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Building A Better Trumpet Section Dr. P. Bradley Ulrich

Building A Better Trumpet Section
Dr. P. Bradley Ulrich

Educational Services


DR. P. BRADLEY ULRICH, Professor of Music, has
taught trumpet at Western Carolina University 
since1989). Dr. Ulrich received his Bachelor of 
Music Degree in Trumpet Performance from the 
Florida State University where he studied with Byron Goff. His Master of Music and Doctor of 
Musical Arts degrees in Trumpet Performance 
and literature were awarded from the University 
of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, where he studied with Ray Sasaki and Michael Tunnell. He has also studied with Raymond Mase, George Vosburgh, Adolph Herseth, James 
Thompson, and Vincent DiMartino.

Maintaining an active performing career), Dr. Ulrich is currently Principal Trumpet with the Brevard Chamber Orchestra and the Hendersonville Symphony Orchestra. In addition, he also performs with both the Asheville 
Symphony Orchestra (NC) and the Greenville Symphony Orchestra (SC). He has formerly held positions in the Springfield Symphony Orchestra (IL), the
Champaign-Urbana Symphony (IL), Sinfonia da Camera (II,), and the Cedar 
Falls Waterloo Symphony (IA). In addition to his orchestral experience he has 
performed numerous recitals in the Southeast with the Smoky Mountain Brass Band, one of Western North Carolina’s finest brass quintets, and has also been a featured soloist with the Brevard Chamber Orchestra.

Dr. Ulrich has published numerous articles in the International Trumpet’ 
Guild’s Journal and since 1999, has been the Public Relations Director for ITG. Brad is an Educational Clinician and member of the Product Advisory Council for Jupiter Band Instruments Inc. 

Statement of the Challenge  

  • No band program can perform well without a solid trumpet section
  • The trumpet is one of the most challenging instruments to develop 
proper technique and good tone
  • Most students, regardless of size, begin learning on trumpet
  • During extended and consistent practice, beginning students may find 
trumpets heavy and tiring, ultimately discouraging them from practicing
  • Many students beginning trumpet study are of a size and stature that is 
better accommodated by a cornet

Advantages of Starting on Cornet

The cornet is easier for a beginner to hold in the 
correct position because its tubing is wrapped 
tighter, making the instrument’s overall length 

It is easier for the beginner, with short arms, 
to balance the cornet and hold the instrument for 
longer periods of time. When the instrument is held 
at the correct angle it becomes easier to achieve the proper embouchure and the overall tone production 
will be more pleasant. With the proper instrument balance the student will be able to use the first and third valve slides more 
easily to adjust flaws in pitch.

The cornet has a naturally mellow sound that can give the student a better concept of tone. The cornet has a conical bore verses the more 
cylindrical bore of the trumpet. Consequently, 
cornets are easier blowing. Particularly important 
when you consider beginning students usually 
have 1 to 11/2 liters of air (most adult trumpeters 
have 4-6 liters).

Switching To Trumpet

Though cornets offer beginning students the easiest and most comfortable 
opportunity to develop skills, trumpets are the more common performance instrument offering a wider range of tonalities, and abilities.

In performance 
opportunities cornets are most appropriately suited for British Brass Bands, while trumpets offer the ideal tone colors for “American” music including 
symphonic, jazz, and brass ensembles.

Consequently, it is recommended that 
upon development of basic skills, students switch to trumpet. Students should switch to trumpet only after a clear understanding and use 
of the following disciplines are consistently displayed:

Proper posture and hand position

– Proper breathing habits and breath support

– Development of a good “buzz” and the ability to buzz on pitch

– Development of a good “non-airy” tone

– Consistent use of 1st and 3rd valve slides to correct simple inherent pitch problems

– Display of excellent daily warm-up routine. Students are generally ready to switch to trumpet after two years of study.

