Video: Lip Trill and Range Development Exercise by Douglas Hill

Here’s a short video demonstration of a great exercise for working on lip trills and range development. The exercise can be found in two publications by Douglas Hill, Warm-ups and Maintenance Sessions for the Horn Player, and High Range for the Horn Player. Both books are highly recommended, and I have used them regularly for the past several years. To read Professor Hill’s insightful suggestions about developing range you’ll have to check out these books yourself, but here are a few of my own thoughts on this particular exercise.

  • Developing lip trills and the high range takes time: This is something I didn’t realize as a young student, but it really does take years of regular practice to build both your trills and the upper and lower limits of your range. I didn’t have a particularly strong high range as a college student, but over the course of the past 10 years or so I’ve experienced incremental (if sometimes slow) development.
  • This exercise can seem extreme at first, but over time the body becomes accustomed to it. When I first attempted this exercise in 2002 I thought, “I’ll never be able to play that.” However, simply attempting to play in an extreme range for a few minutes a day will yield results if given enough time. There’s still plenty of room for improvement, of course, and if things are feeling good, I will repeat a couple of the high notes in search of better tone and/or intonation. I do that on this video for the high E and F.
  • If executed properly, this exercise should feel easy. When everything is working correctly, playing up there doesn’t require lots of effort. Incorporating lip trills into high range practice helps to ensure that only the minimum amount of tension is being used. If you’re too tight, the exercise starts to feel like work.

In sum, there aren’t really any shortcuts to either of these techniques, and the best way to work on them is slowly, gradually, and with lots of patience!  Do you have any favorite range or lip trill exercises?  Feel free to comment below.

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