A major concern of trumpet players is playing high notes. Every trumpeter wants to be able to hit those high notes, but it is one of the more difficult skills to master. There is even a whole industry of products and apps designed to teach this specific skill. None of that is necessary though. Follow my advice and you’ll be playing high notes in no time.
Why is playing high note important to trumpet players?
Part of it is status. Playing high notes denotes experience and a higher skill level. Trumpeters like to show off and competition among them can be fierce, whether they play the regular trumpet or a mini pocket trumpet. Everyone wants to be able to stand out from the crowd. Being able to play notes most can’t, lends one a bit of status and mystique.
First, are there really high notes?
A big reason most trumpet players find it difficult to play high notes is that they were told it is extremely difficult to play those notes. So when they pick up their instrument, they have already made up their mind that they can’t play the high notes.
You need to change that mindset and here’s how. I’m sure you can agree that C is not a high note. That means C# isn’t a high note either, since it is only one step higher. And D is also not a high note, since it is only half a step higher than C#. That means Eb can’t be a high note either and so on. You can continue as long as you like. The end result is this: there are no high notes, just notes that are one little step higher than the previous. And you can go up one little step, can’t you?
The secret is that, if you can play C, then you can play C#. And if you can play C#, you can play D as well. And from D you can play Eb and every other note.
How to Play High Notes on the Trumpet
The first stage to playing higher notes is to start playing C. This note lies in the middle of the trumpet range. From C, move to C#, then on to D and on to Eb, etc.
Below is a simple way to build a consistent approach to mastering the whole range of the trumpet. It shows insteps for how to easily play a double C.
To begin, start on the low F#. Following a specific pattern, slur out 5 key notes 1-2-3-4-5-4-3-2-1-2-3-4-5. Do the same thing for G, Ab, A, Bb, B and C.
Next, do the same thing with the pattern 1 – 2 – 3 for F#, 1 – 3 for G, 2 – 3 for Ab, 1 – 2 for A, 1 for Bb, 2 for B, and 0 for C. This allows you to successfully connect all the breaks in the overtone.
The main idea here remains the same. Take easy breaths while blowing the entire time and aim for sound consistency. Simply continue playing while keeping the same idea in mind and move up to the upper octaves.
It is important to do this exercise every day. Continue practicing and with time, you will be able to play the whole range.
Helpful tips for playing the high notes
- Don’t increase the pressure on your lips trying to hit the high notes; keep it at a minimum and play naturally.
- Rest as often as you play, preferably after every 5 minutes of playing higher octaves.
- Position your body well; don’t slouch and stand (or sit) up straight while maintaining a good posture.
- Don’t puff your cheeks in an attempt to force out higher notes; if you find yourself dong this, try squeezing your cheeks while playing, so they will stay that way.
- Look in the mirror as you practice, so you can monitor where you are placing your lips to get the right notes, as well as your posture.
- When playing, lift your tongue to enable air pressure buildup and move faster, to create high pitches.
- Don’t just limit your practice sessions to higher octaves; also practice arpeggios, chromatics and cold attacks on the same notes.
- Always take a deep breath and fill your lungs with enough air, before playing any note; remember to keep your posture straight to improve your breathing.
- Breathe from your stomach and not from your chest; this helps increase the air pressure, making it easier to hit higher notes.
The following video might help you with the high notes, too.
Remember there is no such thing as a high note. They are all just notes. Take them one step at a time and follow my instructions and tips. Continue to practice and before long, you will be able to play any note in the trumpet’s range.