Research indicates:

  • Reasons for quitting an instrument include: too hard to play, too big 
and weights too much, don’t like the sound, it’s boring, it’s dumb, I don’t like it.
  • Adolescents have an uncontrolled desire to be equal or part of the 
”in-crowd” and will be less motivated playing a “different” type of 
  • Beginning string players start on smaller instruments; flute players 
use curved head joints to reduce the size of the instrument; tuba 
players begin on 3/4 size instruments or euphoniums.

Motivate by Creating a Friendly Environment

Try to avoid using the word “hard”, or “difficult” when referring to 
techniques, range on the trumpet, or passages in music, as this will create 
mental blocks for the student. Also avoid the phrase “high note” as students 
tend to equate it as being more difficult. Try to mention positive aspects of a student’s playing before introducing constructive criticism.

Starting Off Correctly

Nothing is more important than starting students off correctly! Posture, 
breathing, mouthpiece buzzing warming up, and attention to pitch should 
be taught from the beginning. It is easier to teach correctly from the beginning 
than it is to correct bad habits!


The student should sit or stand with an arch in their lower back, chest held 
high and neck straight. Good posture can be achieved by having the student 
stand up straight, stretching their arms up over their heads. Lower the arms 
out to the sides (9 and 3 o’clock position) keeping the chest high. Next, lower the arms all of the way down to the sides keeping the chest in the high position. 
This should achieve the correct posture which is used when standing or sitting.


Starting each session with breathing exercises is imperative! Students should be striving for a low-pitched “HAW” sound on inhalation. 
An invigorated yawn is another way to gain a correct breath. A good sounding 
breath is a good breath! 3/4″ PVC pipe cut 3″ long placed in the teeth will remind the students of the 
deep sounding inhalation required.

Breathing should be done in time with the music. Make sure that the breath 
is exhaled immediately after inhalation (no hesitation). The only sound one 
should hear in the inhalation process is a low-pitched “HAW”.

Below are 
some examples of breathing exercises that should be used each day.
These are 
done at approximately 60 beats per minute:

Exercise No. 1

4 beats in, 4 beats out (repeat) 
2 beats in, 2 beats out (repeat) 
7 beat in, 7 beat out (repeat) 

Exercise No 2

4 beats in, 4 beats out (crescendo on exhalation) 
4 beats in, 8 beats out (crescendo on exhalation) 

4 beats in, 72 beats out (crescendo on exhalation) rest 2 beats in, 4 beats out (crescendo on exhalation) 

2 beats in, 8 beats out (crescendo on exhalation) 
2 beats in, 72 beats out (crescendo on exhalation) rest

7 beat in, 4 beats out (crescendo on exhalation) 
7 beat in, 8 beats out (crescendo on exhalation)

7 beat in, 72 beats out (crescendo on exhalation)

Mouthpiece Buzzing

Students must also work on mouthpiece buzzing every day. The better the 
buzz, the better the tone, intonation, and pitch accuracy on the instrument.

At first, beginners should be encouraged to buzz on any pitch. It is difficult 
for beginner to match pitch right away. 1\ good buzz is one with as much 
vibration as possible (the buzz should sound like a swarm of bees). Have the student playa “siren” buzz on the mouthpiece starting very low 
and glissing as high as they can and then back down. Be sure to stress a 
strong vibration at all times in the buzz.

Over time, the student should begin to match pitches. This can be accomplished 
by playing a pitch on the piano, having the student sing the pitch and then 
match it on the mouthpiece. Simple melodies, with a strong, consistent 
vibration and attention to intonation should then be buzzed. When the 
student has mastered these basic buzzing suggestions they should progress to 
wider intervals.

Simple Solutions to Tone Problems

An airy tone is often an indication of the aperture of the lips being too wide. 
Correct this by having them use much more air and firming the corners of 
their mouth.

A pinched tone can be caused by:

  • The student not blowing enough air through the instrument
  • The teeth being too close together (should be approximately 1/8″ 
apart; have them bite on the nail of their pinky finger to approximate 
this distance)
  • The embouchure is too tense. RELAX! 

