How to improve your range in one easy step

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Don JacobyFor many brass players (particularly trumpet players), the statement “How to improve your range” can be translated to:

How to play high notes!

As brass players, we are always looking to improve our range, and of course why not? Playing high notes on trumpet, horn, trombone, tuba, or any brass instrument is fun, and having the ability to play easily in the upper register can improve your chances of advancing to 1st chair, or getting a job as a brass player.

The aim of today’s article is to give you one simple piece of advice that may help you to improve your range, and in one easy step.

Scales, lip flexibilities, and many exercises for brass instruments often begin at the bottom of the register, work up, and then back down again.

To show you how ingrained this is, play a C major scale right now.

Did you start on a low C, play UP for one octave, and then back down to the low C?

Why not start at the top of the scale, play DOWN for an octave, and then back up to the top of the scale again?

Different, isn’t it?

So, what’s the one easy step to help you improve your range?

Step One: Set your embouchure high

Another way of saying this, is set your embouchure as if you were about to play a G on top of the stave.

This means, that C above the stave is just a short distance from your starting point, and, all you need to do to play in the lower register is relax and let the notes fall out of the horn.

This is not a new technique, but rather was taught to many by the renowned trumpet teacher Don “Jake” Jacoby.

Try this:

Start firstly on a low C, and play the scale of C major, 2 octaves, ascending and descending.
(If you can’t play a 2 octave C major scale, try with a 2 octave G major scale, starting on low G. If this is too difficult, try a 1 octave C major scale)

Notice how ‘far’ the C above the stave feels away from the low C.

Now, set your embouchure as if you were about to play a G on the stave.

You could even play a few G’s to really lock in this setting.

With the G on the stave setting, play the C major scale, 2 octaves again.

Use this ‘high’ setting when practising. To further help you get used to the ‘high’ setting as means to improve your range, practise your scales, lip flexibilities, and other exercises in both ascending, and descending formations.

What are your thoughts about setting high?

3 Responses to “How to improve your range in one easy step”

  1. Great article. I learned this in college, and it made all the difference in the world in my playing. I use it with my students now, and they’re always amazed at the immediate change. A passage that was once beating them every time suddenly becomes easy!

  2. DavidRoberts says:

    Jon, do you equate this sensation/technique to (overall) playing “high in the slot” of each pitch. I have read some intriguing articles stating that this allows the player to achieve a lively, projecting quality to the tone (when none existed originally). Side-effects mentioned are greater accuracy and endurance, especially in the higher registers.

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