Trumpet Range

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    As I am not a brass player, here is a good question. What are some exercises that you use to expand the range of your trumpet players?


    For younger (elementary and junior high) students, it can really just take some time. With my older students, we practice a lot of lip slurs to gain flexibility and scales to inch our way upwards. Long and slow practice is the way to go, but it can be trying on the patience of many students. Playing until their lips stop buzzing can help increase stamina, but it can also enforce bad habits (i.e. pressing the mouthpiece too hard into the lips or playing with bad tone).


    Here is what I use with my brass players:

    5 note pentatonic scales that go up by whole steps (1/2 steps if the are more advanced really trying to push their range).

    For example…

    trying to reach Bb, B, and C:

    D-E-F-G-A-G-F-E-D half notes, then progress to whole notes
    Eb-F-G-A-Bb-A-G-F-Eb half notes, then progress to whole notes
    E-F-G-A-B-A-G-F-E half notes, then progress to whole notes
    F-G-A-Bb-C-Bb-A-G-F half notes, then progress to whole notes


    if they feel that that highest note is not coming out comfortably and consistently, have them go back down one where they are comfortable and make sure that those notes are consistent, especially the highest one. This really helps build the muscles up. I’m a brass player (trombone) and do this exercise after I haven’t played trumpet for a stretch to get my range back up and consistent. Long tones are also really good for range stuff, i.e.-G-G#-G; G-A-G; G-A#-G; ETC…

    Hope this helps!!!


    To get a better understanding what you are asking, I think we need to know a couple more things here too. What is the current range of your trumpet players, and what is your goal for their range to be? What grade level are they? I have some ideas for you, but it really depends on what they can already do and where you want them to be.

    For starters, working on exercises from the H.L. Clark and Arban method books helps. Even just simple chromatic scales, aiming for 1/2 step higher (or even lower – in the lower register) each day can help improve. Playing in the low register and expanding that helps just as much as trying to expand the upper register.

    Besides exercises, make sure that your students are using plenty of air to support the sound and support the upper notes. Us trumpet players don’t have an octave key. Let the air do the most of the work – not the lips.

    I think I can help you more once I know what your situation is. Been playing trumpet since I was 10.


    Some of them are in high school. I’ve got two trumpet players in high school. One can get the A above the staff, but the other has issues above an E top space, and she is compensating with pressure. The 8th graders I have can get an F top line.


    Part of getting higher notes is like Nike “JUST DO IT” they have to try and fail. It will come. Just like anything it takes practice. BLOW LOTS OF AIR!! All of the above tips are cool here’s a few more:

    Playing lower – Playing in the pedal range will get them to feel their throats opening up to which will get higher notes. Have them first play a Low G (below the staff) Tell them to put a lot of air behind it. I always tell my brass players when playing in the low registers “put some stank on it.” LOL It sounds funny but those low notes won’t sound resonant or intone without lots of AIR. Anyway, have them try to play the same low G open. Once they are able to do that have them continue down chromatically until they can play at least a pedal C. Make it part of their warm-up routine

    Lip slurs- “the magic bullet” as I call them. If you have them doing them, then, have them increase the speed. The goal is full lip trills. Flexibility + lots of air = range not to mention just about every other aspect of brass playing even articulation, believe it or not!

    Buzzing – This is an often overlooked aspect. Buzzing helps make their air usage more efficient and strengthens their embouchures. They can buzz anything: performance music, scales, nursery rhymes even stuff off of the radio. I tell my brass players to carry their mouthpieces with them everywhere they go. You can buzz almost anywhere and anytime. I make them buzz between classes even.

    A raised tongue position is also key for upper register playing


    The student that can get to the A should be able to at least get to a C before too long. Tell that student to keep working to get 1/2 step higher each day (move on only when it is nice and solid). Keep TONS of air going – aim for a full sound, not necessarily a loud sound. I would work with scales and chromatics with them.

    The middle schoolers are doing well to have an F already. That was about where I was in 8th grade. Their goal for this year should be A above the staff. Same advice for the first student above.

    The student that can play E, but uses too much pressure will need some help. What can they play without using a ton of pressure? If it is not too far off, then it may not be something to worry about too much, but if they can only get to something below a C, then there is some concern here. I still think tons of air is key here too (imagine the force of Niagara Falls through a straw). Try having them hold the trumpet with the left hand flat (like you are shaking someone’s hand) or some way else that they aren’t going to be tempted to cram the mouthpiece to the back of their throat. I would only do that a few times just to see where they can play with little pressure. Like I said before – let the air do the work, not the lips. Her goal for the year should be relieving the pressure, but work towards a G or A above the staff.

    Here are some exercises I use with my students. These are borrowed from Greg Wing, trumpet professor at Morehead State University in Kentucky. Obviously your students won’t be able to play these all the way through now, but it is something to work toward.

    Clarke Technical Study #1

    Click to access 2%20Clarke%20s%20Technical%20Studies1.pdf

    Expanding Scale

    Click to access 8%20Expanding%20scales.pdf

    This link is a simplified version of some of the above exercises. Perhaps this would be something you would consider having your students practice daily (in addition to their other music).
    20 minute daily routine

    Click to access 20%20minute%20routine%20revised%20Fall%202008.pdf

    Most of all – the key here is patience. Playing higher on any brass instrument is a lot like conditioning your body to run a marathon or lift 500 lbs. It takes baby steps to get there and a whole lot of patience.

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