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In the climax of a piece I'm arranging, I want a Bb trumpet to go up to the C two 8ves above Middle C (concert pitch). This is the highest note in the piece. When I write this in Sibelius, I get a somewhat red notehead indicating that the pitch is at or beyond the limit of what the instrument can play. This is different from the bright red notehead which means that a note simply isn't possible.

I would like to not have to avoid the high C, but not being a trumpet player, I'm not sure whether this would in general be too high. Sibelius can be quite strange with tessaturas sometimes. The question: Is it ok to leave this note in the arrangement? How strictly should I abide by Sibelius's suggestion?

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  • Playing this would not be hard for good players, but at this range it would get harder to control the sound, so make sure that the c does sound good on the trumpet.
    – Lazy
    Dec 8, 2021 at 17:43

1 Answer 1

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You should consider the performer. An able player will be able to produce this without problem - but less experienced players will simply not be able to perform that note at all. Beginner trumpet players start with notes clustered around written middle C, and over years of practice, range gradually extends up to (and sometimes beyond) the C two ledger lines above the stave.

Bear in mind too that concert C requires the Bb trumpet player to perform a written D - and D two ledger lines above the stave is unusual, and will be quite intimidating for lots of players.

If you do leave the high note in, consider these suggestions:

  • leave a breathing/preparation bar or two rest beforehand.
  • don't have the high note at the end of a long phrase.
  • consider writing in an optional (small notehead) note an octave lower, so the player knows that you're asking something hard and that it's OK for them to play the alternative if they have to.
  • don't dwell on the high note for very long. Even experienced players will start to fade/pass out if they have a very high note held for several bars.
  • consider the dynamics - loud + high is harder than just high on its own.
  • chat with your performer. They may be able to suggest tiny tweaks that don't adversely affect the music but improve the playability of the line you'd like.
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    Honestly, "soft & high" is often just as hard as "loud & high". Dec 8, 2021 at 14:18
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    @MichaelSeifert On a lot of wind instruments it's harder.
    – PiedPiper
    Dec 8, 2021 at 14:56
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    Also it works best if you support it with the rest of your orchestration. Is another trumpet able to play underneath?
    – nuggethead
    Dec 9, 2021 at 1:00
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    “You should consider the performer” – this. Fixed boundaries for what the range of an instrument are usually a gross oversimplification. On cello it's perhaps most extreme – the range is essentially unlimited towards high notes, but whether it's actually practical to use those notes depends extremely on the particular choice, on how many and which are used, and on the dynamic level and expression. A beginner would be able to play A6 after once being told the trick; OTOH even advanced players can have difficulty with some melodies (e.g. in keys with more than 3 ♯s) that reach no higher than E5. Dec 9, 2021 at 23:45

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