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Dan Jacobs: Writings


By Brad Goode


I may have just figured some stuff out regarding this trumpet playing deal . . . here it is:

For the last 20 years, I've been tightening the corners, increasing the  mouthpiece pressure, raising the tongue and compressing the airstream to ascend, and vice/versa.

Now, I'm keeping the corners rigidly firm and the mouthpiece pressure very firm in all registers; keeping them relatively static but fully engaged. Down to two variables from four. I'm seeing improvement in all areas of technique with this newer plan. Does this make sense?

Brad Goode



Words like power, force, and incredible strength, can confuse the student of the trumpet because in actual fact, the more relaxed and easier that it becomes, the louder the brass instrument will speak. This is a direct result of finding the balance in the air stream by allowing the muscles of the face to respond to the compression of air."

 - Larry Meregillano, Bach trumpet artist.  Author, Trumpet Legacy, Vol. 1, Chops

TRUMPET ADVICE from Adolph "Bud" Herseth 

  • Never have any tension in the body when playing, just learn to always relax.
  • There is nothing wrong with your chops, your mind is messing them up. High register is no more physical than low, it should be as easy and sound just as good. Don’t make such an issue of it. 
  • Say “tay” on the lower register to get away from the tubby sound.
  • When encountering problems, technically or musically, sing them and play them on the mouthpiece. Then transfer this singing through the horn. 
  • Project a message when you play, never impress with mere mechanics. Put words into everything.
  • High range is not a seperate part of trumpet playing, yet most players make such a big deal of it. It is not any more physical than any other aspects of trumpet playing, rather it should be just as musical. Just move the air more and keep a good sound, and it will always be there.
  • It is important to hear the note played before playing it. If you do, it will be there.
  • High range – don’t just think “high” before you play and expect to be able to play it.
  • Be anxious to play, not afraid to play.
  • Sound is criterion for how you play and whether you are doing things right.

Say “tu” with the tongue for fast and nice sounding tonguing. This keeps it out of the way, or it will hinder the sound. 


By Wayne Bergeron

There are different concepts on what makes a section sound great. I have heard some people say that the sounds should all match; however, I disagree.

I feel the best sounding sections are made up of sounds that are different in tonal color. For instance, four players, all with a similar bright sound, will not sound as full as a section with different sounds. I'm actually sitting in a section as I write this waiting for my next cue (shhh, don't tell the contractor!). There are three of us, and we're all playing different trumpets, with the 1st on Eb trumpet, 2nd on C, and myself on a Bb trumpet.

The section has nice resonance and is full of color. We are all quite different sounding players, with various areas of strengths, and using a variety of trumpets, yet our different personalities and varying sound add greatly to the overall musical picture. If you were painting a picture, you wouldn't use only one basic color, but would blend different tones to bring the color and painting to life. The trick is to fit those tonal colors into the ensemble so they don't stick out of the section.

It's also important to know how loud lower parts fit into the mix. There is a school of thought that says all the parts should be equal volume. Technically this might seem correct, but from a musical standpoint, it would sound like a synthesizer. I can't count the recordings I've done where the person who mixed the recording equalized the volumes of the section too much, thus destroying the life of the section by making it sound small. I feel the 1st part should sit on top of the section, clearly audible.

The listener shouldn't have to strain to hear the melody or top voice in the lead part. This is true of any section-saxes, trombones, or vocal etc. The 2nd player is like a wing man (or woman)-supporting the upper voice, but giving the 1st player room to breathe and stylize as necessary. The 3rd and 4th parts play the same role, but should help make the section resonate by locking into pitch and style. These parts also give the section its fullness. You can have an edgy, thinner sounding lead player (no names please! and not optimal in my opinion), but if the section fills things out correctly, that player will sound fuller than when playing alone. When playing inner section parts, I feel it is my job to make the 1st player sound the best I can. I do everything possible to fit into the 1st player's style, and I definitely don't try to play "lead" from the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th chair, especially in volume. Obviously, time, pitch, and stylistic precision come into play as well.

I find, in general, that older recordings capture this idea best because they used fewer mics and the players balanced themselves. Older school sections (circa 1950s/60s) tended to have players who had strong musical personalities and unique playing styles. They didn't sound alike at all, but they knew how to fit themselves into the ensemble. Check out sections with guys like Uan Racey, Conrad Gozzo, Snooky Young, Al Porcino, Conte Candoli, & Pete Candoli.

