How to Hold a Trumpet Properly

How to Hold a Trumpet the Proper Way

From Louis Armstrong to Miles Davis, nothing compares to the sweet and silky sounds of a trumpet played by a maestro for a jazz lover. Learning to play the trumpet is more challenging than most instruments. A beginner will spend hours of physically demanding practice before producing quality music.

Not only does a trumpeter have to master the art of pursed lips and blow just the right amount of air, but they need to develop quality techniques, including how to hold their trumpet properly. How you hold your trumpet is an essential first step in the process.

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The Standard Trumpet Grip

The Standard Trumpet Grip

Although the trumpet can be held in the right hand and the valve keys depressed with the left, the standard grip requires you to hold the trumpet with the middle and left index fingers curled around the third valve casing and the left thumb and left pinky finger placed into the first and third valve slide rings.

If this is your first time playing the trumpet, the positioning of your fingers around the valves and into the valve slide rings may feel a bit awkward at first. Work to get familiar with the proper way to hold your trumpet.  It will eventually become intuitive with practice, so it pays to make sure you’re doing it the right way from the beginning. 

Most beginners rush to play notes before they perfect the technique of properly holding the trumpet. Doing so without learning the proper way to hold your instrument now will save a lot of frustration as you try to improve your playing skill. 

Playing your horn will probably get more complicated as you practice the movement of the slides and depression of the valves in tandem to produces perfect-pitch scales of sound.  It is difficult enough to learn to play most wind instruments, and when it comes to trumpets, the next step in holding your trumpet is to do so in a relaxed manner.

A Relaxed Trumpet Grip

Your left-hand grip needs to be firm but relaxed.  Holding the trumpet too tightly will eventually become an exhausting experience and possibly lead to cramps and aches in the muscles in your hands, arms, and shoulders. Any beginner who exerts that much pressure for too long will tire quickly. 

Not only should the grip be relaxed, but you need to understand that while your left hand provides an optimal stabilizing effect, the right hand is just as crucial in keeping your trumpet where it needs to be.

It’s important to remember while you use your left to hold the trumpet to your lips securely and operate the slides, placement over the valve caps with your right fingers is just as important. Also, with your right hand, you will not only be activating the valve caps but adding better position stabilization of the trumpet as you hold it. 

Right Hand Thumb and Finger Placement

You will notice that the upper portion of the trumpet consists of three valves and a small hook or half-ring next to the third valve facing the bell of the trumpet. Insert the thumb of your right hand between the first and second valve case, then position the index, middle, and ring finger of your right hand over the first, second and third valve caps.

While some will suggest placement of the thumb against the outside casing of the first valve, it’s not considered best practice. Although positioning the thumb outside the first valve casing is thought to provide a better hold on the trumpet, it creates two additional challenges. 

Placing your thumb in this manner can cause the thumb to bend or curl around the valve casing. It’s a natural reflex action, but your right hand’s bent or curled thumb around the valve casing will naturally restrict movement of the index, middle, and ring finger.

Since you will be using your fingers to manipulate the first, second, and third valve caps, which, of course, is another essential part of playing the trumpet, there’s a reason playing with the pads of your fingers is recommended.  If you use the tips of your fingers to depress the valve caps, it creates the possibility of your fingertips slipping off the valve caps.

Practicing Trumpet Finger Placement and Manipulation

Also, when you depress the valve stems with fingers extended out over the valve caps. In that case, you’re not likely to get those crisp and precise movements of the valve stem, and it often results in multiple inaccuracies or off-key notes played.

In the beginning, you may need to refrain from inserting your pinky finger in the hook facing the bell of the trumpet. Understandably to maintain control of the instrument, a first-time trumpet player often tends to insert the pinky in the hook and pull the trumpet closer to the mouth.

Using the pinky ring to restrain the trumpet accomplishes little more than pressing the mouthpiece harder against the mouth and impeding the player’s ability to loosen and constrict their lips appropriately. A beginner should think of the pinky hook as more of a guide for proper hand placement, not maintaining control of the trumpet.

