As a teacher, working with students on the subject of range, I can divide most of them into two categories. There are the students who are comfortable letting their range develop naturally and then there are those who are more impatient and want to speed things up a little. I personally don’t have a problem doing what needs to be done to favor a quicker range development, but there are very specific dangers involved when the student steps over the line and plays higher than what they are ready to do.
What’s the Problem?
The biggest problem with advancing range before you are ready is that it forces you to play on a different embouchure setting. In the long run, playing that way will most likely lead towards needing an embouchure change. In my opinion, a full fledged embouchure change is one of the worse things a trumpet player should ever have to go through and should be avoided at all costs.
How it Works
Let me explain how this works. On a well functioning embouchure, the resistance created by the lips is manipulated by muscles. This resistance is absolutely necessary for playing high. The higher the notes are that you want to play, the more resistance you will need to play them. The reason we want that resistance to be controlled by the muscles is because this gives us a better sound, more flexibility and the opportunity to continue our physical growth in terms of both range and endurance. In other words, when you use the muscles as a source of resistance, there is no limit to how strong you can grow, no limit to how high you can play and no limit to how long your endurance will last.
But when you try to play notes that go higher than what you can play with resistance created by the muscles, you are forced to create that resistance in some other way. Often times this can manifest itself in the form of using too much pressure. Other times it means that you will drop your mouthpiece to a lower position on the lips (thereby creating a shorter vibrating area which will automatically produce a higher note). The problem with all of the non-muscular sources of resistance is that they are limited. They do not produce good sounds. They also inflict physical damage to the lips which causes your body to flood the damaged area with white blood cells. This will swell the tissues, which seems to give you a better range, but only for a short period before the tissues swell up so much that all vibrations stop completely.
Be On Guard
Unfortunately, this can happen at any stage of your development. You need to be vigilant against crossing that line at all times throughout your trumpet playing career. You are most likely to cross that line when your playing demands increase. That is yet another reason why “good enough is never good enough.” If your range and endurance are not more advanced than your playing demands, you will struggle with this problem when those playing demands increase.
That’s where the Daily Routines book comes in. When you do the Daily Routines book correctly, you should always be ahead of your demands. The routines in that book are far more difficult, physically speaking, than anything you will ever have to play at each level of the book. There are seven levels ranging from beginner to pro, and each level was logically designed so that the you would be continually challenged in that way. Then, when your playing demands increase, you will have absolutely no difficulty adjusting to them.
In contrast, those who push their range too soon, even those who use my Daily Routines book, will always have trouble with the new demands. While the Daily Routines are designed in a way that can be easily used to increase your strength in the correct manner, they are also capable of being misused. Anyone who is impatient, wanting to push to the next level before you are ready, will experience more trouble than you can imagine.