PRACTICING THE TRUMPET – THE FUNDAMENTALS
As with any musical instrument, daily practice is essential in order to improve your playing. What follows is a brief description of a few of the more important elements of a practice session.
For many more details and recommended method books that focus on these fundamentals, check out my TRUMPET METHOD BOOKS page.
Your practice session should always include the following:
THE WARM UP
Warming up is an essential area that is often neglected. It should be viewed as proper stretching is before physical activity. Its purpose is to enable proper blood flow to the lips.
I can't emphasize enough how important warming up is to the long-term health of your lip. Careers have been cut short due to the effects of not properly warming up!
Warming up needn’t take very long – 10 minutes should be enough. I personally like to do a couple minutes of “lip-flapping” (kind of like what a baby does) before even touching the mouthpiece. After that, I play some low-register tones very softly. The key here is to gently and gradually prepare your lip for the much more rigorous playing to come!
The low-register tones I play to finish warming up transitions nicely into this phase of my practice routine. Long tones aren’t anyone’s idea of fun, but they really are necessary, as they provide a wide range of benefits.
Long tones consist of playing and holding single notes for as long as you can. While practicing these, you’re trying to maintain a steady tone, varying volume along the way. These exercises do wonders for lip strength and control, intonation, and your breath control!
Check out what I call my anti-boredom long tones tactic on my MORE TRUMPET PRACTICING TIPS page.
In my opinion, practicing scales daily, right after completing the warm up, has helped me tremendously. There are only 12 of them, so it doesn’t take long. In addition, I’ll pick an exercise and play it in all 12 keys. It has made me feel far more comfortable when handed musical parts in difficult keys on musical jobs. And, if you're a student with an audition coming up that requires you to play a few scales requested by your judge, you'll be completely prepared!
Developing lip flexibility is essential for obtaining a strong embouchure that will in turn help your ability to play for long periods and in the upper register. The most common lip flexibility exercises focus on slurring up and down a series of notes using the same fingering, and without removing your lip from the mouthpiece. While doing these exercises you want to focus on moving from note to note in an even, controlled manner.
Articulation exercises are designed to improve your ability to attack each note cleanly and crisply. Exercises that involve many eight and sixteenth notes are very valuable here, as they allow the player to use tonguing techniques such as double tonguing and triple tonguing quickly and efficiently. There are many excellent method books that focus on this most important aspect of trumpet playing.
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