Me holding a trumpet

How to play trumpet while staying home – Episode 1

Hi, my name is Mark.

Welcome to my blog on “How to play trumpet”. Episode 1.

Have you ever thought “if I ever had the time, I want to learn a new skill like playing an instrument?”

Well, I’ve thought about this a lot during this “time” of staying at home. I have finally got off my rear.

To keep myself honest, people said to keep track of your progress.  And to really keep yourself honest, tell people about it so they will too.

So I’m keeping track with this blog and asking you to keep me honest. 

I am going to learn how to play the trumpet.

There, I said it.

I’ve heard the term “Comeback” player but I’m not sure I qualify.  Let me know what you think in the comments.

First thing- I am NOT a “trumpet player”.  I’m just someone that played the trumpet for 5 years when I was younger.

I’m guessing like so many, I started out in the 7th grade and stopped just after high school.  That was over ahem, 40 years ago.

How I felt when I took my shiny trumpet out of it’s beat up old case.

How did I get here?  

After high school, I needed money so I went to work.  Time passes and some friends who are real trumpet players, wanted to build a trumpet site.  They asked, so I’ve been helping out around here.  Like a roadie for a band, you know, the guys that carry the gear, plug in the equipment, and hide in the background.  That’s how I feel. They said if I want to learn how to play a trumpet, then start with the basics, maybe get some lessons, and track my progress.  So here we are.

Trumpet player or a beginner learning to play trumpet?

I was an okay high school player, even took a few lessons.  I got to play first chair trumpet and jazz band.

I tried my best, practiced the main books (Arbans, Clarke Studies), but no teacher ever looked at my embouchure, etc.

Last year, I pulled my Bach Stradivarius (which is just like a 190S37) trumpet out of the back of the closet and sent it away to get reconditioned.  Found a gentleman by the name of Charlie who runs Charlies Brassworks.  My trumpet was lacquer covered when I got it because it was cheaper.  It was in sad shape, but Charlie said the valves were good and the lead pipe was rotted.  I dropped my horn during marching band and the trumpet mouthpiece got stuck.  Took it to the local music store and they removed the trumpet mouthpiece.  They ripped off the receiver and broke the brace to the bell.  They put back the receiver, but it wasn’t in the right place.  Charlie made it like a brand-new trumpet.  And it has been sitting in the back of my closet since I got it back, all shiny.  

Now with the all the information available, I’ve realized that I wasn’t playing correctly.  I used too much effort, too much tension to play.  And my tongue.  They taught me to separate notes but never arched it or had it touch my lower teeth.  This has confirmed my fears that i had been playing wrong for those 5 years. 

How to play trumpet for beginners

This could be called “How to play trumpet for beginners” I’m thinking.  What do you think?

I’ve spent time lurking on the trumpetherald.com forum and have collected ideas on how to proceed. 

First thing. Embouchure.  I found this great video by a professional trumpet player named Charlie Porter. He has a great lesson on the embouchure. His ideas apply to any of the brass instruments.

Charlie Porter- “How to form a brasswind embouchure”.

Embouchure

i found a famous teacher’s website named “Pops”. I read through his trumpet embouchure ideas. It confirmed I needed to change.   Rather, start with a new embouchure. Mine is the “smile” embouchure that everyone says uses cheek muscles and not lip muscles.   Lots of tension in my cheeks.  When I was 7, my left cheek got injured so it’s not the same as the right one.  If I use a proper brass instrument embouchure, it won’t matter.

Smile trumpet embouchure.
This is how I learned to play, pull the lips apart with my cheeks.

I’m going to follow these teacher’s advice on how to get started.   I’m going through “Pops” McLaughlin’s, “Tensionless Playing” where he showed that while the “smile” embouchure allows you to play delicately, it can impede endurance and some range.   The “frown” embouchure he talks about that professionals use can help with endurance and maybe overcome the range issues. I could play an “F” above the staff and squeak out things higher, but it was painful to squeeze that hard.

Full disclosure: Neither Charlie Porter nor Clint “Pops” McLaughlin have any idea who I am, that I am studying their teachings, or that I’m sharing them with you. Will they help me? I hope so.

In the picture below, I trying to use my lower lip to press up against my upper lips which is supposed reduce the tension in my cheeks. Geez, there is SO much to learn.  I’m going to try to move away from the “smile” embouchure and see what happens.

Pucker or lip curl trumpet embouchure.
I think this is what they are talking about. My cheeks don’t hurt at least.

First, trumpet mouthpiece buzzing and then learning how to play trumpet notes.   Thankfully here’s nice trumpet fingering chart with the notes so I can try to remember how to read music. Well, that’s as much of a plan as I got right now.  Lessons for sure via Skype once I can actually play a few notes?   Or should I have a teacher help me change my embouchure first.  All great questions. If you’ve gone through this, please let me know what you went through in the comments below.

I’m going to post these regularly so you can keep me honest about my “progress” or lack thereof.

Thanks for watching and appreciate any tips if you’ve gone through this.

My band teacher used to say “thanks for playing along” so I’ll end with that.

Thanks for playing along.

Mark

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