Making Sounds From Your Horn

When listening to the sweet sounds of today’s trumpeters, such as Terrance Blanchard or Jon Faddis, one seldom thinks about how these trumpeters create such fantastic music.

Although the sounds produced from a beginner trumpeter may not be as sharp and clear at first, in time, things will improve. Eventually, the trumpeter will learn to create low-pitched and higher-pitched tones on the trumpet without fingering the valves. Lower pitched sounds are produced by vibrating the lips slowly.

Higher pitched notes require faster vibration of the lips and usually result in more air blown. Soon enough, as the student learns to control the vibration of their lips in the mouthpiece and their breathing, sweet, steady sounds of melodic tunes will eventually start flowing from the trumpet.

Learning to play the trumpet is a combination of lip vibration, breath control, and a mix of valve stem depressions and the three slide adjustments. A trumpeter must blend all of these actions in a smooth series of steps to produce music. It’s not an easy task, but with a lot of practice, a beginner can eventually accomplish it.  

Playing on the Slides

Yes, the greats make it look so easy, but a lot is going on when these masters get up on stage and blow us away with their music. Most basic trumpets have four slides, one slide to tune before playing, and three more, one for each valve, to use during play.

Simple manipulation of the valves will not produce all the intonation of the notes on the musical scale. It might get close, but then the entire piece will sound just enough off to make the whole session a bit cringeworthy. It takes a lot of practice, literally years of effort, to master not only the valves but the slides of a trumpet simultaneously.

Playing the trumpet well requires quick and precise manipulation of the valves and slides together to hit just the right pitch and tone. If the piece requires a rapid-fire series of musical notes and tonal changes, there is no room or margin for error.

Both slide and accompanying valve need to be in the exact position to produce the required note and then immediately change for the next. At the precise moment, the trumpeter must tighten or loosen one’s lips and blow enough air through the horn to sustain either long or staccato notes during the piece.

Keeping it Clean

Learning the proper technique of holding the trumpet, working the slides and valves, and blowing through the mouthpiece is challenging enough, but for health reasons, you need to remember to clean your trumpet daily.

Keep in mind that with the volumes of air you blow into the mouthpiece, you expel a sufficient amount of moisture into your horn as well. Eliminating moisture and keeping your trumpet clean is vital because if left unattended to water collections inside the trumpet leads to mold and bacteria thriving in your instrument.

When you exhale, you must inhale, and rather than remove your lips from the mouthpiece each time to take a breath; you do what comes naturally. You keep your lips to the trumpet’s mouthpiece and draw in a breath.

If you do not keep your trumpet free of mold and bacteria, you are likely to breathe those little microscopic critters back into your lungs, and that could lead to serious illness. It’s something most trumpeters often learn the hard way. A daily breakdown cleaning with isopropyl alcohol will keep your horn and, more importantly, your lungs clean.

First Important Steps When Holding A Trumpet

First Important Steps When Holding A Trumpet

The beginner often overlooks the proper way to hold a trumpet in their rush to produce sound.  Most beginners seek the gratification of creating sweet musical notes right out of the gate.  They often do not take time to learn how to hold it; they just want to play it. 

The problem is, understanding the appropriate way to hold your instrument is the first step in the journey to creating quality music. It is not just about working the valve stem keys and moving the slides or keeping your trumpet clean.

Eliminate the Bad Habits

Failure to embrace the proper technique of holding your trumpet is very likely to set your efforts back and continue to set them back until you choose to discard the bad habits and change.  It’s an essential first step you, as a beginner, need to take.

Establishing the appropriate playing technique from the beginning will turn those problematic practice sessions into more manageable ones. Whether it’s moving the slides or valve stems or blowing into the mouthpiece, a trumpeter will master none of it without first learning the proper way to hold the trumpet.

It is a keystone to producing quality music.  Everything you do when playing the trumpet is tied back to the proper positioning of your hands while you play your instrument.  Not only is it about placement, but you should remember that you are using your hands to change the musical notes when you play.

