“Associated Risks” of Trumpet Pedal Tones

Quite a bit ago now in the comments section of another post, Lyle (check out his Music Therapy blog) asked me about what I had referred to as the “associated risks” of practicing pedal tones. I have a number of times recommended here that trumpet players avoid practicing many pedal tones or even avoid them altogether. In my opinion, the benefits trumpet players get from pedal tones can be achieved by practicing other things. Furthermore, sometimes players on all brass play their extreme low range in a way that is fundamentally different from how they play the rest of the range. This encourages bad habits in the rest of the range, hence my comment about “associated risks.”

First, a definition of terms to help avoid confusion. Pedal tones on most brass instruments are usually defined as the fundamental pitch (“pedal” Bb on trombone, for example). The next partial up in the overtone series is an octave up, then the perfect 5th, etc. You will see in standard literature the occasional pedal tone called for tuba, and the rest of the low brass and horns see them fairly frequently in standard solo and orchestral repertoire.

Trumpets are a slightly different animal, though. First, the design of the trumpet has an acoustical impedance that makes their “pedal C” below the treble clef staff not quite function acoustically quite the same way it does on the other brass. Furthermore, trumpet players usually talk about the pitches between low F# and pedal C also as “pedal tones.” In contrast,  other brass players tend to call those “fake tones.” You essentially are bending the pitch lower than it wants to slot, there’s no partial there to actually play. All these “pedal tones” rarely show up in the standard trumpet literature and when they do, they usually used as a special effect.

So for the purpose of my discussion here, I’m mainly writing for trumpet players, not the other brass instrumentalists. The other brass instruments not only have to play pedal tones in musical situations much more, but also the construction of the instruments tend to make playing pedal tones properly much easier. That said, there are situations where I would instruct a student on any other brass to temporarily stop playing pedals (or even just below a certain low pitch) because the way he or she is playing them is similar to what’s happening with the trumpet pedal tones as I’ll be describing them.

The gist of my argument here, if you don’t care to read past for the details, is that many brass players will excessively practice playing their extreme low register in a way that works horribly for the rest of the range. Trumpet players in particular, due I believe in part to the construction of the instrument, are prone to developing playing issues from excessive pedal tone practice.

Donald Reinhardt, who was one of the primary sources for my dissertation, was quite adamant that he didn’t want his trumpet students practicing pedal tones.

Many years ago, back in Sousa’s time, a well-known cornet virtuoso accidentally discovered that by the daly practice of sustained, fortissimo, chromatically descending pedal tones (from the pedal “C” on down) with various modes of articulation, the extreme upper tones became playable, at least momentarily. After exhaustive experimentation, however, he found that his “falsetto-type high register” was extremely short-lived. After this time the register would return to less than normal.

One of my eighteen instructors related such a pedal tone case. This performer, however, had lasted for a year and a half before the register reduction became apparent. The pedal theory calls upon enormous amounts of embouchure vibrating area to respond in a very slow, relaxed fashion for the various pedal tones being played. The embouchure formation is then supposed to be capable of tremendous pinching or pucker power for the much tenser, more rapid vibrations of the extreme upper register of the cornet or trumpet. In some cases this immediate upper register response (directly following the pedal tone practice) did result in the playing of a few “falsetto” high tones; however, the results were nil after a few attempts.

Even now we have some of the pedal tone instructors, and each one claims to be the first. I might say this so-called method was in the books long before any of these gentlemen were born. It is true that they have added to the exercises in the pedal register and have systematized the procedure; however, I can assure that eventually the net result will be the same as when it was introduced over sixty years ago.

Donald Reinhardt, Encyclopedia of the Pivot System

According to a tape I have of Reinhardt giving a trumpet lesson in 1980 he stated that the cornet virtuoso from the quote above was Harold Stambaugh, who played with Sousa from 1920-1929. Reinhardt also elaborated in this lesson that while many pedal tone advocates have great range and sound, he found their staccato articulations weak. He found that trumpet players who practiced a great deal of pedal tones had a tendency to bring the embouchure characteristics that work fine for pedal tones into their normal playing range, limiting their abilities to articulate staccato passages cleanly.

The way that pedal tones can potentially mess with a brass musicians depends in part on the player’s embouchure type. Playing a lot of pedal tones on the trumpet tend to encourage the trumpet player to put a lot of upper lip inside the mouthpiece. Some method books even specifically instruct you to you place the mouthpiece like this to practice pedal tones. This is fine if you’re a “very high placement” embouchure type. If you’re a low placement type, however, you end up with a pedal tone embouchure (downstream, probably) and an embouchure for the rest of your range (upstream). There is a noticeable shift where this happens that you can usually both see and hear, if you’re paying attention for it. Here is an example I noticed on YouTube.

Notice how he has to set his mouthpiece placement very high on the lips to play the pedal, essentially playing with a “very high placement” embouchure type. In order to get up into his normal playing range, however, he is forced to physically pull the mouthpiece off his lips and slide it down to a “low placement” embouchure type, a shift you can both see and hear quite clearly in that example. This is one way practicing pedals for upstream trumpet players can be so destructive. You essentially encourage a mouthpiece placement that works exactly opposite of how you should be playing. Here’s an example I happened video myself.

This particular musician is an excellent “low placement” embouchure type trumpet player demonstrating some Claude Gordon exercises for me. As he plays through them, notice how he resorts to puckering his lips forward and loosing the “legs” (the feeling of of the mouthpiece and lips together against his teeth and gums). Also consider how he has to slide his mouthpiece to a higher position on his lips when he goes into the pedal register, switching to a downstream embouchure. On those exercises where he starts in the pedal register you can see him suddenly slide his mouthpiece placement lower and switch back to his normal upstream embouchure as he gets into the normal range.

As an aside, this particular player told me he eventually abandoned the Gordon routines because he personally didn’t find them beneficial over the long term.

BE Roll OutThese embouchure characteristics, both changing to a different mouthpiece placement and loosing the embouchure “legs,” are two very common ways in which trumpet players (and sometimes other brass) disconnect the way they play extreme low range with the rest of their range. Another way some methods instruct trumpet players to play pedals is to intentionally roll the lips out and place the mouthpiece on the inner membrane of the lips, as in this photo here. This necessarily requires another embouchure shift to roll the lips back into their proper position to play out of this register, not to mention potential damage to the membrane of the inner lip. The end result isn’t too dissimilar from the two video examples above, where the players needed to slide the lips and mouthpiece to new positions in order to get out of that range.

