What Is The Best Way To Improve Your Accuracy Above The Staff On Any Brass Instrument?

So, What Is The Best Way To Improve Your Accuracy Above The Staff?

Current mainstream thinking by most professionals and unfortunately brass professors at universities and music schools is:


Well, that is not true. It is partly true. You can have absolute perfect pitch, but still miss a lot of notes and be quite the inaccurate brass musician especially above the staff. 

Now, I mentioned above the staff: ...the only exception would be french horn. For them IN THE STAFF is like the rest of us playing above the staff.

You never really hear: "OMG did you hear Jim Bob totally clam that low C on his trumpet solo last night?" or "Damn, I went for a low F at the bottom of the staff on my bone solo last week and incredibly wrecked it!"


The memorized feel technique is the BEST approach for accuracy above the staff for ALL brass instruments. Sounds so simple, right? Well, yes, kinda, but...not really.

Things that require a feel can be ambiguous and confusing to most people. In fact, it is probably THE reason why you are doing TONGUE ARCH improperly even though you think you are doing it correctly.

...riding a bike, walking on your hands, swimming, are just a few examples of activities that require FEEL more than anything else!

So, your ear can be spot on hearing a concert Bb above the staff that you are about to play, but if your lip placement and FEEL is off and we are talking off by just millimeters, you could easily miss that note.

BELOW is probably one of the worst missed notes in the history of trumpet from a trumpet player I think happens to be one of the best:


In the video example above, do you think it was Feel or Ear that failed Eric Miyashiro?

This is probably one of the worst missed notes in trumpet history. I have a couple of olympic bad note moments, but they were in the MIDDLE of a song!

People should you ever have the unfortunate situation to miss the loudest, highest, last note of the song and the concert, ...YOU WILL NEVER FORGET THAT PERFORMANCE and nobody else will be able to forget it either! 

Playing a clam loud and high at the very last note of a song is one of the most embarrassing moments a brass player can have almost like desiring a cold yummy glass of milk, pouring it in a beautiful tumbler, then gulping it down only TO GAG as the horrid sensation of rotten past due date gags you to oblivion.


None of the above!

Eric has a great ear, has fantastic feel, memorized feel, and muscle memory, BUT..he was out of gas!

Go back and watch if a few times.

First you will notice he doesn't take up the double A where he normally would have.

Second, you can hear a few cracked notes that precede the phrase before the last note.

This is his CHOPS failing and nothing more!

How To Start Memorized Feel?

  • Increase range!

Remember the silly example above with Billy Bob missing the low C? 
Yeah it's silly all right because it doesn't happen...ever!


  •  Practice Intervals Ending Above The Staff!

The most commonly missed interval at the end of a song is the octave. The next two are the perfect 5th and perfect 4th. If you know that in advance, why not start working on those intervals? Couldn’t hurt, right?

  • Practice Feel!

A. Play close to your highest note. Let’s pick a High Bb above the staff for this example. 
Play the 3rd line Bb in the staff to get your correct pitch. 
IMPORTANT: Take the horn completely off your face.
Put the horn back into position and PLAY THAT HIGH Bb!
Repeat this process (without the tester note below) 5-10 times

B. Another way to practice feel is to put on some very loud music. Before you do that, write out on a piece of paper some notes you would like to hit.
FOR EXAMPLE: High C, High D, High Bb, High G, and then end on the F right below the High G (5th line F).
Have some way to record this either with your phone or another recording device.
Ok, TURN ON that very loud music. It has to be cranked up and loud...louder than your trumpet playing. 
Go for it: Play ALL the notes you have written down, but only one at a time. Make sure to take your horn off your face and back on again for each note.
Turn off the music and listen to your recording. 
Have your horn ready and play the first note you were supposed to have played on the recording, the High C. You can play the middle C because we are just trying to get the pitch to see if indeed you played the High C.
How many could you get right?
If you had the music LOUD enough, your ear in no way was going to be able to help you. Only FEEL and PLACEMENT were going to help get you the right note.


Are you starting to get it now friend?



About Kurt Thompson


* B.S. music ed (but that's not so important, right? lol)

*Performed: All 14 Characteristic Studies at the back of the Arban's many of which are in video format on Youtube

*Only trumpeter to have performed all Herbert L. Clarke Etudes live, one take as evidenced on Youtube.

*One of a handful of trumpet players in the world to have performed Maurice Andre's Vivaldi in Ab for piccolo trumpet!

*Has performed both the Carnival of Venice and The Hummel Concerto on stage

* Has performed live some of Maynard Ferguson's most difficult trumpet solos

* Has performed Doc Severinsen's most difficult trumpet solo of all time: "Macarthur Park".

* Has performed Allen Vizzutti's most diifficult trumpet solo of all time "ZigZag"

*Has performed Chet Baker’s “Almost Blue” both on trumpet AND vocals



    1 comentário

    • John Scott

      I only listened once, but I didn’t even notice a significantly missed note, and I have played with the Atlanta Symphony and studied with Vince Cichowicz? If you’re talking about the last note, I would say, at most, he had a momentary downward gliss, totally idiomatic in this genre whether intended or not.

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