My Notes From Jim Manley and Zack Hall's Videos

March 16, 2019

Once again, I'm going to open with a disclaimer. These are my stream of consciousness notes from watching Jim Manley's videos and Zack Hall's videos. Both gentlemen are from St. Louis and I would call this the St. Louis school of high note trumpet playing. 


This is strikingly different from what Lynn Nicholson discusses in his video. In my current review of different schools of thought I personally want to hear different ideas from many different folks who are successful at this business of playing the EXTREME upper register.  I've discussed this on other blogs, but I feel that we each come up with our own imagery of how we think of doing this. Nobody can get into our head and download how we think or feel when we play the trumpet. So, it is up to the trumpeter to try to put into his or her words just how they conceptualize their approach. What makes sense to them may or may not make sense to us (me). So, there may be a need for some interpretation. THAT is what I am doing for ME as I take these notes. I am sharing these notes in my blog with the idea that maybe YOU can get something out of this, too.


Now, Manley and Hall have their videos readily available for free viewing on Youtube. So, I will share each clip right here and then type my stream of consciousness notes right under as I watch the video. 


Jim Manley Hanging with the Trumpeters from the Airmen of Note


1.) At the beginning of this clip, Jim discusses the idea that he should be blowing as hard as he initially thought he should. I have spoken to Jim about this, and it is my conjecture that he started out working too hard and figured he shouldn't have to. He then demonstrates playing some extreme glissandi with "no air at all" (his words). He does NOT look like he is working all that hard.


2.) He slips in a remark here that caught my attention. When he comments on the idea that he has no idea how much air it take to play a high note, he says, offhandedly, "the lips are so close together..." I want to focus on his comments along these lines. This is different from what I have heard other scream trumpet players say.


3.) He then says 'there no pushing from here' and has the other trumpeter touch his gut as he runs up to a DHC effortlessly. Folding this into the remark he just made, I have to wonder what he is thinking with chops and tongue/oral cavity.


4.) He then talks about "resistance" and comments on the location of the resistance in the horn. I have to admit, that I am still mystified about what trumpeters mean when they use the word resistance. I have no ideas to add here as I watch the video, at this point.


5.) In the middle of this clip it devolves into a bit of a Stomvi Raptor pitch, but it is interesting to watch the other trumpeter playing DHC's. He, too, doesn't seem to be working that hard. However, Manley makes it look positively effortless. 


6.) The closeup of Manley's playing a DHC to THC was interesting. When I consider his remarks about soft playing at the beginning (though he only just alludes to it in the clip, really), I am stuck by the idea that he gets his chops in the right position to play up there and then just releases SOME air to get the lips moving. He does NOT refer to unfurling the lips in the clip, but he alludes to hyper efficiency.


7.) OK, they just got into a discussion about the chops and the grip of the mouthpiece as they ascend. They both discuss the idea of pulling the mouthpiece down. Jim plays a triad from DHC to G/DHC and then says, "I think I push that down to play." My mind is asking, "what do they mean by down? Down as in pulling the upper towards the floor or pressing against the teeth a bit?"


8.) Jim definitely pivots when he plays, a pronounced upward tilt to the bell when he goes low. He then does a crazy gliss  up to a THC. I like his candor when he says "I don't know what's going on." I much prefer that humility than some hubris driven discussion.  They do get into a discussion about how they are individually using their chops, but for the the takeaway is WATCHING Jim Manley do his thing. 


Concluding remarks from this clip (just shy of ten minutes long). I think Manley, but virtue of his crazy soft practice (subsequent clips show this better than this one), developed a set that allowed him to "squeak out" extreme upper register, and he rationalized an approach using an easier blow to flesh those "squeaks" out into some staggering high chops. I want to focus on the soft thing a bit, so the next few clips will address this.


Jim Manley Stomvi Clinic Excerpt


 1.) This clip is about a minute long but tells a LOT! I had already been doing a lot of very quiet practice in my own work, but only to allow me to practice scales and patterns all day long. I hadn't put it into the context of developing the upper register. I now work on long tones so quietly they are just barely speaking. I find that I can then gliss way the heck  up - well over DHC and even to THC, but QUIETLY! Once I get he feel, I start adding air, and can start making those useable notes. 


The tough part, FOR ME, is adding the air to make them solid strong big sounding lead/scream trumpet notes. I tend to shift things a bit when I strive to couple my full wind system into the picture and I resort to a bit more pressure than I need and get a pinched sound much above D/DHC. 


Another Short Stomvi Clinic Clip



1.) This is another one where I just watch what he is doing. I am more and more convinced he hit on an ability to set up the ultra quiet thing down low and then figured out a better way to blow without jamming up the system. I think I'm pretty close, but I have developed the ability to power through that jam up, but this power through thing clamps off at D/DHC. It also feels like too much work. 


BTW, I'm pretty sure I was in the audience for the Chicago clip.


The second clip gives you a better view, but he relates the same ideas.


Here is the last clip from Jim Manley - Discussing Air with the Trumpets of Airmen of Note

1.) There are a couple of language issues and one innocent wise crack that might bug a few people, but, having met Jim, I'm confident he didn't really mean anything negative about it. They're made in a comic sense as opposed to anything derogatory.


2.) His comments about breathing are quite conventional among extreme trumpet players. He talks about breathing down low and staying relaxed in the shoulders and neck area. 


