Lesson for Playing Trumpet Successfully

Lots of beginning trumpet players are inspired by a trumpet player they heard. Perhaps it was a jazz player who could scream so high the dog hid under the bed. Or maybe it was a sweet ballad that made the heart beat a little faster. It might have been the frightening brass sound of a Mahler symphony, the spirit of a dixieland trumpeter, the sharp percussiveness of a mariachi player (not to mention the tight pants!)…

Regardless of the inspiration, new trumpet players are anxious to learn as quickly as possible, but therein lies the issue…

Too often new players are so excited they forget to learn to play properly. The first sounds of a trumpet are a little like a newborn infant – pretty neat, but usually beautiful only to the mother.

Just as a new parent needs to care for the child, nurturing and provide a good upbringing to let the child develop into a fine person with good character, a new trumpet player is responsible for developing proper trumpet skills, and learning to ‘play the trumpet with character’.

The problem is that new players sometimes decide they can teach themselves to play the trumpet. Indeed, it’s possible to discover a way to make a tone using poor form. And the fingerings of the notes are pretty easy to memorize. The result is a trumpet player who learns to play simple songs that are “good enough that your mother likes it”. However, that player soon reaches some limitations. He’s no longer satisfied with his fuzzy tone. His songs notes don’t come out cleanly. His range stops improving. Even his mother stops being appreciative! These limitations stem from the fact that he didn’t learn proper trumpet technique from the outset.

In fact, there are specific and proper techniques for making a tone, breathing, fingering position, horn pressure, physical posture, and many more. When these techniques are learned from the beginning, the limitations and ‘sticking points’ down the road are minimized. Improvements come more quickly, and the trumpeter plays more musically. On the other hand, players that develop bad techniques experience frustration and setbacks when they eventually have to take the time to unlearn and correct their bad habits.

So what’s a new trumpeter to do? The best move a new player can make, regardless of age, is to find a personal trumpet teacher. Emphasis is on “personal”. Band directors can help with basic concepts, but they usually can’t provide the individual attention needed to ensure each student really learns good technique. A good personal teacher will describe the proper ways to play the trumpet, including tone, fingering, breath support, articulation, and musicianship.

“Can I afford private trumpet lessons?”

Private lessons are generally $ 10 to $ 30 for a half hour. The rate often depends not as much on the teacher’s ability to teach, but rather, his/her ability, popularity in the community, and ego (trumpeters have big egos – it’s normal and a good thing…). Ask for referrals from the local high school or university music department.

If private trumpet lessons are out of reach, you could go the “virtual trumpet lessons” route. Yes, thanks to technology, video trumpet lessons are a good, economical option for many new players. Better than a book, video trumpet lessons can provide actual demonstrations of trumpet techniques. A good video trumpet lesson will teach you not only what to do, but how to evaluate your own technique and monitor your progress.

The trumpet lessons are yours to review as needed!

It’s natural that new trumpet skills need to be practiced, and the teacher will have to repeat and reinforce certain lessons. It costs money to have a private teacher repeat a trumpet lesson, but if you have the video recording of the lesson it’s just a matter of reviewing, practicing, and repeating as needed. No extra money needs to be spent on review lessons!

A final benefit of video trumpet lessons is that they force the students to evaluate themselves, rather than taking a “tell me what to do” approach. Critical evaluation of one’s own playing is not typically a component of beginning trumpet lessons, but it may be the single most important skill a musician can develop.

So take your passion for the trumpet and run with it! Just remember that even though you can go it alone, the path to achieving your goals will be much greater when you have the assistance of a real trumpet teacher – real or virtual. You don’t want to be a trumpet player that only a mother can love!

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