If you have trouble playing your trumpet in tune, you’re not alone, but you may want to learn to play in tune to sound good alone and in a group.
Here’s How you Play Trumpet in Tune:
To play trumpet in tune, you need to get one note in tune with a tuner. Then, you can use that as a reference and adjust the rest of the notes accordingly. Be sure to practice those adjustments regularly to help build muscle memory.
Can Anyone Learn to Play Trumpet in Perfect Tune?
Anyone can learn to play the trumpet perfectly in tune. However, it will probably be easier for players with the perfect pitch because they can hear the note in their heads and recognize when something’s out of tune.
Now, you can learn to recognize something’s off without perfect pitch, but you will need to practice more to start to hear different notes in your head without having to play them.
Whether or not you have a perfect pitch, you’ll need to dedicate plenty of time to work on your intonation. Don’t expect to get it perfect within a day.
How Long Does It Take to Learn to Play in Tune?
Learning to play in tune can take a while, but there’s no single timeline for all players.
Some might learn the skill in a few months, especially if they have perfect pitch.
You could also learn the skill quickly if you’ve played other instruments, like the piano. On the other hand, someone new to music will most likely need more time to learn how to play in tune.
Consider a few other things that can affect how long learning to play in tune might take.
1. Consistent Practice
You don’t need to practice for hours a day to play the trumpet in tune. However, you do need to create and follow a consistent practice schedule.
That schedule may only be 20 minutes a day, but that can be enough to work on your intonation. You’ll slowly improve by spending a few minutes on that skill each day.
On the other hand, if you practice for a few days and then go weeks without playing, things will take longer. Be sure to set a realistic practice schedule for you and your goals so you can work on your skills.
2. Trumpet Condition
If your trumpet is in disrepair, that can significantly slow down your progress.
Your trumpet might not be able to play in tune, even if you follow all the practice techniques to help.
Playing it will be easier overall when your trumpet is in better condition. That includes playing it in tune, so getting regular maintenance from a professional could make a difference.
Have a teacher or instrument technician review your trumpet if you’re struggling. They can test the trumpet to see if any issues would keep you from getting good intonation, and tech can fix it.
3. Player Health
If you overwork yourself, you’ll probably struggle to get any sound, let alone one that’s in tune.
Try not to practice too much to keep your lips in good shape for trumpet playing. This is especially crucial if you’re a beginner because you must build stamina.
It would help if you slowly increased the length of your practice sessions. If you ever experience pain or other issues with your lips or the rest of your body, take a break and come back to music later.
How Much Can You Bend the Tone With Your Lips?
Though the exact amount varies, you can bend the tone with your lips quite a bit.
As you get higher in the trumpet’s range, notes that use the same fingering get closer together.
This is called the harmonic series, affecting how well you can bend the pitch. A harmonic series has the fundamental, such as C, and the series continues with C an octave higher, G, C, E, G, Bb, C, and so on.
The lowest notes are an octave or a perfect fifth apart. However, the notes at the top are a major second or minor third apart, so bending between those higher notes is a bit easier.
Adjusting the angle of your horn could also help facilitate bending the pitch to get a note in tune.
Be sure to experiment with your trumpet to get the right sound.
What Are Some Good Exercises to Play in Tune?
If you want to work on your trumpet intonation, you should consider some exercises – you can work on that specific skill to improve your playing.
Some exercises are easier than others, so try a few. You might also find certain exercises work better with you and your trumpet, so don’t just do what someone else does.
Here are a few trumpet exercises to test out when you’re working on intonation.
– Lip Bends
Speaking of bending the pitch, you can use lip bends to work on intonation.
Lip bends can help improve the flexibility in your lips, which can help you hit the note right when you play.
You can try to bend a note down a half step, then down a whole step, and so on. Repeat the process by bending the note up in small intervals as well.
This exercise is tricky and can take some practice to get comfortable. When you first do it, only do it for a minute or so to get a feel for your lips, but don’t over-practice.
– Drone Backing
Another great exercise for tuning is to use a drone.
Many tuners and tuning apps have a built-in drone that will play a specific pitch for you to use as a reference.
You can use the drone to help figure out what a note sounds like. Then, attempt to reproduce the pitch on your trumpet and use the drone to adjust until you get the note to play in tune.
After doing that a few times, you can use the drone but try to play a different pitch. For example, you might try to play the note an octave higher, and you can still reference the drone.
If you’re out of tune, you’ll hear some weird vibrations. Once you get the note in tune, it will sound much better.
– With a Tuner
Maybe you don’t have the best ear and need a visual reference to work on your intonation. In that case, grab a tuner and put it on your music stand.
Look at the tuner as you play long tones or a single note. See if the note is right where it’s supposed to be or if you’re a bit flat or sharp.
Consider which way you’re off and how far so that you can adjust the pitch accordingly.
– Mark the Intonation Tendencies
You can add something extra to the exercise when you work with a tuner.
Instead of just using the tuner when you practice, mark down the intonation tendency of each note.
For example, you can use a tuner to get the C in the middle of the staff in tune. Then, print off a trumpet fingering chart and mark that note with a circle or the number 0.
Play a slow chromatic scale down to the bottom of the range. Look at the tuner for each note, and mark a – next to any note on the chart that’s flat. If a note is sharp, mark a + next to the note.
Keep that chart on hand to reference when you want to practice intonation. Then, you’ll know how you need to practice adjusting each pitch.
– In Front of a Mirror
Another excellent exercise is using a mirror during your trumpet practice. This can be difficult with the instrument in the way so that you can remove the trumpet.
First, use your trumpet to get a note in tune, and reference a tuner if necessary. Then, take the trumpet off your lips but don’t let your embouchure move.
Look at your technique in the mirror, and consider how your lips feel. When playing the trumpet, remember how you practiced in front of the mirror and try to recreate that feeling.
If your lips feel or look different, that could be why your intonation is off. Doing this can take practice, but it’s a great way for beginners to understand how their lips should be.
Are the 1st and 3rd Valves Necessary to Play in Tune?
You can use the 1st and 3rd valves on your trumpet to adjust the pitch as you play. Moving the valve slides out will help lower the pitch while moving them in can raise the pitch.
While doing that may not be necessary, it’s useful to be able to do. Your lips might not always be able to fully correct a note that’s out of tune.
However, re-tuning your entire trumpet could make other notes sharp or flat. The slides are the perfect tool if you just need to correct one or two notes.
You can move them back and forth as necessary as you play, so you don’t have to stop playing. Also, you won’t have to rely on your lips alone to get your trumpet to stay in tune.
Is Your Trumpet Ever the Problem?
I briefly mentioned that your trumpet’s condition could keep you from learning to play in tune. While it may not always be the issue, you should check it out if you have many intonation problems.
You can test it by playing other trumpets, ideally from the same brand. Similarly, ask another player to test your trumpet to see if they can play it in tune.
The trumpet is probably the issue if you sound fine on other models or if other players have trouble on yours. Take your trumpet to a technician for repairs to help get your instrument to play in tune.