Common Problems and Solutions with Trumpeters in Band or Orchestra

1. This is not marching band (unless it is)

Trumpeters might need to be reminded that concert band is not marching band. While a certain volume and brightness is acceptable on the field, and perhaps necessary to project outdoors, this is not acceptable inside. Students will need to play softer in general. Their loudest dynamic inside will be less than the same outside. Students should strive for a warmer sound. Remind them to keep their aural cavity and throats open, round, and relaxed.

2. Balance

For concert band, I think a good rule of thumb is to have section members play a little softer than the first chair player of each part; make sure they can hear the first chair player while playing. Make sure they understand, through discussion, which part is most important at various parts in the music. Make sure they can hear that part (if it is not theirs) while they are playing. Have them sing the most important part to make sure they know it. Sometimes, all parts within the section are equal; ask them to make sure they can hear all parts equally. Ask them to sing the other parts, or, for practice, rotate the players so they all get experience playing every part, and therefore get familiar with every part. Often, it is the inner parts that need to play out more. Exercises to practice this can be helpful. For example, for a particular section of music, have the lower parts play forte and the first part play piano.

3. Uniform sound, articulation

In any ensemble, players need to strive to have the same sound as each other. They may not want to do this, but they must. When they leave the group, they can go back to a more individual sound if they wish. They must recognize whose sound they are trying to copy and practice this. Have this individual play something simple, like a scale or arpeggio, and have each player try to play exactly like the model student. You can have the players take turns being the model. When modeling, they can also experiment with playing very uniquely and thus making it harder to match (style, articulation, dynamics, intonation, etc.). Have a classmate verbally analyze if he/she sounds like the model or not and how his/her sound is the same or different. This concept can apply to articulation as well.

4. Angle of horn, projecting

Although #1 and #2 address those who play too loud, some young trumpet players have the opposite problem-they do not project their sound well, or play too soft. Trumpet players can adjust their bell angle slightly depending on the desired volume of their part. In general, make sure they are not playing into the ground or into a stand. Their bells should be visible to the audience and directed towards them when playing an important part. Orchestral trumpeters in particular will need to project well. Ask them to envision themselves in a large concert hall, and the person in the cheapest seat needs to hear them just as well as those in the orchestra section. Please refer to “Projecting” in the high school section for more information.