Date: Thu, 9 Oct 2003 11:06:35 -0700
From: "Reaban, Derek" <>
Subject: RE: [TPIN] whisper tones


Whisper tones appear to be unique to the teaching pedagogy of David Hickman. I have not seen them discussed in any other method books.

The purpose of whisper tones is to fine-tune playing response (lip vibration) for the most demanding performance situations (exposed pp attacks). (I would suggest incorporating some breath attacks on the mouthpiece/ leadpipe combination before trying the whisper tones to make sure that your response is already working well, because these can be extremely frustrating if you have "hitches" in your normal response).

The whisper tone exercises begin with an extremely gentle breath attack so that only an air sound is heard and then "crescendos" to the edge of where a regular trumpet sound begins. The ability to sustain this quality without letting it break into a real trumpet sound allows you to focus on response at a dynamic softer than you would ever have to produce in performance (he calls it ppppp). This drill interspersed for several seconds (up to a minute) occasionally throughout your playing day any time response issues arise can help you get back to responsive playing.

The real power however, is using them to be extremely demanding with yourself in the practice room so that in performance pp playing is easy.

Start simple with say a G in the staff or a third space C and try to find that break point between air and sound (these have to be done in a room that is absolutely silent or you will not be able to hear what you need to listen for). Once you are able to do this, move down chromatically.

Once you are proficient at this, you can actually play etudes in whisper tones. He has these in his Trumpet Lessons books. Start small, though! A few seconds of these can go a long way!

Hope this helps!

Derek Reaban