Composing Using Trumpet Pedal Tones

Composers who write for the trumpet should be aware of how trumpet players perform pedal tones and have a practical understanding of how to write effective pedal tones for the instrument. In general, if you're writing a pedal tone for a brass player, don't expect them to be able to jump in and out of the notes quickly. Pedal tones are best-suited for extended moments, where the pitch is held and not for sections that are highly melodic and active. Understanding the basic process of creating pedal tones on the trumpet should help composers get a better idea of what is involved.

Trumpet players who have a solid and clear trumpet pedal tones will increase their ability to perform on a professional level. A trumpet player that is unable to play pedal tones is missing a crucial part of their training and most college level trumpet players are able to perform these notes. Composers should avoid writing pedal tones for high school aged performers and younger. Pedal tones require an unusual embouchure and a specific breathing technique to sound these extremely low pitches effectively. In practical settings, composers generally don't write pedal tones for trumpet players. The tones are usually used as a technique to help a player increase their overall tone quality, strength, and endurance. However, if employed properly, these tones can add a mysterious effect to any composition and can extend the range of a trumpet choir.

If you own a trumpet and want to try to create pedal tones on your own, start by playing an F below middle C on your trumpet. Remove your mouthpiece and match the pitch by buzzing on the mouthpiece. You may use a piano to match pitch as well. Hold the low F for four beats with closed lips and the attempt to jump down to pedal C on the mouthpiece by allowing your lips to relax, slowing the vibration. The trick to playing low notes is to relax your embouchure, which will make the lips vibrate slower. Use a slow air stream to prevent the lips from vibrating too quickly. The correct embouchure resembles a frown. Hold pedal C for four beats to ensure you have a solid sound. Then using all open valves, move up to E on the staff, then G, then down to E and down to middle C. Practice this exercise several times with the instrument and with the mouthpiece until it is comfortable. You can move up and down chromatically to gain practice hitting other pedal notes.


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