Listen to the legendary Uan Racey playing two of his famous film scores - check out this sound and phrasing! Beauty and vocal-like come to mind: Uan Racey Here's a link to a section that had VERY different sounds - Maynard on lead, Conrad Gozzo, the Candoli brothers, and Ray Linn. "The Wild Party" Here's a link to the great Snooky Young showing off his section prowess, as well as his one of a kind plunger style. What a personality! Count Basie "Who Me?" Thanks for checking out some of my heroes!

Wayne Bergeron

Yamaha Performing Artist

Concord Recording Artist

CSUN Faculty


"As far as I'm concerned, there are only three basic principles involved in playing any wind instrument:

1) Take a breath in the right way.

2) push that breath completely through the instrument.

3) Think musically.

I believe if you'll remember these three basic principles at all times, then about 95% of the little picky problems that keep popping up won't even appear."

– Don (Jake) Jacoby


A GOOD SOUND by Robert Baca

Attaining a good sound has been the goal of brass players for generations. Although our ideas of how to produce this sound have shifted from the actual physical study of sound itself to selecting suitable equipment, most musicians would agree that when range, technique and flexibility arrive at an acceptable level, creating a good sound becomes the greatest challenge.

By studying the concept of sound quality, you can increase range technique, flexibility and overall playing ease to a more optimal level — a fact overlooked by most trumpet players. Imitating a good trumpet sound involves hearing and listening, processes best achieved when we slow down our mind and focus our attention.

Full vs. Loud

A full sound generates a strong fundamental and a full compliment of overtones. When we direct warm, moist, relaxed air through the center of the trumpet, it enables the overtones to set up properly and the sound will have the clarity that was intended in the design of the instrument. At this point distortion of tone is nonexistent. This is the difference between full and loud. How can we tell how much air to use, what direction it should go, or at what speed it should travel? These questions are resolved automatically by listening to the sound coming out of your bell.

Through much listening, we will notice our sound getting closer to the instrument we wish to imitate. We constantly listen and compare. A sound can be loud, but it may not be full. Compare a $199 boom box with a $5,000 audio system. The volume level of the inexpensive set has to be turned up to nine or ten to achieve a loud sound. As the dial reaches this mark, distortion occurs. The $5,000 system creates a full sound by maintaining clarity in a room when the volume level is at 2, 3 or at its maximum.


Producing a good sound requires much concentration. With concentration, refined by our interest in studying musical sound, our mind senses, isolates and analyzes the entire sound spectrum being heard. Eventually, through repetitious practicing and listening, the trained mind will unconsciously react by instructing the proper muscle groups to respond in forming the embouchure and air support to just the right degree, thus achieving the desired full sound. The same process exists when we learn to hit a baseball, walk or run. If we are preparing to run a marathon, most of the training is spent learning to quiet our mind to let the body function in the most efficient manner.


Think of dynamics not as loud or soft but as sound color, ranging from dark to bright. Imagine bright as the lead trumpet voice in the shout chorus of a big band arrangement, and dark as the second movement of the Haydn Trumpet Concerto. The dynamic color must fit the ensemble medium. A forte in the Hummel Trumpet Concerto with piano accompaniment would be drastically different than a forte written in a Mahler symphony or the shout chorus of a big band chart. Dynamics are greatly affected by the sound color of the rest of the ensemble.

The Printed Page:

A Blueprint Music written on a printed page should act as a guide to what the music should sound like. The sound is the end result. Printed music is only an image of what the composer had in mind. Three years ago I had a house built. From the blueprint I could conceptually see the roof, room sizes, landscaping, etc., but not until the house was completed could I actually observe the beauty of the design from the blueprint. In much the same way, the audience receives the full emotion of the performance based on what they hear, not on what is on the printed page.

Playing in the Upper Register

From the first music lesson we are taught that one note on the printed page is higher or lower than another. This is simply not true. Higher notes are actually faster frequencies. On the beach when the wind blows through a crack in a rock we hear the pitch go up with the velocity of the wind. A clear sound is easily attained in all registers when the velocity of relaxed air rather than the stiffness of the embouchure creates the upper register. Most importantly, build all registers slowly and securely.

