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Palen Music Center Quick Note

Monday, March 22, 2010


The PMC Quick Note is a service provided to all area directors. It is part of our mission to support the lives of band directors across the Midwest. The Quick Note contains helpful tips and suggestions from area directors, spotlights on area college and university band programs, calendars of upcoming events, advocacy articles promoting music education, links to helpful web resources, and much more.  Comments, suggestions, ideas, and articles are always welcome.


Looking for help on a particular topic? Be sure to check out our Quick Note Catalog of back issues!

Young children with developed rhythm skills perform better academically in early school years.

-- Eric Jensen, Arts With the Brain in Mind, 2001

Some Thoughts For Young Trumpet Players by Paul Copenhaver

Following are a few thoughts on various issues affecting student trumpet players.  This discussion briefly covers some ideas on tuning, mouthpieces, mutes, and performance opportunities.


Yes, D4 and C#4 are both sharp on trumpet.  However, the student trumpet player needs to realize there are a number of other inherent pitch problems that also need careful adjustment.  Most of these pitch problems are caused by design considerations common to instruments of every quality.

Extending the third slide to varying lengths, of course, will help tune both D and C#.  {How many times have you read that article?]  When playing a series of these notes, it is acceptable to leave the third slide extended until a 2-3 valve combination is encountered.  Many beginning and intermediate trumpets now have a thumb saddle or some other device to extend the first slide, and, in many cases, it works easier and more efficiently than the third slide.  Therefore, many trumpet players are able to correct D’s by extending the first valve slide.

D5, fourth space Eb5, and E5 are flat.  Usually, notes of the inherently flat fifth harmonic can be ‘lipped up” by firming the embouchure slightly or increasing air compression in the oral cavity.  Alternate fingerings often are used to aid with this adjustment, but these fingerings tend to change the tone quality and response of the instrument.

G5 and A5 are sharp on most instruments, and both seem to possess a very bright, brilliant tone that makes them sound even sharper.  Lipping downward [the reverse of above] remains the best method to adjust these pitches.  However, the A can easily be lowered to pitch by extending the first slide slightly, or by using the third valve.
Adjusting these problematic pitches not only aids intonation, but also helps the player play better “in tone,” thus more closely matching the quality of other notes in the same range.  This factor should help improve the player’s accuracy.


Most beginners use a Bach 7C [or its generic equivalent] or a Schilke 11. Both are good, middle-of-the-road mouthpieces that have good dimensional characteristics and are fairly uniform in construction.

Which mouthpiece is the next logical step after the 7C?  Many trumpet teachers are now recommending moving to the Schilke 14, which is very similar to the Bach 3C.  The Schilke line has proved to be a moderately priced alternative, and the sizing on Schilke mouthpieces is much more consistent.

Most young trumpet players need to stay close to the above parameters.  Unfortunately, the quest to play high often leads to excessively shallow cups, tight backbores, and small throats that tend to adversely affect pitch and tone quality while not really improving the player’s range.  Conversely, excessively deep cups and oversized backbores may tend to adversely affect range and cause a number of pitch problems for the developing embouchure.  Balancing the mouthpiece width, rim, cup, backbore, and matching these factors to the instrument and player is an arduous process.  Just as one pair of shoes will not fit everyone, neither will one particular mouthpiece.

Finally, if the young trumpeter doubles on flugelhorn, please be sure he/she is using a flugelhorn mouthpiece.  Even though a trumpet or cornet mouthpiece might seem to fit the receiver, use the proper mouthpiece.  It is fairly easy to obtain a flugelhorn mouthpiece with the same rim as the trumpet mouthpiece, but with a cup configuration [usually designated with ‘FL’ after the number] suitable to create a truly characteristic flugelhorn sound.


The primary function of mutes is to change the tone color of the instrument, not to soften the volume.  Decidedly, softening of volume does occur, but isn’t the primary reason for using mutes.  Otherwise, why would there be so many different types of mutes?

The most commonly used mute for trumpet is the straight mute.  Trumpet players would be wise to invest in a quality metal straight mute.  The Humes and Berg Symphonic Straight Mute and the Tom Crown straight mute are excellent examples.  The old “red and white” fiber and other cardboard mutes are less desirable alternatives.  Both metal and fiber tend to raise the pitch slightly; so careful adjustment of the mute’s corks or tuning slide may be warranted.

After the straight mute, the young trumpet player should purchase a cup mute, a wa-wa or Harmon mute, and a plunger.  From this basic set the possibilities are almost endless.


It has been said many times that the best way to become an effective performer is to perform.  Sounds simple, but finding those performance opportunities often takes some doing.  Finding and working with an accompanist seems to be another ongoing problem.  However, there is an increasing amount of trumpet music available with accompaniment CD’s that covers the gamut of styles from religious, big band, jazz, patriotic, etc.  These can make effective performance material for performances at senior centers, social gatherings, and other events that can help the young trumpeter gain those valuable performance experiences.

An effective way for a young trumpeter to perform in public is to play along with congregational hymn singing at church.  It may be an easy and effective way for student trumpet players to learn the “C trumpet” transposition while playing along with the melody.  Or, any number of books are available that contain popular/familiar hymn tunes that, amazingly, are mostly transposed to coincide with the hymn book key, and have descant parts that are well within the ability levels of most young players.  The three volumes of Douglas Smith’s “61 Trumpet Hymns and Descants” [Hope Publishing Co.] are particularly useful in regard to key signatures and quality of the descant writing.

Another excellent source for young trumpeters to find effective performance materials is the “Canadian Brass Easy Trumpet Solos, “Canadian Brass Intermediate Trumpet Solos,” and the “Canadian Brass Christmas Trumpet Solos,” also at the intermediate level.  This series contains a wealth of excellent performance materials for various performance venues, and each provides a solo part, piano accompaniment, and a CD with both full performances of each composition by trumpeters from the Canadian Brass, and an accompaniment track with piano only.


Some excellent sources of information about playing the trumpet, equipment, performance, and many other areas may be found in a number of places.  A few of my favorites are Roger Sherman’s “The Trumpeter’s Handbook,” Chase Sanborn’s “Brass Tactics” series, and David Hickman’s book, “Trumpet Pedagogy:  A Compendium of Modern Teaching Techniques.”  Another interesting place for trumpet players to visit is “” website.  All contain a wealth of information, interesting discussions, and ideas.

Contact Your Local Palen Music Center Representative


Can we assist you with anything?  Please contact your local Palen Music Center school road representative for all of your music education needs.


Springfield Bob Hopkins, Phil Myers, and Paul Bowen (417) 882-7000
Columbia Robert Pitts and Jake Herzog (573) 256-5555
Liberty Ken Crisp and Dick Murdock (816) 792-8301
Joplin Wayne Blades, Scott Frederickson, and Chelsea Samuel (417) 781-3100
Broken Arrow Mark VanVranken and Tiffany Dempsey (918) 770-6827


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