Range Improvement


  • Global Moderator

    Improving range is a goal for just about any trumpet player, and very few of us feel like we wouldn't want a couple more notes up from our current ability. Such improvement can help you be more confident in reading, try multiple chairs or parts and expand your horizons with new music. Progress is exciting! However, it should be approached with caution and planning, for many brass players have found that pushing your body too far can lead to injury and digression.

    Say you were an athlete. How about a runner? If you wanted to improve your mile time, you wouldn't wake up one morning and decided to gain a minute. It doesn't work that way. Why would instrument playing be any different? If you need a new note for a concert or performance in a month, it probably won't happen, and the intelligent thing to do would be simply to give it to somebody with better range. However, progress can be made. If you decided to run faster, you would evaluate where you currently are, and set some goals. Writing down goals solidifies them as legitimate goals, and not just "wishes." Then, you would evaluate exercises and activities from knowledgeable sources and make a plan. You follow that plan, and you make progress. Such is the way that range improves.

    Some good sources for range-improvement exercises include the studies by Bai Lin, James Stamp, Max Schlossberg, James Thompson, Cat Anderson, Carmine Caruso and several others. What works for one person may not necessarily work for another. Also, many university professors and qualified teachers can offer suggestions for exercises and can help you make a plan for progress. A private teacher is really a necessity for most musicians to progress. Even top-of-the-line professionals often seek advice from other professionals.

    This thread is here to aggregate suggestions and advice, as well as collect stories of success and progress to motivate others. Please note that not all advice in this thread will work for you or is from a qualified professional, but such is the nature of the Internet anyway.



  • @administrator
    Glad to reply with my experiences.
    My range topped out at High C (above the staff) since I entered college in 1967. I would work at it over the next twenty years but without instruction.

    My first real lesson (age 40+) was with a symphony chair who immediately started me on long tones and Earl Irons. Ten or fifteen years later i joined a community band. My C was pretty advanced compared to the other players, but it was not strong all the time. Then I played more often and started practicing more. Was accepted to the Jazz band sub group and started being more challenged. I participated in the Mendez Institute (DU) and took a lesson from Al Hood (DU). Then a lesson from Marcel Marchetti (USAF Falconaires) - then changed my practice routine and started keeping notes. Then the Jazz band leader became Tom Fowler from Wichita State Jazz program. Charts became professional level and the lead part required Ds and Es and an occasion F or G (above the staff). Started a daily routine three ring binder with with bits from Adam, Fink, Schlossberg, et al. Use it every day. Integrated with this was more play time (I retired) so I am playing 4+ - 2 hour rehearsals a week. Then I added Hickman's Beyond the C.

    That is what I have been doing now for about five years. My workable range now includes an E above the staff and I am working on the F.

    Take Aways:

    Important factors for Range Development are:
    Professional Instruction
    Multiple methods and sources
    Motivation
    Time
    Practice
    Patience

    If I had all of the above when I was 18, I may have developed a reliable above the staff range perhaps to the coveted DHC.

    However, although I enjoy listening to Maynard, I really don't care for the current lead music that depends on the extreme register. The repertoire that I want to play does not include DHC. So if I can play the E and perhaps the F, on a regular basis, (and musically), I will be happy and satisfied. Of course, achieving that goal and then maintaining it, at age 70, will require constant practice.



  • Reading the above two comments, I agree with so much that has been stated, and feel that each person's success at achieving a desired range will be a unique path traveled by each and every one posting, but with some commonly shared way stations along this path.

    My common experience: "If you wanted to improve your mile time, you wouldn't wake up one morning and decided to gain a minute. It doesn't work that way. Why would instrument playing be any different?" So true. My travels to increasing range came over time with lot's and lot's of practice time, to where I found (for me) to advance and even more importantly, maintain, I HAVE to practice at least an hour a day, with an optimal daily goal of 1.5 hours. This is the only way to develop and maintain muscle (lips, chest, abdomen) to get there. Just working on the horn for that hour and a half, I met my first goal of having a full sounding (strong and hit solidly greater than 95% of the time) C above staff to the F above that one upon graduating college. I needed that full strength and certain F to meet the demands of lead parts I was given in Graduate School. With the above practice time and rehearsing the charts from the band judiciously, I achieved that solid F within 6 months. My "method book" were the charts I used.

    I was happy with that range for many years (1970 - 2004) that followed and had no reason to add to it... so didn't.

    Then I joined a demanding quintet in 2004. No real "lead playing", but the original charts written by several of the band members were DEMANDING. Not demanding in going higher than G (one note above my solid F) but hanging above staff to about the range of E for over half of the duration of many of the charts. Just working on those tunes, and within months of rehearsing the band, playing two 4 hour gigs a week (on nights I did not practice) developed lip muscle I never intended to achieve. It was not really a conscious work routine, just playing really cool tunes that were highly motivating to play got me to a whole new level.