At other times some players will incorporate an excessive jaw drop to descend. While this works to a degree and helps players get a bigger sound in the low register, there is a tendency for the jaw drop to pull the mouthpiece off its correct placement on the top lip. This doesn’t always happen, but it’s just another way in which many trumpet (and other brass) players approach pedal tones that contrast with the way they play (or want to be playing) the rest of their range.

You can argue that as long as a player doesn’t actually use the pedal tone embouchure in their normal playing range, what’s the harm? As long as you really don’t obsessively practice pedal tones you’re probably not going to really hurt your playing, but the difficulties trumpet players usually have playing pedals in a way that is consistent with their normal range, coupled with the risks of bringing that pedal tone embouchure up, are enough for me to suggest that trumpet players simply avoid practice them and find other exercises to relax the lips, open the sound, and build range.

Collapseing,pedalBb,frontPlayers on other brass instruments may also want to avoid practicing extreme low registers in a manner that doesn’t match their normal playing embouchure as well, as in the photo to the left. However, since the rest of the brass instruments use pedal tones in standard literature and they are acoustically more resonant notes than on trumpet, eventually these players will want to learn how to descend to pedals without resorting to collapsing the embouchure formation or an embouchure shift.

Can trumpet players play pedal tones in a way that connects seamlessly with the rest of their range? Sure, but it takes a lot of practice and is easier for players of certain embouchure types than others. Are the benefits of practicing pedal tones worth spending that time? Considering that there are other things that I think do just as well for the player (although this is personal to the individual player and his or her embouchure type) that don’t have the associated risks, I personally prefer to recommend trumpet players avoid pedal tone practice. Will the occasional pedal tones really mess up a player? Probably not, but excessive daily pedal tone practice can.

There are, of course, many very fine trumpet players who swear by pedal tone practice. There are also many who never do it. While a great deal of this is personal and unique to the individual player’s anatomy, I would challenge trumpet players to try avoiding pedal tones for a month or three and spend your time practicing other things. Come on back afterwards and let us know how things go in the comments here.

Paul T.

This is an excellent article, Dave.

I agree with you in every regard.

As a trombonist, I practice a lot of pedal tones, as I occasionally need them in performance. I sound good in that register, and have a better command over it than many of my peers. Playing the pedal tones on the trombone is much closer to a regular embouchure than what most people end up doing on the trumpet.

And, even so, I find that spending a lot of time on pedal practice starts to affect my technique in regular range of the horn. I think it’s because we make adjustments to make the pedal tones “sounds good” which start turning into muscle memory, and these adjustments are almost never positive for the middle and upper register. When I stay away from the pedals, my upper register is stronger and more consistent. Pedal tone practice confuses your body, because they require different muscles and, usually, a different embouchure (however slightly!).

Lyle Sanford

Dave –

Thanks very much for this detailed and very well written post (and the previous commenter’s mention of “muscle memory” in this context is very helpful). Didn’t realize the trumpet was that much of a different animal. Mainly, though, I see (as well as an amateur can) what your concerns are and why you have them about pedal tones themselves. One specific that jumped out was the effect a lot of low work can have on articulation. I’ve been assuming starting brass in my 50’s was why quick tonguing is so hard for me (old dog, new tricks). Need to work with your ideas to see if that might help.

I still believe pedal tone work was what turned my embouchure around that time I was about ready to quit (and my band director allowed as that might be a good idea given my age and the fabled difficulty of the horn). I’m thinking that it might be in part a dosage issue – a little can be medicinal, while too much can be poisonous.

Thanks for the shout out at the top of the post – but the real thanks are for all the great work you put here on the blog – so many of your posts have stuff I can actually use, and that’s much appreciated.

Svenne Larsson

If pedal tones and ”false tones” are confusing among trombonists, it is nothing compared to what they are in the trumpet world.

Three times I have given the advice to trumpet players to stop practice the “pedal tones” since I suspected that as the thing that cased their embouchure problem. One was a student, two where professional players.
The three players did get over their problems.
One of them learned to play “false tones” the way trombone players do (one position down) and got very much help for his embouchure.

I do think it is very strange that so many trumpet players can believe that producing the weird sound they call pedal tones can be good for their playing.

I do believe that pedal tones should be played with a normal embouchure or not at all.

It is possible to play the pedals and the connecting “false tones” with a normal embouchure, I am doing that every morning.
(I started doing that as an experiment some months ago, it does work in about the same way as it does on a trombone. I am not a trumpet player, I have been playing bass trombone professionally 50 years and teaching trombonists in university 25 years. As retired, still playing though, I do permit my self to do some experiments.)

Both trumpet and trombone players are able to play pedals in strange and weird ways, not like they play the middle and high range.

A test I used for students: connect pedal Bb to the low Bb on the octave above, slur up and down several times, just to demonstrate I do a fast flair between the Bb:s and do it in all positions down to pedal F and lower, it does sound very funny!

I do like the pedals to sound like the tones, a musical beautiful sound. Pedal tones are just low tones, not scary sounds. Even on trumpet the pedals can sound like a musical instrument.

I do believe that practice pedal tones with a weird embouchure and bad sound can be contra productive, it may be bad for the normal embouchure.

Greg

” I do believe that pedal tones should be played with a normal embouchure or not at all.

I do believe that practice pedal tones with a weird embouchure and bad sound can be contra productive, it may be bad for the normal embouchure.”

Absolutely correct statements !!!!!

João

Hello Dr. Dave,

After reading your article, I must ask you if we can say, and using part of one of my favorite Titles from you:

“Playing Pedal Tones Is fine as long as you “DON´T CHANGE” your embouchure”

For me, personaly, playing pedal tones give me good results using it as Warm Dow and some kind of breathing exercises.

We have great trumpet palyers who advocate pedal tones. Not only those ones from Maggio or C. Gordon. Ex: Winton Marsalis playing 1st Movement of Hummel Trumpet concerto. He goes to an amazing Eb pedal tone.

Thanks for your great article once again!

mark davies

The Eb trumpet does have a pedal C note available as a “real note”. Can actually play a lower real note on Eb trumpet than Bb

Jonathan West

It’s probably worth noting that what trumpeters and trombonists describe as pedal notes is generally not the same harmonic that horn players think of.

