Date: Thu, 08 Mar 2001 23:23:28 -1000
From: Mark Minasian <>
Subject: Re: [TPIN] Playing High Question

At 04:46 PM 3/8/2001 -1000, Richard Uchytil wrote:
>I need to increase my range.
>I know all about playing pedal tones and all that stuff, but don't you
>need to actually practice playing stuff high?

Well, as I've said before, you are what you practice.  If all you do is practice pedal tones, well, you'll be good at playing pedal tones.  Some of the best advice I've seen for range extension came from an article written by Maynard Ferguson for DownBeat magazine a few years ago. Maynard said that as a young trumpeter he would learn a song off the radio and practice it until he could play the melody just like Harry James, Bunny Berigan, etc.  Once he could play the song musically, he would transpose it up to a higher key and practice until he could play musically in that tessitura. Once that was accomplished, he'd move the melody higher again.  He would continue to move the melody higher and higher until he was playing melodies up around double C and above. Maynard said that trumpeters should develop their range in the same manner as an opera singer. As he said "there isn't much call for screech singers. Don't be a screech trumpeter".

In the article, Maynard told a story of Miles Davis coming up to him and asking why he couldn't hit the notes that Maynard played. Maynard told him it had to do with his legs. Maynard, and most lead players, plant themselves on the floor like a weight lifter.  Such a stance aids tremendously in supporting your breathing. Their are lots of different ideas on how one should breath.   One thing is for certain:  accelerating AIR is key to ascending into the upper register.  Personally, I use a mental visualization exercise I learned from Charley Davis and Bill Adam. I imagine that I'm inhaling through my navel and blow from my belly. This simple visualization exercise keeps the chest, neck and throat relaxed while breathing abdominally.

Maggio, Caruso, Claude Gordon, Arturo Sandoval and many others have written books with range expansion exercises, usually consisting of gradually expanding arpeggios or scales. Regardless of how you expand your range into a higher tessitura, do it with a big, full, resonant sound and play as musically as possible.

Pedal tone exercises are good for a few things that apply to the high register:

1.You have to accelerate your air to make pedal tones speak

2. If pedal tones are played properly, the corners of the lips pull down, forming an embouchure similar to that used in the high register, only without the stress and strain of producing the high pitch

3. Pedal tones provide a form of "lip massage" that can be a good warm down after exhausting playing.


I've known trumpet players that went overboard playing pedal tones only to seriously mess up their embouchures or even cause muscle or nerve damage that ended their trumpet playing days. Pedal tones can be quite beneficial if done correctly and sparingly. They can seriously mess you up if done incorrectly.

Mark Minasian