Trumpet Playing Tips To Get You Started

If you’re a trumpet player, then this blog post is for you! We will be sharing with you some practical tips that will help both beginner and experienced players. You’ll learn about the importance of practicing your breathing techniques, how to get started on different types of exercises, what equipment to buy if you are just starting out as well as what pieces of music would be best suited for beginners.

Getting The Most Out Of A Practice Session

To get the most out of your practice sessions, try to be specific about what you’re working on and make sure that you can recognize any mistakes or difficulties in playing the tune.


In terms of trumpet players today, breathing is perhaps the most talked about topic after embouchure development and lips.  Much of this discussion necessitates unnecessary complexity and often confuses the young beginner.

It’s important to remember that breathing is just as natural a process for playing the trumpet than blowing or drawing. You don’t need any special technique like “diaphragmatic” or “abdominal”. The most basic way of describing good breathing techniques would be: Put your mouthpiece in, take a slow deep breath and then exhale.

Before you try playing your instrument, start by breathing slowly and deeply to ensure that you are getting enough air.  Try doing this for about five minutes each day until it becomes more of a habit. A good suggestion is also to fill up your lungs with air by inhaling through your nose while counting to three.


First, let’s talk about the diaphragm. Any surgeon will tell you that it contains very little muscle tissue, that it is very thin, and that, therefore, it cannot possibly withstand the pressure required for blowing a trumpet.  Furthermore, the diaphragm’s movement is completely involuntary. Therefore, if a player has no control over their diaphragm, it is better to just disregard the subject.

The natural breathing method is the correct breathing method. Anyone can learn how to breathe naturally in less than 20 minutes.  It is not your stomach that is moving at all, but rather it is your chest that is heaving as your body tries to replenish the “oxygen debt” you have created.

The same thing happens when trying to breathe properly while playing the trumpet, with a couple of differences:

1.  Music permitting, you breathe more slowly since you have no “oxygen debt” to replenish.

2.  As you KEEP THE CHEST UP, your abdominal, chest, and back muscles contract, expelling air from the lungs.

The player should practice breathing exercises daily.  They involve standing, walking, and running exercises, breathing in and out while keeping the chest up.

NOTE:  In regard to breathing, It is important to fill up from the bottom to the top so you fill your lungs, but do not overfill them.  In fact, it does no good to force air into the lungs once they are full.  If you do this, you will be tense while playing, and you need to remain relaxed.

Wind Power

In “Setting up Drills,” Herbert L. Clarke listed seven key physical elements that must be developed. Wind power is perhaps the most important of all – wind is air that is moving.  A person’s chest, abdominal or back muscles contract, creating pressure that causes air to move.  

The very best exercise for building wind power is holding a tone until all air is gone, and longer, until the stomach shakes.  Herbert L. Clarke and his students used this exercise 100 years ago!

Mouthpiece Placement

The mouthpiece should be placed on the player’s lips at the point where he feels the best vibration.  The mouthpiece of most trumpeters is placed slightly off-center, which does not help or hinder their playing.

Nevertheless, there are four things that will hinder vibration. These are:

1.  Excessive pinching of the lips together.

2.  Pressing too hard.

3.  Taking the lower lip and tucking it under the upper lip.

4.  Mouthpiece placed too low on the lips.

With a lower mouthpiece position, the vibrations are cut off more.

When the mouthpiece is placed higher on the upper lip, it offers several advantages:

1.  Larger sound, since there is a larger vibrating surface.

2.  The player has more endurance because there is a greater area of cushion between his mouthpiece and teeth.

3.  It is better to place the mouthpiece on the stationary lip which results in a more stable embouchure.  With practice, the player will eventually develop a strong feeling of gripping his mouthpiece.

A good recommendation is approximately 2/3 upper lip and 1/3 lower lip in the mouthpiece.


The embouchure, in its most simplified definition, is the technique used to produce a sound on the trumpet.

Embouchure development involves mastery of lip shaping and air control. The lips must be shaped into an oval shape with pressure applied evenly over their surface area while being relaxed enough so as not to cause any strain or pain to the lips. The back of the lower lip should be resting on the top part of teeth, and a small space left between them for air to escape during playing.

The embouchure and all other aspects of trumpet technique must work together in order to produce quality sound when blowing into the mouthpiece.

It is not uncommon that young players are instructed to use the index and middle fingers of one hand for embouchure development.

Lets break Embouchure into four headings: Lip alignment, corners, puckered embouchure, and “special embouchure.”


The lips vibrate the best when they are aligned vertically with each other. If the player has an overbite, it may be necessary to extend the jaw or angle the trumpet.  No matter what, the lower lip must never be tucked under the upper lip.  If it is, the pressure on the mouthpiece will stop the vibration immediately.

Lip Corners

Keeping the corners of your lips too firm will cause too much tension in the lips.

