Weekly Trumpet Tips 7/31/12

The Shadow

Welcome to Weekly Trumpet Tips:

Please always feel free to respond / comment on any of the tips listed in these weekly posts. Your input may help clarify details for someone else!

Check out About Face HERE!!! Check out Secrets to Efficient Brass Playing HERE!!!

ReCheck out the Chops Rehab and Jazz Improv courses. These are designed to be 4 weeks worth of lessons to help the student gain insights and skills in each specific area.

Keith is available for clinics!! Please go to our “Clinics” page for details!

Tip #1 – You Don’t Have To Be Right, You Just Have To Get Started!

It’s true – in EVERYTHING that you do… sometimes it’s better to just get started, make mistakes along the way, and learn… learning, after all, is growth!  Forward movement… When we apply this very principle to trumpet playing and music, 1 major factor that causes us to hesitate is embarrassment – or the thought of being embarrassed.

I have said this before, but I’ll say it again in case you’re new to joining us for the weekly tips.  I am VERY open about my growth, the mistakes that I’ve personally made, experienced, as well as the embarrassment I’ve caused myself.  Because ultimately, that has been my greatest teacher!

When I was touring with Maynard back in 2004, I did NOT have a good grasp or understanding on how to play in the upper register.  And quite frankly, I was topped out at a G above high C.  As my time with Maynard went on, my range worsened… to the point that by the time I left the tour in late November of 2004, I couldn’t play a high C any longer.  I had become horribly confused – I switched mouthpieces, desperately trying to make a Monette piece work for me and failing miserably.  And honestly, the only support I was getting was from MF himself!

One particular show in Minnesota, the trumpets were sent out into the audience as which was common to play “Hey Jude.”  When my turn came to play it up the octave (just to a G above high C), I absolutely FOLDED!  Right there in front of MF, God, and everyone!  I was SO humiliated that I went to Boss and apologized – certain that I was going to be shipped home the following day.  Being the kind, warm, and understanding person that he was he told me, “NEVER kick yourself so hard that you break your leg, BUT – NEVER pat yourself so hard on the back that you break your arm!”  He gave me a hug and sent me back to my room… I will NEVER forget that!  I finished the tour (2 more months) and asked as many questions as I could.

That ONE embarrassing moment lead me to understand a lot more than just how to play high notes.  I learned that putting yourself out there with the risk of failure is a lot better than NEVER allowing yourself to venture toward the edge for fear of falling.  Had I tucked my tail between my legs and played it safe (which was going through my mind at the time) I NEVER would have ventured forward – and I probably never would have gotten “hungry” for the knowledge that was passed onto me from MF after that.  I learned “how” to ask him questions so that I would get more direct answers… I also learned from MF that those who would put you down when you fail for even trying, are the ones that are most worried that you’ll eventually succeed because you dare venture where they dare not go.

Tip #2 – The Money Questions – 

I once heard a tale about Cat Anderson and asking him questions about how he did what he did… I can’t verify how accurate this story is, but nonetheless it’s intriguing enough to pass on and use as a conversation point.

The story goes that after a show, a young man approached Cat asking him VERY specific questions… Cat did his usual dancing around and passing it off on “air,” etc.  But one question in particular stopped Cat in his tracks and he looked the young man dead in the face and said, “Son, now you’re asking the money questions!”

The reason I bring this up is simple – who better to ask about playing in the upper register than the likes of Cat Anderson, Maynard Ferguson, Bill Chase, Leo Shepherd, etc.  To really get the information you’re looking for in nearly everything you’re searching for answers in, sometimes the greatest tool you can gain is learning “HOW” to ask the money questions!   Just simply saying “how do you play high like that?” is not specific enough.  It’s like asking a multi-millionaire, “how do I get rich?”  If he / she is smart, they will answer you with, “I don’t know how YOU will get rich!”  But if you get specific, you can actually get more to the point answers.  As I had stated in Tip #1 – one of the most valuable tools I gained was learning how to ask the right questions to provoke the right answers.

Also remember – that just as you wouldn’t go to a homeless person to ask financial advice, you are best to not ask a clarinet player how to improve your trumpet playing!

Here’s a video from the tour… hope you emjoy!


“Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain but it takes character and self control to be understanding and forgiving.”

Dale Carnegie
1888-1955, Author and Speaker

Have a GREAT week!