    Fast Forward After about another 6 months of playing with this quintet, the quintet leader was insisting I share the lead part with his jazz orchestra, a position I really no longer aspired to doing after I played lead in Graduate School. But I highly respected this leader and amazingly found that I had a solid A when some of his big band charts had that note written in. Suddenly, I was hitting that note strong and solid at the 95% level. And you know at that point I found out, I could never miss that G below the A anymore. So then I set my goal to double high C so I could octave up from standard charts. Why? Because I wanted to see if I could do it (not that I had to do it).

    So I started using the Cat Anderson method, and lip slur exercises in the high range given to me by a friend. Within a year, the double high C was strong at 95%. ANY NOTE below that is now nothing. It is the same feeling I have when weight lifting. Getting to 210 lbs took 2 years, and now I lift 210 every day, and it hurts, but that 180 lbs is like nothing to lift, and it took me a year just to get to that 180 lbs. And oh yes, I lift weights for an hour and a half a day, working on chest and abs and YES during the time I was going for the double high C. I found having such exhalation muscle reserve from this weight lifting routine ALSO had some effect on providing a scaffolding that assisted in supporting the 95% double high C, I learned that with the lower airway support, I could relax the embouchure. Relaxing. That opened up everything.

    So now, do I use that high range regularly? Yes but in a different way from lead playing. I use it with nearly every song, I play in a small group ensemble near the climax of the solo, but do this as a quick phrase run and WITH AS LOW VOLUME as I can, to make it sing, not scream. Having this range under my belt has given me confidence to open up an improvisational execution of phrasing that I can do on a whim at any moment I choose it will work well into a solo. It has given me a performance voice that makes my sound unique.

    All these years of playing, an working. I achieved confidence, not range, which was NEVER my original goal.

    This is why I have created the saying: "Practice makes perfect, but nobody's perfect, so why practice?"
    The answer to that question is: One should NEVER settle on perfection, as once you THINK you have achieved perfection, you have shorted yourself at going beyond perfection!



  • Since my comeback in 2016 and until recent events that changed things, I was happy to just get a good clean G above the staff. But a couple of months ago I started playing with a more demanding local community band and I am required to play lots of Gs, As, Bs above the staff. And the more I play with this band, the easier it is getting to play these notes. The only thing I am doing different now is adding two more notes to my daily morning execise that include expanding scales to high C. Now I top out daily at E. I will probably add to that down the road if I feel it is necessary, but right now everything is clicking.



  • I got Double High C in 37 Weeks and all was well . . .👹 . . . not.

    I have had several strokes and am on a road to recovery. I want that fully understood. But . . .

    I've posted this before, but one of the best things that affected my approach for playing high notes on trumpet came, ironically, from playing sax. Although I started off life as a trumpet and French horn player, and played professionally on both, I played sax professionally for a couple of decades and was a woodwind minor on my Master Degree.

    When compared to trumpet, instead of going through all this angst and gyrations to produce a high note, I just depressed my thumb. Using that concept of just relaxing and making minor adjustments helped my trumpet range immensely. I didn't overreact, playing-wise, and just relaxed (relatively).

    Specifically, and this will vary based on preferences and needs, I got the most benefit from Jeff Smiley's The Balanced Embouchure and the Maggio system. My range increased from an obtainable High C and workable A above the staff, to a workable E above High C and a playable Double High C.



  • When I would listen to Wynton's version of Carnival of Venice years ago, and hear how he would play that ending two octave F scale, I would say to myself, "that’s impossible".
    I kept trying to match it. Little by little, I'd add a step.
    Now I actually can do it. Not every single time, but more often than not. This was the thing about which I would say, "nobody can do that!"
    Keep working at something and you may accomplish it.



  • When I started my comeback, 16 months ago after a 40 year layoff, I have practiced on my own for 1 ½ hours per day, 7 days a week on a consistent basis. After a year, I struggled with an A above the staff and my overall progress was disappointing. I knew it was time for a teacher and at the end of January started Skype lessons with Bruce Haag, a long time student of Claude Gordon, who has worked with many older comeback players (I’m 62) like myself.

    Over the last 3 months I’ve diligently followed Bruce’s lesson plans and my workable range is up to a high C. Not an earth shattering improvement, but after struggling on my own it feels great and I’m confident my range will continue to improve. Like most of you have said, a private teacher is necessary for improving range.



  • @JorgePD said in Range Improvement:

    at the end of January started Skype lessons with Bruce Haag, a long time student of Claude Gordon, who has worked with many older comeback players (I’m 62) like myself.

    Over the last 3 months I’ve diligently followed Bruce’s lesson plans and my workable range is up to a high C. Not an earth shattering improvement...

    Bruce Haag is amazing. I know him personally and he sold me my current Kanstal flugelhorn. He was Elvis Presley's trumpet player in Vegas. ALSO earth shattering is NEVER an experience I ever had. Bruce will teach you a natural earth revolving way to improve. Stick with Bruce. You will continue to develop.



  • @Dr-GO said;
    "Practice make perfect, but nobody's perfect, so why practice?"
    I have my own;
    "Practice doesn't make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect."
    Think about it. How many times have you come across someone who practices daily but uses poor technique.

    As for why we practice? Sunk cost and sheer stubbornness.



