How to Play Trumpet. Comeback player with a Bach Strad

How to play trumpet at home– Episode 3

How To Play Trumpet

Comeback or Beginner Trumpet Player?

14 days in.  Total practice time: 351 minutes.  That’s about 25 minutes per day.   I tried to break up my practice time into two sessions because I get tired so easily.  But the afternoon sessions isn’t really worth talking about. That sounds like a total beginner player.

From day 1 to day 14 lots of changes:

  1. I used to get tired after a few minutes.  I can practice a little longer each session.
  2. Focusing on setting the embouchure in a frown and not using my checks.
  3. Fingers are starting to remember what the eyes are seeing on the page.
  4. Sound has gone from a wounded animal to a well, slightly less wounded animal. 

Thankfully no animals will be harmed in this process.  Although my neighbor’s dog might have a different view on this.


Practice Log

Trumpet practice log in a spreadsheet.
Practice log. Keeping track seems like a good idea.

Here’s something I threw together. Want a copy?   I made a version for Numbers for your Mac, iPad, and iPhone. Made an Excel one just in case. Please let me know what you want to see in them and I can update them.

To upload it to Google Sheets. Click “Google Apps” which are the 9 little blocks in a square. Click on “Sheets”. In Sheets, click on the folder icon “Open file picker” and drop the Excel version in. Seriously? Is it really that complicated? Please let me know an easier way in the comments.


Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.

That Really Famous Person Who Said This

Relax the lips, relax the cheeks….

Trumpet Notes

Trying to relax the face, set an embouchure, and blow. To change the way I play. Gotta share something I stumbled upon in the last few days.   I’ve been trying to find the hole in the back of the mouthpiece with my air.   Yep, it’s as easy as eating just one potato chip from a new bag.  Possible, but really hard to do.  But when I do, it sounds so different.  The notes (if you can call them that) sound much fuller and take less air and effort.  That has helped me practice with a little less rest in between “attempts”.  I will call what I’m doing “attempts” because I sound like I did when I first picked up the trumpet.  Who are am I kidding?  No way I sound that good yet. Nor can I remember back that far. Seriously though.  This was an “ah ha” moment where paying attention to that little detail is nudging me in the right direction. This is another common thing I’ve found that is posted by trumpet teachers, “Good Sound”. 


Purposeful Practice

Clarke Second Studies # 33 - 36.
My fingers remember #36. Can’t play #34 as smoothly.

A buddy who is not a teacher and refuses to give me lessons, gave me a great tip despite himself.   I told him that my fingers remember some of the Clarke Second Studies. He replied “You are wasting your time”. Ah the love and support only friends can offer. He went on. “Read the instructions. Do what it says. Otherwise, you are just wasting your time”.  I read the instructions at the top and it was right there. “Do not waste time on those that are easy”.  Palm meet face. Forcing myself to learn the ones with all the sharps and flats seemed impossible when I can only play for a few minutes at a time.  My fingers remembered the easy ones. Why? Because I had played them over and over way back when.  But I didn’t practice all of them the way Clarke said to. It wasn’t as comfortable as playing the easy ones. I wasn’t forcing myself to learn something new.

Clarke Second Studies Instructions.
RTFM. Read The Fun Manual. Have the instructions have been there all this time?

Music Stand

Good air.  That’s another “common” thing out there and there aren’t many I’m finding.   I’ve been trying to play the Clarke second studies slurred because it’s easier than single tonguing them.   The key word in all this is “trying”.  Then I got my music stand.  That sure made a difference in my practice.  After looking at the Accessories post, I decided on the Gleam Sheet Music stand.   It was less than $30. Fully extended, I can practice standing up.  It came in a soft case with handles and has rubber boots covering the three feet.  The rubber boots make the stand sure footed on the floor.   Meaning, when I bumped into repeatedly, it didn’t fall over.  Why did this music stand help me?  When I sat to practice, I would get tired and slouch.   Even after 15 minutes. Can’t do that standing.  I was forced to stand tall.  I could tell when I didn’t breathe using my diaphragm.  So that’s where the good air comes from.  Best of all, I put a small mirror on it so I can watch my cheeks.  I catch myself cheating by going back to my “smile” embouchure.  Relaxing and focusing on the muscles around my lips is uncomfortable, I sound horrible.  Who knew that something like a music stand could help with “good air” and getting uncomfortable to learn a new way? 

Music Teacher or Trumpet Teacher?

The music note->brain->finger thing still isn’t connecting yet.   The first fix was actually looking at sheet music instead of playing stuff that my fingers remembered.  It helped when I tried to sing the note in my head.  Like “Deeee”, “Eeeee”, “Fffff”, “Geee”.  Although singing “F sharp” doesn’t quite work.  How do you do it?    So I cheated and started writing the names of the notes below the ones that would trip me up.   Another “common” thing that’s said is “get a teacher”.

Today I started my search for a teacher.  Googled “Trumpet Teacher”. 18.2 million hits, first page was all big companies, not people.   And who ever looks at the 2nd page of Google?   I did just to see what was there.  Maybe Bigfoot?   Then I searched trumpethearld.com.  Lots of smart folks on that forum.  I searched “Skype Teacher”.  20 thousand hits.  All forum posts. None named “Teachers” or “Trumpet Teachers” much less “Skype Teachers”.  

YouTube.  Why didn’t I start there?  Got lost and watched video after video.  Went down a rabbit hole.  Gee, I’ve never done that before, like every day.  Eventually, and not sure how, I stumbled across Jeff Lewis.  He teaches trumpet and jazz.  His website has a ton of jazz music information on it.  He says that “everyone is different”.  What works for him, may not work for you because our face, teeth, etc. are all different from each other. He plays and teaches jazz. Below he shares an “ah ha” moment about where the bottom jaw can be and the gap between our teeth. Huh, I never thought about those. 

Trumpet Artist and Teacher Jeff Lewis on the Trumpet embouchure.

Trumpet Learnings. Week 2

  • Good Sound.
  • Learn something new.
  • Good Air.
  • Get uncomfortable.

And the big one.  Practicing the easy stuff with the old embouchure won’t get me where I want to go.  I’m reinforcing my old habits.  I have to get uncomfortable and practice how I haven’t done before. It sounds awful. And wouldn’t you know, the Trumpet Fingering Chart (click the link for yours) is super useful. It’s free, nothing asked for to download your copy. Okay, back to the learnings. Gotta make sure I always use the new embouchure changes.  Then it will start to become the “new normal”. Permanent in time.   Perfect?  Well, let’s not get crazy.

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