Develop a better higher register

MouthpieceWant to play much higher than you can already?  It is possible for every player as long as a few things are considered carefully before just chucking your instrument onto your lips and hoping for the best!

Avoid the mouthpiece trap.  Changing mouthpiece will not really help you to play higher even though there are lots of people that may well believe otherwise.  A change in mouthpiece may seem to help in the short term, but over time the same barriers that originally existed will come to show themselves and the same problem will exist.

The only real way of developing the higher register is through practice and consistent development of muscle strength and listening.  The focus should be on breathing properly before the note as well as the speed of air going through the instrument.  There should be good awareness of the lip tension required and mouthpiece placement as you hold the note.

Sound PictureBefore just trying to play high it is important to build in a number of range extending exercises.  They will require consistent daily practice and in order to develop the embouchure strength required it is extremely important to work on these exercises daily – even if it is only for a short time.  There are a number of good range extension exercises available but one of the best books ever for technical exercises that can be transposed or adapted come the Arban Cornet Method.  (This is also now available in Bass Clef for trombonists or tuba players!)

Breathing properly before the note should go without saying.  Remember that it is about supporting the sound that you wish to play and not to provide a great deal of tension.  Hear the note before you play and focus on tone quality.

The speed of the air is important in enabling the higher notes to sound, but it is important to also be aware that it is wise to avoid creating an uncontrolled or explosive sound.  Work on extending your range from a comfortable place upwards during your practice time.  Using chromatic scales and drills to extend your upper register and get your facial muscles used to the way in which you require them to work.  Develop your listening skills by transposing the music you wish to play up and down as necessary.  The more finely tuned your ear is the easier it will be to play in tune and with confidence in the higher register.

The awareness of lip tension required is something that will build over time and from consistent (not sustained) practice.  It is important to avoid pressing on or pushing the mouthpiece into your embouchure.  This will stop blood flow in the lips, cause fatigue or bruising as cause significant damage to your teeth.  (If you have a visible dent on your top lip, or if your lips have turned blue then you have used too much pressure.)  Always rest as much as you play and build stamina through regular practice, rather than extended practice times.

Trumpet PlayerThere is the possibility of moving the mouthpiece around as you play is something that I would advise against.  There will always be differences in the way the lips rest on the mouthpiece, but it is important to aim to develop the strength required in your embouchure across the range.  Some tuba players work on a pivotal embouchure for the lower register and feel that this can help develop better lower playing.  I don’t feel that this is always necessary and that a significant shift in mouthpiece position for gaining additional range can lead to further problems.

Developing a good high register requires some work, but is well worth the time and effort.  Remember the following important points to help with developing your range upward:

1)   Practice range extension drills daily

2)   Start from a comfortable register and work upwards

3)   Transpose the music down and then up as required

4)   Hear the note you want before you play

5)   Breathe properly

6)   Listen to the sound and tone quality and focus of the speed of air that you use

7)   Avoid pushing on or pressing

8)   Rest as much as you play

9)   Listen to your embouchure – pain is bad.  If it hurts then stop.

Good luck.  Let me know if you have any great exercises for developing range up or down.  It would be good to share these thoughts and ideas.

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