My beginning band director was a clarinettist. However, she was an educated and experienced educator capable of starting student on any band instrument. With just a bit of instrument-specific knowledge, you can give trumpet players a great start. Here are some thoughts from The Dallas School of Music faculty on how to teach beginning trumpet.
Do not start with the trumpet. I know the student is excited to pick up, hold, and play the trumpet, but there are a few things to establish first. Teach correct posture and breathing. If you are working individually with a trumpet player, have him or her stand. I often have my students bend over at the waist with their arms hanging to the floor, then have them slowly roll up and think of aligning all their bones straight up and down all the way to the head with their arms at their side. Then I have them shrug their shoulders up and then down and back. I tell them to think that a string is pulling them straight up from the top of their head stretching them out. If they are sitting, they can do the same thing. Just make sure they are not sitting against the back of their chair. This puts them in proper alignment for breathing. Refer to my blog on the proper breath for brass players.
Teach correct embouchure and buzzing. Refer to my blog on the proper embouchure and how to buzz. This is critical in getting a good sound. Some teachers do not even use the trumpet at all until the student can buzz his or her lips with and without a mouthpiece.
Once the student can get a buzz on the mouthpiece, it is time to teach correct hold and placement. The left hand should hold the weight of the instrument with the thumb in the thumb holder, the index and middle finger wrapped around the third valve above the slide, the ring finger in the third valve slide ring, and the pinky wrapped around below the slide. The right hand should make a backward C with the thumb between the second and third valves, the fingers resting on the tips on the valves, and the pinky ON TOP of the pinky rest – not underneath it. This is to allow the freest motion of the fingers.
Next, is to bring the trumpet to the student, not the other way around. The angle of the trumpet should follow the same angle as when the student buzzed the mouthpiece. There will probably be a slight downward angle, just below parallel, but it should not be pointed down to the ground like a clarinet. All of these concepts must be reinforced every single time the student plays in order to ensure good habits.
We hope these suggestions arm you with some information on how to teach beginning trumpet. If you haven’t already, I invite you to create a dlp Music Program membership. You will have access to wonderful music courses, lessons, and our community (forums, services, resources, and blogs). Our Kore and Jazz Courses provide a comprehensive curriculum that makes the music learning process a lot of fun!
Jeff Ensign, MM
Faculty, The Dallas School of Music