Reading, Rhythm and Accuracy

If we practice too fast our mind initially develops the bad habit of not picking out all the details, resulting in reading, rhythm and accuracy problems. Slow down when practicing and let your mind see all there is to see. Near my house in Wisconsin is the town of Cleghorn, consisting of a few buildings and a thirty-five mile per hour speed sign. Few passing through this town observe the speed limit. Those traveling fifty-five barely know they passed a town, those doing forty notice the big oak tree with the endless branches that cover the road and those driving thirty-five could catch a rare glimpse of the squirrel that inhabits the trees.

As Tim Gallawey states in his book, The Inner Game of Tennis, "...the unconscious mind hears everything, never forgets anything and is anything but stupid." Practice slowly enough with a good rhythmic sense to notice detail, but not so as to "daydream" with your concentration. Listen to mentors perform slower lyrical pieces and instantly try to imitate that which constitutes good musicianship.

TRUMPET HIGH NOTES by Herbert L. Clarke

This is an excerpt of a letter written to a friend by Herbert L. Clark, cornetist, in 1940. In it he describes a "stunt" that he used to play higher, even when his chops were tired. - daniel jacobs

Here is the letter:

"There is a trick I used to practice when travelling with Sousa, when my lips did not seem to respond, after being up all night with local town bands, and playing my usual solos the next day. By practicing this “stunt” carefully, knowing just how to get each interval correctly from high “C” up, I have often reached two octaves above “G” in the top space of the scale. Sometimes higher.

This takes no strength, power nor strain. It is so simple that one is astounded at the results. Of course one must have a good embouchure and control of the lip muscles. It is difficult to explain, but easy to demonstrate, and is scientific.

When you form your lips to produce the above “G”, just touch your tongue, very slightly, to your bottom lip, the tip, which throws the tip of lower lip up towards the tip of upper lip, using such power. The tone is produced to the inside of upper mouthpiece at an angle of 45 degrees, instead of blowing straight into the throat of the mouthpiece as one does in playing the cornet.

Try it, after you have gotten the idea. I can do it without any embouchure, any time. But it must be practiced to get results.’

Yours in the Faith,

Herbert L Clark

Oct. 11, 1940


Harold "Pappy" Mitchell played first trumpet in the Jazz Singer, (the first sound movie) all the old Republic westerns, the original King Kong, Gone with the Wind, and all of the MGM musicals until he retired in 1948.

He wrote a trumpet method book that is still popular today called, "Mitchell on Trumpet"

Pappy also prescribed to this theory of trumpet: 

“Playing the trumpet is experimental and individually so!“


For Clark Terry, the art of learning jazz can be summed up into three words:

Imitation, Assimilation, Innovation.



 Listening. Learning lines by ear. Transcribing solos. Absorbing a player’s feel, articulation, and time.

This is where it all begins. Imitation is an integral first step in learning to improvise, but sadly, it’s often overlooked by beginners because scales and theory are immediately thrown in their faces.

While you do need to have a solid understanding of music theory, the truth is that scales and chords, no matter how much you memorize them or run them up and down, aren’t going to magically turn into great stylistic improvisations full of long lines and interesting harmonies. To do that you need a model. The great thing about jazz is that who you choose to imitate is entirely up to you.

Maybe you dig a player’s sound and articulation, maybe an unconventional ii-V7 line catches your ear, or perhaps the way a soloist uses space in their phrases may be something you desire in your personal concept. Imitation is not relegated to only harmonic ideas or even to the players on your own instrument.

If you like what you hear, learn it and incorporate it into your playing. By imitating the players you love, you’ll begin to understand the music on a deeper level and begin to see a personal sound develop in your own approach to improvisation. Questions that can’t be answered by music theory or etude books, like how to play longer lines or how to articulate and swing, will reveal themselves as you start to imitate the masters.


 Assimilation means ingraining these stylistic nuances, harmonic devices, and lines that you’ve transcribed into your musical conception. Not just mentally understanding them on the surface level, but truly connecting them to your ear and body. This is where the hours of dedication and work come in. Get into the practice room and repeat these lines over and over again, hundreds of times, until they are an unconscious part of your musical conception.

