Let’s talk about the sound effects available to trumpet players today. Specially as used in jazz trumpet.
As a jazz trumpet player, you’ll need to be familiar with a variety of trumpet sound effects that are commonly used in jazz. You’ll find these effects written in big band charts, but they can also be used in improvised solos.
Think of these effects as spices on a spice rack. A master chef knows when to use which spice and how much of it to use whether they are following a recipe or making their own.
You can get as creative as you want with these trumpet effects.
Let’s dive into the list.
Trumpet effects: The complete list
Trumpet Effect #1 — The Shake or Lip Trill
One of the most common effect used in jazz trumpet is the shake. You’ll find it a lot in big band charts.
There’s two ways you can do this shake — one is by using the hand (the shake) and the other is using the lip (lip trill).
For the hand version you rock your left hand back and forth while pressing the valves. You end up with a bit of a wider shake than with the lip trill, and it sounds a little bit more rought around the edges.
You can do that same shake with your lips by doing a lip trill. It will sound a little bit more refined — a little bit tighter.
Here’s how to do lip trills (shakes) on the trumpet (step-by-step guide) if you need more details on the effect. Following this guide will make shakes a functional part of your playing.
Whichever method you use — either, shakes or lip trills — is down to your preference as a player.
In fact, sometimes I’ll see a shake written, and if it easier to do a lip trill, I’ll do the lip trill, or if it sounds better to do the shake, I’ll do that instead.
Sometimes when you do the shake, it will call for a really wide shake. You’ll find that commonly used in latin music. Sometimes you’ll find shakes of while octaves.
That sounds really, really, cool!
Trumpet Effect #2 — The Fall or Drop
Another effect that we use quite often in jazz trumpet is the fall or drop.
The fall or drop can be brought out nicely using a half-valve effect at the drop of the note.
Say we are hitting a high C on the trumpet, we’ll just hit that note but and then we’ll put down the valves in such a way that the sound doesn’t break but it continues to drop down in a uniform manner.
Another way to do a fall, instead of using the half-valve to get it, is by doing something a little bit more messy — pressing the valves in a fast, random succession.
Trumpet Effect #3 — The Glissando or Squeeze
The opposite effect of a fall would be a glissando — which is upwards, also known sometimes as a squeeze.
This terminology can change from player to player.
So instead of falling from the note, what we do this time is start on a pitch. This can be very effective especially on the break of a solo, or a number of different other ways.
You can hear this commonly on the 1920’s recordings of Loius Armstrong
You can do glissandos quickly too, but at the end of a phrase. So if you are playing a nice little jazz line, you might see the indication for a squeeze at the end.
A squeeze is similar to a glisando but it happens a lot quicker.
Trumpet Effect #4 — Vibrato
Another effect that you can use quite a bit is vibrato. You’ll see it written into music as vib, sometimes you’ll see a wavy line as well.
This is used when the music is calling for a little bit extra vibrato than what a trumpet player might normally use.
On the trumpet, vibrato is usually done with a couple of techniques, such as with the hand.
With the hand technique, all you have to do is rock your hand forward and backward faster or slower, depending on the musical effect you want.
Whatever technique you use, you should be able to make vibrato very fast, or make it slow, or vary the speed in between for musical expression.
A lot of old time players, such as Harry James, would use hand vibrato all the time. Others would use lip or jaw vibrato.
Here’s how to vibrato on the trumpet if you want more detail about this, including various types of vibrato, and a few exercises to get you going.
In a nutshell, the differences between the various types are subtle.
I do not use a lot of hand vibrato, but every now and then when I’m reading music, and it calls for the hand vibrato, I will use it.
Trumpet Effect #5 — Flutter tounging
Another technique we usse in jazz trumpet is the flutter tougue.
This is basically rolling your R’s inside your mouth while you’re playing notes.
Flutter tounging is often used in conjuction with something else, like say, a plunger mute to create a fantastic effect.
Rolling your R’s itself is something that some people don’t know how to do. If you are one of those people, or you simply want to master the technique here’s how to flutter tongue a trumpet.
Trumpet Effect #6 — Growling
If you can’t do flutter tounging. A good alternative to that is what we call growling on the trumpet.
Growling is exactly what you’d imagine it to be — the dirty rock and rock sound on the trumpet.
We can again use a plunger mute, or any other mute with that growl to produce a nice effect. It doesn’t have to be used in conjuction with a mute but they definately work really well together.
If you compare the flutter to the growl, you’ll hear that they are somewhat, but not all the way, similar.
You can play this on the saxophone too. I actually play a lot of saxophone. Here’s how to growl on the saxophone with an easy 4-step guide.
Trumpet Effect #7 — Multiphonics
Another thing you can do with the growl is something called multiphonics.
I say this, because it is kinda related to the growl because what you’re doing essentially when you growl is you’re voicing notes, but you’re not really voicing any particular note.
With multiphonics, on the other hand, you focus your growl on particular notes — the notes you’re playing on the trumpet.
However, if you were to play a lower note, and still voice that same note, it doesn’t work so well on the trumpet like it does on, say, the trombone.
In fact, if you were to play a super low note on the trumpet, you can almost hear how the growl is changing pitch while the trumpet stays on that same low note.
