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Trumpet Fundamentals

What Are Trumpet Fundamentals?

Trumpet fundamentals are the basic physical and mental skills required to perform the trumpet, irrespective of musical genre.  I.E., they are essentially the same, no matter if you are playing orchestral music, jazz, latin, pop/rock/hip hop, chamber, etc.

They are the skills that all trumpet players should address on a daily basis, no matter what their particular musical focus.  Trumpet fundamentals can be broken down into three broad categories:

Timbre is often addressed through use of long tones like those found in the Bill Adam routine, and in air flow studies like the Cichowicz Flow Studies, as well as, of course, throughout fundamentals books like the Arban or St. Jacome.

This can also be developed through the use of lyrical studies like the 150 Popular Songs in the back of the Arban or the Concone Lyrical Studies.

It is of the utmost importance that your practice routine includes exercises addressing each of these three areas.  If your practice routine is missing one or more of these categories, you will quickly find yourself coming to a wall where improvement becomes exceptionally difficult or even impossible.



Trumpet Fundamentals Benchmarks

Here are a few sample benchmarks that every trumpet player should strive for in order to have “decent” fundamentals.  These should be achievable/achieved by a good high school trumpeter.

  • All 12 major scales, (F#, G, Ab, A, Bb, B, and C 2 octaves), 8th notes @ quarter note = 150

  • All 12 natural minor scales, (F#, G, Ab, A, Bb, B, and C 2 octaves), 8th notes @ quarter note = 120

  • Cleanly lip slur from low C to high C, hitting all the harmonics in between

  • Play Schlossberg exercises 21 through 25 at the written tempo and dynamics

  • Single tongue 16th notes for 30 seconds @ quarter note = 80

  • Double tongue 16th notes for 30 seconds @ quarter note = 120

  • Triple tongue 8th note triplets for 30 seconds @ quarter note = 150

  • Clarke Technical Study #2 in all 12 keys @ quarter note = 150

  • Play the intro to Arban’s with good tone and intonation

  • Play the first 24 bars of Arban’s Characteristic Study #1 at a reasonable tempo (approximately quarter note = 70)

  • Be reasonably comfortable transposing from concert pitch to Bb, i.e. reading a piece written in concert so that it sounds correctly on a Bb trumpet.This is achieved by reading each note up a major 2nd, so a written C is played as a D, a written D is played as an E, etc.


These are basic indicators of skill that signify a trumpeter has strong enough fundamentals to branch out into more specific areas of study, i.e. one can start working on improvisation or lead trumpeting or drum corps or orchestra-specific repertoire, etc.

If these benchmarks are not yet achievable for the student, it is a good indicator that further work is needed on fundamentals, i.e. Arban, Clarke, Schlossberg.



How to Practice Fundamentals

If you can only buy one book, buy the Arban’s Complete Conservatory Method.  If you can only buy two books, buy the Arban’s and Clarke Technical Studies.  If you can only buy three books, buy the above two plus Max Schlossberg Daily Drills and Technical Studies.

Depending on your level and dedication, your fundamentals routine should take 10-60 minutes, and should be roughly divided into thirds between articulation, flexibility, and timbre/air flow/long tones.

A good rule of thumb is to rest as much as you play when practicing, and to rest before your embouchure/tone quality starts to degrade, rather than after.

Sample Practice Routine – 45 minutes

  1. Mouthpiece and/or Leadpipe Buzzing: 2-3 minutes

  2. Cichowicz Airflow Study: 5 minutes

  3. Clarke #2: 10 minutes

  4. Scales and Arpeggios: 5 minutes

  5. Schlossberg #s 21, 23, 24, 25: 10 minutes

  6. Arban’s Characteristic Study #1: 10-15 minutes

In this practice routine, we start out with a preparatory exercise (leadpipe/mouthpiece buzzing), move onto a long-tone/airflow exercise (Cichowicz), followed up with a technical study focusing on coordination between the embouchure and the fingers (Clarke).  Scales and arpeggios are next, followed by Schlossberg for lip flexibility/lip slurs.  We finish with work out of the Arban for musical development.

You can use this basic template and substitute in various exercises of the same type (i.e. Clarke #3 or Vizutti Technical Studies for Clarke #2, Bai Lin Lip Flexibilities for Schlossberg, audition material for the Arban’s Characteristic Study, etc).

I recommend building in rest times, either throughout the practice session at regular intervals as determined by a stopwatch, or in between major exercise types.

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