Take these phrases through all keys, all ranges, and all inversions. Begin slowly and incrementally increase the speed until you can easily play them. Don’t feel satisfied until you can play these lines in your sleep. This is not an easy step to complete. Many of us have taken a lick or pattern in one key and inserted it into our solos as an easy and quick way to sound hip.

However, if you’re honest with yourself, it’s clear that this approach is really limiting your playing – not transforming it.

Stealing a lick from a book of transcribed solos or learning a line in only one key is not going to cut it. You need to learn these lines and ideas from the record and work them out in all 12 keys.

Practice them until you have them down cold and can execute them in the blink of an eye. A great way to quickly internalize the lines and styles that you’re trying to absorb is to sing them. Sing the rhythms, accents, and the exact pitches so they are first ingrained into your ears – you can even do this outside of the practice room.

Remember, when you’ve truly assimilated something, it’s ingrained to the point that you’ll never forget it. Innovation Creating a fresh and personal approach to the music. Many young musicians want to skip to this step as soon as they start learning how to improvise. They want to have their own harmonic concept and a unique sound on their instrument right from the get-go.

Without a model or in-depth conception of harmony and melody though, it will be much more difficult to create a truly unique approach.

Those who do not want to imitate anything, produce nothing.~Salvador Dalì


Innovation is the direct result of hours upon hours of imitation and assimilation. Take a look at the great innovators that this music has already seen. Each one spent countless hours studying harmony, solos, form, tunes, etc. in order to realize their own personal concept.

Woody Shaw studied the solos of Clifford Brown and Lee Morgan, and incorporated techniques idiomatic to the saxophone into his own improvisation.

Coltrane mastered how to play over standards before he delved into the unknown with his quartet. Before you can change history and plot your own course, you have to know a few things about what preceded you.

The steps of imitation, assimilation, and innovation are not limited to “jazz” music. Take any style or concept that resonates with you and incorporate it into your playing through this process.

You may like the harmonies of Ravel or the rhythms found in traditional Indian music. Listen to them, figure them out, analyze them, practice them, and finally use them in new and innovative ways in your improvisations.

Clark Terry’s legacy

Clark Terry is one of the masters of this music and a legendary trumpet player, but his legacy in educating young musicians is just as rich as his contributions on trumpet.

Even at the age of 90, Clark continues to reach out to younger musicians and share his knowledge of what it takes to learn and live jazz. Everywhere that he goes, he is dedicated to passing on the tradition of this music to the players of today.



By Dan Jacobs

On the subject of what can be controlled in performing, here is my "secret" trick.

To begin, I am of the opinion that you tend to create what you keep your attention on. Therefore I apply this principle to musical performance in this way.

After all the usual mechanical prep work, warm-up, oiling valves, etc., leading up to the performance, I take a minute or two and clear my mind to focus only on the outcome I desire; what it feels like, what it looks like, etc. I get a clear mental image of the result of the performance would be.

This way, everything leads to accomplishing what I have already decided will happen (in my mind, it already has happened). 

I put my attention on this aspect of the performance that I feel I can create and control. And, I can say with equal certainty that it works for me to lower my stress and increase my certainty and confidence.

In fact, the only time it does not work for me is when I forget to do it.

Dan Jacobs

May 30, 2013



I may have just figured some stuff out regarding this trumpet playing deal . . . here it is:

For the last 20 years, I've been tightening the corners, increasing the mouthpiece pressure, raising the tongue and compressing the airstream to ascend, and vice/versa.

Now, I'm keeping the corners rigidly firm and the mouthpiece pressure very firm in all registers; keeping them relatively static but fully engaged.

Down to two variables from four. I'm seeing improvement in all areas of technique with this newer plan.

Does this make sense?

Brad Goode

"Getting Gigs"


 Roger Ingram

The term "music business" is an odd and interesting one to me. 

To quote my book: 

"A non-professional's contribution to this art form is no less valid than that of the professional musician. We need to separate making music from doing business. Whether they make their living playing or not, a person's ability to play and create music stands for itself.

Many pro musicians are just average players but great business people. Some are great players, but average at doing business. Some are great at both. Some are bad at both. The point is, when it comes to the art of music, business does not enter the equation, Whether a person plays for a living or not, a player should never forget what inspired them to take up their instrument."