3.) The BIG thing he comments on is NOT over breathing - taking in so much air that the process creates more tension. This is actually something I have harped on for some time. 


4.) One idea that pops into my head here is comparing his way of blowing high note scream trumpet compared to expert piccolo trumpet soloists. The expert picc players look like they are barely blowing the horn. so does Jim. 


Now, on to the other trumpeter from St. Louis who subscribes to the St. Louis School of playing high notes. He is a friend of Jim Manley and uses a lot of his thinking.


Zack Hall on Developing the Upper Register

1.) I am TOTALLY on board with the practicing quietly. I do believe the notion of of developing the feel for keeping things together in a relaxed way  by playing quietly DOES help bring the focus need to play the extreme upper register.


2.) As I listen to Zack's advice and comments, I have to wonder what seasoned legit trumpet teachers who teach beginners would think of this? I can see how SOME beginners might misinterpret the ideas here and go for  a pinch. Well, I'm not a beginner nor do I teach beginners, so no issues here.


3.) He just re articulated the idea about not over breathing. I really, REALLY like this. This doesn't mean you don't use your lower back and abs to blow, but bottling up till you feel like you're going to pop doesn't seem to make sense to me. Also, the avoidance of over breathing reduces excess tension.


4.) His G's over DHC and beyond look effortless, by comparison to most folks. 


5.) I'll bet he woke up his wife with that DHC at the end. Pretty funny!


Another Zack Hall Workout


1.) This is an extended train of thought based on the concepts he outlines in the other video. What is a bit misleading is the automatic gain control prevalent on computer systems. He is doing this stuff extremely quietly. 


2.) Near the end he used an expression that just JUMPED out at me: MUSCLE MEMORY. He wasn't so much thinking of building muscle like a body builder as much as getting the FEEL of this stuff. I REALLY like this.


3.) What is interesting about both Jim and Zack is that they talk very little about HOW TO SPECIFICALLY SET THE CHOPS. I haven't found  a video of either of them telling you HOW to hold your chops or rolled in or rolled out, pucker versus unfurling. They FIGURED OUT for THEMSELVES how to set THEIR CHOPS. At least, this my interpretation of what they achieved.


Most of my range work is in line with this thinking. I am currently doing 100 E/DHC's per day, till I hit 10,000 (as of this writing, I'm at (8400). Once get that done, I'll start working on 10,000 G/DHC. However, I am playing these ridiculous things QUIETLY!  I'm also striving for using a lot less air and finessing them out with the controlled chops, tongue, but trying to relax my tongue even though it is pretty high when I play up there. So, I'm on the same page with Jim and Zach, here. 


Now, I have studied the wedge breath approach, and from watching Lynn Nicholson's discussion, I can definitely see parallels between his thing and the Bobby Shew thing. So, I am also folding some of that thinking into my new approach to breathing for the EXTREME (think CRAZY beyond DHC register). It might seem that the Manley/Hall approach to air and the Nicholson/Shew approach to air are completely contradictory and irreconcilable. I would disagree. I think they can be usefully hybridized.


I am going to totally redevelop my breathing for that extreme upper register - MUCH less air - tanking up - and using a MODERATE wedge approach to using the abs/lower back. I'm also considering how the air mass in the chest cavity affects the player/trumpet system from the CHOPS ON BACK into the body. I think there is a lot of stuff going on there that is not getting discussed. 


One last thing. Jim uses a fairly small mouthpiece, as does Zack. They are NOT subscribers to the bigger is better epistemology. Nicholson said to use as SMALL a mouthpiece as possible. I did not get that very specific statement from either Jim or Zach (I reached out to both in working on this blog). However, I would interpret their way of working and being in line with the SMALLER is better ideas. 


Personally I cultivate the ability to use ANY mouthpiece I can but carefully adjust my expectations of the gear I am using. For example, I often use a HUGE flugel mouthpiece with a special back-bore provided by Dave Harrison of the Wedge Mouthpiece Company that allows me to play it on trumpet. Yes, I can play DHC on it, but NOT particularly loudly. I could tank up and wedge up (the gut, that is) and play it louder, but I can see no point in doing that, even as an exercise. If I want to play loud DHC's, I'll use a trumpet with a small mouthpiece, and crazy small, depending on what is being expected of me at the moment. 


OK, that's it for my stream of consciousness notes on the Manely/Hall/St. Louis school of high note playing. Now, I want to give a shout out to Jim Manley, who performs a great deal in the St.Louis area and records extensively. He has a new CD out. You can hear samples and purchase the CD here:


Jim Manley's New Album: "Branded"


Here is another clip of Jim In Action 


 Here is a Clip Of Zack Hall



Both of these guys can deliver!


PS: After communicating with Zack, he went ahead and gave me the go ahead to include this CRAAAZZZYYY Smart Phone clip. He is playing quite loudly and the front end of the phone sound system is just clipping something fierce. I was going to include this then changed my mind due to the clipping, not wanting to expose Zack to any attack, but it does show his facility way up there. In THAT regard it is remarkable. He did tell me he was dared to do this, so apparently no feathers were ruffled by the event.



Don't forget to consider listening to my podcast, "Duets From The Trenches: Musicians You Should Know." 



Respectfully submitted:

Nick Drozdoff



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