Other brass players, especially trombones and tubas, should be able to experiment a little more with multiphonics than trumpeters.
Matt Shulman has a great recording in which he does really, really, cool multiphonics stuff on the trumpet. He’s playing on the pedal register but singing those other lines. That’s a great example.
Trumpet Effect #8 — Blocked-tounging / Half-tounging / Ghost-tounging
Another effect that we use in jazz trumpet, especially when improvising, is called block-tounging or half-tounging.
Trumpet players use blocked-tounging to create a ghosting effect — to play ghost notes.
A ghosting effect here refers to when you play certain notes but then you ghost (i.e play them in such a way that they are almost barely there) other notes when doing that.
Someone who was a master at this was Clifford Brown. He used these effect a lot in his solos.
You can try this by tounging some of the notes, and then on others using your tongue to block the air.
You can also do this on the saxophone too. The way to do that is by blocking half of the opening of the mouthpiece with your tongue instead of letting the full amount of air go through.
Trumpet Effect #9 — The Doit
Another one of these beautiful effects you can use on the trumpet is called the doit. This trumpet sound effect is commonly used in jazz, and it sounds a lot like the name.
The doit is kind of similar to the squeeze, but quicker. You play the doit the way you would a normal short note but then you a quick glissando at the end.
The squeeze is written at the end of lines or can be on a whole note or half note. You can and will often find a doit anywhere in a phrase, sometimes even more than once in a phrase.
So that’s the doit!
Trumpet Effect #10 — The Bend or Dip
This is when you bend the pitch, and it is sometimes notated by simply writting bend or dip in the music. Sometimes, there’ll be a line showing exactly how that dip should be in the music.
This can a simple dip, or it can be exaggerated. It can be a slight dip or it can be a very dramatic dip depending on the music.
If you are playing slow blues, for instance, then you might have a really exaggerated bend. If it something a little quicker, then it might be something a little bit less.
The bend is great because it gives us another way to express that vocal quality that is so common and prevalent in jazz music.
Trumpet Effect #11 — The Turn
The turn is another effect that we use in jazz, and classical music. Sometimes it’s written in, sometimes it’s just something you want to do on your own when you’re improvising to embellish a phrase.
It is notated using the same terminology used in classical music.
The turn was used quite a bit by Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie and other greats.
Trumpet Effect #12 — The Half-valve
Something used quite a bit by Miles Davis and other famous jazz players is something known as the half-valve.
Normally when we are playing on the trumpet we want to be good with our technique and press the valves down all the way.
The reason for this is because if you don’t the note kind of doesn’t slot perfectly. You get something in between the notes. Jazz musicians use this to their advantage.
By getting that sound in between there, you can really dig out some nuances and sound effects on the trumpet. This is what is known as half-valving.
You can, for instance, play an E open, or you can play it with a half-valve, the middle if the third valve to get something really cool.
This can be used with long notes to get a singing effect, or with short little stubs as well. You can also use a combination of open and half-valve in conjuction with one another.
Another great way to use half-valving is when you are getting to the top of the line. It brings out nice color.
You can get as creative as you want. If you do a lip trill on a half-valve, for instance, it sounds really cool as well.
Trumpet Effect #13 — The Rip
Another effect written in classical music for horn players, mostly french horn players, that can be used on the jazz trumpet is a rip.
A rip is where you quickly play up the harmonic series for effect.
A rip can be really exciting, and kind of scary, if you have a whole section of brass players doing it at one time. You can hear Louis Armstrong doing rips in those 1920s and 1930s recordings.
Trumpet Effect #14 — The Scoop
There is another great effect called the scoop which is somewhat related to the dip or bend but it is done very quickly and you can do it with either your lip, by bending, or with the half-valve technique.
You will hear it in big band jazz a lot, and it’s often written in there above the note you do it on.
A great player who uses scoops a lot in his improvised solos is Clark Terry, he also uses the ghost-tounging that we talked about earlier and most of these other techniques, as do a lot of great trumpet players.
Trumpet Effect #15 — The Tremolo
Tremolo is a trembling or “shuddering” effect produced by slight and rapid changes in the volume of a note.
On the trumpet, you have to use alternate fingerings to do a tremolo.
What that means is, essentially, if we have to have more than one way of playing a note on the trumpet.
If we are playing an E, for instance, we have the first and second valve, and we have the alternate third valve. Either of these will allow us to get that E out.
We get the tremolo effect by rapidly interchanging between the two.
This effect is actually common in classical music where it’s used in building dramatic tension moments with various instruments.
One of the first people to do this was Loius Armstrong. You can hear him do it on his solo to Butter & Eggman.
Another trumpetman who always did idiomatic things that used alternate fingerings was Dizzy Gillespie. He was very creative with things that weren’t exactly but were somewhat related to the tremolo.
We have so many different alternate fingerings available to us on the trumpet — almost every note on the trumpet has an alternate fingering once you start to get into the upper registers.
When you’re playing all these effects we’ve covered here, the lead trumpet player will be the one determining, to a large extent, how you play them.
How you’ll be doing your shakes, for instance.
You want to follow your lead trumpet player. If they are doing a wide shake, then you do a wide shake. If they are doing a short fall, then you do a short fall and so on and so forth.
If everybody is doing the effect in a different way, it won’t really line up, especially if they are too deep.