From your description, for trumpets & trombones the pedal note is the fundamental of the instrument. On the horn (F side), “pedal C”, i.e. written bass clef C an octave below middle C, is actually the 2nd harmonic. The next harmonic up is the written G below middle C.

For trumpets, written middle C is the 2nd harmonic, for horn players it is the 4th (for the F side of a double horn).

On the F side, the true fundamental two octaves below written middle C is pretty much unreachable and never called for. On the Bb side, pitched a 4th higher, the fundamental is the written F an octave and a 5th below middle C and is just about reachable. Notes around there are occasionally called for in the literature, notably the low E held notes for all 4 horns in Shostakovich 5. But these are rarities. Very little power can be generated on the horn for such extreme low notes.

So the problems you describe on the trumpet simply don’t occur on the horn, at least not in my experience.

One question though. Does the problem you describe also exist when playing the cornet or flugelhorn? I’m wondering if there may be a difference because those instruments have a conical rather than cylindrical bore for a larger part of their length, which might affect acoustical impedance. Is there also a difference arising from the conical bore for tenor instruments in the tuba range – for instance the euphonium or Eb tenor horn?

Dave

Thanks for the comments, everyone. Here are a few additional thoughts.

I find that spending a lot of time on pedal practice starts to affect my technique in regular range of the horn.

Paul, like you I’ve found that excessive pedal tone practice (I’m a trombonist, for those of you who might not realize this) to mess with the rest of my range. Before I made my change from a downstream embouchure to a (correct for me) upstream embouchure I never found pedal tones to help my upper register, even though I was told that it should. As I wrote in this post, playing very low notes can often encourage a higher mouthpiece placement, which was exactly opposite of what I should have been doing in the first place.

These days I practice descending into the pedal register while keeping my embouchure as consistent as possible, working on connecting this register to my extreme upper register. Otherwise, I usually just play a couple or so pedal tones as a quick warm down, as recommended by Reinhardt for trombonists. Because I play trombone, I’m able to ensure that these trombone pedal tones relate to the rest of my range much easier than on trumpet.

I still believe pedal tone work was what turned my embouchure around that time I was about ready to quit (and my band director allowed as that might be a good idea given my age and the fabled difficulty of the horn). I’m thinking that it might be in part a dosage issue – a little can be medicinal, while too much can be poisonous.

Without being able to watch you play (and have a before and after understanding of how you turned your playing around) I’m only guessing, Lyle. It’s definitely true that pedal tones do something for your playing. My main point in this article is that if you understand the mechanics of how brass embouchures work you can practice other things that will work better in the long term. Certainly a little bit of playing very low range “incorrectly” isn’t going to ruin you, but often times players get in the habit of overdoing things, particularly if they feel it’s working for them.

It is possible to play the pedals and the connecting “false tones” with a normal embouchure, I am doing that every morning.
(I started doing that as an experiment some months ago, it does work in about the same way as it does on a trombone. I am not a trumpet player, I have been playing bass trombone professionally 50 years and teaching trombonists in university 25 years. As retired, still playing though, I do permit my self to do some experiments.)

I agree, Svenne, but we’re trombonists and the acoustics of the instrument (particularly bass trombone) are different than how trumpet works. I also agree with you here:

I do believe that pedal tones should be played with a normal embouchure or not at all.

Although I would amend that to say that any low range should be played with a normal embouchure or not at all. At least when practicing. When you’re on the job you do whatever you need to do to make it work. Practice sessions are for fixing problems, performances are for making good.

After reading your article, I must ask you if we can say, and using part of one of my favorite Titles from you:

“Playing Pedal Tones Is fine as long as you “DON´T CHANGE” your embouchure”

For me, personaly, playing pedal tones give me good results using it as Warm Dow and some kind of breathing exercises.

I personally wouldn’t phrase my thoughts this way, João. Many (perhaps most) trumpet players can’t play pedal tones without changing their embouchure and really don’t realize that they are doing so in the first place. Getting to the point of where you can play trumpet pedal tones “correctly” in the first place is an awful lot of work and I question the value of taking your valuable practice time away from more important things. Especially since I feel there are other things one can practice that will produce better results in the long term, as I mentioned just above.

João, if I recall correctly you are an upstream, “low placement” embouchure type. If so, then practicing pedal tones, even for a warm down, is probably not the best thing you can be doing for your embouchure (take this with a grain of salt, I haven’t watch you play). If I can be so bold, may I challenge you to replace your pedal tone warm down with Reinhardt’s low chromatics warm down for a couple of months and see what happens. Instead of pedal tones, slur some very fast chromatics from low C to low F# as fast as you can on a single breath.

From your description, for trumpets & trombones the pedal note is the fundamental of the instrument. On the horn (F side), “pedal C”, i.e. written bass clef C an octave below middle C, is actually the 2nd harmonic. The next harmonic up is the written G below middle C.

Thanks for the clarification, Jonathan. I do know a couple of horn players who have demonstrated that they can play the fundamental concert F on horn, but they don’t play this pitch with a normal embouchure. Nor does it sound very pleasant.

So the problems you describe on the trumpet simply don’t occur on the horn, at least not in my experience.

While the title of this post involves “pedal tones” and is really directed towards trumpet players, I want to reiterate that playing the low range incorrectly (or in a way that isn’t conducive for playing the rest of the range) is not uncommon for all brass players. Excessive jaw drops, loosing the embouchure “legs,” and resetting the mouthpiece are all things that I suggest brass players avoid when practicing their low range, whether they are “pedal tones” or not.

Mario Silva

Pedal tones are a great way to get more lip involved when playing, that’s it. Overkill on any exercise will affect playing. Practice smart.

Dave

Thanks, Mario.

You did miss a couple of my points above, however. Not all players want “more lip involved.” There are also other ways to go about doing this that don’t have the same risks as practicing pedals on trumpet. Because of this, I tend to discourage trumpet players from practicing them.

Dave

Brian

I am not a professional player but I have one son entering college to become one and another “casual” player in high school. I myself played trumpet, horn and trombone in my younger days.

Our high school marching band has incorporated pedal tones in the warm-up of the entire brass horn line….trumpets to tubas….all notes out of the playable range of the instruments.