Embourchure Puckered

Corners should be drawn towards one another forming what you might call a “semi-pucker”.  This will produce a bigger sound with more endurance, with more lip actually in the mouthpiece.

Special Embourchure 

Sometimes called “The Semi-Compression-Pursed-Pocket-Embouchure“. This is used by some players when playing for a long periods of time in the upper register of the instrament.  It’s a great approach when you need lots of endurance. Here’s how it works:

  1. Semi-compression:  The lips are firmly pressed together, but not “pinched”.
  2. Pursed:  As if drawing a string purse, the corners are drawn inward, creating a little hole in the center to counter the potential pinching effects of “semi-compression”.
  3. Pocket:  If you form air pockets between your lips and your teeth, it will make endurance greater. This prevents the mouthpiece from pushing the teeth directly against your lips, thereby making endurance better.

Of course, such an approach may not work for everyone. But it a good way to approach it if you need to play in high registers for sustained periods.

The Lips

Herbert L. Clarke wrote in 1936: “The lips do not play the instrument. Their only function is to vibrate”.  But in order for the lips to vibrate freely in all registers, they must be moist and together.

Make sure your lips are in a puckered shape when you form your embouchure. Imagine the letter “M” on your lips.”

Some discuss aperture size. Although no measurements can be taken, a smaller aperture will produce a more brilliant sound, and it will be easier to play in the higher register.  Maintaining the aperture as small as possible in the lower register will result in a more “focused” sound.

A smaller aperture is created when you play high and soft, whereas a larger aperture is produced when you play low and loud.

Tongue Level

Keeping the tip of the tongue lightly pressed against the lower teeth, the front-center portion of the tongue moves up and down in a “to and fro” motion to produce the necessary resistance for each note on the horn.  Playing at a higher pitch requires thinking “Tee,” while at a lower pitch it requires thinking “Taw.You will train the tongue to find the correct level for a note by practicing lots of lip slurs and interval studies.  Claude Gordon’s “Brass Playing Is No Harder Than Deep Breathing” provides a clear explanation of this concept.


Several method books state that the wind pressure is sealed off by the tip of the tongue pressing against the teeth, and then released when the attack is made.  Generally speaking, however, the tongue is not as wide as the oral cavity, so this cannot be the case.  

You would look like a balloon if wind pressure were pushing against the tip of your tongue. Air would leak out all over the place. For the wind to produce the full sound, it should move through the horn in one “clean sweep” straight from the lungs.

Therefore, the “Hee” attack is recommended to give the effect of the lips being set in motion by fast-moving air.  Hence, the player will be able to produce an attack with immediate fullness of sound through coordinating the tongue attack with this type of blowing.


When the tongue is in its natural position, its tip is behind the lower teeth.  In saying “aw-ee-aw-ee”, you will notice the tongue tip stays slightly pressed against the lower teeth, while the front-center portion moves up and down.

Once the tip of the tongue is placed in the position behind the lower teeth and you think the syllable “Tee,” you have established the single tongue.  Upper teeth will be struck by the front-center portion of the tongue.

You would use the syllable “Kee” for the “K” tongue, “Tee-Kee” for double tonguing, and “Tee-Tee-Kee” for a triple tongue.

The tongue naturally descends into the “ah” or “aw” position as one moves into the lower register.

However, the syllable “Tu” must never be used, as this will result in a flat, lifeless tone.

Studying the tonguing technique used by good flutists may be useful, as correct trumpet articulation is exactly the same.

Wind Control

Having built up enough wind power, the player will want to develop softer control. This is essential for play without effort.

The best way to learn the soft control is to play in a soft, almost whispering tone. Despite this, you must make sure that you are producing a good tone using a steady stream of air.

The “Technical Studies” of Herbert L. Clarke are unparalleled in the effort of building control.

To become proficient with these exercises, Clarke suggests learning by imitating fine clarinet players.

A player can develop control over time, but once it is developed they can play at any dynamic level with a pure tone.


It is important that the right hand be in its natural position in order for it to effectively finger the trumpet.

That position is this the right thumb being straight, and pressed against the first valve casing, not between the first and second valve casings.  There is a slight curve to the fingers with the “balls” of each finger resting on the valve caps.  The little finger should not be positioned inside the finger ring, as this will prevent the third finger from moving freely.

With the hand held in this position, the player must lift his fingers high, and strike the valves hard.

You can’t develop fingers by “pressing” the valves down. They have to be struck with the fingers instead. Some say to “bang” the valves. Although the idea is correct, this implies a form of distortion. A better word would be to “strike”.

Individually, each finger must be developed, and then in coordination with the two other fingers.  Particular attention should be given to the third finger, which is usually the weakest.  Using alternate fingerings that emphasize its use will bring this finger up to par with the first and second fingers.  One example of this is to play back and forth between E and F sharp, always using the third valve for the E.

Recent Posts