At best, the music business is an unstable popularity contest. After a student has put in their "ten thousand hours" of practice and learned how to play to an acceptable level, for the most part, they should be qualified to play most any "bread-and-butter" gig still available in the music industry today and, pretty much, any job that is referred to as a "high level" gig. 

. . . 

the rest of this article is available on Roger's website: 

Clinician and Performing Artist:  KHS / XO / Jupiter 
Online and Private Lessons:
Ingram Signature Mouthpieces:  One Too Tree Publishing and Products
My book: "Clinical Notes on Trumpet Playing"



By Larry Meregillano Bach Trumpet Artist and Clinician

Unison. In the Latin language this means one sound or one voice. Who leads the section on a unison passage? Just as in an orchestrated passage it is the lead voice!

If your lead player decides to bend a note or change the dynamic level, I.E. crescendo or decrescendo, you must follow his every change in order that you keep the blend of sound as one voice. Attack, release, volume, shape of tone, and overall tonality must be identical.

What is your greatest asset as a musician? It is your ability to listen and adapt in an instantaneous manner.

''Play it lovely, thoughtful, reverent ... play it nicely,'' he said. ''It's easy to blow loud and harsh. Play it reverently with a nice sound. Even when you play loud, make it reverent. Make it sound like somebody saying something nice to you. A beautiful sound is something sacred, always strive for your most beautiful sound." Uan Rasey

My Raison d'Etre

By Dan Jacobs

At twelve years young, I was an intrepid trumpet student. Late one night, I was in bed upstairs but I wasn't sleeping. There was a rehearsal going on downstairs as my mother was the pianist in a band of seasoned veteran musicians. My attention was captivated by the music in general but I was drawn specifically to how the players were able to improvise music on the spot. 

To my surprised my dad came up upstairs and said they wanted me to come down to play with them. I jumped at the chance, and for reasons I'm not quite certain, I felt no fear whatsoever. And when invited to play a solo, I stepped up and did as asked. Everyone was pleased at my willingness, but surprised at how well I did for the first time.

But this event held even more significant to me. I experienced for the first time, the pure joy of creating music of my own, spontaneously. 

I never forgot the feeling of that moment. It opened the doors for a lifetime of pleasure in creating music and became, and in fact is, my raison d'etre,

Dan Jacobs, 2013


(NOTE: Following is an email received from Roger Ingram, legendary lead trumpeter. It is a email answering questions from a student trumpeter who wrote to Roger for help. The information he shares with us is invaluable. See for more info)

To answer your many questions, first of all try to remember that you are a musician. A musician who just happens to play the trumpet, yes? Music should come first.

Of course it's great to become technically proficient on the instrument, but try not to become "robot" like.

Get enough technique to be able to express the MUSIC that is inside of you.

At the end of the day, no matter what style of music you play, even if you are just playing parts in a jazz ensemble or an orchestra, the main goal should be expressing music, and communicating to the listener through your instrument. A "routine" is OK I suppose. The important thing to do though, is PRACTICE.

There is a big difference between doing a "routine" and "practicing". If you want to do a routine, don't get "hung-up" with it. It sounds to me (according to your description) that you are doing a very complete routine already. In my opinion you may want to branch out and "get your feet wet" in some other playing areas. PRACTICE.............practice means going into a practice room and working on all your weak points.

Work on the things you can't do. Work on the things you don't sound good on and perfect them. After you get those things under control, get a NEW list of things to work on until you get a handle on those things. Keep changing up the practice menu. This will make you a well rounded MUSICIAN.

Getting hung-up on a routine has a tendency to make a player "stagnent".......meaning "staying at one level, and maintaining only that one single level of limited exercises". A player becomes a professional "practicer" at that point. Do you improvise? Practicing jazz can be a great way of maintaining ones overall playing technique and improves ones musicality at the same time.

Attempting to play jazz brings into play every aspect of technique necessary to play the trumpet at a spontaneous/musical level. It sounds like you love playing the trumpet and and that you are doing very well. I'm happy you take such an interest! Just try to keep your musicality in perspective.

Roger © 2007 Roger Ingram



Phone: 818.679.6940


By Harold “Pappy” Mitchell

We learn by rote or repetition”.

