Two exercises from Trumpet Yoga

Trumpet Yoga was one of Jerome Callet’s first books, the first edition was released in 1971. Outlined in the book is how one can develop their embouchure by holding the top lip in an unfurled position, which you discover through the use of double pedal note exercises using an Einsetzen-type embouchure. The second edition was published in 1986, strangely only a year before Superchops, which seemed to describe quite a different system. I don’t actually believe that there was an awful lot of difference from the resulting embouchures that would come from following either of these systems, but instead it shows a change in the focus of Callet’s instruction. Superchops was generally more focused upon how the lips move over the top teeth as you play across the range of the trumpet, although this idea is already mentioned in the second edition of Trumpet Yoga. Superchops also included some of the ideas, such as spit-buzzing, that later lead the the system that many refer to as TCE (a name thought up by Bahb Civiletti whilst working on the Trumpet Secrets book). I can’t avoid plugging my own book at this stage (click here) because its purpose was to make the information from Trumpet Yoga available again to the trumpet community.

As part of the process of writing Exploring The Double Pedal Register I took some time to re-write the text fromTrumpet Yoga. The reason for this was twofold. The text in that book is not actually very easy to understand because it often drifts between different topics within each paragraph. As well there are a few mistakes that you wouldn’t notice if you weren’t familiar with the system. I also wanted to make sure that I completely understood what Jerry was after back then, and how it compared to more recent ideas. I took the time to sort every sentence into categories so that you have a set of instructions relating to lips, air, jaw, tongue and method. I was pretty surprised in the end at how complete the instructions are when presented in a way that is easier to digest. It is my impression that Superchops is not so complete but I do intend doing going through the same process with that book too so I’ll report back once that is done.

The bulk of the method is based around the warm-up and lip conditioner mentioned above. Following that there are a number of exercises and melodies that will help a player to practise their upper register. Jerry makes it very clear that when working on this material your focus should be on tonal centre and perfect intonation. Hidden in the text besides the Einsetzen/Ansetzen exercises are couple exercises that I would like to share here as I think they are interesting and players may find them helpful.

The way that Jerry described breathing in Trumpet Yoga was much more similar to how some more traditional pedagogues may approach the subject. Whereas in his more recent work he puts a lot of emphasis on the avoidance of overblowing, stating that you only need about a third the amount of air that most would, in the earlier days he taught that you should “fill up as low as you can in the abdominal area … with a conscious effort towards more wind power”. Another key statement is this: “On intake of air the abdominal muscles are loose and relaxed. On exhale, abdominal muscles should be as firm as possible”. This shows that he had identified the role of the abdominal muscles in compressing air, an idea that wasn’t discussed much in the 1970s. Even today in some circles people with insufficient knowledge allude mysteriously to air support without even saying so much or even suggest the opposite action, mistakenly believing that the diaphragm has something to do with exhalation.

The first exercise is intended to teach you to identify the correct sensation for abdominal firmness. Lean backwards slowly until you are facing almost straight upwards. In this position notice how the abdominal muscles are stretched and firm. Try playing in the middle register whilst slightly leaning backwards and listen for how this effects quality of tone. Only do this for a short time so that you do not cause yourself injury! Once you are familiar with the feeling of firm abdominal muscles you should aim to use this as a means to generate air power. In his video Got High Notes? Lynn Nicholson mentions how he leans backwards slightly as he plays for this very reason. Interestingly I have also heard of a very similar exercise being used by clarinet players which involves holding a steady long tone whilst leaning forwards, backwards and rotating to both sides.

The second exercise is an isometric exercise for the lips. There are many forms of isometric exercises that are used by brass players. Most of them involve some kind of tool, such as a Warburton P.E.T.E., a pencil, or in some cases a mouthpiece. Bahb Civiletti recommends the use of a device that he calls Monster Chops (click for video), you can learn about from on his website. Depending on how you are trying to develop your facial muscles the intentions and instructions for the exercises may differ. For this exercise unroll both lips as much as you can (this is not the same as a pucker, the corners of the mouth do not move inwards and the chin should not be pulled flat), push the jaw forwards and close the teeth, push the lips together feeling the inner red part of the lips in contact with each other. Hold this squeeze for ten seconds at a time. It is easy to over-do isometric exercises so take it easy! When you are familiar with this sensation you could try it with the jaw open and pushing air through the unfurled lips. I believe that adding articulation to this isometric exercise may have been what first lead to developing the spit-buzz technique that has become an essential part of learning the Superchops system.

Admittedly both of these exercises are a little odd, but I have had use from them both. At the end of the day a lot of what we do as brass musicians could be seen by most as pretty strange. Although neither of these exercises would form a part of Jerry Callet’s current teaching, it is (for me at least) interesting to learn more about the history of his innovations.

As always please feel free to comment below, click Like and Share on social media, get in touch using the link above and enjoy learning about the trumpet!

3 thoughts on “Two exercises from Trumpet Yoga

      1. I use Bahbs Monster chops device been making great progress with it
        but your Isometrics sound similar and i can do some when im at work
        🙂

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