When it comes to a trumpet like almost all other wind instruments, the pitch and the quality of the sound produced rely on the embouchure. Luckily, there are a variety of embouchures techniques developed, to how to play trumpet, to accommodate different teeth and lip shape. It’s matter of going with the one that suits you best.
One thing though, irrespective of the type of embouchure you use, there are certain things or rather rules that are constant throughout.
First, your lips must always be in touch with the corners of the mouth firmly held in place such that there are very minimum air leaks.
Secondly, to play high, you should push the lips together as you move up rather than stretching them. Should you stretch them, they will become thinner and that means producing thinner sounds and exposing your lips to damage.
Almost 70 to 80% of trumpet players use the Farkas embouchure. If this is the one you are considering, then one thing you want to keep in mind is that your lips should always remain in the same level. In other words you should keep them even. An easy way to do so is by pushing the jaw out a little bit.
As you go through the other embouchure techniques, you will notice that this rule does not always hold. Some techniques like the Stevens embouchure involves curling the lips in while the Maggio requires rolling them out without overlapping.
Now, the best way to learn a trumpet quickly is to constantly play long tones, especially once you are able to produce a decent sound. Doing so is putting your lips and facial muscles in to exercise and with no time they will get used to the vibration. And in the process you also get to learn how to pull off the desired note.
Mouthpiece placement is critical because more than often it remains unchanged while playing. However, just like embouchure, mouthpiece positioning depends on the dental configuration. So, again it’s about identifying the most natural yet comfortable spot for you.
The center of the lips is perhaps the most preferred position and it’s recommended to place as much upper lip as the lower lip in the mouthpiece, if possible they should even up.
Others have recommended that much of the upper lip should be in the mouthpiece than the lower lip. Well this too is not bad an idea since there is little pressure applied on the upper lip and that means it will vibrate more freely.
Wet or Dry Lips?
Whichever works best for you, however, while dry lips is good as it gives a good grip on the mouthpiece, I would recommend a slightly moist lips. The surface tension created by the moisture helps to set up the vibrations. Furthermore, it will allow your lips to adjust more freely to current register and dynamics.
Playing the trumpet requires blowing a good amount of air through the instrument for a long period of time. So, you will have to relax yourself and inhale in a full, deep breath. While doing so, avoid lifting your shoulder and the best to achieve this is to breathe in through your mouth. Another thing not to do when learning how to play trumpet is to hold the air in. Instead, inhale the air in tempo while blowing it instantly.
Whether sitting or standing, maintain an upright posture and keep your trumpet raised without the bell pointing to the floor. If it should point downwards, make sure it’s not too much.
For the arms, they should be a little apart from the sides of the body and not pressed against it. The knees on the other hand should be relaxed and not locked together.
Practicing while standing up is much easier and very conducive, as it keeps the airways open allowing you to take full, deep breath and blow with enough power to produce notes at full scale.
However, if you decide to sit, then you will have to keep an upright posture by sitting on the edge of the chair and keeping your feet flat against the floor. No slouching, if you want to perform well as you would while standing.
Now when performing at a gig, you should adjust the microphone stand to a height that’s most suitable to you and point the trumpet towards it.
Holding the instrument
Right Hand Grip
The right hand is responsible for controlling the valves. The thumb must remain straight without bending at the knuckle. It should settle on the surface of the first valve casing. The index finger should go on the first valve, middle finger on the second valve while the ring finger should occupy the third valve. For the pinky, place it on the hook.
Left Hand Grip
The left hand also serves an important purpose in the controlling of the horn and supporting the trumpet. Therefore, the grip should be firm to withstand the striking of the valves. So, the thumb of your left hand should rest on the first valve.
Position your index and middle fingers behind the third valve such that you have a firm grip. Place the ring finger in the slide ring of the third valve while taking your left pinky finger under, settling it on the third valve slide.
You should relax your shoulder and not hold the trumpet very tightly. The goal here is to place the fingers in the most relaxed position so that you don’t get tired easily when playing.
In order to get clear note changes, you will have to give the valves vigorous snaps straight down using the fleshly pad part of your fingers. The nails together with the joints of your fingers should steer clear of the finger button and make sure not to press the valves diagonally or it won’t be long before they start jamming.
Well as the old adage goes, nothing else but practice and more practice makes perfect. Same applies here but for the best results, maintain a few hours of practice every day. Don’t be overzealous and over practice. The general rule to mastering the trumpet or rather, any musical instrument is to rest as much as you play to allow the body to rejuvenate.
You also want to avoid applying too much mouthpiece pressure when learning how to play trumpet. The only times you will need to use excess pressure is when you wish to produce proper tones or prevent air leaks under the mouthpiece.