When I was teaching my son Ollie how to play Ollie would complain and tell me to put on a new record. I told him that I would change the record once he learned the old one. I used my own kid as a Guinea Pig.”

By “Harold “Pappy” Mitchell



By Larry Meregillano, Vincent Bach Trumpet Artist, Clinician.

If you press an inch wide piece of metal on your lips against your teeth long enough your body is going to adapt. It may bruise at first and you might even get cut.

But if you stick with it muscles will develop and even a few calluses. Then you learn to resist the air and the balance of the air stream compressed against the metal forms what Dizzy called “the ping”.

It’s just one of those things that you can define only after you have experienced it. You can hear it in the sound.

It’s familiar as all of the legends that you have studied have thrilled you with it all of your life. If you understand this you must be a Brass player.

Larry Meregillano


The sole function of technique is to enhance your ability to express yourself.   Technique should never be obvious. It must be subservient to the art form whether it be music, painting, dance or writing.  


The audience cannot be blamed for responding to what is often called “flash” – the player should be blamed for that.  Those players who have opted for a flashy presentation have not thought very deeply about their artistic processes.


It is each artist’s responsibility to have the courage to be brutally honest whith oneself through subjective artistic self-evaluation. This kind of self-evaluation must be a constant, ongoing process for every artist. A teacher can hardly be blamed for a student’s lack of bravery.

By Hal Galper, composer, educator and pianist with Chet Baker, Cannonball Adderly, Phil Woods, Mike and Randy Brecker.

WHAT IS A GOOD EMBOUCHURE? by Carl Saunders What is a good embouchure? Good question.

Embouchures are like snow flakes, golf swings and finger prints. None are the same. I've seen many different approaches and positions that trumpet players use to place a trumpet on their face that work.

Some have the horn pointed down or off to the side. These to me are unnatural positions, but have been made to work by a lot of very good players. In my view, the reasons for these unnatural positions are: 1.Poor or no fundamental training when starting out 2. An unnatural bite 3. Uneven teeth.

I contend that people who fall in the categories of 2 and 3 should be discouraged from playing a brass instrument from the beginning. So what is a natural embouchure? To me a natural embouchure is placing your lower jaw out far enough so your lower teeth align evenly with your upper teeth to make a wall where the mouthpiece can comfortably rest without tilting up or down or to either side. 60% of the pressure should be on the lower jaw and 40 & on the upper. With this position achieved, the upper lip should be free to vibrate (of course your lower lip vibrates, too) and your horn should be pointing straight out (even with the ground.) More results with less effort should ensue.

On hard and long pounding gigs one should make sure that the pressure and abuse should be directed to the lower jaw and lip not the upper. The upper teeth can't move or do anything to help the positioning. The lower teeth (jaw) can move and must be set in a position to achieve proper alignment of the teeth and take responsibility to protect the upper lip. With your lower teeth (jaw) dropped back and behind the line of your upper teeth, your horn will start pointing down, your upper lip will be taking most of the pressure, and proper vibration is stifled.

Your lower jaw has got to take care of business and that is to take most of the stress off of the upper lip. You'll know when you’re doing this properly when you develop a little callus on the inside of your lower lip and your upper lip isn't bashed and mangled from playing hard. Your range and endurance will improve. A lot is said about blowing air. "Blow more air, more velocity, blow harder, louder". Most all trumpet players that I have observed in my career blow too much air or over blow. They're trying to overcome the physicality of the trumpet with force.

I have found that when one blows too much air, their flexibility suffers. Light and tight swinging is near to impossible and your sound and ability to play clean and delicate is compromised. If one uses the embouchure described above, the lips should be in a position to vibrate freely and effortlessly with less air. I'll leave you with an axiom from my personal approach to playing trumpet....

"Use the least amount of air to get the job done to its fullest"

Carl Saunders



"Jazz is the dynamic of mankind's need for self-expression."

Brad Goode


By Arturo Sandoval 


"The sound is inside your head. What you have to do to switch and sound differently, is interior. It has nothing to do with the horn or technique or something. It is what you want and the way you want to sound (before you play the note)." 


from a video interview with Jens Linemann


By Dan Jacobs

This is a short write-up of my concepts and practice for learning to play jazz trumpet solos. The approach is different than most other material available on the subject and may be controversial, but it works for me and that counts for something in my opinion.

