An aspiring jazz trumpet player's blog about jazz improvisation and ear training.

March 27, 2005 Trumpet Technique 20 Comments

My embouchure - range, endurance


Trumpeters have a tendency to fixate on their range. They're either proud because they can play higher than anyone they know, or they are frustrated because they can't play as high as they want. During my comeback, I've been rather guilty of the latter case.

For the first few months of my comeback, I could barely play anything at or above an E at the top of the staff. It has been a frustrating journey, but I've now got a (somewhat) solid range that extends up to a Bb above the staff. I can play higher than that occasionally, but I can't play those notes with enough power or consistency for them to be truly useable.

A Bb above the staff gives me about two and a half octaves to work with. That's enough notes to play most of the solos by Miles Davis, Kenny Dorham, Art Farmer, Blue Mitchell, Chet Baker, and many other great jazz trumpeters. I think it's safe to say I should stop worry about my range.


While my range is fine, my *real* problem lies with endurance. On a typical day, I've only got 15-20 minutes of solid playing in me, before I need to rest. Once fatigued, I can barely play an E at the top of the staff, and I have to use excessive pressure just to do that. Playing beyond 40 minutes in a single session (even with short breaks) is out of the question. At best, I can manage three or four 20-30 minute sessions throughout the day --usually two in the morning and one or two at night.

Since I'm still in the process of strengthening my chops, I have to devote a couple of these short sessions to fundamentals (slurs, articulation, etc). That leaves just one or two (at the most) short sessions for improvisation. This limitation is especially discouraging when you think about the great jazzers who honed their skills in marathon jam sessions and constant woodshedding. I'm already at a disadvantage talent-wise; I'd love to try and make up for that with extended weekend practice sessions, but my lack of endurance just won't let me.


I've been working on the Balanced Embouchure exercises for a couple of years now. The author claims that his method works for everyone. Well, either I'm doing it wrong, or I've got a good "truth in advertising" case against him! --just kidding. The author is a nice guy, and had graciously tried to help me when I was beginning BE. Regardless, I just don't think the Balanced Embouchure method is working out for me.

I've been working on Caruso and Flexus exercises for nearly a year now, and while I do think they have helped my overall playing and strengthened my range, I've yet to notice major improvements in endurance. The way I see it, I can continue with what I'm doing and hope that my endurance improves over time, and/or I can try something new. 2021 Update: As I'd learn in my lessons Nadje Noordhuis, I wasn't doing the Caruso and Flexus "6-note" exercises correctly... so no wonder they didn't help as much as I had hoped.

A visitor to this site (thanks, Peter!) recently suggested that I try superchops. I've also read quite a few posts about it at the Trumpet Herald. I do have some reservations; mostly revolving around the fact that I can't roll my tongue and therefore might not have the necessary flexibility to pull it off, but I must admit that I'm tempted to give it a try.

Comment by Rick

A sidenote on fatigue and its affects on great players...

During the master class with Randy Brecker (read about it in my JOURNAL section), Randy mentioned that one of the most important lessons he's learned as a professional trumpeter is to pace himself during a concert. If I recall correctly, he said that he and Tim Hagans were talking about the natural desire to play really challenging stuff (high & loud) early in a night's performance. Doing so can lead to fatigue, causing them to struggle later in the night.

In a recent concert, Wynton even joked about the fact that his chops have been hurting since '91. That didn't stop him from hitting a few G's above high C late in the concert ;-)

Comment by Eric B

Range and endurance... you have just mentioned the two things that have me wondering if I should have picked up my tenor sax again instead of trumpet.

I am usually good for 2 hours practice if I pace myself on weekdays. I have to take a lot of breaks and I usually don't play the horn for longer than 20 minutes. Lately I've been ear transcribing Chet Baker and Kenny Dorham solos and when I do that I'm usually only good for an hour. That is mainly because I'm playing a lot more and tackling notes that are not in my "normal" range. It is really, REALLY frustrating.

If I take a day off -- for the first 15 minutes I can play all over the horn. I can even played a C scale up two octaves a couple of times. Once I get tired... poof... gone until the next day off. I am back in my top of the staff G range.

I keep telling myself to be patient but I worry about being that cat who still can't play a high C after practicing regularly for 10+ years. I used to think that there was some special "secret" to it all but now I believe it is like golf... every player must find a way that works for them to be successful.

*sigh* is right my friend....

Comment by rod

I hear your pain guys...

I help lots of people to find THEIR balance...

Rod o-iii

This is quite a good site in terms of both information presented and the design itself. One of the best blogs I've come across so far.

I'm somewhat lucky. I picked up the trumpet during 9th grade by accident and played the scale perfectly on my first try. I was able to hit high C by the 6th month. Then I went off to college and put it on hold for 2 years.