Daily Warmup Routine

Following breathing and mouthpiece buzzing exercises, the student should 
perform exercises | incorporating long tones, simple flexibility, and articulation. These exercises can be elementary variations on the chromatic 
scale or major scales and arpeggios. Most beginning method books include exercises in each of these areas.

To receive a complimentary warm-up sheet, 
contact Dr. Ulrich at

Solving Simple Pitch Problems

The 3rd valve slide should be extended approximately 1/2″ on low D and I” 
on C#. D”, E-flat”, and E” are inherently very flat notes on the cornet/trumpet. 
A simple fix is to have the student raise their eyebrows on these notes! Using 
faster air and changing tongue placement by pronouncing “ee” will also help 
to raise the pitch.

On all long tones, the air should continue to move quickly through the 
instrument. Blowing quickly

through the instrument will energize the sound 
and keep the pitch from sagging on long tones.

As the student descends, they should hold the pitch up. As they ascend, they 
should hold the pitch down. Not only will this correct some basic intonation 
problems, but it will also help center their tone.

Other Basics

Students should be taught NOT to use the “pinky” ring on the leadpipe. Using 
this ring will create tension in the 3rd valve finger and slow down its motion. Keep the fingers on the right hand rounded. The pads of the fingertips should 
remain in contact with the valve buttons. Keep the wrist of the right hand 
straight. Bending the wrist will create unwanted tension.

What Else Can I Do?

  • Start a trumpet ensemble, which will expose students to more literature
  • Provide potential cornet students with audio and video examples of 
cornet performances
  • Encourage students to join the International Trumpet Guild (ITG)
  • Challenge beginners better suited for cornet to playa
  • “cool” instrument – 
cornet. If the instrument is presented as unique and fun to play students 
will not feel “different”
  • Choose interesting and enjoyable music that will maintain and increase 
the student’s interest
  • Utilize solo and ensemble to develop student repertoire

Strongly encourage all of your students to obtain private lessons with qualified instructors

  • Bring in guest performers to demonstrate what is possible on the 


Grade 2  
Bach Aria, bist du bei mir
Fitzgerald English Suite
Maltby Ceremonial March
Telemann Suite No.1
Grade 3  
Anderson Trumpeters Lullaby
Bozza Lied
Burke Magic Trumpet
Grade 4  
Balay Petite Piece Concertante
Bernstein Rondo for Lifey
Clarke, H. Twilight Dreams
Corelli Sonata VIII
Gibbons Gibbons Suite
Grade S  
Clarke,H. Bride of the Waves
Clarke H. Carnival of Venice
Clarke,H. Maid of the Mist
Goedicke Concert Etude
Handel Aria Con Variazioni
Grade 6  
Arban Carnival of Venice
Clarke,H. The Debutante
Haydan Concerto in E-Flat
Hindemith San ate


Helpful Resources

International Trumpet Guild

The Trumpet Players International Network

The Trumpet Spot

Jupiter Band Instruments

Trumpet Methods and Studies

Selected Cornet/Trumpet 5010 Repertoire

Grade 1


Clifford Barnes trumpet Album 
A Trumpeter’s Prayer

Classic Pieces for the 
Advancing trumpeter Andre

12 Etudes caprices dans Ie style baroque (piccolo trumpet) 
(Editions Billaudot)

20 Studies, ed. Foveau (International) 
15 Etudes

FortyFour Melodius Warm-up Exercises, Gr. 3 (B 11 2) . 
A Trumpeter’s Treasury of Information (B450)

Twelve Famous Technical Studies, Gr. 2 (Bl13)

12 Grandes etudes de perfectionnement (A. Leduc) 
16 Etudes de virtuosite d’apres j.S. Bach (A. Leduc)

Twenty Solo Studies for Trumpet, Gr. 3 (B235) Smith 
Smith Firefly 
Picnic time

Bizet, N. 