Others agree: 

From Roger Ingram, legendary trumpet high-note artist, Jupiter clinician and performing artist.

Dan, this is GREAT! Thank you so much! THIS is the kind of input I need from a teacher as opposed to being told to "not bother trying."  Actually, I've been using much of what you suggested in my practice and having a lot of fun with it.-  All the best, Roger

From Rich Wetzel, high note trumpet artist and clinician for Bach trumpets. 

 This is the real world, practical and easy to understand and start doing advice we all need! It gives you a clear place to start and I can already tell is more effective and practical than any other approach I have ever used! I am doing it as we speak! Thanks Dan for making it simple, digestible and practical! Good luck with this!

- Rich Wetzel, trumpet performance artist and band leader.

Basically, the basic concept is pretty simple though powerful:

Excellence is based upon mastery of the fundamentals, not the accumulation of techniques. 

The fundamental concept of learning to play a jazz solo begins with listening to jazz solos. This point cannot be emphasized strongly enough for this is how you start to recognize the language of any jazz solo.

However, every jazz solo develops from the basic foundation of scales. But what you do with the scale is what determines whether it is considered a jazz solo or something else.  

While memorizing jazz patterns, licks, transcribing and memorizing solos of others is extremely valuable, my advice is to start with scales instead.


Mastery of scales is the key to excellence in any jazz solo performance. 

My approach differs only in how you practice these scales and intend to apply them. This is what makes all the difference. 

Note: this is preparatory device to help you break the mold of Clark Technical studies etc., while these are vital to any trumpeter, it's easy to get fixed into a set pattern of how you play such things. My method helps you free up your playing so that you can create your own exercises and help you develop your own improvisational style. 

Okay, here is my take on this. 

1. Scales: Practice scales until you feel comfortable and facile with all of them. But, don't practice them by rote, or exactly at written, instead, practice as though you were playing a jazz solo with that scale. Invent stuff, be creative, innovate and have fun with the scales. There is an infinity of things you can do with one scale if you're willing to experiment.

Practice hearing the noteS before you play them; or singing the note before you play it and then play it. This pays off in high dividends in the real world. 

2. Scales: more about: Select a scale, using whatever you're working on (major, minor, blues, Bebop, harmonic minor, pentatonic, Lydian, Dorian, mixolydian, diminished, altered, whole tone, etc.) and play it one key, then mid-scale, switch to another adjacent key and continue the scale in that key. Then go back to the original key an play a little bit more then switch again to yet another key. Continue doing this until you can fluidly and effortlessly go from one key to the next while working on the scale. Try to make what you're working on sound like jazz not classical or symphonic. Try mixing it up with slurred note, tonguing, accenting random notes, adding rests, etc. Create your own practice routines and patterns if you like. This value of this exercise cannot be overstated. Play the music not the notes.

3. Time signatures: Pick a time signature you want to work on (3/4, 4/4, 5/4, 7/4, etc.). Then begin playing a scale or portion of a scale in that time signature. Mix it up by putting a mental "rest" in the middle of the scale. I.e. if you're working on pentatonic in Ab, decide to skip Eb and replace it with a rest. Disciplined practice in "playing the rests" will work wonders. Also use the switching keys in the middle of the scale technique to keep it fresh, interesting and creative. Possibilities are without limit. 

Note: Of course, these are a practice routines and disciplines; they can be overdone in performance, as with any other technique. I never go into a performance thinking about a specific technique I'm going to use; my attention is fully on the band, the audience and making sure my valves work. :-) 

I never know exactly what I'm going to play before I begin a solo. It depends on the rest of the band, my mood, the audience and other factors. As live performance is for the audience, I'm thinking about them.

If you have had "too much to think" before your solo, it tends to get in the way of the spontaneity of creating on the spur of the moment. 

All of the above will enhance your flexibility, innovation and practice hearing the notes before you play them and playing what you hear.

I've worked on these techniques in addition to all my other stuff as it frees me up to create my own music/melodies/solos without being stuck with a blues scale, pentatonic scale, or Dorian scale, which will get boring after a while. Keep it fresh by inventing new practice techniques and methods. 

