Selecting a Solo: How to Find a Piece

In the first installment of this series, I shared a handful of mistakes I’ve made when selecting a solo for a jury or competition. If you follow those guidelines, you will most likely avoid any major problems. But what if you can’t find any good options? What should you do?

Fortunately, there are lots of ways to track down a trumpet solo. You can:

– ask your teachers, friends, and the local music store for suggestions

– browse through a forum like, where others have already asked this question

– listen to an album geared towards students, such as Philip Smith’s Contest Solos for Young Trumpeters (available to ITG members through the ITG website)

All of these methods can yield a wealth of possibilities. However, I have found that the most comprehensive listing of student-appropriate solo literature is the Prescribed Music List from the Texas State Solo and Ensemble Competition. I value this compilation because it ranks the music on a graded scale and contains many pieces of intermediate difficulty. I general:

– Grade 1 solos require comprehensive technique. You don’t have to have everything mastered, but you don’t want to have any major gaps in your playing. In most cases, you should probably be familiar with multiple tonguing, comfortable up to high B-flat, and capable of reading most rhythms. This category would be most appropriate for collegiate juries.

– Grade 2 solos are good choices if you are still working on a few areas of your playing but have a good command of the trumpet overall. I would look at a Grade 2 solo for a student who could comfortably hit a G on top of the staff, understood most rhythms, and had demonstrated the ability to make appropriate phrasing decisions.

– Grade 3 solos are appropriate for players who are still mastering the basics on the trumpet. They incorporate a variety of rhythmic patterns and usually have several accidentals. Consequently, they offer a good test of a new player’s ability to perform well under pressure.

The Texas list does not explain what makes each solo difficult or offer any idea of how it sounds. But in many cases (especially the Grade 1 solos), you can find recordings on YouTube or look in online forums to see if anyone has offered an opinion. The Grade 2 or Grade 3 solos are less-frequently recorded, but they may be inexpensive enough to buy more than one; then you can choose between them. In the next installment, I will explain what to do once you have a few options to consider.

On to Selecting a Solo: Commit Yourself

Return to Selecting a Solo: Common Mistakes

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