Talk about a wall of sound!

"Big Sounds" Master Class at Airport HS.

"Big Sounds" Master Class at Airport HS.


I had the pleasure of working with these guys today, and talk about a giant sound, especially from such a small brass section. That tuba player there, Ashley, she took her job seriously! She sounded like 3 tubas! To the left is Aubrey, this girl had so much wind power (and good thing she did because that horn she is holding is huge), she didn't even know what to do with it! All the sections improved greatly by the end, and everyone had a chance to have a mini lesson. We learned the most common breathing mistakes and most common posture problems. By the end, they were all pros at calling each other out!


This year the Airport High School Band will feature the marching show "WIRED" and I have no doubt they will electrify the audience.

Give them a wall of sound this season guys, good luck!

Thanks a ton to Mr. Rooker and Airport High School Bands for having me over!

"Big Sounds" Masterclass

Engaging like athletes is no easy feat, especially for young musicians, but these guys learned so much in one hour, that their band director said "they have never sounded like this."

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I don't have much time for a blog today, but I thought this topic deserved a quick one.

Giving a masterclass is always a new adventure. For those of you who have never taught one before, you never know what you're going to get. It could be a bunch of experienced high school seniors, all freshman, or that one group where everyone has been playing for years, except for the kid who just picked up the horn 2 months before. They could all be outgoing, or all really shy. You could even get the one who likes to share his life stories!

This is why I love giving these classes so much. It makes me put on my chameleon costume and challenges me to see what I can make of it. The "Big Sounds" Masterclass focuses solely on making big sounds, and drawing the kids out of their "box." I have to say, the Blue Devil Band kids had some guts today. They all begun unsure and ended playing like a real ensemble, all breathing together, releasing together, connecting on a whole new level.

Thank you Dreher High School Band and Dr. Christopher Lee for having me out today! I had a great time!


What's the best masterclass you've ever attended? Comment below!

Trumpet Lessons from James Ackley

HEY EVERYONE, I've been meaning to do this for quiet a while now. Over my two years of trumpet studies with James Ackley at the University of South Carolina School of Music, I complied a short list of sayings and explanations that stuck to me. These are by far the ones that "clicked", the ones that took me a step forward and the ones I pass on to my students. Note that this list does not include the million hilarious anecdotes I had the pleasure of hearing in his lessons, perhaps if you study with him one day you will enjoy them!

Professor James Ackley on the far left and the USC Trumpet Ensemble in Orvieto, Italy.

Professor James Ackley on the far left and the USC Trumpet Ensemble in Orvieto, Italy.

Trumpet Lessons with James Ackley - compiled by Estela Aragon


  • One phrase, one blow.

  • There are 3 kinds of notes, to's, from's and at's.

  • Breathe from the FLOOR!

  • If you're not feeling cold air in the back of your throat when you breathe, then you're not doing it right.

  • When you perform, don't think. Turn it off.


  • Have a solid concept.

  • Spin the air to be in tune!

  • Energize the notes...always.

  • EARN the higher note by digging into the low one.

  • Dynamic markings are almost always suggestions...learn to feel it.


  • Listen and adjust.

  • Adjust with slides, not your face..With a couple exceptions.

  • Always focus on tone. It should always be beautiful.

  • WAKE UP.

  • Quit looking at the bark of the your ears and look at the forest in front of you.

  • A little bit of a lot is better than a lot of a little bit.

  • Let your air be your muscle!

  • Not every note needs vibrato. Let vibrato be the color on some note.

  • Practice performing

  • When playing romantic and passionate music, the loud notes or notes marked forte should do this (Prof. Ackley hugs you)...NOT slap you in the face -_- 

  • Blow DOWN on the horn. The more you pinch the sharper you will be, and as you pull out to adjust you will have to actually pinch even more...and that's a vicous circle. Push in, blow down and relax and you will be in tune.

  • Its good to be able to blow RED HOT!... but then you have to come back down!!!!

  • If it's out of tune, don't let it sit there...adjust quick!

  • If you adjust the wrong way, then at least you know that's not the right way to go....soooo go the other way!

  • If you  KNOW a note is out of tune, never EVER EVER be unprepared to play it right.

  • Have a solid concept of what the note sounds like and what the musical cencept of the piece is. That's the ONLY way to play artistically.

  • When you perform, the creative brain turns on and EVERYTHING else turns off.

  • Tapering the end of phrases is an ARTISTIC taper means no art, no music.

  • The trumpet is easy to play because everytime you play it, you approach it the SAME way. 


If you have any questions comment below :)

Why Music?

"When researchers opened the doors of how music affects the brain, no one was prepared for how thoroughly integrated music is in our brain activity." - INSIDE Magazine

Greetings musical minds! I've got a cool subject today, one which I luckily stumbled upon in my program of a play called "Inventing Van Gogh" last night. I have been wanting to write a short blog about this many times but never got around to it. So let's get to it.

Why is music the best extra-curricular activity parents can get their kids involved in? Is it a coincidence that the greatest minds of all time like Leonardo DaVinci, Albert Einstein, Issac Newton and Bill Gates among others were musicians? I think not.

Music is scientifically proven to improve mathematical skills. In an info graphic that can be seen here:, we can see that "in a study of 96 children ages 5-7, those who received 7 months of supplementary music and arts classes earned HIGHER MATHEMATICS SCORES than those with the schools' typical music and arts training."