4. MMO's or play-a-long CD's: I've used these long before Jamie Aebersold came out with his series (of course, I do use the Aebersold materials all the time, as they are a great practice tool). In fact, I bought all the Aebersold MMO's as LP's; then bought them all again as cassettes; and I then bought them all again as CD's. I use them all the time. 

But, I also use them in a different way than the usual. I use them for advanced ear training. 

For example, I'll select a CD at random without knowing at the title or what tunes are to be played. Then play along with and see if I can handle improvising with the tune without first knowing the key or time signature. 

It's humbling at first, but it's great ear training, so who cares? :-)  Gradually, I'm able to find the key and identify the chords and the scales effortlessly, even if I don't know the tune to begin with. If you start with the easy ones, like blues, standards, ballads, Latin etc. you'll improve rapidly and soon be able to handle the most sophisticated tunes. 

5. Live Performance: Find a live session or a group to sit in with. Now forget everything you've practiced and just play the music. Live jazz performance is not memorized or rote. It's "live" by definition. Sometimes it's magic, sometimes it's tragic, but as long as you're creating what you hear, it's valid in my opinion! No matter how much you practice, the live performance will always throw you curves you'll never experience playing along with a CD. But if you're listening carefully though, this’ll never throw you off. 

One more thing, I was lucky enough to have a teacher, Dr. Charles Rutherford, in a jazz improvisation class at Orange Coast College in CA 30 years ago. He used a different (and challenging) technique in ear training for jazz improvisation and performance.

This was his method: He'd have us play a selected jazz tune; then at the end of the ensemble chorus, he would point to someone at random to play a solo. After one chorus, he would call out or signal a random (unpredicted) key change for the next solo chorus as he pointed to another player. 

He'd go through the group with everyone playing a solo on the same tune. But each time, the solo was in a different key, and you never knew what key it was before you started your solo.

This was humbling indeed, but well worth it. It turned out to be the best thing I ever did for ear training in jazz improvisation. I ended up being able to confidently play a jazz solo on any tune in any key without fear or hesitation. Which gives you an enormous advantage in live jazz solo performance.

Try it . . . you can thank me later.  :-)

Dan Jacobs

(c) 2015, all rights reserved 



By Larry Meregillano, Vincent Bach Trumpet Artist and Clinician

The register above high “G” requires a more concentrated and faster stream of air in order to easily produce the vibration needed for these higher frequencies.

Do not confuse this with a louder or larger volume of air passing through the embouchure, as this is counter productive.

When I back off the amount of air that I am channeling through the lips and form an air stream that is shaped like a concentrated laser, my sound in the double register gets louder. An intense yet small , more concentrated air stream is what is needed to play the notes in the double register.

Velocity not volume!


 Question: Why should players consider using multiple mouthpieces? Some would argue that, in some way, that’s cheating.

Willie's Answer: Well, when people see me switching mouthpieces, they sometimes remark, “That must be a cheater mouthpiece.” I always asnswer, “If there is such a thing as a chater mouthpiece, I want to know about it!” Because, whatever makes the job easiest should be what we’re using at any given time. Every mouthpiece requires skill, practice and effort.

There’s a stigma about smaller mouthpieces being better for playing high notes. The “cheating” accusation is only considered when we cheat “small.” However, no one seems to have an issue with cheating “big” – using a bigger mouthpiece to get a big sound. There’s no such thing as “cheating” – it’s our job to have the right sound and hit all the right notes.

 There are inherent qualities in the cup size that help you play “big” and inherent qualities in compression that help you play “high”. But everybody is different physically, and this has more to do with it.

 My friend Don Clarke, uses a tiny mouthpiece and gets a huge sound, and he’s got a big old melon of a head (sorry, Don!) and massive lips. Byron Stripling is physically the same as Don, but uses a much bigger mouthpiece – equally big sound.

 Question: What should someone start out on?

Willie's Answer: Generally, a bigger cup size does allow for a bigger sound, more room for tonguing, etc. I do recommend starting out on a bigger mouthpiece, perhaps a 2C, to develop your sound. Most learning is done with more traditional music, and developing a “purity of sound” is crucial not only to traditional music, like classical, but to every player’s development.

So, since the basics will be taught using traditional music, it’s a good fit to start with that kind of mouthpiece. You certainly don’t start a student on Maynard Ferguson solos!

 Willie Munillo

L.A. studio trumpeter, producer, vocalist.


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