I recently started playing the trumpet, and I am struggling with the upper range, but what concerns me even more than that is that my notes in the range I mostly control are out of tune.

In general my notes are sharp, and the higher I go the sharper they become.

I understand that developing a proper embouchure can take time. So my question is, what is the most efficient method of practicing so that I can start playing in tune as soon as possible? Additionally, what is the best way properly expand (in tune) my range?

Also, I have this chicken-egg type problem since I can't play in tune, I don't know if my trumpet is in tune, so I may try to use an improper embouchure to correct the tuning of the out of tune trumpet.

I have a cheap trumpet with the 4C mouthpiece that came with it. I do not want to blame my intonation to the trumpet itself since other buyers that are more experienced players claim that it plays pretty well in tune. I don't know to what extent the mouthpiece would be to blame, but I do not want to go that route because at this point I think I need to work on my embouchure.

I don't have formal ear training, but I have been playing music for around 8 years, and 4 years of piano. I find very relatively easy to play ideas, scales and arpeggios in the trumpet by thinking about the piano keyboard, so the struggle is in the intonation.


2 Answers 2


Like any instrument, the trumpet takes a lot of practice to become proficient. However, the trumpet is extremely unforgiving, often more so than a lot of other instruments. I've been playing for nearly 30 years and I still have to play every day to stay in shape. There are no shortcuts.

That said, there are no secrets either. Good trumpet tone and technique can begin to be achieved through a good deal of dedicated practice of just a few techniques.

1. Long tones

- Start at low C and continue down chromatically to low F#
- Play each note as long as you can until your tone starts to quiver
- Push yourself further past this point
- REST as much as you play between each note
- Don't be discouraged if at first you can't hold each note very long.
  This is normal and will improve the more you do this exercise.

2. Lip slurs

- Start on low C and slur up to middle G slowly — think half notes at 60 bpm
- Continue down chromatically. So next would be low B to the F# above, 
  Bb to the F above, etc. all the way down to F#
- REST for about as long as it took you to do the entire series
- Now start at middle G and slur up to middle C, then middle F# up to B, 
  F to Bb, etc. until you are sluring from low C# to middle F#
- REST for about as long as it took you to do the entire series
- Start on low C, slur up to middle G, then up to middle C, then 
  back to middle G, and back to low C. Continue down chromaticaly 
  until you're sluring from low F# to low C# to middle F#
- As you get more comforatable with your range, you can continue this
  up through each partial series. So maybe next time you do low C 
  to middle G to middle C to middle E (the E at the top space of 
  the staff) and so on.
- This will become really tiring at first. Keep with it. Becoming
  proficient on 
  a brass instrument and especially lip slurs requires developing a 
  lot of muscle memory. It will and should feel like a workout at 

With both of these, you should also be focusing on your volume. Playing these exercises quietly and in control is more important than playing them loudly. You have to get used to the air doing the work. The volume will come in time. Focus on the control first. Which brings us to...

3. Breathing

- Practicing breathing. When you inhale, focus on the breath coming from your 
  diaphragm — NOT your lungs. Imagine when a baby is laying on their back. As 
  they breathe, you see their stomach raise up and down. This is what you want 
  to go for.
- When practicing (and playing!), make an audible sound when you 
  inhale and PUSH your stomach out, forcing it full with air. Keep 
  your shoulders RELAXED. As you exhale, imagine the air pushing out 
  of your diaphragm and out your mouth.
- Imagine a roll of toothpaste and rolling up the bottom of the tube 
  to get all of the paste to the top of the tube. This is how your 
  air should be moving: from your diaphragm and pressing up and out
  through your mouth.
- Take a sheet of paper and put it up against a wall, about six 
  inches from your face. Now take that breath through your diaphragm
  and when you start to exhale, let the paper go and see how long you
  can keep it against the wall with your breath.

4. Other resources

  • The Arban's Book. Considered to be the trumpet bible). Look for the lip slurs and long tones. Everything you need to become technically proficient at trumpet is in this book.
  • Clark's Technical Studies. The Second study is a great starting point.
  • Schlossberg. This book might make you regret you decided to play trumpet. It's great for lips slurs (and making you humble!).
  • The Science of Breath. This isn't specific to trumpet, but can prove to be invaluable. Trumpet is so much about breath control.

Other ideas

  • Look for someone to give you a lesson or two. If you can't find someone local to you, many of us give lessons over Skype.
  • Listen to other trumpet players. No accomplished player has gotten where they are without some serious work on the above concepts.
  • Practice your scales. The books above should have plenty of resources for different types of scales (chromatic, major, minor, etc.)
  • Vary your methods. Just like people who work out in a gym, you want to vary what you're putting your body through. So if one day you start with long tones and then do lip slurs, after a couple of times, switch it around — do lip slurs and then long tones. Feel free to mix it up as you progress.
  • This can't be overstated (I've mentioned it a few times): when practicing, be sure to REST as much as you play. After you've had a good practicing session, step away from the instrument, do something not related to music. Then allow yourself to come back to the trumpet fresh.

Lastly, regarding the quality of your instrument: if you don't have a good quality trumpet then it will negatively affect you, but you can get really far with a mediocre instrument. Focus on the fundamentals first and when it makes sense for you to get a nicer horn, do it then.


You really ought to get a teacher to help you out. There are so many things you can do wrong on a brass instrument and have no idea as a beginner. In particular, it's impossible to determine whether or not your instrument has an intonation problem over the internet.

Assuming your trumpet has good intonation, playing sharp comes from too much tension, which is a crutch that beginners often use. However, it shouldn't be very easy to play significantly sharp, so I suspect that you have your tuning slide all the way in. Generally, the tuning slide should be out about the same distance as the width of the tubing.

As a beginner, you should focus on producing a good sound as effortlessly as possible. Focusing on range too early leads to lots of bad habits.

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