How to relieve neck, throat tension when playing the trumpet

by ReverbLxnd in Trumpet

How to relieve neck, throat tension when playing the trumpet

This guide takes you through the easy essential tweaks that can make a massive difference to your playing. You’re going to learn how to get rid of trumpet throat tension and neck tension when playing the trumpet.

Lot’s of brass players complain about physical tension when they are playing.

Playing without tension is something that can make a huge difference to our sound, our intonation, and our overall ease of playing.

There is one fundamental thing that if you get right you’ll solve a vast majority of of physical tension related issues.

Let’s dive right in.

How to get rid of throat, neck tension when playing the trumpet

Playing with tension manifests in all sort of ways.

Some of the most common one’s include excess tension in the throat, neck, chest, face, and lip tension, of course.

In the vast majority of cases, the fundamental cause of trumpet playing tension is balance. The notion of balance is an important one here because the tension is caused by an imbalance in your breathing and blowing.

Let’s see how to properly breath and support to aleviate tension.

#1 — Learn how to breath and support properly

Here’s a quick step-by-step rundown:

  1. Take a deep natural breath as if you are lifting something heavy.
  2. Then, keep your chest up until your exhalation and need to breath again.

#1 — Learn how to blow properly

The way we blow as we are playing can also cause a lot of the tension we may encounter mainly because we tend to blow too hard.

I think a large part of that has to do with the way we use the word blow in our everyday language.

For instance, we don’t say that the wind is blowing outside unless it’s blowing so hard that we can really feel it. Again, when think of blowing out a candle, or a balloon, it tends to denote that a certain level of force is used.

When we are playing the trumpet, we don’t need to move a very large quantity of air at all. Other larger instruments require a bit more but not as much as we tend to think.

It really not much more air than you need to speak, for instance. You certainly don’t feel as if you are blowing when you talk.

It’s really more of a release of air.

However, what we have to do is carefully regulate that release of air to keep it consistent at a reasonably long period — this is why we practice long tones.

Long tones teach you how to sustain the airflow necessary to play a particular pitch. They are also a great starter exercise for learning how to play with lesser tension.

You should work on, not only keeping a pitch steady, but also on try to play each note with the least blowing effort possible.

Try to relax and play as easily as you can.

If you can minimize the quantity of air you use, it greatly increases the usefulness of abdominal or core compression for regulating the air speed and controlling pitch changes.

Minimal air with good support will also help release any excess tension you may have been experiencing.

#3 — Sit or stand up straight

The way we position our bodies when playing the trumpet has a huge impact on our sound.

Whether you’re sitting or standing to play a brass instrument, body posture impacts our ability to breathe and support properly, have a clear resonant sound with good intonation, avoid unnecessary tension, and generally, play easily.

Regardless of whether you’re sitting or standing to play, the rule of thumb should be to sit or stand up straight.

Doing so makes it easiest to breath and support, and gives us the best chance to make our controlled exhalation as free as possible.

Body posture when standing

If we are standing, we need to stand up straight with our feet shoulder-wide apart, our head over our center, without any slouching.

One important thing about standing to play is that you don’t lock your knees. Don’t lean your weight back into your heel either.

Keep both your feet level — not one forward than the other.

I see many players that don’t keep their feet level, and they always seem to struggle with endurance, and seem to be working harder to play.

Body posture when sitting

Body posture when sitting is just as important.

Our head should be over our center but now our feet should be placed parallel once again, and flat on the floor.

Preferably the chair we sit on should allow us to have our thighs parallel to the floor so that our knees are bent at right angles.

This posture provides the most support and makes it easier to breath.

When sitting, don’t lean back in your chair. Sit slightly forward, or if the design dictates it, sit against the back of the chair but make sure you sit up straight.

This makes it easier not just to breath support properly, but to apply core compression if playing in the upper register.

Whether sitting or standing, there are a couple of other things to watch out for.

#4 — Hold your trumpet up with an open posture

Firstly, make sure to hold your trumpet up without leaning or pressing your arms into your chest.

You need to play with an open posture in your upper body.

Doing this keeps you from constricting your breathing and exhalation, and keeps tension to a minimum, so that you are better able to play with a resonant sound.

This derives resonance in much the same way an opera singer would.

#5 — Center and relax your head

Another thing I want to mention is getting your head position right when you play.

Your head should be over your center of gravity so that you can have a chance to remain as relaxed as possible.

Leaning your head forward or backward causes unnecessary tension both in the neck and in your throat.

It can even be painful after playing for long periods of time. And it affects the quality of your sound and airflow.

Be careful not to drop your chin to your chest too much, or tip your head backwards too far.

All of these things constrict your throat, which affects your ability to play freely. It also adds tension, which affects the resonance of your sound, and playing feels uncomfortable.


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 [email protected]. I'd love to hear from you.

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