Last night, my friends were just jamming and I pulled out my trumpet for the first time in two years and had such a blast! Surprisingly, my range is still intact, but endurance is SHOT. After 20 minutes, I couldn't even talk normally.

I had trouble with endurance before too. My favorite exercise for endurance was the long tones. Starting from low G# to high C chromatic scale, just holding the note for 8 beats. This simple exercise helped my endurance. Maybe it can help you.

If you try out the superchops method, please post the review on your site. It does sound pretty interesting. And I cannot roll my tongue either, like you, so I'm curious of how it will improve your playing if you ever try it.

- kevin

Comment by Eric

Just thought I follow up my last post in April about bad endurance and range....

When I step back and look at the big picture things are NOT as horrible as they seem. I've had steady but slow progress but things have been getting better. I last a lot longer on my gigs than I used to and in most cases I still have something in the tank afterwards. I think it is important to point this out so that beginners out there will not immediately abandon their chosen method or teacher if they are not ripping double high Cs by the second lesson. I truly believe that trumpet is a measure of discipline, patience and love (you gotta love it).

Comment by Enoete

Hey. This site is just the site I needed to see because I've been trying to find someon who can help me with my obstacles I have with improvising. I have a very good ear. In fact, if I could play the sounds I'm able to improvise via whistling, I'll become a virtuoso but I somehow get stymied when I put my lips on my mouthpiece. I play along to various types of music rangin from contemporary gospel to Jazz (both classic and smooth jazz) and sometimes, I sound good, but that's just because I get lucky 'cos most of the time, I'm guessing the notes to play, especially when I try and play fast sections. But I really want to know how to communicate to my instrument the sounds I hear in my head. What is weird is that once I put my lips on my mouthpiece, I seem to lose track of the sounds I could whistle.

I have heard some of your tracks and that exactly how I want to play!! It sounds so effortless and you always seem to have a good idea of where you're going. I once thought that the key to playing jazz, both fast and slow is to know where you start off, and where you want to end up (notewise), and it really doesnt matter how you fill in the gaps between. As easy as that sounds, I'm still having trouble.

Well, if you went through this stage, please let me know how you dealt with it. I love jazz and I want my instrument to become a medium through which I can communicate my feelings to myself, and others.

Also, is there a preferable mouthpiece for playing jazz? SOmehow, I dont think I can get the sounds I hear on your instrument, on my 7C mouthpiece.

A brief history on my trumpet playing: I learned how to play in 1995. Went to a music camp that same year. Most of my early days were grounded in classical music. When I went to college in 2000, my playing time took a nosedive and these days, my sight-reading isnt all that great. In fact, I HATE reading music now. I'm more focused on developing my ear and improvisation.

Well, thanks and I hope to hear from you soon.

Hi, Enoete. I'll try to answer your questions as best I can...

-Playing what you hear: Sounds like you need to work on your ability to play by ear. Spend some time with my Simple Song ear trainer and my random melody generator. Both of these tools can be found in the Ear Training portion of my site. Most players struggling with jazz improvisation have similar issues that you have... they can't play well enough by ear.

-Jazz improvisation: Every note in a jazz solo is important. You never want to ramble just to fill up space. I suggest that you work through some of the exercises in my Learning to Improvise series, particularly the rhythm and motif exercises. Start your solo with simple phrases and build upon them.

-Jazz mouthpieces: My mouthpiece is Yamaha's version of a Bach 7C. If you examine the mouthpieces used by various jazz trumpeters, you'll find that the sizes and brands are all over the map. Furthermore, with experience you'll learn to get just about any kind of sound out of the same mouthpiece. I can easily go from clean and bright to airy and mellow with a single mouthpiece.

-Closing remark: Becoming a good jazz musician (which I'm not) takes a ton of practice and dedication. For most of us, it's a long (but rewarding!) journey. Be patient and stick with it!

I hope this helps,


Comment by Enoete

Well, Rick, much thanks for your tips. You say you're not good but I think if I can sound like you I'll be pretty happy with myself. I just found out that windows media player has a function that allows you to slow down speeds of whatever you're playing so I'm going to use that to help with transcriptions. I'm already making some slow but noticeable progress, especially with the blues scale and motifs!!

Thanks a lot and I'll try and update you whenever I feel I've gotten better!

Comment by Fred

This site looks great. I'm a serious amateur player and I have had several periods of playing a lot then not at all. I'm currently playing once a week with a small ensemble and I love it. Hearing my buddies (who are all over 40) improve helps mekeep it up.

