Weekly Trumpet Tips 10/29/13

The Shadow

The Shadow

Welcome to Weekly Trumpet Tips:

Please always feel free to respond / comment on any of the tips listed in these weekly posts. Your input may help clarify details for someone else!

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Tip #1 – Taking Care of the Chops!

We have a great duty to our chops as trumpet players.  Many times when we play, we play HARD and expect the chops to just work.  But our warm up (preparation) and how much, how little, and how hard we’ve played before this performance come into play.

One of my warm ups that I fall back on when my chops are worn from excessive playing, is playing a VERY soft chromatic cycle starting on Low C descending down to Low F# (below the staff) and back… several times.  I vary my speed depending on how much airing out I’m doing while playing softly.  I also avoid doing a “tongue start” when I begin… I use an “air” start so that my chops are solely responsible for creating sound.  This helps me balance the air and the lips carefully.  I take frequent breaks, and as I begin to get good clean sound, I’ll add in chromaticism up to second line G.

Again, FREQUENT breaks are mandatory… in no way is this warm up quick, nor is it “practicing,” but it helps me get my chops back to a loose and ready to work feeling.

After heavy playing, I would also recommend this the next day… limit the day to JUST this exercise.  Ascend as high as you’d like, but keep the system the same as above.  I use G’s and C’s as my turning points, and try to play softly so I’m not forcing things.

Give it a shot!

Tip #2 – Break Through Your Fear Barriers!

As much as this may sound like one of those workshop / cult-like messages, this is simply a positive message that I have found to be amazingly profound for myself personally.

I have spent the last several years pushing myself HARD into directions that I avoided as a young student, and even into adult-hood.  As of late, I have been telling the folks that I talk to that I spent the last 22 years “hiding” in a local cover band, and with the exception of the time that I spent with Maynard in 2004, I did little else.  It was safe, it was easy, it was fun (most of the time), and it gave me a chance to coin myself as a professional musician.

Last year for my birthday, I gave myself a deeply frightening challenge!  To… gasp… learn to improvise for real!  I can tell you that for someone who spent most of his time learning to play high notes, it was a SCARY proposition!  It took me forever to start “hearing” chord changes, as I had very little piano experience, and I really didn’t understand how my part fit into the music that was being played around me.  I did, but I didn’t… not on a deep level.

I never ventured down the road of improvisation when I was really young, largely because I was stuck on playing high notes.  And it was almost as though I was subconsciously refusing to move forward until I mastered that idea.

Yesterday, I played a gig with my own group… it was a 3 hour outdoor show with 4 other musicians that I have a profound respect for, and feel FAR out-play me when it comes to soloing and improvisation.  By the end of the 3 hours, I was sad that it was time to leave the stage.  I’d NEVER felt that before… I set myself up to play in an environment that left me few hiding places, safety nets, or places to duck into when things went south.

I took one very large step toward conquering that fear that I’ve harbored for most of my playing life and it’s amazingly freeing!

So after this long story, my 2nd tip for you is simple – face what you’re REALLY afraid of, and take it on – head on!  You’ll be amazed as to how free you’ll feel… how long will it take?  As long as it takes…

“So often we dwell on the things that seem impossible rather than on the things that are possible. So often we are depressed by what remains to be done and forget to be thankful for all that has been done.”

Marian Wright Edelman
Activist for the rights of children

Have a GREAT week!