Build Strong Chops with Lip Trills
Here are some basic exercises you can use to become more efficient in the upper register while building embouchure stability. Lip trills above the staff are a great way to gain access to the upper register and lots of players with great range attribute them to the beginning of their high-range development.
A few notes: work from the bottom octave up to be sure you’re not using a different setting to make the top notes easier. There may be a tendency to shift the mouthpiece down to use less top lip. When the mouthpiece is lower it’s easier to play but this can lead to problems with sound and muscular development down the line so it’s better to take the time to learn how to play upper register trills on a “lower” setting.
If these are too difficult at first this is nothing to worry about. Spend a few weeks playing the first few partials only until that that becomes easy, and then gradually add tones. This isn’t supposed to be “hard work.” When the time is right the upper tones will feel easy.
Trill does not equal “fast.” A trill is really just alternating between two notes – In the case F# and G#. Play the top notes slowly and you’ll develop a higher degree of control. Keep your mind and body in line by playing only as fast as you can think and execute at the same time.
Play these exercises through all seven valve combinations beginning and ending wherever you like. The lower positions require more control of the air so as you ascend through the valve positions the slurs actually become easier (embouchure muscles aside). The flip side is that chop-wise the higher trills are more challenging so you may want to tackle them first and end on the more relaxing lower tones. Do whatever feels good to you (You’re going to be with these awhile so as long as you’re doing them you’re in good shape).
Also be sure to hold out the bottom note steady at the end of the slur. This is excellent for breath control as well as helping the embouchure to relax.
After you’re able to play through the phrase easily try going up and down the octave multiple times in one breath. There is a lot to be learned from these simple looking drills over a lifetime so take it easy on yourself and have some fun with them. If you ever feel like you’re not quite getting something scale it back to a more basic form and hang out there awhile.
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