Peter Bond responds to a question from SSMF Alumni with advice on playing the piccolo trumpet.
Regarding proficiency on the piccolo trumpet, practice, practice practice is right, but perhaps practice a little differently. It’s easy to forget that you are taxing your chops a lot more than on the Bb or C, so you have to rest more often, and perhaps longer.
There is always temptation to get right to the repertoire, but basic studies such as flexibilities, scales, and intervals are critical; we’re more likely to think about what we’re doing and how we’re doing it than when tackling Bach’s b-minor Mass or Brandenburg #2. When playing exercises, rest as much as you play (four bars on four bars off), or even more than you play in high register (maybe 4 on, 6 off).
Beware too, of playing too loud. The piccolo projects like crazy, and you can use a much lighter and more delicate approach, almost as if you were playing a woodwind instrument. NEVER force it; if a note or passage won’t come out, change your approach, or rest… or both. Learn to “finesse” it. Think “small, light, delicate.” Depending on what kind of work you have coming up, you may want to switch often between your big trumpets and piccolo (orchestra audition preparation, for example).
Some techniques include playing studies such as Clarke #2 in parallel; on Bb, then up an octave on piccolo. You may also want to practice exercises LIGHTLY in the upper octave on your Bb with the piccolo mouthpiece, the move to piccolo trumpet. Start “weighting” your practice toward the upper register. For example, play scales and slur patterns from top to bottom and back, and linger (long tones) on the top notes. Hang out more in the mid-high register. Extend your “comfort zone.”
Remember to rest often. Do not practice on fatigued, swollen chops.
There are no “high notes,” just faster vibrations.
I probably talked to you at Sewanee about how your tongue position can be a great help in upper register playing. Here’s where it can pay off.
The upshot is that there are no hard & fast rules. Be creative, intelligent and (hardest of all), PATIENT. The cliches are true; there are no shortcuts.