Over the three years this has been the case, I have observed that the entire line has less and less command of the upper register … few trumpets and trombones can play above the staff.

No instruction has been given on how to produce the pedal tone, it is up to the individual player to figure it out.

It has gotten bad enough that the school fight song was rewritten to a different key, to bring the high end down a 5th.

To bad that observant parents are rarely listened to.

Andy

As a life long trumpet player and performer, perhaps this article could use one simple note that is missing. Pedal tones, like all other facets of practice, should be practiced (approached) in moderation. Additionally, many players will change their setting to accommodate the pedal tone series which you have pointed out in writing as well as images. This IS the pitfall. While there are various professional experienced opinions about setting the embouchure for various ranges, like golf clubs and golf swings, if you spend enough time in careful practice, you will start to realize that independent adjustments do get made in order to accommodate your set-up. You still need though to keep the basis of your settings. Pedal tones have a great advantage to a trumpet players practice; however, making sure the lip setting is minimal in change and also not overdoing it is key. Of the opinions of many friends who play semi and professionally, these seems to be the consensus. What is not healthy are the types of changes in setting which you illustrate in the photos. We must all remember that the majority of work which produces the sounds we want to hear come from one, the air, and two, the tongue position and how it relates to the air. The muscles simply need to be consistent in position and how this relates to the air being pushed out. Other than that, don’t think too much about it. That is where, as your article unfortunately starts to turn in topic, is where the trouble is found.

Dave

Thanks for your comments, Andy.

Pedal tones have a great advantage to a trumpet players practice…

This is the area where I think we have a disagreement. Since I find that there are other exercises that trumpet players can practice that accomplish the same things as pedal tones (perhaps work even better), why take valuable time practicing something that has a potential to cause problems? It sometimes takes a lot of practice to play the trumpet pedal tones in a manner that uses the same embouchure as the rest of the range. This is time that could be spent practicing material that will actually be used in a performance.

Also, I think you aren’t putting pedal tone practice into the context of the various embouchure types, as I discussed in my post here. The upstream embouchure player in particular is going to find pedal tones to use a different embouchure setting. Some players are more prone to these difficulties than others.

Dave

Mario Silva

Pedal tones were never meant to take up a large part of practice. Any real technique teacher knows this. Just like buzzing on an mpc too much can be detrimental to your chops so can playing pedal tones.

I do my pedal tones at the end of any lip flexibility exercises that end on a fundamental tone. I try to hit the pedal below (pedal C,B,Bb etc..) I only go further down when I’m mixing it with range studies. I don’t think for as much research you have done with pedal tones you fully understand the point of them. At first they are to keep you relaxed when doing flexibiites through out the horn but in the extremes are meant to strengthen muscle groups that work in the extreme upper register. If you are practicing pedal tones properly, they would make up to be 2-5% of your daily routine and they help keep you loose and focused on air.

Dave

Thanks for your comment, Mario. I do understand the point of why many trumpet players practice pedal tones and it clearly does something for a trumpet player’s playing. That said, I prefer to address those same things with other exercises that more closely relates to the player’s actual playing embouchure, which many trumpet players cannot do with a pedal tone embouchure. For trumpet players of a particular embouchure type (“low placement embouchure type”) pedal tone practice can actually work against their playing. “Very high placement embouchure type” players seem to be least likely to encounter difficulties due to pedal tone practice, but I still feel that it’s better to work on different things for those musicians too.

The alternatives are hard for me to generalize, because it depends on the individual player and what he or she is already doing correctly and what needs work. If you poke around my blog and look for the embouchure topics you will get an idea what I mean by this, though.

Mario Silva

What I’m trying to say is that, if you practice pedal tones correctly, they don’t take up much time and will actually aide the embochire no matter what the setting is. If you practice then icorrectly then you will run j to the troubles you are describing. I know for practicing them incorrectly for years and then taking the right lessons and now understand them. There are lots of counter theories to how to play the trumpet based on mistakes in pedagogy. Not everyone plays the same but the same physics apply for everyone.

Chris Royal

Sorry Dave,
Raphael Mendez was an avid pedal tone user, and pedal tones helped him to rebuild his chops after an accident. He was famous (but not unique) in having great command of his horn and great articulation, despite the perils you point out. Certainly follows of Jimmy Stamp would also agree that pedals, when used a part of the overall playable range, are very beneficial.

Maybe it’s different for trombone players.

Dave

Thanks for stopping by and leaving your thoughts, Chris. I think if you read my article again, and maybe some of the earlier comments, perhaps you will see my point a little clearer. It’s not that pedal tones are not doing something and that it can help players. I also acknowledge that many very fine players and teachers advocate pedal tones. What I do warn against is excessive pedal tone practice can be destructive to the normal playing range. I prefer to teach students how to practice the rest of the range to get the same benefits, which I feel work better in the long term. I’m primarily talking about trumpet players, although any brass player can play the extreme low register in ways that would have me suggest staying out of that range for practice.

Dave

Lyle Sanford

Hi, Dave – saw this post pop up in the recent comments and got to thinking about it all again. I know that working with low tones flipped some switches in my head about what’s going on with brass embouchure. To use a piano analogy, it made me realize I’d been playing with just my fingers (i.e. that part of the lip that’s right at the mouthpiece) and not including my hand, wrist, arm and even torso (all those muscles back behind the lips in the cheeks and jaw). Just being made aware of that was perhaps the single biggest advance I’ve ever made and opened a whole new world. Which is a long way of saying I think you’re right, as for me it wasn’t constant practice of them, but the inclusion of them in my overall work that made the difference.

(I also think playing with just the front part of the lips had a lot to do with getting the lip callus, as it’s never come back once I started using the whole face and not making the lips do all the work)

On a side note, recently a community orchestra got going here and I’m playing that standard repertoire for the first time ever and having a wonderful time – and in the Bizet Carmen Suite #2 he, along with some other low notes, actually calls for the concert C two octaves down from middle C (!). So the low tone work is paying off that way as well.

Once again – thanks for the shout out – I’m still getting clicks from Wilktone.

Brian

So, could it be agreed that pedal tones could be considered for advance players, but should be avoid for young school-age players that have little self-awareness?

Chris Royal

” I prefer to teach students how to practice the rest of the range to get the same benefits, which I feel work better in the long term.”