Math is not the only benefit, reading skills are also proven to be better. After all, music is yet another language us musicians speak! In the same info graphic as above we see another study "with over 500,000 high school students" that proved "a strong correlation between music instruction and HIGHER READING TEST SCORES."

Click  HERE  for link to info graphic. 

Click HERE for link to info graphic. 

This is not all, music kids have higher IQ's and score higher in standardized tests such as the SAT. 

Music has a profound impact in brain activity. According to an article in INSIDE Magazine, "studies over time showed that the brain changes shape as the result of exposure to music: that discovery was mind-bending."

In an even better example of the power of music, "researchers pitted music against anti-anxiety drugs in pre-operation patients, and they discovered that the patients who listened to music had lower cortisol levels (the hormone secreted to deal with stress) than the group who took medication." A cool little thing I learned last night: sad music makes the brain release prolactin, the hormonal tranquilizer found in mother's milk, making sad music a NATURAL TRANQUILIZER. -INSIDE Magazine.

So, what are you waiting for? Become a part of something that's not only fun and self-fulfilling, but a part of an activity that actually makes you SMARTER.

The Savvy Musician in Action…it kind of blew my mind.

You know, sometimes you have expectations about something, and when its over you say…”Well…that was ok.” Then other times you say “OMFG I can’t believe what just happened!”

That was my experience at The Savvy Musician in Action at the University of South Carolina. This workshop challenged arts entrepreneurs to grow unique ideas and develop them into full blown business plans in only 3 days.

I’ll tell you all about the experience, but first let me just say that the guests were out of this world. We were joined and taught by:
- Ariel Hyatt — how to get our facebook and twitter pages (among others) to really shine.
- World pianist Kimball Gallagher — business development and marketing.
- Howard Herring — CEO of the New World Symphony helped us discover new ways to be a leader and threw some mind-blowing inspirational talks.
- Ranaan Meyer — Ok, this guy not only has a hilarious sense of humor, he also just happens to really how his marketing skills. He provided great insight on developing your business and on how to survive in the “real world.”
- Michael Harley — This AMAZING bassoonist went from room to room making sure none of us had lost our minds yet, and provided great ideas for our businesses. There is nothing better than to be able to talk to someone who has “done it.”

AAAAANNNNNND last but not least:
- David Cutler — founder of this amazing workshop and ridiculous arts juggler. The ideas just flow from this man’s mind I tell ya! I owe him more than you might yet know…

One of the best parts of this workshop was the opportunity to be able to do a real 60 second pitch of your business idea in front of a crowd. It was nerve racking, but damn it was it worth it. You can learn so much about yourself in 60 seconds. THE best part of the workshop though, was gathering a team of people to develop your business idea…for freaking free. Following the pitch challenge we got to pick our groups, and of course, I was there to win. I just HAD to get my hands on those I saw as honest, team-working people to help me develop my idea.

Then came the crazy part…actually working on the business. Countless hours of work from everyone in my group would be an understatement. We had “business school” class to go to, teamwork time and then more teamwork time, for 3 days. I have to say, getting home at 3:30am the night before the final presentation was not my idea of fun, but I was driving home inspired…and excited.

This was by far the BEST experience of my life. I cannot say thank you loud enough to those who helped me. I definitely cannot express my gratitude towards Dr. Cutler, for it was in his class at the USC School of Music that my business was born. That was the beginning of MusicFit Academy. It’s been just over a month since the retreat, and already my studio has increased and my students are advancing faster than ever.

Oh yea…did I mention we won? 

Since winning this competition I have made some great new contacts in the music world, found new friends and increased my income. I’m running my business out of my home in Columbia, SC at the time and through Skype Lessons, but fear not…in the future we might be in your hometown! This has opened not only many doors, but really opened my mind. If you have the chance to do this….DO IT.


                                                                                  What a bunch of good looking people!

                                                                                  What a bunch of good looking people!

My first it goes

I recently decided I should have a blog. A little place to share my experiences and thoughts on everything trumpet, from new fantastic trumpet websites, to breakthroughs with my students. It is with much happiness that I share my website with you,, where you can find out little things about me, some reviews from my students and their parents and of course where you can find the definition of TrumpetFit.

Here goes the answer to my top, most-frequently asked question…

How do I increase my range?

On Twitter ( @_claytonlarsen_ asked me: Do you have any tips for lead jazz playing? I have to be able to increase my range from double g to double c next week.

I had to almost do a double take on this…DOUBLE G to DOUBLE C?? My first thought was…wow this kid must be really freaking good at playing high. You go Clayton Larsen!

Well my friends, there are many many methods and I suggest you do a little research. One of my favorites is Claude Gordon Systematic Approach. This daily routine works on range every single day, each day challenging you to go higher and higher (as well as lower and lower). It is fantastic and has worked for many of my students. Here is the link to the book:

I learned a little trick from trumpeter Allen Vizzutti during my two years of lessons from him. This was something he “played” with now and then but as he said “You can just do it as much as you want, it won’t hurt”. Take a triplet starting on G above the staff like this:

G-Ab-G, Ab-A-Ab, A-Bb-A, Ab-A-Ab..and back down and up. Then do it a half step higher…and higher….and as high as you can go.

This really helped me build my range.

Stay tuned for a video of this quick workout and other trumpety news.