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 – It’s NOT the “What,” It’s the “HOW!”
Tying into last weeks tips, I want to discuss a bit more about practicing. More often than not, we approach our practice improperly, spin ourselves into a hole, and never really climb out because progress is slow – if at all!
Very often I’m asked, “What should I be practicing?” And my natural response is what I’ve been taught – Arban’s, Clarke, Schlossberg, improv, reading, blah, blah, blah… but what I realized is that telling someone “what” to practice isn’t necessarily going to help them improve!
I am one of those players that has spent literally YEARS with those very books on my music stand… making an honest effort to “practice” them and finding little improvement in them or my playing as a whole. Until recently! I realized that my impatience was my undoing… that by going through the motions on ANY exercise, will not benefit you. Common sense tells us that we need to practice slowly, diligently, carefully, etc. But do we really? I hereby confess that I, Keith Fiala, did NOT adhere to careful practice for WAY too many years… and therefore, never really improved dramatically. Blaming everything from not having time, to not being talented enough. After all, had I practiced the way I should have, there’s a good chance I wouldn’t be writing this now… or at least not have the in depth understanding that I do now. Because once again (like my range) I did it as wrong as I could possibly do it, and had to “figure it all out” for myself.
So without further adieu, and with a clean conscience, this is my first weekly tip for you… SLOW DOWN! Practice every note, measure, phrase, and passage carefully. By using a metronome, and setting it to subdivide as much as possible, you will FORCE yourself to practice things consistently. My best advice is to start something at a “comfortable” tempo where it’s easy for you to play the passage. Up your tempo 5 metronomic clicks and run it again… repeat this process until you reach a tempo that you can’t function cleanly and consistently at. Push yourself a little bit more everyday! Faster, cleaner, better articulation, more dynamics, etc. and you’ll be surprised at how quickly you’ll improve! This will carry over to your other playing as well – it has to… it has no choice!
Tip #2 – Practicing Range –
This is another one of those aspects of playing that I did just completely wrong, and see others doing so as well. It’s the HUGE pit of mystery and misery for most of us trumpet players. And usually, when we do gain a bit of range, we end up doing it at the sacrificial alter of 8VA at all costs – killing our tone, control, etc.
What I never really realized was that upper register is a lot like body building in so many ways. Now, I’m NO body builder, and don’t even go to the gym as regularly as I should. But I understand the concept now.
I had this picture in my mind that I needed to work scales, arpeggios, etc. to build range. Really, nearly anything can help you increase your range if you use the right approach. There isn’t necessarily a specific exercise for it. If you remember some VERY basic rules, you’ll fundamentally improve your range.
Rule #1 – High Notes are nothing more than FASTER air.
Rule #2 – Find the balance between your pushing air and the chops.
The chops should NOT be solely used to make the air speed up or slow down. This kills the balance and automatically makes things more difficult.
Range issues tend to start IN the staff for a great many players. My particular problems started at 4th line D, and was the result of a lack of guidance, know-how, etc.
Since this is a really vast topic, and I could write for days about it, I’m going to start with suggestions that have a proven track record…
This week: work your endurance… play for as long as you can (improvisational recordings work great!) But you can run the Clarke studies 1, 2, 3, 4 back to back WITH a metronome and not stop until you are absolutely getting little to no sound any longer. Then REST!
Improving your strength and ability to play for LONG periods of time in the middle and lower part of the horn will automatically increase aperture strength! Think in terms of multiple minutes! 10 minutes straight, 20 minutes straight, etc. But instead of just holding a note forever, try working out some technical studies.
Don’t believe me? Think of it this way… most of us can lift 20 pounds easily. Lets say – a suitcase. your hand will grab the handle firmly, but not with a death grip. Now, increase that weight to 260 pounds… most likely your grip will tighten out of “preparation” to lift this monster. Same goes for your aperture when playing in the upper register. Add stronger arms that can handle the increase in weight, and your grip will relax.
More on range work next week…
“It is never too late to be what you might have been.”
Mary Ann Evans (George Eliot)
1819-1880, Novelist and Journalist
Have a GREAT week!