  • When our range stops at a specific note (especially if we can name it), our problem is simply too much pressure. We squeeze the lips off and they are not free to vibrate. Unfortunately, we are creatures of habit and with too much pressure comes a whole army of body use and breathing issues.

    The success stories of turning range around are basically monitored by teachers sensitive to the subject. I use primarily Clarke and Irons for myself and my teaching.



  • @Dr-Mark said in Range Improvement:

    @Dr-GO said;
    "Practice make perfect, but nobody's perfect, so why practice?"
    I have my own;
    "Practice doesn't make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect."
    Think about it. How many times have you come across someone who practices daily but uses poor technique.

    As for why we practice? Sunk cost and sheer stubbornness.

    Careful Dr. Mark. Don't EVER achieve perfection. That, my good friend, will hold you back. Yes?



  • @Dr-GO said in Range Improvement:

    Careful Dr. Mark. Don't EVER achieve perfection. That, my good friend, will hold you back. Yes?


    No.
    I have small slices of perfection from time to time. Not often, but its cool when it happens. Haven't you had a time when you were practicing and play something so great you get goosebumps and you have to sit your horn down and say to yourself, "That's perfect!"
    It might be a couple of measures or a small musical statement but for some reason the stars align and what was played was perfect.



  • @Dr-Mark said in Range Improvement:

    @Dr-GO said in Range Improvement:

    Careful Dr. Mark. Don't EVER achieve perfection. That, my good friend, will hold you back. Yes?


    No.
    Haven't you had a time when you were practicing and play something so great you get goosebumps and you have to sit your horn down and say to yourself, "That's perfect!"
    It might be a couple of measures or a small musical statement but for some reason the stars align and what was played was perfect.

    Yes, and I treasure those moments, but they are rare .



  • @Dr-Mark said in Range Improvement:

    @Dr-GO said in Range Improvement:

    Careful Dr. Mark. Don't EVER achieve perfection. That, my good friend, will hold you back. Yes?


    ...Haven't you had a time when you were practicing and play something so great you get goosebumps and you have to sit your horn down and say to yourself, "That's perfect!"

    The Goosebumps happen every day. But I never reflect on perfect... as the next day I transform to yet a higher level. To stop at perfection, is to stop short. I can never be convinced otherwise.



  • @Dr-GO said in Range Improvement:

    The Goosebumps happen every day. But I never reflect on perfect... as the next day I transform to yet a higher level. To stop at perfection, is to stop short. I can never be convinced otherwise.


    The only way I get goosebumps everyday is if I listen to Vince Gill or Johnny Cash on a daily basis. I reflect on my little slices of perfection after I sit my horn down and then, the next day I go back at it trying to get another little slice.



  • My horns give me new revolutions every day. Their feedback is kind, regarded and then with hearing them they show me where to go, steering past perfection and beyond.

    But the key is to go beyond listening and hear the horn. Hear the horn!



  • @Dr-GO said in Range Improvement:

    But the key is to go beyond listening and hear the horn.


    This could possibly be one of the things I teach. So often when people play, they only hear the horn. I try and teach them to listen to how the horn sounds in the room. Make the room part of the instrument. When a person shifts their listening to include "how" their sound behaves in a room, it goes beyond just listening to the horn.



  • @Dr-Mark said in Range Improvement:

    @Dr-GO said in Range Improvement:

    But the key is to go beyond listening and hear the horn.


    ...So often when people play, they only hear the horn. I try and teach them to listen...

    Minimal Structure Theory Dr. Mark.. Read it closely. Listening is easy. It is the first step. But unless you INTEGRATE the listening, it will not become a part of you. Listening is the sensory reception of sound. HEARING is the integration of the sound you just listened to. Hearing is the goal, not listening.

    Do you HEAR the jazz musicians reply back to you: "I'm listening you, Man!" No. They say "I'm hearing you, Man!" That last comment is the prize. That's is the gratification that gives you goose bump. Hearing, goes beyond the listening.



  • Whew Dr-GO,
    I'm not sure I'm following you on this one. Maybe it just needs time to sink in before I go Ah Ha!. You said "Listening is the sensory reception of sound. HEARING is the integration of the sound you just listened to. Hearing is the goal, not listening."
    I won't insult your intelligence by definition but is this what you mean?
    Robert Heinlein coined the word “grok.” It’s pronounced GRAHK, and it means to understand something so well that you fully absorb it into yourself. You know it through and through. You get it. That’s how we feel when we travel. We grok each other. Therefore there’s no need for many words because we hear and listen — body and being.
    OR
    Is this an Avatar (the movie) thing where Neytiri says "I see you" and means she feels and understands the person as a whole?



  • @JorgePD said in Range Improvement:

    Over the last 3 months I’ve diligently followed Bruce’s lesson plans and my workable range is up to a high C. Not an earth shattering improvement, but after struggling on my own it feels great and I’m confident my range will continue to improve. Like most of you have said, a private teacher is necessary for improving range.


    In three months you were up to high C? Thats wonderful! I have no advice other than listen to your teacher and keep up the great work! Bravo.