The point is that pedal notes on trumpet address issues and provide benefits that cannot be achieved in normal register practice. Maggio, Claude Gordon, James Stamp, Carmine Caruso, Merri Franquin (Paris conservatory late 1890’s and not a cornet teacher primarily), Jerome Callet, Bahb Civiletti, Bill Adam are among the well-known trumpet pedagogues that deliberately incorporate(d) pedal notes in regular practice, and not only for advanced students. Pedals should be connected to the normal register, and not in isolation, for best results.

They encourage relaxation on a high compression instrument, and help centering similar to note bends. Pedals add much more airflow , yet very little facial muscle tension. Same is true for trumpet players who sometimes buzz on a small trombone mouthpiece, or play digiredo. Trumpet pedagogy IS different than trombone pedagogy because the compression and actual airflow is very different.

Seems that omitting (an essential) part of the normal curriculum for trumpet should be a on a case-by-case basis, as one could easily short change students by not fully understanding the pedagogy, no matter how well intentioned.

Dave

Thanks for your comments, Chris and Brian. I appreciate you taking the time to contribute to the discussion.

So, could it be agreed that pedal tones could be considered for advance players, but should be avoid for young school-age players that have little self-awareness?

Not necessarily, Brian. As I wrote above, some trumpet students (and even other brass players) practice their extreme low range in a way that is still not connected to the rest of their range. Being aware of that fact doesn’t mean that there are risks of picking up bad habits. Additionally, I note that trumpet players of certain embouchure types will almost always rely on a different embouchure for pedal range that is opposite of how they want to play their normal range. I don’t feel that the benefits here outweigh the risks. And again, I feel that there are other things that most (perhaps all) trumpet players can practice that will address the same benefits without requiring pedal tone practice.

The point is that pedal notes on trumpet address issues and provide benefits that cannot be achieved in normal register practice.

We disagree here, but perhaps we can find some common ground and at least understand each other better.

Maggio, Claude Gordon, James Stamp, Carmine Caruso, Merri Franquin (Paris conservatory late 1890’s and not a cornet teacher primarily), Jerome Callet, Bahb Civiletti, Bill Adam are among the well-known trumpet pedagogues that deliberately incorporate(d) pedal notes in regular practice, and not only for advanced students.

I don’t recall Caruso’s book specifically incorporating pedal tones, but it’s possible I’m remembering it wrong or that he did address it in lessons.

Regardless, what I find unconvincing about those pedagogues you mentioned that I’m familiar with isn’t always what they advocated, but why they did (when they actually addressed it in some details) and, more specifically, what they leave out of those discussions. If you poke around on my blog you will see a number of embouchure resources that describe basic embouchure type patterns and discussions about how those differ from player to player, even players belonging to the same embouchure type. That understanding forms the basis of how I recommend practice that, I feel, addresses the same benefits that some trumpet players may get from pedal tones without requiring pedal tone practice.

Pedals should be connected to the normal register, and not in isolation, for best results.

I would prefer to state that pedal tones need to be connected to the normal register in order to avoid the risks of pedal tone practice. Furthermore, I define “connected to the normal register” as including a number of factors that some folks don’t consider, including enough mouthpiece pressure to maintain the sensation of the mouthpiece rim and teeth against the teeth and gums as well as the precise mouthpiece placement and a continuation of the player’s correct embouchure motion.

They encourage relaxation on a high compression instrument, and help centering similar to note bends.

Then why not use note bends instead? They can be practiced with much less reduction of mouthpiece pressure and much less risk of changing the mouthpiece placement or a reversal/overdoing of the embouchure motion.

Pedals add much more airflow , yet very little facial muscle tension.

My preference for working on airflow (when necessary, which is another issue) is to address it similarly to Arnold Jacobs recommend – utilizing exercises away from the instrument initially and then immediately incorporating the same breathing sensations to the normal playing range.

Trumpet pedagogy IS different than trombone pedagogy because the compression and actual airflow is very different.

Perhaps, but probably not as different as you seem to think. I can’t find the citation currently (maybe someone else can help, if they know), but I recall Jacobs having noted that air compression is internally regulated, regardless of how hard you try to blow, and that the actual amount of air flow and compression needed isn’t as much as many folks seem to think. He supposedly also checked the level of air compression on different brass instruments and found that the amount used on different instruments was pretty similar for the exact same pitch. For example, a trumpet player’s middle C was about equivalent of a trombonists high B flat. Again, the amount of air pressure and flow used wasn’t really considered by Jacobs to be that much.

Seems that omitting (an essential) part of the normal curriculum for trumpet should be a on a case-by-case basis, as one could easily short change students by not fully understanding the pedagogy, no matter how well intentioned.

What is it about pedal tone practice that you feel is essential? Why do you feel that the benefits provided cannot be achieved using other methods?

Thanks,

Dave

Chris Royal

1. Trumpets don’t utilize anywhere near as much airflow as trombone or tuba. Exercises away from the instrument arguably train the muscles differently than on the instrument exercises. Thus, enter pedal tones, which as I posted earlier, were part of the printed pedagogy as early as Arban and Franquin (late 19th century) of the Paris Conservatory. Natural trumpet playing had always included pedal work as a way to sound the parts written by Bach and others that did include pedal in lower trumpet parts.
2. That printed and personal influence of the French school directly created the Moscow and and St. Petersburg schools, producing Russian players such as Wilhelm Wurm, Max Schlossberg, Timofei Dokschizer and Sergei Nakariakov.
3. As that pedagogical lineage goes, those two player/teachers (Arban then Franquin) did directly produce Georges Mager, Pierre Thibauld, Hakan Hardenberger, Bud Herseth, etc. and indirectly many players such as Rafael Mendez, Arturo Sandoval and many others.
4. All of the original techniques, first for cornet (Arban) and then for Trumpet (Franquin) are often later ‘rediscovered” by different player teachers (Clarke, Stamp, Caruso, etcetera).
5. The book “Musical Calisthenics for Brass’ was merely compiled by Caruso student Herb Alpert. The same as Max Scholssberg books were compilations of exercises by students. Evidence of handwritten materials from these and other teachers typically included some pedal work in the warmup as developmental exercises.
6. Both “bends” and pedals are utilized with Stamp and Caruso/Frink approaches. There are different but overlapping benefits from doing both (e.g. bending notes in the lower register is exactly how one produces pedal notes in the first, false octave).

