The Trumpet high register has always been a problem for me. My quest began with Jimmy Gozzo, in 1962. Jimmy was Conrad Gozzo's father, the greatest lead player of all.
Through much diligent work and study with some very excellent trumpet players among them Frank Szabo and Charlie Davis; I was able to develop to a point of a good high E on the stand and an F sharp every day when practicing, with a once in a while G above high C in the practice room.
In a rehearsal band, I had the unusual experience of sitting next to a very likable and benevolent lead trumpet player, Rex Merriweather, who played second while I played lead, so as to develop his capacity to solo. I said to him, "Look, I like high notes and I have no problems with you playing as high as you want to keep your own chops in shape, even though I am playing the lead book" Invariably, whatever I played, he could take up an octave whenever he wanted to. I used to delight in his ability to do this.
Rex said to me, "I went to study with Pops McLaughlin in Grand Prairie, Texas, and he increased my range an octave in about two 8-hour days." I told him I didn't think I had the endurance to have such long sessions. He said, "You ought to do it. He increased my range by an octave and I have no mental limitations as to how high I can play. High register is a state of mind."
Then he said the key motivating words, "Hey, Pops McLaughlin is very sick He may not live too long If you are going to do it, it had better be soon."
I had previously called Clint McLaughlin and sent for three books he had written. My experience as a clinical psychologist for 30 years told me that he was obsessive and had devoted his life to figuring out more details about the high register than anyone had exposed me to.
Yet, others who had heard of him were skeptical. "Well, he isn't a great trumpet player like the others you have studied with," they'd say. "What makes him think he can teach?"
I called Pops and set things up for Wednesday through Sunday. He turned out to be good company, too.
As a psychologist, trained in the '60s and '70s, I had attended marathons which were intended to break down the resistance by having group psychotherapy for long hours, and sometimes for three days. This trumpet experience was like those marathons in that it was dealing with my mental and physical resistance.
I had heard of people who were great teachers who were not particularly great trumpet players, such as Carmine Caruso a saxophone player from New York; Clint McLaughlin is one of these and maybe one-of-a-kind in this day and age.
He had a double major in college of music and physics. The physics part, I think, was a major factor in his ability to pay attention to problems and resistance as they arose through about 26 hours of lessons in five days and to find "immediate relief"; in terms of a solution to the problem.
This was very different for me. He knew what to do to fix it right on the spot and then I played differently.
The highest note I ever hit was an A above high C prior to working with Pops. During these five days, I hit three double high Cs, one screaming double E flat and one double D.
Further, he gave me the tools to carry on the work and develop the range and power from that point, and to do it in the context of actually playing music and songs, something I hadn't done in the five years since I took on the task of trying to be a superman in my mid-50s.
I am writing this short article about Pops McLaughlin and it was unsolicited; because the trumpet high register he helped me achieve is something that a person would be unlikely to come upon of their own accord, and if they did, they wouldn't believe it was possible.
Just a side note he went up to triple high C several times while I was there.
P.S. Another unusual thing was that Clint McLaughlin took lessons from Don "Jake" Jacoby . . . on giving trumpet lessons, not on playing trumpet!
Printed in the July 2001 edition of the International Musician.
Since taking his trumpet lesson Len is now playing lead trumpet in 3 Big Bands and finally ENJOYS the trumpet EVERYDAY.
A combination of 6 things are NEEDED to play trumpet well. They are a close lip setting (aperture) + mouthpiece pressure (just enough to make a seal) + lip compression + lip tension + tongue arch (forward) & Air (speed and support). These 6 points control the range of the trumpet. There are many variations available in how these can be added together to play any one note on trumpet.
It is possible to play a double high c on trumpet with a close setting and compression only. The Stevens' static exercises are played that way. Adding some mouthpiece pressure to that can flesh out the notes yet these can be done with almost no tension.
On the other hand lots of people play high c on trumpet with an open lip setting using lots of lip tension and mouthpiece pressure. With the lips pinned open there is no compression. This is tiring because of muscle fatigue from the tension and impaired blood flow through the lips caused by the mouthpiece pressure.
In order to move from the open setting to a closed setting on trumpet; the player has to learn to relax the tension and back off on the mouthpiece pressure. Compression works far better than tension so both range and endurance on trumpet improve.
Now to obtain a big full sound on trumpet you need a balance of lip setting, compression, tension, mouthpiece pressure, tongue arch and air usage.
This balance changes by register. For example the low register needs more air mass to fill the bigger aperture but less air speed or pressure. The lips require little tension or compression. I have found that people can put the close setting to real use quicker by learning to relax the chops.
There is natural muscle tone (tension), there is loose and flabby, and there are stages of tightness (tension). You have certain levels or amounts of tension that you rely on for each register. (Some brass players change tension every note, others by the difference in the harmonic series and still others by octaves.)
Tension is tiring. It also adds stiffness to the lips and prevents a free vibration. Added stiffness is how tension helps to play higher notes but it restricts and limits the ease of tone production of the mid and low register of the trumpet.
Lip compression is the act of 1 lip pressing against the other. Like pinching the thumb and forefinger together. In order to do this with your hand the thumb must be touching the finger (there can be no air space between them), It works the same way with the lips.
There are 5 main ways that this lip compression is obtained for trumpet playing.
1. The entire chop setting is drawn toward the center. Corners pulled in and top and bottom lip pulled together. Like the drawstring example in the Farkas trumpet book or the making a fist in Jacoby's trumpet book or the diagram in Callet's trumpet book. Three different trumpet embouchures that all use the same method of lip compression.
2. Using the muscles of the chin to push the lower lip into the top lip. This creates a knot of muscle at the chin and it moves the center portion of the lower lip.
3. Using the muscles of a frown to compress the lips together. The Roy Roman bulldog face. A frown will pull the top lip down slightly as it pushes the center part of the bottom lip upward.
4. Using the jaw to assist register changes. This is the way Roy Stevens taught. He started with a very open jaw (tooth) position. That way he could bring the lips in toward each other in more compression by moving the jaw upward. (This is fine if you make sure to keep the teeth apart at all times.)
5. Is done by use of a pucker. The compression is partially created by the lips in their pucker and partly by the mouthpiece holding them in place. This can only be used in 2 of the 4 main trumpet embouchure systems.
Using Lip Compression is described in several trumpet books found on my site and in my trumpet lessons.
Click here for more info about Trumpet, cornet, lessons and books by Clint Pops McLaughlin.
Copyright protected from 1995 to date.
Copyright protected from 1995 to date.