What actually causes the trumpet play a higher note?

There are 4 factors I've identified that change pitch in the mouthpiece:

  1. Pressure of air (how hard you blow)

  2. Tightness of lips (maybe this causes higher air pressure with less tension?)

  3. Angle of the air hitting the mouthpiece

  4. Size of mouthpiece

I can hardly hold a high C. My lips feel strained trying to even make the embouchure that is required to hit that note. I started like two weeks ago... so maybe my lip muscles are weak?

  • If you started training to run a marathon, would you expect to be running times under 3 hours after two weeks training? Stick at it for two months, or even two years, and it will start to get easier!
    – user19146
    Commented May 9, 2017 at 2:50
  • @alephzero that's what I figured... endurance and technique need time. I want to pay for lessons when i find the right place Commented May 9, 2017 at 3:01

2 Answers 2


Generally speaking, it is the speed of the air that determines the range. (This is inversely related to the volume of the air.) So it's getting control of this faster airspeed that will increase your upper register.

For brass players, lip slurs are very good for improving range. In the following example, each two-measure group uses the same fingering for all five of its pitches; this fingering is shown above the first pitch of the group.

As you play, really conceptualize the syllables that I've placed below each pitch. "Oh" is the bottom syllable because it's the most open and allows for the greatest volume of air. "Ah" (as in "hot") is in connecting link to the "ee" (as in "heed"), which allows for the fastest air on account of the condensed oral shape.

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You can continue this pattern down by semitone using the following valve patterns:


And then back up by semitone if you wish. Consistent practice with this exercise (and others like it) will improve your range considerably over time.

  • 2
    I agree with most of this answer, particularly the technique of using lip slurs to extend range, but the idea of using an "eee" vowel shape for high notes is poor advice, and will produce high notes that sound thin and tweezy. Constricted vowels like that are often suggested as a quick fix to cover poor technique elsewhere. Also, the exercise starts with the highest pattern. Is that deliberate? I would have expected to start with the lowest-pitched phrase and move the starting note up a semitone at a time. Commented May 9, 2017 at 12:49
  • What is the definition of a lip slur? Does that mean don't stop blowing between the notes? Commented May 9, 2017 at 16:33
  • Also, I accepted. #1,2 is hard for me. Should be good practice material. Thanks! If I hear the note in my head before I play it, it helps a lot. Octave = Somewhere over the rainbow. P5 star wars... oh yeah! Commented May 10, 2017 at 5:02
  • Sure enough, @Kolob Canyon, lip slurs use virtually steady lung pressure but are nonetheless misnamed because they also use throat and tongue adjustments more than lip adjustments. They just don't involve fingering or actual "tonguing" (where the tongue would touch the palate, gums or teeth). Lip slurs are also essential as "shakes" in jazz. Other related posts... (continued)
    – lauir
    Commented Jun 14, 2017 at 12:46
  • Other related lip-slur posts: Charles Colin Lip Flexibilities and Why is it harder to lip slur without tonguing?
    – lauir
    Commented Jun 14, 2017 at 12:46

I’ve played trumpet for a little over a semester and I play French Horn as a main instrument. A great way to get into the higher octaves is to do a scale and take the top note and hold it until you’re confident and then move up a half step and so on .

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