The common thread is that pedals were not the method, but a normal part of it. This is different than the Superchops/Trumpet Yoga/ Tongue Controlled Embouchure pedagogies (Jerome Callet, Bob Civiletti) where pedal tones are a huge component. No, the original teachers merely extended the normal playing range at least to the false pedal C1 and lower as the student progressed. Using normal embouchure or not wasn’t the goal; instead it was important to be able to sound the notes however the student could best produce them (e.g. alternate valve combinations or moving the embouchure). However, it was important to fluidly slide back into position for normal register playing, and not try to maintain the low register position. It’s neither right or nor wrong to use one or different embouchure positions for pedals; it is just for each player to discover, regardless of embouchure type, placement, mouthpiece size, etcetera. The “Balance Embouchure” method is a great example of learning to become fluid at changing from double pedal to normal position as an actual technique.

Seems that the only people talking about NOT doing pedals are people who don’t actually play the trumpet, or who have already developed that feel by playing lower brass . Clearly the pedagogy, all the way back from natural trumpets, included learning to sound notes in the pedal range.

Dave

Chris,

Thanks for taking the time to post your last two detailed posts. It’s interesting to read about other thoughts on the topic of practicing pedal tones.

Trumpets don’t utilize anywhere near as much airflow as trombone or tuba.

I did a little digging around and found the following:

http://www.windsongpress.com/jacobs/written/Kruger%20McClean%20Kruger%20A%20Comparitive%20Study%20of%20Air%20Support%20in%20the%20Trumpet,%20Horn,%20Trombone%20and%20Tuba.pdf

This article notes that while Jacobs found that an enharmonic pitch would utilize nearly the same intra-oral pressure regardless of instrument, their attempt to replicate “observed measurable differences.” Unfortunately, this writeup doesn’t go into any detail, but I think it’s fair to state that you are probably correct here.

What do you suppose is the benefit for using pedal tones to train the trumpet player? If pedal tones aren’t a part of the standard literature, what is it that you feel a trumpet player is getting from practicing pedal tones in the first place?

Speaking as a professional trumpet player, the pedal work has been well known and practiced for centuries in the classical world, and to some extent in jazz traditions.

Would you agree that a history of practice doesn’t necessarily mean that it is the best practice? For example, at one time it was quite common for brass teachers to teach students to pull the mouth corners back into a smile to ascend. As another example, even today many teachers are adamant that the mouthpiece should be placed centered on the lips, although it’s becoming more recognized today that mouthpiece placement is personal and dependent on individual anatomy. Some teachers still believe that the air stream should pass the lips and go straight down the shank of the mouthpiece, even though it’s quite clear that this isn’t the case.

While a long history of doing something one particular way is suggestive that there is something worth looking at, my belief is that we should ask how we know what we know and try to understand better what’s actually going on.

I’m not a trombonist, and I would be careful generalizing about the art of the trombone, based on the non-professional bands I may happen to see.

Your point is well taken, but I would also note that Carmine Caruso, who you cite as an example of a respected pedagogue recommending pedal tone practice, wasn’t even a brass player. He played saxophone.

My expertise in this matter is based on formal academic study and documentation of brass players on all instruments. Certainly there are elements of trumpet playing that I don’t have personal experience with, but regarding objective descriptions of trumpet players performing pedal tones, I do believe that many don’t use the same embouchure form and function as when they play in their normal playing range.

Whether or not pedal tone practice (when unrelated to the normal playing range) is beneficial enough to outweigh the risks of practicing something that won’t be played in performance (excepting special effects on rare occasions) is worth discussing. I prefer to address making corrections through the normal playing embouchure and form those habits, rather than practicing something that I would consider “wrong.” I also wonder if spending the time making pedal tone practice relate to an individual player’s normal embouchure is worth the time, when other things can be practiced that I feel are just as good, if not better.

Dave

mark davies

Brilliant article. My embouchure is a low placement one and have been playing Maggio and trying to do the 2/3 upper lip in embouchure. My buddy always says I have the wrong placement but despite trying to change I just thing my physiology is a low setting. I have very good endurance and technique but range is limited to realistic note being Eb and sometime F at a push having been a brass band cornet player for years – this was good enough. Now I play lead trumpet full time and need G G# maybe the occasional A. My theory now is to try and play up there every day as much as I can without damaging lip. trying lip trills and chromatic and checking I am not putting on excessive pressure. Hoping that the correct tiny mp top G will become louder with regular practice? I other words I wonder if there is no magic bullet method required to move up a third in range, just need to build up muscles and strength without damaging anything?

Dave

Richard, this depends a lot on how the player is already playing and their embouchure type. In general, the benefits that a trumpet player might get from practicing pedal tones can be duplicated or even improved on by understanding how their embouchure type functions and the individual player’s specific embouchure motion. For example, ensuring that the player is keeping any angular deviations to the embouchure type in a straight line and making the appropriate amount of embouchure motion. Or fine tuning horn angle changes or how their mouth corners are locked in place. It’s hard to generalize because it depends on what I see and what is already working.

It’s less about what the student practicing, but more about how they practice.

Brian

“…horn angle changes…” Now THERE is a separate topic altogether… especially at the high school marching band level…

The general mantra is….no matter where you are on the field or what direction you are moving, you are to play pointing at the Judge’s Box in the top of the Stadium.

How do you fine tune that?

Declan

I’ve just been thinking about this… (hopefully the thread is just resting, not quite the zombie yet)

Can we just call “pedal” notes low(er) notes? If the player can get the notes to resonate and sound full it’s a usable pitch. As a (Bb) trumpet player I’ve been fighting the horn for ages to get a resonant fundamental Bb like in the Gordon/Stamp exercises but (maybe it’s just me) it’s always been a compromised sound. If I let the sound resonate freely the pitch comes down to concert G. The flugel does have a resonant fundamental Bb however. The conical shape seems to help the lower pitches resonate more in line with the harmonic series.

Thanks for the discussion!

Dave

Declan,

Yes, if I understand correctly the flugelhorn does have a resonant fundamental that a trumpet or cornet doesn’t due to the acoustical impedance quirk of the instrument. Perhaps practicing pedal tones on a flugelhorn would help a player derive benefits from that sort of practice with fewer risks or bringing a different embouchure form into the normal playing range. Regardless, I also question whether such benefits could be acquired from practicing things in the normal playing range.

