usually blowing too loud. They’re blowing their lips out and so they have to press on the mouthpiece to bring their lips back in.
Don’t put pressure as you go higher.
If you put a lot more pressure as you play higher, you’re going to be cutting off the vibration of the lips.
If you’re playing really softly, then you won’t need to use a lot of pressure. In fact, you’ll need the same pressure as you did down low.
Same pressure all the way down.
Step #4 — Start exploring your upper range once you get one high note going
Once you’ve gotten up to that high Bflat, for instance, and you’ve established that low Bflat setting, one way you can work on range at this point is to keep that setting and then go to the C, D and so on and so forth.
Explore that upper register trying to make as little change as possible in you embouchure. Ideally, you want to think of it as no change at all.
Remember to keep backing off as you go higher and higher, never louder.
Work on building co-ordination first, before you try to go louder. Going louder requires stamina. If you don’t have co-ordination building stamina won’t get you anywhere.
You have to establish proper co-ordination first and then you can learn to play louder.
Once you’ve carried your setting all the way up, start to move around, and up very slowly.
If you run into some problems, such as when you start to miss some notes, go even slower and back off as you go even higher.
By playing this way, you start to find those obscure note slots on the harmonic series.
One of the things most trumpet players do, without even realizing, is that they put in so much effort. They’re trying to slot a note that’s like an octave above in terms of effort. It doesn’t really take any effort at all to play high notes on trumpet.
If you consider how small the distance is between a Low C and a Csharp, once you’re up higher, a half step is even smaller feeling that it is down there.
If you were to use a lot of effort to go from Low C to Csharp, you get some kind of crazy skip.
It’s exactly the same thing, except, when you use too much effort in the upper register, what you get is an airball or no sound at all, or some kind of crazy distortion.
Just remember that it’s a lot less than you think. Pretty much try to stay on the same note and make the minutest movement you possibly can.
Step #5 — Connect all your high notes into a straight line
Eventually, you want to be able to connect all your high notes into a straight line.
Remember, if you’re getting high notes but you can only get them loud, then you’re not getting the efficiently. But if you can get them softly, then that’s something you can grow into a nice efficient loud sound.
Make sure that you can connect the notes from the top all the way down the middle and lower registers because it you have a lot of breaks in between, then that means you are resetting your embouchure.
If you get into the habit of resetting, when you’re playing music and you’re coming from a low note and then you have to go to a high note, you will not have one embouchure that can accomplish a lot of different tasks.
You need one embouchure that can accomplish many different tasks. That’s really what we want to be able to do on the trumpet.
That is what will give us the best sound and consistency from low to high.
Again, get those high notes but make sure your high notes are connected to the bottom. Make sure they are soft up high, and big and fat on the bottom.
When you’re doing it right, it should feel as if you are peeling back those levels of effort and pressure the higher you go.
It should feel easy.