A question you might have some insight on: I've been trying to get a richer, deeper, warmer sound out of my horn. How much is the trumpet itself, how much the mouthpiece (if I use my deeper cup flugel mouthpiece, it's closer to the sound I want), air control, or embouchure? I use a bach 3c mouthpiece now. I'm not looking for bright and crisp tones. Fat and dark is my preference. Any thoughts? I have a 1960's Connstellation and just got a 60s (almost vintage) Martin Committee. Trying to decide which to keep!


Comment by Tom

I recently stumbled over this site, and I find it extremely useful. I have a semi-professional background in classical music and now I'm trying to learn how to squeeze jazz out of my horn.

When it comes to sound, I really think that the mouthpiece plays an extremely important part. When I play classical music, I use a Bach 2, which gives me good flexibility and a rich, full sound but little support in the upper register. When I play jazz, I use a Yamaha 14CA4 with a shallow cup and wider rim to give me a crisp sound and plenty of support when playing high notes.

Personally I think that playing any type of music well with the basic Bach 7c mouthpiece is difficult, it's just not the right mouthpiece for most players.

Fred, you might want to try switching to a Bach 3, which is basically the same as 3c but deeper. That will probably give you the sound you're looking for.

Comment by Fred

Thanks for the advice Tom. I am trying out a Bach 3b. Is a 3 deeper cup than a3b? I may check it out.

My ensemble leader heaps the praise on when I play my flugelhorn, and I do enjoy playing it, but I want to get the same feedback for the sound I get from my trumpet!



Comment by Ellerick

Hi there

Great site. Love it.

I'm playing the trumpet for about 16 years. Guess what, I've learnt that this journey is one HECTIC journey. I've had so much frustration, terrible practice sessions and gigs in my lifetime and still LOVE this instrument! It makes me tick!

Point is that I'm a 30 year old trumpeter who plays jazz and gospel gigs with various bands but is a engineer by profession. Yet, the only thing I can think of is how to improve my technique and playing.

Just a question, I bought a no-name Asian Flugel horn last year. This was my first flugel, I love it so much and now considering buying a better quality one. How do you guys rate the EM Winston Flugels? Any good?


South Africa

Comment by Paul Du Bourg

Downloading jazz pdf files from various internet sites and knuckling down to learn them has paid huge dividends.Having now played for 2.5 years and look back on the journey so far, progress has been consistently upwards.What appeared difficult or impossible 6 months ago is now playable and believable.I think it all boils down to effort and reward.

Splashed out on a Yamaha Bobby Shew Replica. What a glorious piece of kit!

Will not not throw this one through the bedroom window during a bad practice session.

Thanks to my heroes, Chet, Charlie and the gang for allowing me to indulge in their genius.

Paul Du Bourg

South Africa

Comment by Dave B

love this site - came across it while searching for trumpet related rss and blogs. I might start my own! You seem to be going through the same journey as me. I played for years the wrong way until some time back nothing worked so i had to start from scratch. I thik you need a very good teacher with a deep understanding of the instrument - this is what helped me - and copies of Arban, colin, Caruso and Clarke. You may want to look at "How Brass players do it " by ridgeon. I would be be cautious about investing heavily in a technique like BE without some guidance from a practitioner who can help you though it. Good luck!

Comment by Nick

Does anyone have a better idea how the tongue-controlled embouchure would be formed? I'm not going to buy the book since my range is already D# to E above the staff, but if it helps my endurance (which is about 1 hour playing lead jazz at college level) I would be interested to know about it. I'm actually fiddling around with tongue positions as we speak and I think I've found the position. It tightens the airflow to about 4x pressure higher than if you leave your tongue behind the teeth, and you can still articulate double and triple tongues.

To anyone interested in fooling around with it, the way I'm doing it is I lightly touch the front of the roof of my mouth (right behind the top teeth) with the middle of my tongue and stick the tongue tip down over the bottom teeth just slightly. Also keep your lips pursed as you would normally do if you play correctly*

(oh and a comment on your original post: I didn't see anyone mentioning over-pressuring the lips in reference to endurance. To anyone who doesn't know this, you should be able to swat away the trumpet from your mouth while playing without hurting yourself. That is to say, if you push the trumpet back onto your lips too hard you ruin your endurance and range. Use your lips and mouth to create the pressure. You should ONLY be giving a little push for notes above C above the staff, and still only slightly. If you don't believe me, look up some of the muscle injuries some of the great trumpet players have endured which ruined a number of career, most of them are because the player pushed on his lip muscles so hard while playing a high note and blew the muscle out just like you can do to ANY muscle which is over-pressured.)

* and if you are positioning it the way I am you will probably unintentionally start vibrating your lips quite rapidly at a high pressure. I can only assume this is the position being mentioned because I cannot find a single other position with the tongue going past the teeth which doesnt either impede airflow or make the player unable to articulate. Have fun guys, hope someone can make it work... maybe me tonight at practice.

