Even the less trained music listener will probably be able to pick out the sound of a trumpet from the crowd. These instruments are often used as solo instruments and let out a long wailing sound that can either be very mournful or very upbeat.
Whether you’re a novice or an experienced trumpet player, you might find yourself struggling to hit those extremely high notes. If you fancy yourself as a bit of a Miles Davis, then you’ll probably be dying to learn how to wail either in front of your band colleagues or in your class at school.
Well, musical training is just like athletic training, you have to perform the same routine exercises in your mouth and tongue so you can get to grips with those high notes a lot easier.
But what exercises do you have to do to be able to hit those high notes? How can you get to that professional level of virtuosity without straining your jaw or your tongue? Is there any workaround that will enable you to hit those high notes sooner rather than later?
Well, luckily we have two methods that any trumpet player can try that will significantly increase your tongue stamina and give you the best chance of hitting those high notes, either as a soloist or as part of a band.
The First Method - Building Up Your Stamina
Holding A Single Note
Trying holding a single note for as long as you can, ideally in a lower register. Play it on your trumpet for around 30 seconds, then stopping and resting for around 2 minutes.
Keep repeating this process over and over again, slowly increasing the duration with which you can hold the note. If you are concerned that you aren’t hitting the right note, use a piano or a digital tuner to try and match it.
Move Up And Down the Scale
Play 3 notes up the scale, then 5 notes up the scale before going back down to your original note.
Every time you ascend, try and reach that little bit higher, although don’t worry about holding the notes for that long. This is simply about getting your mouth to articulate different positions.
Play A ‘Siren’
A siren is when you go from the middle of your range right to the lowest note in your range before going back up to the highest note.
Try and get to the point where you can do this without breaks. This is a great technique for improving your breathing.
Flex Your Lips
Remove your mouthpiece from the trumpet and buzz your lips against it. Repeat this every day for around 15 minutes and continue to do so for around 4 to 8 weeks. Once you have done this for 8 weeks, lower the time you do it to 1 or 2 minutes every day.
Another way to exercise your lips is by placing a pencil between them and try to hold it vertically out in front of you for as long as you can. Repeat this every day and trying and hold it in place for around 3 to 4 minutes.
Repeat The 5-Note Scale
This is a slightly more advanced exercise to do. If you can hit the C note, then this is how you can get into the higher range.
Start on a low F# and do a lip slur up 5 notes, ensuring that you’re counting them out as you do so. Then repeat this process, moving higher up the scale.
The goal for this exercise is to consistently hit each note as you move between them using only the power of your lips.
A lip slur is where you create a note using your lips alone, without having to move your fingers at all. Lip slurs are often done in descending order and use notes with the same fingering.
Excercise Your Breathing
Inhale deeply into your lungs for 4 beats. Then release this air over the same duration. Now reduce the amount of air you inhale while keeping the amount of air you blow out the same.
For example, inhale on 4 then exhale on 4, then inhale on 3 and exhale on 4, then inhale on 2 and exhale on 4 etc, etc.
The goal of this exercise is to make the amount of air you inhale last the same amount of exhalation time every time. This will be crucial in reaching those high notes.
You can also get a stopwatch and see how long it takes for you to exhale air over 2 beats. Then repeat the same process, seeing if you can extend your exhalation time each repetition.
Practice, Practice, Practice!
You might be tempted to practice for hours each day, but this will only wear out your lips, tongue and throat.
It is much better to spend only 15 minutes each day exercising your lips, either through playing or through some of the exercises we’ve listed above.
This will gradually increase your playing stamina.
The Second Method - Heading Into A High Note
Make A Low Buzz
Place the mouthpiece of your trumpet against your mouth and blow air through it until it generates a low buzzing sound. Try and hold this buzzing for 2 or 3 minutes.
Blow Without Notes
Taking deep breaths to keep the airflow constant in your lungs, exhale directly into your trumpet. Start playing as soon as you inhale to get the most power from your blowing.
Work Up The Scale
Play the C scale, drawing out the notes and tones as much as possible, moving through each scale that comes after this until you approach the high notes.
Take your time doing this, as you might muddle the notes and strain your lips and throat. This exercise should take about 15 minutes to run through once.
High Note Playing
Staring with a high G, do your best to hold it steady for 4 beats. Then for every 2 beats move further and further up the scale by a half-step. When you reach the high C, stop and take a break.
This exercise should take no longer than 5 minutes. If you find yourself struggling, then stop the exercise and go back to the lip strengthening exercises for a few days. When it comes to hitting these high notes, patience and practice are key!