Dave

Brian

While the history (including ancient history) of pedal tone in trumpet pedagogy is interesting trivia, I for one am more interested in it’s practical misapplication by current instructors with younger players. I question the benefit of the exercise when applied in a group setting where individualized instruction of the techniques and purposes are nonexistent and the player is left to decipher simplistic instruction on his own, or worse to be instructed by another misinformed player of the same age.

I have heard first hand the effects of this practice…entire sections of trumpet players unable to play more than a note or two above the staff and tenor trombone players unable to play Eb or even D above the staff.

I contend that the historical precedent for the practice is irrelevant, if the application of it is damaging.

The resurgence of this method is relatively recent, it was not widely known when I was studying music. None of my instructors ever used or mentioned the practice. The resurgence in the U.S. appears to have been an advent of the modern Drum and Bugle association, DCI and from there spread downwards into the high school levels.

Chris Royal

Totally disagree. The history of pedagogy is more than trivial, because the discussion at hand is based on assumptions from having little or no information of the normal usage of pedals and the ongoing pedagogy that has created a tradition.

Speaking as a professional trumpet player, the pedal work has been well known and practiced for centuries in the classical world, and to some extent in jazz traditions.

Yet,
The High School Band and Drum and Bugle Corps applications you mentioned are separate from the traditional trumpet schools. Generally, these types of groups are cultures of band directors and competitions, not creating players for careers in music (unless they are directors of still more bands) but rather to produce on the field or in competitions. In those situations, where directors are often not accomplished trumpet players, pedals are often used like steroids on a sports team— producing louder (they think stronger) players with some short term success with register by wind power and open embouchures (and the associated injuries that are too frequent). It’s not that pedals are bad, it’s that they are being (over)used for a special result, without instruction by trumpet players. Add to that the young age of the players ( <18) that makes a recipe for disaster. Kids should not be pushed to adult-level expectations of range and power. 15 year old kids with piccolo trumpets and playing ƒƒ well above the staff on Bb trumpets makes for bragging rights, but damages kids embouchures and create hernias.

College instruction and beyond often moves passed the "higher and louder" stuff that is encouraged in other situations.

I'm not a trombonist, and I would be careful generalizing about the art of the trombone, based on the non-professional bands I may happen to see.

Chris Royal

I am familiar with Mr. Jacobs work as well. But his is not the only source to confirm or refute my statements. There are many sources from physics experiments showing properties of standing of waves in a closed end tube to my own studies with very well known trumpet players who have demonstrated the small amount of air that actually goes through the throat of a trumpet mouthpiece when performing well, especially as one ascends.

My point regarding the enduring trumpet pedagogy is that current, highly successful players have adopted and proven the exercises. The test of any technique is how well it stands up to ever increasing demands on the player by composers and writers. The “how” may have evolved or changed; not the what. The “what” of pedals (not how they are produced) actually corrects tendencies to smile, though it must be pointed out that some players appear to smile but actually are not (look at pictures of Maurice Andre and Berlin Philharmonic’s Gabor Tarkovi when playing under stress).
*
You are correct that Carmine was not a trumpet player and did not teach trumpet playing per se. His methods were to teach timing and coordination, as evidenced by his students on oboe, bassoon, horn, trombone, trumpet, violin, etc. However, his major pupils ON TRUMPET, such as the late Laurie Frink, did indeed teach that Carmine included pedals and other things simply because they worked (based on his experience with hundreds of professional players who came to him for rehab after damaging their chops on gigs.)

My statements are also supported by academic research that secured my D.M.A. in trumpet performance and are reinforced by my 40+ years as a professional player in professional symphonic, big band, studio, recordings, national/international tours, television shows, Broadway and other theaters, etc. I’m not saying anything new or novel to players who have to produce at a high level of trumpet performance everyday for a living.

I sincerely feel that all the pushback is because, while there is some openness to understanding, there is a simultaneous rejection of information that doesn’t support a preliminary hypothesis or agenda, that is regrettably being misrepresented as knowledge from experience.

Dave

Chris,

Thanks again for leaving your comments. You obviously have a lot to share on this topic and I welcome your input. I wish we could have this conversation in person over a beverage, because I think that it would allow for much better communication than we seem to be having just now.

I am familiar with Mr. Jacobs work as well. But his is not the only source to confirm or refute my statements.

If you reread what I recently posted about the replication of Arnold Jacobs’ experiment you’ll find it actually supports your ideas.

My point regarding the enduring trumpet pedagogy is that current, highly successful players have adopted and proven the exercises.

Your point is noted. However, it’s not hard to find other very successful trumpet player who rarely, if ever, practice pedal tones. Part of my point in the original article is that many trumpet players (and brass players on other instruments) will find that adopting typical instructions for playing pedal tones to actually function quite a bit different from how they normally play. My thought is that any practice doing something that is different from how your normally play is, at best, a waste of effort and, at worst, counter productive.

You are correct that Carmine was not a trumpet player and did not teach trumpet playing per se.

Yes, I trust you that his trumpet students received instruction on pedal tone practice and advocated pedal tones themselves. I was just pointing out that your dismissal of a trombonist’s opinion on trumpet embouchure is a bit ironic considering your citation of a saxophonist’s opinion as better informed. I apologize for being snarky, but I did want to mention this because I feel it’s not the reputation of the teacher/player that counts, but whether or not what they say, and why they say it. Caruso’s opinion is worth considering, but so are folks like myself and Donald Reinhardt who have considered reasons why this opinions might be wrong, or at least more nuanced than you seem to give credit.

I hope you don’t feel that I’m questioning your experience or playing credentials, but we don’t seem to be meeting up on objective description of brass embouchure technique and the specific characteristics that I’ve noted in the original blog post here about playing extreme low range in a way that is different from the normal playing range. I wonder if we could back up and start anew with what you feel is the correct way to approach playing trumpet pedal tones and what you feel is beneficial from practicing them.

Why do you feel pedal tones are such an essential part of practice? Are there other exercises you advocate that can give similar results? What exactly does pedal tone practice do for a trumpet player? Are there any circumstances where you would recommend against pedal tone practice? Are you familiar with the embouchure types that I discuss here on my blog and if so, do you consider those to be important variables to consider with your instructions to trumpet players on whether or not to incorporate pedal tone practice?

