Book Review: Trumpet Pedagogy, by David Hickman

Trumpet Pedagogy by David Hickman
Click to buy it from Prof. Hickman

Trumpet Pedagogy: A Compendium of Modern Teaching Techniques, by David Hickman

            • 503 pages
            • 369 photos
            • 89 illustration
            • dozens of music examples
            • Hardbound
            • 8.5 x 11 x 1.75 inches.
            • $69 (soon to be $95)


If you play or teach trumpet, you have to have this book. In fact, I’m glad I didn’t discover this book until several years after I’d put out my own trumpet book, because if I’d seen this, I wouldn’t have bothered. The book is fantastic, and packed with so much information it’s going to be difficult to summarize. But it’s worth the challenge. Here we go:

David Hickman is a well-known player and teacher, currently at Arizona State University. Here’s a snippet from his web site:

David Hickman is considered one of the world’s pre-eminent trumpet virtuosos and has performed over 2,000 solo appearances around the world as a recitalist or guest soloist with nearly 500 different orchestras. His tours have taken him to Japan, Korea, Thailand, Spain, Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, Austria, Canada, Mexico, Switzerland, and virtually every major American city.

As a noted clinician and author, Hickman has presented workshops on over 300 major university campuses. He has taught (13 summers) at the Banff Centre for the Arts (Canada), Bremen Trumpet Days (Germany), Rafael Mendez Brass Institute (18 summers), and dozens of music festivals.

one of Louis Armstrong's Mouthpieces
Don’t try this at home.

If you have any question about the trumpet, you’ll find it in Hickman’s doorstop of a book (Table of Contents). It’s got loads of pictures of great players, many of them closeups so you can see their embouchures, postures, and other details; there are dozens of pictures of instruments from ancient times to cutting edge trumpet makers. The illustrations are great and clear. The musical examples are numerous. And the amount of information is prodigious. You get the idea.

My favorite picture is this one of Louis Armstrong’s mouthpiece rim. It’s got grooves carved into it. The grooves grip his chops so that when he gave the horn a slight twist, he was able to play higher. This, btw, is not a recommended way to increase your range. Louis used to play 77 high Cs in a row at the end of a tune (I think it might have been St. Louis Blues, but am not sure). At a show England when he did this, he split his lip so badly that the front of his shirt was drenched in blood and he had to stop playing for a long period. It’s not clear whether he was using this twisting technique, but I’m guessing he was.

The chapters in Trumpet Pedagogy I found most interesting were

  • Chapter 5: Efficient Practice
  • Chapter 8: Advanced Range, Power and Endurance
  • Chapter 9: Common Problems and Suggested Remedies
    • air in the tone
    • double buzz
    • upper register inconsistency
    • attacks
    • nose air leakage
    • dull, dead tone
    • “quacky’ low register
    • trills
    • dry mouth
    • inability to play softly

Whether you need to know about different embouchures, like the floating jaw embouchure versus the fixed jaw embouchure, or how Bell’s Palsy or other medical conditions affect trumpet playing, or are curious about trumpet music, trumpet players, trumpet mutes, or really anything else regarding the trumpet, you should buy the book. Also, chat up your local librarian and as her or him to purchase a copy for the library. It’s pretty expensive ($69 now, but for a limited time. Will go to $95 apparently), so a library might be able to afford it if you can’t.

There are few things about the book that could be improved upon, but here are some ways in which the book didn’t measure up for me. The price is high, but that’s understandable given the size, scope, and binding, but the price puts it out of range for all but the most serious players and teachers. Available only to trumpet players with a good job. I was surprised and disappointed with the quality of most of the images. The images are not so poor as to be ineffective, but many are pixellated, and nearly all of them would benefit from a few minutes in Photoshop adjusting curves.

But these are minor, piddling concerns. Honestly, I can’t recommend this book highly enough. Take advantage of Hickman’s vast expertise, his research spanning decades, and his contacts with trumpet luminaries who provided pictures galore. Buy the book.

Have fun, and good luck with your practice.

Here are links to Professor Hickman’s talk at the 2005 ITG conference (7 parts). Loads and loads of great information in these talks. (beginning of 6 deals with practice)

Hickman lecture 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

Professor Hickman performing:

3 thoughts on “Book Review: Trumpet Pedagogy, by David Hickman

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