4 Tunes to Practise Breath Control and Legato on the Trumpet

by Christian Morris

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For many players the most exciting aspect of the trumpet lie in its martial qualities-its loudness and ability to dominate a texture. The instrument is also, however, capable of playing with great control and expressivity. The following pieces will help you to you to master this aspect of technique by refining both your breath control and legato playing.

1. Amazing Grace

The tempo of this famous old hymn is relatively slow, which makes good breath control vital. Make sure that, as in the video, the breathing does not occur in the middle of phrases. The dynamic level may approach forte but should never sound forced. Legato is achieved here, as in the next pieces, in two ways: by observing the slurs, which means not tonguing the notes within a slur and, perhaps more importantly, when the tongue is used (for example at the beginning of a slurred group), then it must not sound  hard . To achieve this you should experiment with using a  dah  instead of a  tah  attack.

Amazing Grace

2. Scarborough Fair

There is a greater feeling of movement here, the tempo being one in a bar. This makes breath control a little easier. It is an excellent piece, however, for practising the softer 'dah' tonguing and slurring. Notice in the video how the player also adds a little vibrato on some of the long notes. This is a fast and slight 'wobbling' of the pitch, an expressive device that almost gives the impression that the piece is being sung. It is a more advanced technique, but certainly worth trying to imitate as your playing develops.

Scarborough Fair

3. Danny Boy

This piece is challenging both in terms of its long and slow phrases and its wide tessitura (the space between the highest and lowest notes used). It requires a fine control of the techniques already mentioned but also a clear understanding of the shape of the melody - notice how the range reaches gradually higher until the climax at bar 14. Your playing must reflect this, especially by observing the dynamics markings.

Danny Boy

4. Franz Josef Haydn : Trumpet Concerto 2nd mvt theme

This last tune is much harder than the first three, though not quite as difficult as you might imagine. It is, therefore, a good piece for those moving towards the intermediate level and looking to play real repertoire. The Haydn Trumpet Concerto is probably the most famous work written for the instrument, an achingly beautiful legato movement that provides, even for fully professional players, one of the key tests of their ability to play with control and expressivity. Breaths should only be taken where there are rests (with the possible exception of a breath before the last quaver of bar 20). Be careful not to rush the thirty-second notes (demisemiquvers) at bars 14, 15, 38 and 39 - there is much more time than you think! Aim for a beautiful, rounded sound overall.

Trumpet Concerto 2nd mvt theme

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