I really can't discuss the physical aspects of range
development on my web site simply because this is a topic which I cover in my
book, The Physical Trumpet Pyramid. I feel that including that information here,
for free, where others have paid for it, is a conflict of interests. But there
is a range related subject which I do not cover enough in that book. That is the
subject of familiarity. I do discuss it in my book, but only in passing. Here I
will cover this subject more completely.
Familiarity plays a key role in a great many aspects of
music and trumpet playing. Certainly it makes sense that we do things better
when we are more familiar with them. If you play a song once and then try to
perform it, you will not sound nearly as good as if you have been playing that
song for ten years of your life. If you have a piece of music which requires
double tonguing and you have only tried to double tongue once or twice before,
then you won't play that piece as well is you would if you have been double
tonguing for many years. A lot of things in music are this way. That's why
repetition is so extremely important.
It's also important to apply this concept of familiarity
to range development. If you have only "tried" to play in a certain
range on a few occasions, then you will not sound nearly as good in that range
as you would if you've been playing in that range for years.
When I first made my big changes (which included but were
not limited to changing my embouchure), I knew I was at a disadvantage, simply
because I was doing it without the help of a qualified teacher. The initial
effects of the change were that it produced the sound I wanted, but terribly
reduced my range and endurance.
Knowing that I didn't know what I was doing, I decided to
design exercises which would force me to figure these things out intuitively. My
range development was part of that. I didn't know anything about how to play
high. But I did know that, if I did these exercises every day, I would gradually
become more and more familiar with that register and much of that development
would take care of itself.
But don't misunderstand what I mean by this. I could see
how someone might take what I've just written to mean that I recommend spending
a lot of time playing high. No, that's not it. Spending a lot of time playing
higher than what you are currently capable of playing correctly will open you up
for all sorts of bad playing habits. This much I did know.
So my plan was to become completely familiar with the
range that I already had and gradually expand that familiarity into the range
that I didn't have.
I've said this to people many, many times in the past ten
years. I achieved my range without out ever playing high. And what I mean by
that is, when we feel totally familiar with a certain range, then it doesn't
feel high to us.
So these exercises I developed were set up in a way which
utilized all of my current range. Far too often, people save range development
for a separate portion of their practice day. Then, during the rest of the day,
everything else they play is contained within a more limited range. The end
result is that they play the higher notes differently than they do the lower
notes. They do this because they treated them differently AND they are less
familiar with those notes.
So my recommendation is that all of the rudiments should
cover all of your current range. But not just rudiments either. Everything you
do should somehow be incorporated into this kind of approach.
Imagine a trumpet player who practices long tones in a way
which covers his or her entire, current range. Imagine that this trumpet player
does lip slurs this way, scales, intervals, articulation and even etudes. Let's
say this trumpet player has a current range up to high C. To develop range
beyond the high C, instead of practicing the notes above high C, this player
utilizes everything he's got from high C to low F# (or lower). Every exercise he
plays covers this range. He also has etudes and solos and maybe some jazz
transcriptions that use all of his current range. How familiar will this player
be with the notes in his range?
And familiarity is a neat thing. If you are familiar with
the street you live on, you know some of the families there and have a general
idea of "what's up" on your street. Then, that familiarity tends to
overflow into the surrounding streets in your neighborhood. Maybe you were
visiting with a friend and his brother comes by, a brother who lives three
blocks away. Naturally and gradually your familiarity expands to include a
larger area of your neighborhood.
The same is true with range. If you become extremely
familiar with the range which you've already got, that familiarity will expand
into the higher range. Then you will gradually notice that you are ready to
expand your current range, being already familiar with notes that you haven't
even tried to play yet.
I know it sounds too good to be true, but it really works.
And the coolest thing about it is that you may not even consciously know what
you're doing to play higher. One of the beautiful things about our minds and our
bodies is that they can find ways to do things without our conscious efforts.
All we have to do is expose ourselves to these situations long enough for our
physiology to figure it out.
Superficially, this approach may look identical to what
other teachers teach. With my method, we approach each new addition to our range
slowly. So do other methods. Sometimes we might even add only one note to our
current range at a time. So do they. The difference is in the familiarity. The
currently popular approaches advocate practicing notes outside of your current
range in order to gain familiarity while I say that this familiarity is to be
gained ONLY by practicing what you already are capable of playing.
The results of the two approaches are different, even
though they seem so similar from a superficial viewpoint. With the other
approach, the level of familiarity is not as great. Their objective is to make
the lower notes more comfortable by playing those notes which are higher and
which are not as comfortable or familiar. I call it the "ankle
weights" approach. But it seems to me that this has too many negative
effects. There's a certain feeling of apprehension we experience when we
"go for" notes which are not in our current range. This apprehension
leads to an application of desperation which manifests itself in physical
alterations and manipulations which "get the notes out" but do not
contribute to a greater degree of familiarity. The end result is that the player
inevitably does something different, physically, to play what he or she labels
in his or her mind as being high notes.
When I envision my playing, I don't see myself as playing
high notes as high notes. I don't want anything I play to sound different from
everything else I play. Maybe this is my orchestral upbringing. I grew up
striving for a consistent sound from note to note. How can you have this
consistency if what you do, physically, to "get the notes out" is
different than what you normally do to play the trumpet? I don't think you
That's why I expand my range from within my range. That's
why I don't ever play higher than my current range. That's why I DO use all of
the range which I do have.
The result is that high notes don't stress me out, simply
because, to me, they are not high. I am familiar with the notes in that range
and playing those notes is no different to me than playing anything else.
Before I finish here, I should mention that the exercises
I developed when I first made my changes were what eventually lead to my book,
"Daily Routines". Daily routines
incorporates everything I just wrote about. It includes seven separate levels of
routines which utilize seven different ranges. I encourage everyone who reads
this to make an effort to apply this familiarity concept on their own. There
really is no need to buy my book. However, buying the book would make it a whole
bunch easier. So I'm just trying to make sure that I'm not writing about
this just to sell books. You can apply this concept of familiarity on your own.
But I also wanted to let you know that the book is there for you if you
need it. Not only that, the book is also the best way to explain exactly how I
apply this concept. A majority of the people who have used it eventually become
more and more familiar with the concept and develop their own personal routines
based on that concept.
And one more thing before I go. It is not my intention to
make familiarity out to be the ONLY thing involved in range development. There
is more to it than just that. But as I said in the first paragraph, I can't
discuss those things here because it was constitute a conflict of interests.