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Performance and Pedagogy Blog

A blog about the performance and pedagogy of music.

Filtering by Tag: High Register

Wise Words from Arnold Jacobs

Andrew Hitz

The key to playing in either the high or low register well is focusing on making music. As always, Mr. Jacobs seems to have found the perfect words to share with any student struggling with that.

I think it is safe to say that the instinct for most of us when playing in the extreme high or register is to want to use more power to "hit the notes." While using a lot of muscle (and for high notes, shoving the mouthpiece into our faces) helps us to "hit" high notes, it is always with a terrible sound that no one can blend with or tune to. It is also very likely that we will crack that note a high percentage of the time and get tired very quickly.

By telling the player to focus on playing melodically, we get the attention off of the physical aspects of playing in the extreme registers and towards simplifying things.

I am reminded of a great quote from Joe Alessi. He frequently says:

"Playing a brass instrument well is an incredibly simple process, and playing a brass instrument poorly is an incredibly complicated one."

Playing with power (using excess strength) is always a more complicated process that simply focusing on the buzz and thinking melodically.

And if it's good enough for Mr. Jacobs and Joe Alessi, it is good enough for me.

Strength Is Not the Answer

Andrew Hitz

"Strength is not the answer.  I guarantee you that everyone in this room has the strength to play a high G."
—Jim Thompson, Former Principal Trumpet of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra

Preach, Jim!

Watch this video of the incredible Brian MacDonald of the Airmen of Note and tell me that strength is needed to rip in the high register.

One of my last Boston Brass big band Christmas gigs featured Brian on trumpet. I was knocked out at how ridiculously relaxed he looked while soaring above the whole band. It was a call to action to take a lot of not just unneeded, but counterproductive physicality out of my playing.

And that's why the mirror is your friend. Watch the greats on YouTube and then watch yourself. Can you be doing anything more efficiently? The answer is pretty much always yes no matter who the hell you are.

Arnold Jacobs on Developing the High Register

Andrew Hitz

This is a really great way for a student to begin developing their high register on any instrument. Starting with something familiar takes a few layers of complexity out of the equation.

And playing music rather than exercises will keep the brain focused on the phrasing which keeps the wind or the bow moving.