Now, for a real question: I saw everyone talking about moutpieces. I too feel like my mouthpiece is incorrect for me, but I have tried a 7C, 7E Bach. I now use a 3E which is better but still doesn't feel 100% right. I also have a Yamaha 16C4 (I believe that is the code). The Yamaha produces warmer tones but it is just so heavy and tiring. The 7's don't do much for me, I can hit up to the Bb or C above the staff solidly. The 3E lets me hit those high D# to E's I was mentioning, and as of right now I can hit as high as a G double staff... but I only hit it in warmups... which means I can't use it functionally (although I don't just squeak it, I actually hit it... I can't hold it for long though). Still waiting to hit that double A... usually I can functionally use 3 half steps below my lowest non-functional note (in this case the F# is lowest non-funx. so I can the D# almost garunteed everytime in concert.) But to the point, I have been recommended by my friends and colleagues to find a mouthpiece with the V-neck or a tighter bore for lead jazz because it pinches the notes giving you better control over your ability to nail the overtones you want with certainty, which is completely necessary when you hit those post-staff notes... since most of them can be played with valve 1 alone, 2 alone, open, and only occasionally with 1+2.

So... does anyone have any nice V-necks or thin-bores which they can recommend?


13 Year Trumpet Player,

BA Music Theory and Composition

Comment by Phill Tate

The Superchops method will probably satisfy you if you like a really squeaky range. It's not real powerful. Using the method, I was able to hit a super C (triple C) when i was sick where as, opening my throat as wide as possible, I could play a strong double F or G below that. A lot of range based players lip-slur like crazy.

My dad built his range buy "solid muscle"--going after the note as strong as you can-- when he was in high school. He stopped playing for a few years and came back and was still able to hit a double A (above staff). I experiment a lot with my range. I have tried to use lip-slurs given to me with all I could do of the Advanced Lip Flexibilities book, and it worked ok. I tried Super chops and didn't like it because it was so squeaky. I've tried both Pops McLaughlin's methods of arched tongue and suck in my stomach for higher notes and his penicl exercise, but the first two were a little squeaky and the pencil exercise seemed to be stiffening my chops. I've tried a bazillion mouthpieces (of which, I like the 5B bach). Different things just work differently for different people. There's also the Hessions Sessions book from Patrick Hessions website www.hessionssessions.com.

--Musically your Friend,

Phill Tate

Comment by Ellerick

Hi my brothers in brass

Since the last time we spoke, I've improved from playing a B natural on top of the stave quite easily to an E on top of Super C. Then, I've stopped playing because of health fears and now I'm back at playing A on top of the stave just barely:-(

The reason for me stopping practice was that I suffer at the age of 31 from hypertention (high blood pressure) and someone told me that trumpet playing would worsen my condition.

After speaking recently to a medical specialist I found that trumpet playing CANNOT really worsen high blood pressure.

So, now I'v started playing again after several months. Funny enough, I am improving slowly but surely once again.

I'm using the BUZZ system book that some friendly gentleman sent me some years ago.

Stay true to your instrument

God Bless


South Africa

Comment by Steve


Comment by Paul Du Bourg

Last commented October 2006 after 2.5 yrs of blowing.

End of March 2009 was officially 5 yrs of playing every day for 1 hour

with 4 hours playing on the weekend. Stuck to playing jazz pdf files but finding 3/4 of time is now spent on Clark and Arban Etudes and studies.

Realization kicked in a while back that extreme patients is required to master this nasty piece of brass pipe.Some days are good some days are bad but the occassional good days bring me back for more punishment every time.

Had my piano tuned recently so must really be in a state of depression.

Trust the little catharsis above is just the medicine I need to keep going for the next 5 yrs. Will report back in 2014.



Comment by Tim Glaze

I have been using TCE for about 17 years. It evolved from what was called Super Chops. TCE allows you to relax your lips because the air is compressed inside your mouth using the tongue. This gives better vibration of your top lip which produces a "Big/Focused" sound. My range is better after playing a 3 hour show than after only 1 hour of playing. I can consistently play D above double C and G and triple C after my lips are fully warmed up. I feel that anyone can potentially benefit from TCE. I do not feel that lips size, tongue size, teeth size or angle are factors that would prohibit results from this method. The problem most people have is getting the right mental understanding of how the tongue and lips, jaw and air are used. Playing a G above high C is actually easy to do and most people, if not all, will be able to achieve this using the TCE method correctly. Bottom line, all facets of my playing have dramatically improved. All slurs, tonguing, range, endurance, focus and tonal center have improved. Feel free to contact me if I can be of assistance to anyone.

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