How to do lip trills (shakes) on trumpet

by ReverbLxnd in Trumpet

Here's how to do lip trills and shakes on the trumpet. You need to be comfortabele with lip slurs and have a good ability to play high notes on the trumpet to play lip trills and shakes.

In this guide, I want to show you how to do lip trills and shakes on the trumpet.

Even though most trumpeters that can do the shakes and lip trills, the problem is that they don’t know how to control them. You can tell it’s not perfectly on rythmn, and it often comes off as if they don’t know what they are doing.

This guide will give you a great approach to really get control over your lip trills and shakes—the flexibility and the technique of how to.

But for the musical approach you, want to listen to people who are doing this very well.

You want to go to the big band archives and find people like Snooky Young in the early 60’s playing with the Basie band, for instance, and see how they do it.

Let’s dive into the technique.

How to play shakes and lip trills on the trumpet

From a technique standpoint, lip trills and shakes are different things but from a sound effect standpoint they are pretty much the same thing.

In generations past, trumpeters favored shakes by hand over lip trills. If you watch some of the old guys, you’ll see that they physically used to use their hands over the valves when playing shakes.

And it works and gets a really good sound.

Trumpeters these days seem to do less. Some people still prefer shakes but what I found for me personally is that messes my embouchure when it’s kinda beating on your face a little bit, so I don’t like to encourage that kind of motion.

But you can get a nice full sound with shakes too if you press the valves just a little (lean on them).

As long as you lean into that sound, you’ll get a nice full sound upfrontwith a very fluid sort of shake all the way through, without beating yourself on the face too much.

#1 — Start with lip slurs

Basically what anybody is doing when they do a lip trill or a shake on the trumpet is a very first lip slur between two notes, sometimes more, depending on how elaborate it is.

So the first thing we need to understand is that the trumpet shakes and lip trills that lead players do all come from lip slurs.

You need to be good at basic lip slurs.

A lip slur is a technique of directing the air with the tongue when switching from note to note. You want to get these down very well — very controlled.

#2 — Practice playing in the upper register

Once you’be been doing a lot of lip slurs in the staff and those are great, to begin learning how to actually do shakes and lip trills, you need to be able to play in the upper register.

Your shakes and lip trills will not sound full and mature unless you are actually able to play in the upper register.

If you need help with that, I have an in-depth step-by-step guide on how to play high notes on trumpet. If you follow through and use that guide, playing high notes on your trumpet will be as easy as playing the middle and lower registers.

#3 — Have higher notes in reserve (above your lip slur or shake)

The thing about being good with lip slurs is that it actually gets easier in the upper register because all the intervals are a lot closer together.

I find that it starts to get really easy around high Aflat.

It’s not easier for trumpet players to do slur in the upper register only because they don’t understand that, in order to do a clean lip slur in the upper register you need to have notes in reserve.

If you are doing a slur from, say, C to D or E above the staff, your highest note should be an F or G. If your highest is that D or E, the slur and the shake or lip trill will simply not sound that great.

Your shakes and lip trills will not sound full and mature unless you are actually able to play in the upper register with notes in reserve.

#4 — Make your lip slurs in the upper register glissando but controlled and in tempo

When practicing shakes, make your lip slurs in the upper register kind of like glissando but controlled and in tempo, instead of note to note lip slurs.

Perhaps its’ a good idea to start with very free glissando exercises.

What that does is that it teaches the embouchure, and air speed, where your tongue is going so that you are able to move freely in the upper register.

To get there, of course, it will take time and you kinda go back to the basics.

#5 — Practice lip slurs with a metronome

So let’s say we are now good with lip slurs and high notes, we’ve got that figured out, how do do an actual lip slur or shake?

The answer — exercises.

You take pretty much the same exercises you would do with lip slurs in the staff and apply them to the upper register.

Once you can do controlled lip slurs, start practicing with the metronome. Eventually, you want to speed everything up.

But before you can speed things up, everything else needs to be in setup in a nice and clean way. So get your fundamentals in check first.

Start at 100, for instance, and work that up to 200.

You want to be a little more aggressive in your playing and a little less controlled in the rigidity of time. This is where listening comes in handy more than anything else.

For the shakes, especially, you want to go wider on the interval and a more little bit more aggressive in the sound and approach, and to let go a little bit so your shakes are not so rigid.


I've been a musician and brought in my stuff for mixing and mastering, I've been my own producer where I wrote, recorded, mixed and sold my own stuff. Now, I'm *mostly* an audio engineer, where I only record and mix for clients. I'm currently based in Berlin, Germany, where I operate ReverbLand out of. Got a question? DM me on Instagram or Twitter @reverblxnd everywhere, or shoot me an email I'd love to hear from you.

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