Bordogni       24 vocotises, trans. Porret (transposition) (A. Leduc)

Bousquet      36 Celebrated Studies, ed. Goldman (c. Fischer)

Vandercook Lyra

Vincent   Air for Cornet

Vandercook Vega

Voxman Concert and Contest Collection

Williams        Little Classics

Scarlatti/ Scarlatti Suite
Wasta II Baroque Music for Trumpet
Hovhaness Prayer of St. Gregory
Nagel Baroque Music for Trumpet
Reed Ode for Trumpet
Ropartz Andante and Allegro
Wallin Elegi
Hartley Sonatina
Latham Suite
Ravel Pavance
Smith Willow Echoes
Turrin Caprice


Brandt    34 Studies and 24 Last Studies, ed. Vacchiano (Belwin-Mills)

Broiles   Have Trumpet ... Will Transpose (transposition) (c. Colin)

Broiles    Trumpet Baroque, 2 vols. (piccolo trpt.) (Queen City)

Charlier Etudes transcendantes (A. Leduc)

Chavanne     25 Characteristic Studies, ed. Voisin (International)

Clarke     Technical Studies (c. Fischer) 
Setting Up Drills (c. Fischer) 
Elementary Studies (c. Fischer)

Characteristic Studies (c. Fischer)

Colin       Advanced Lip Flexibilities (c. Colin)

Duhem   24 Etudes (c. Fischer)

Endresen      Supplementary Studies (Rubank)

Gallay     22 Exercises, ed. Maire (A. Leduc)

12 Grand caprices, ed. Maire (A. Leduc) 
39 Preludes, ed. Maire (A. Leduc)

Glantz      The Complete Harry Glantz (c. Colin)

Goldman       Practical Studies (c. Fischer)

Gordon   Physical Approach to Elementary Brass Playing (c. Fischer)

Gower and   Rubank Advanced Method (Rubank)

Voxman (ed.)

Harris      Advanced Studies (c. Colin)


Concerto in EFlat 




32 Etudes (c. Fischer)

Hickman        The Piccolo Trumpet (Tromba Publications)

Hovaldt   Lip Flexibility (R. King)

Irons        TwentySeven Groups of Exercises, Gr. 3 (B114)

Kase       TwentyOne Studies in Style and Interpretation, Gr. 4 (B290)

Kopprasch    60 Studies, ed. Gumbert and Herbst, 2 vols. (C. Fischer)

Trumpet Methods and Studies (continued)

Laurent Etudes pratiques, 3 vols. (A. Leduc)

Longinotti      l’Etude de la trompette (Editions Henn)

Studies in Classical and Modern Style (International)

Pares     Scales (Rubank)

Petit         75 Etudes techniques et melodiques (A. Leduc)

Grandes etudes (A. Leduc)

Pietzsch         TwentyTwo Virtuosity Studies, Gr. 5 (B115)

Ridgeon        Brass for Beginners (Boosey & Hawkes)

Robinson      Rubank Elementary Method (Rubank)

Rubank Elementary Method For Trumpet 
Intermediate Method For Trumpet 
Advanced Method For Trumpet, Vol. I 
Advanced Method For Trumpet, Vol. /I

Exercises On The Emission Of Fundamental And Harmonic Tones

Sachse   100 Etudes (transposition) (International)

Salv. Army     100 Technical Exercises (Salvation Army)

Schlossberg   Daily Drills and Technical Studies (M. Baron)



Flexibility Studies, 2 vols. (C.Fischer)
Warm-ups plus Studies (Editions Bim) 
Trumpet Routines (C. Colin)

Method For Piccolo Trumpet (Brass Press) 
First Tunes & Studios (Oxford)

Embouchure & Technique Studies (C. Colin)


Supplemental Materials

Findley Lucas



Developing Technique

Musical Calisthenics for Brass 
Setting Up Drills

The Art of Brass Playing 
Bob Findley On Trumpet 
Pedal Note StudiesBrass Tactics

Famous Trumpet Players

The Secret of TechniquePreservation


Jupiter Band Instruments • 12020 Eastgate Blvd • Nashville TN 37122

Rubank Intermediate Method (Rubank)

Top Tones (c. Fischer) 
Lip Flexibility (C. Fischer)