Soaring through leaps: A guide to navigating intervals

By Kate Conklin
May 21, 2016


Last week I was working with a trumpet player on higher range etudes. There was a funky coordination (as there often is) between the high sustained pitches and the quick, lower ones. (The interval was an octave or a fifth, depending on the etude.) We agreed that optimal execution would be a consistent, full tone throughout.

The player observed, “I have to go down to the lower pitch more quickly and then bounce back up, like a trampoline.”

We had a go at that and the awkwardness in the leap was still evident.

The metaphor I gave was this:

“If you think of a trampoline, there’s a drop involved, which in this case is going to interrupt your momentum.

The physics of what you’re doing is more like flight. Imagine a bird of prey soaring over the ocean and reaching one claw down to grab a fish- the bird keeps careening forward while scooping up the fish.

You don’t really have time to ‘drop down’ to the low note- you have to optimize for the more extraordinary demands of the higher notes. Have a go at thinking of the phrase as one movement that has a lot of momentum, and includes a low note as part of the overall shape you’re making.”

This, it turned out, worked like gangbusters. I’ve been using it since then to help singers with leap-y melodies and to help develop resilient agility.

The metaphor isn’t likely enough to get you there, – there was a lot more to it that would be better served in a lesson where the specifics of the coordination can be observed and addressed- but in that context it has been a revelation, and wildly effective.