Technique Questions

                          Question                                                            Answer 

     Q: My question is about transposing. In my youth orchestra in town for our spring concert next semester, one of our pieces is the Pines of Rome. It is very tough and range is very technical. I am playing first on it and right now all I have is a B-flat. I have seen and heard this piece played many times. 90% on the time all the guys play C trumpets. I know that C trumpet is much easier to play in the higher range. Should I ask my teacher about borrowing his C trumpet along with the rest of the section and just transpose the 1st,3rd, and 4th movement? The 2nd movement is already in C so that would help a lot in my opinion. What do you think?

        Q: I am in the 9th grade and have been playing the trumpet for four years. My instructor wants me to play the chromatic scale up to c"', but I have difficulty playing high notes and none of my books have fingerings up that high. Can you tell me the fingerings as well as what I can do to improve?




 Q: Dear Dr. Pugh,

I am a serious thirteen-year-old trumpet player who studies at the Juilliard Pre-College Program. As I listen to many twentieth century solo and orchestral works, I notice that the technique of flutter tonguing is occasionally used. I read somewhere that the ability to roll your Rs (or lack thereof) is passed down genetically. Unfortunately, I posses no such ability (no one in my family does either). I have been able to reproduce a flutter tongue like sound by gurgling when playing the trumpet, however I am a stickler when it comes to correct technique, and I know that this technique may be incorrect.

Is there ANYTHING that I can do to help this problem? I don't want it to get in the way of me going extremely far with the trumpet!

Thank you for your time!


Jacob K. Paul

     Q: Hello. I am a 5th year trumpet player, and have four questions.

a) How would you recommend going about trying to produce the jazz effect known as a shake?
b) How do having braces affect one’s playing ability?
c) What are the differences between B, C, etc size mouthpieces? I understand the number represents how shallow or deep the cup is, but what does the letter represent?
d) Often, in the beginning of a session, I find that many of my notes do not start immediately. I get a slight “pff” sound that is very short and then the note will come (or in some cases, not). What do you have to say towards this?

I currently play on a 5C mouthpiece and find it is much easier to play with than the 7C most trumpet players start on, especially because of my braces. Thank you for you time.

William Norris

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      A: Thanks for your question and congratulations on playing the principal part on "Pines."

You ask a great question, but for the wrong reason (in my opinion). I personally do not believe it is easier to play in the upper register on C anymore than the Bb. If your upper range is tentative on the Bb, it will also be tentative on the C trumpet. 

But for Orchestral playing, C is the standard in the US and much of the world and for good reason. I prefer the Bb for most of my playing, but when I am in the orchestra, I use a C trumpet.

But the trumpet part in Pines is a variety of keys; 1st mvt. - Bb, 2nd mvt. - C for the offstage solo, 3rd - A for few bars, then Bb in the 4th. IMO, the whole thing works pretty well on the Bb AND the opening flies by at an incredible tempo. Learning to play a new horn and transposing down a step at 100 mph is better saved for the practice room until you have the C horn under your belt.

If you are serious about playing orchestral music, you should purchase a professional grade C instrument. Ask your private teacher for recommendations. If not....stay on the Bb, learn the part and have fun.

Just a point of reference. All is not as it seems sometime---- Many European Orchestras ( English and Russian in particular) played Bb for years and some still do. I know also that many European orchestras use the Bb rotary on the third part to bridge the sound between the trumpets and other brass. Most American Orchestra Trumpets played Bb until the Mid 20th Century. Look at the Ernest S. Williams Method Book and you will find a wonderful transposition guide based on using the Bb trumpet. ESW was the first great American Symphonic trumpeter in Philadelphia in the early 20th century. Bb was the standard back then. BUT, Malcolm McNab, a (the) leading Hollywood Studio player plays Eb on many of his gigs!! Go figure.

Just Have Fun!

Dr. Pugh

     A: The fingerings for the notes directly above the treble clef staff (g" - c"') are exactly the same as those an octave lower (the ones in the middle of the staff). While some alternate fingerings might work, it will be most beneficial for you to use the natural fingerings to help keep your place. In addition, there have been many questions answered in this column regarding upper register playing. Perhaps some of those thoughts will already have helped you. As far as overall improvement is concerned, consistent practice (everyday!) will probably help the most. Remember to concentrate on a filling breath and a wonderful, singing sound.

    A: Jacob,

RELAX partner...If you are in the Julliard Pre-College Program you must have a lot going for you! As with most things in life, when we stop trying hard and relax, good things begin to happen!

   Flutter tonguing is nothing more than rolling your R's. Just open up your ears and listen to all the Spanish that is being spoken around you in
New York!
 Go to the Spanish teacher in your school and ask how to roll your r's.

  1.  Mimic the sound of a cat purring. Purrrrrrrrrrr. The tip of the tongue flutters when you blow across it.
  2.  Make the sound you see/hear when you look at these letters: "ur" as in her. Now think the sound and move lots of air, as you do when you play the trumpet. AIR is the key here.
  3.  Think about the TV Commercial for Ruffles Potato Chips........."RRRRuffles have RRRRRRidges"
    Do this sitting down!! Once you get the concept down away from the horn, try it in the low register. It will take more air on the horn to flutter than it does just to roll your "r" without the horn.

     A: Wow! Better warm up the ol’ typing fingers. OK, here we go!

a) The shake that jazz players produce is basically a fast lip slur. To produce one, try this. Start on an "E’’, and slur up to a G’’. Now, try to set your embouchure tension to a point just above the E, but below the G. This will allow the lips to easily move back and forth between the two notes. Then, it is just a matter of developing the speed of the shake. Some players find that the hand, with a rocking, back-and-forth motion, aids in the production of the shake. Care should be taken not to apply too much pressure, however. Damage to the muscles can result.

b) Braces! They are something a lot of us have had to deal with. And there is no sure remedy that works for everyone. Wax from your orthodontist my help eliminate some of the discomfort. Other products like Brace Aid and Lip Savers may work too. When I had braces, I didn’t have a particular problem playing with them. My lips are thick and then didn’t seem bother me. Work on developing your embouchure muscles, so that they are strong enough to balance the mouthpiece pressure, and you should survive until they get taken off.

c) You have got the letters and numbers confused slightly,William. The letters (using the Bach sizes for reference) refer to the depth of the cup. A being the deepest, B, C, D, and E being the shallowest. The numbers refer to the diameter of the cup. The larger the number (7 vs. 5 for instance) the smaller the cup. The standard cup is a C. Some people prefer the deeper cup, with a more funnel shaped throat (I play on a B cup. My mouthpiece is a 1B, with a #24 throat and a #23 backbore). With braces, try many different mouthpieces, and find the one that is most comfortable for you.

The delayed attacks that you are referring to happen to lots of students (and professionals on occasion!). The primary cause is trying to start the note with the tongue, rather that with air. The tongue provides the articulation, which helps to clearly define the note. 

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