Starting the Right Way

As a beginner, learning to hold your trumpet correctly should be the very first step in your efforts to create music.   Sometimes it is not that easy to do after years of bad playing habits.  A lot of times, it’s the difference between continuing to play and stopping completely.

When they hit the wall, many hopeful musicians suddenly realize they’ve spent far too many years using the wrong techniques and that it’s much too late to start over.  The result is that they discover they can not go forward and simply quit playing.

The road to playing quality music on the trumpet is littered with many who neglected to establish good playing habits at the start of their career.  As a beginner, your motto should be there’s no sense in doing things the hard or the wrong way when you can do it the right way in the beginning.

The Correct Position

To recap, positioning of the hands when playing your trumpet is essential.  Remember not to grip the trumpet too hard with the left hand.  Try to apply just enough pressure of your fingers against the valve casings to hold the trumpet in place and keep it steady.

Ensure that your right hand placement helps stabilize your overall grip on the horn, but remember that your left hand should be doing all the heavy lifting.  Your right hand should act to aid in the stabilization of your trumpet.

Make sure you’ve positioned the pads of your index, middle, and ring fingers over the valve caps instead of your fingertips or extending your fingers over the valve caps. Try not to use the pinky to hold the trumpet in place but rather as a guide for proper hand placement.

Continue to improve the correct position of your hands and fingers on your horn until the proper way to hold the trumpet becomes intuitive.  It’s crucial to understand that intuitive means you won’t be thinking about how you hold your trumpet anymore.  If you have practiced using the correct way, you are off to a great start.

The Evolution of Your Trumpet Playing

Once you’re no longer focusing on how to hold a trumpet properly, you should begin to concentrate on listening to the sounds you’re producing and understanding why they are spot on or a little off.  At this point, you should focus on forming your slide manipulation and valve management.

You’re probably sending out some pretty good tones, but now is the time when you need to hone the sound until the notes are clear and precise.  Now is the time when improvement begins with a flourish.

In essence, holding your trumpet the proper way will allow you to focus on a constant evolution of producing music. Once you’ve established a proper holding technique, you’ll be able to learn what works best for you and work on improving the overall sounds you produce.

You’ll be able to focus on the finer nuances of playing the trumpet.  You can then concentrate on nuances such as slide manipulation coupled with valve stem depression to produce sweet clear notes that string together to make beautiful music.

A Lot Of Moving Parts

Whether you’re part of an orchestra or running solo on stage, your ultimate goal should be to lay down music that not only pleases you but the audience listening to it, and it all starts with how you hold your instrument. As a beginner, you may be shaking your head, wondering how in the world you’ll ever get to the sweet sounds of success.

Playing any wind instrument is tough, and learning to properly play the trumpet even more so.  There are a lot of moving parts a trumpeter has to master.  Creating music with a trumpet is a syncopated effort of moving slides and pushing valve stems.

It’s sending several long or short breaths into a mouthpiece and putting notes together in the right sequence and on the right beat. When done well, the musical output is spectacular.  Still, getting from just okay to dazzling takes years of persistence, and it usually means a long journey of practice.

How to Hold a Trumpet Correctly, Conclusion

If you are taking up playing the trumpet, there are only a few critical keys to getting there and only one main thing you should never forget. The key to producing beautiful music is starting the journey the right way from the beginning.  Learn how to hold your trumpet correctly first. Following that, with enough practice, the rest will eventually come. 

Imagine yourself on stage belting out some sweet jazz or having the spotlight on you as you render a fantastic orchestra solo. Imagine yourself standing there holding your trumpet the proper way and tickling those stem caps producing music you are proud of, and the crowd loves. 

A long as you continue to practice utilizing proper techniques, you will eventually reach your goal.  When you do it the way you’re supposed to, and you take care to practice using quality techniques, the day will come when it all falls in place.

P.S. Remember though, none of what you've learned will matter if you don't know how to get your music out there and earn from it. Want to learn how to do that? Then get our free ‘5 Steps To Profitable Youtube Music Career' ebook emailed directly to you!

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