Thanks,

Dave

Chris Royal

1. You wrote:
“This article notes that while Jacobs found that an enharmonic pitch would utilize nearly the same intra-oral pressure regardless of instrument, their attempt to replicate “observed measurable differences.” Unfortunately, this writeup doesn’t go into any detail, but I think it’s fair to state that you are probably correct here.”

This information is well known: the similar pressure between instruments to produce the same pitch. Also explains how the endurance issues of trumpet would be resolved if we simply played everything an octave lower; we could play all day. But ask a trombonist to play everything an octave higher and with power, they too would suffer endurance issues associated with trumpet (such as in brass quintets).

2. I would think that the partial list of players from Herseth to Sandoval to whomever speaks for itself. I know players who say they don’t practice pedals; but when listening to their warmups they do indeed touch notes below far low F# when practicing arpeggios or warming up/ down. It may well be that long tone pedals are not practiced in isolation, and thus not perceived as “practicing” pedal tones.

3. The dismissal of a trombonist’s opinion was because you had taken the position that pedals are not needed or even harmful, while Carmine’s/ Frink’s (and others’) position was “do them in context” of specific exercises for relaxation or connecting registers. Normal playing register (2 octave+) chromatic scales) always follows pedal work under Caruso.

4. Carmine didn’t work with embouchure or player types; instead working with the individual’s subconscious, knowing that the body will find a way when given repeated mental impulses to accomplish something, regulated by a consistent timing source. “Don’t even try” because of some preconceived notion of type is not how the Caruso stuff works. In fact, the Caruso exercises are not music, they are calisthenics in the same way “jumping through tires” is to playing football. Never heard someone say don’t do the tire jumps because they will hurt your football playing. He was an expert on on muscular coordination who taught many different types of instrumentalists, while you and others are presenting yourselves as informed experts on trumpet and playing without playing trumpet. There is a difference.

5. You wrote:
“My expertise in this matter is based on formal academic study and documentation of brass players on all instruments.”

Yes this statement does imply that your indirect training somehow elevates your assertions of trumpet pedagogy to fact. They are assumptions, based on the questionable idea that players SHOULD have the same embouchure for pedals as normal register. A trumpet is not merely a soprano trombone; and the pedagogy for one instrument is different from the other, with some similarities because of the nature of closed tube acoustics. Piccolo trumpet is not a tiny tuba (and not a Bb, C or Eb trumpet either). Again, different pedagogy despite the similarities.

6. You wrote:
“Certainly there are elements of trumpet playing that I don’t have personal experience with, but regarding objective descriptions of trumpet players performing pedal tones, I do believe that many don’t use the same embouchure form and function as when they play in their normal playing range.”

Over time and with repetition, the normal trumpet embouchure actually moves closer to where the pedal embouchure is, and vice versa. It is a developmental process in which the embouchure appears from the outside to be the same; but internally that is not the case. At first, it is more about comfortably making the switch between registers and allowing for the internal subconscious motions. Like when Maurice Andre swore that his tongue didn’t rise in the upper register. Yet, the MRI of him while playing, clearly showing his high tongue movement, proves that even great players don’t always know what they are doing internally/subconsciously; and that one cannot rely solely on external observation to evaluate how the system actually or should work.

7. Pedal practice on trumpet, as part of the normal register extension practice, is like working with a sticky door. The full range of embouchure movement is exercised -open to closed, and appropriate horn angle , jaw position and air pressure are kinesthetically learned through repetition. As previously mentioned, the real benefit is how the embouchure learns to compensate for “too tight” vs “too loose.”

8. So often, pedals on trumpet work well as small part of warmup (like lead pipe buzzing) or warm down to reset the system. Bending normal low notes downward starts the process but through repetition the system can be tweaked to stop low notes from sagging flat (too loose) and higher notes from pinching sharp (too tight). Not more or less air, but rather “balance” in the entire system. It takes time but that is the pedagogy for development, even for type four players. No practice = no development = working too hard in one or more registers cutting endurance and sound and flexibility.

9. Pedals are easier the more conical the instrument. Some trumpet brands (such as Monette) have longer conical sections (or even step bores) as compared to others. As such, pedal C1 without valves pops right out on more conical horns while others instruments require valves 123 or other combinations. The student is not doing anything wrong if valves are needed. It might be the instrument or some (learned) mental restriction of attempting to keep a normal (feeling) embouchure. Get the pitch and the body will sort out tone an ease via repetition.

10. Not ever learning the full embouchure movement because of a predetermined idea of who should or shouldn’t even attempt it is less helpful than making it clear what the pedals are for, and how (mentally) to approach them.

Dave

Hi, Chris.

I hope you had a relaxing Labor Day weekend. Thank you again for sharing your knowledge with us here. Unfortunately, I feel like we’re going around in circles. If I understand your arguments correctly, you have the following points. My thoughts on those points follow below.

1. There is a long tradition of pedal tones in the trumpet literature. Many fine players also advocate pedal tone practice.

I concede these points, although I still question them. Tradition does make for good reasons to take these points seriously, however I prefer to take a more objective look at this topic.

2. There is something useful about exploring a large range of lip range by spending time practicing the extreme low register.

I concede there is something that players find useful in this sort of practice. Personally, I feel that there are other, better ways to achieve the same results. It’s difficult for me to generalize exactly what those are because it depends on the individual player’s embouchure form and function and involves personal analysis. Again, if you read through the resources here that describe embouchure form and function you will at least begin to understand where I’m coming from.

3. I am a trombonist and don’t understand trumpet pedagogy.

Perhaps you’re right. I used to play trumpet, but never at a professional level and don’t work on it any longer. That said, I think that if you spend a bit of time exploring what I have to say here on brass embouchure form and function you might find something helpful and perhaps better understand my point of view on this topic.

Ultimately I’m not trying to convince anyone of anything here. This is just the conclusion that I have come to based on my own original research and taking the time to learn about the research of other academics, pedagogues, and medical professionals who take an objective look at how brass embouchures function (and also how they malfunction). If you don’t find it interesting, that’s OK. If you do decide to explore my resources further and have questions or find something inaccurate I’m happy to try to clarify further or make corrections as needed.

Thanks again for sharing your comments. Have a great school year!

Dave

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