Too many of us learned to play trumpet like this: “Press 1 and 2 for ‘E.’” or “’C’ is open.” Of course, this is all true, but we all know that simply pressing the valves doesn’t get the note out. Unfortunately, many students try to play as if that’s all that they need to do.
Pressing down the correct fingerings make it possible for our instrument to vibrate at the desired frequency. However, without the correct vibration, it won’t quite work. Sure, you might get a sound out and the instrument may get you close to the pitch, but we want something better, right?
Tips for recovering button pushers
- Sing – Yes, the only way to really verify that you know the pitch you want to make is to sing it. Practice this:
- Finger a line of music on the trumpet while singing it.
- Sing the first note of a line, then play it through.
- Stop before a specific note and sing it instead of playing it.
- Buzz – Our lips can too often become passive spectators in the process. They must be an active part of the process. Much like singing, practice these things:
- Finger a line of music on the trumpet while buzzing it. (You’ll need a B.E.R.P. or similar device to do this.)
- Buzz the first note of a line, then play it through
- Stop before a specific note and buzz it instead of playing it.
I still remember my shock when I fully realized the challenge of playing trumpet. I had to know — hear! — every pitch that was supposed to come out of my instrument. There began my journey towards not just getting the notes if I was lucky but confidently hitting the center of each pitch and fully resonating on every note. There are a lot of benefits to playing this way including increased technical speed, endurance, range, and more. Join me on this journey that’s part of my practice every day as a trumpet-playing musician — not a button pusher!