Weekly Trumpet Tips 2/23/15

Trumpet Shadow

The Shadow

Welcome to Weekly Trumpet Tips:

(1) IMMENSE Energy Required!

(2) Chops Trouble

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Tip #1 – IMMENSE Energy Required

This past week was not a fun ride as I was starting to get physically run down and had a bout of allergies that knocked me flat!  Still trying to maintain my gigs, I played the 45 minute Basie show that I’ve been doing all school year with the Austin Jazz Workshop.  I play lead in the band and usually have no difficulties playing the shows.  45 minutes is a short set – let alone a full gig!  BUT – upon finishing up Thursday morning and again Friday morning, I was reminded as to how taxing playing trumpet really is!

Breathing was an issue – so let’s get that out in the open right away… but being low on energy, it was absolutely draining to try and maintain my usual approach.  Which leads me to this… a great many players try to play trumpet on a conversation breath or less.  They don’t utilize the “BIG” muscles in their bodies to push the air and are left to sacrifice their chops as a last and only resort.

By using your diaphragm in a proper way to push the air (really causing compression on the air) a massive amount of work is automatically removed from the chops because now the air is already under pressure by the time it hits the lips.  But – this is only one part of the equation!  Utilizing your tongue and keeping the lips supple enough to vibrate will ensure a controlled, yet strong sound!

Chops are a part of it… and once they’re tired, you’re out of luck playing wise for a bit.  But they aren’t the only muscles we have to consider when playing!

Tip #1 – Distribute the immense workload to larger muscles and playing will improve!  Use a conversation breath and no support, good luck!

Tip #2 – Chops Trouble!

A common complaint with trumpet players is, “Man, yesterday I could play up to X and today I just don’t have it!”

Much like the discussion above, trumpet playing requires a massive amount of energy from the player!  And to make the trumpet speak like Maynard Ferguson or Arturo Sandoval, it’s “MASSIVE” on steroids!

A few things to keep in mind “WHEN” you run into those times where things just aren’t working the way they were a day or two ago…

1) Our lips don’t have big enough “receptors” to tell us when they get tired… at least not until the corners start to fatigue and show signs of wear.  The tissue that vibrates in the aperture (to me) is the most vital aspect of our lips.  It’s either where the magic happens or the trouble begins!  Once this area fatigues from over use / abuse, it begins to get difficult to maintain a small opening for the air to pass through.

2)  Playing SUPER hard the day before can cause fatigue and wear that require more rest than just 24 hours.  As I had written about in “About Face,” muscle recovery can take anywhere from 48 to 96 hours.  And if you keep abusing already tired muscles, you’re now damaging tissue.

3)  Hydration?  How much water are you really drinking per day?  This is something that I over looked for a GREAT many years!  When you understand that your lips are largely made up of water, it becomes more apparent that by maintaining hydration directly impacts your playing ability, sound, endurance and range.

In short… we have to think in terms of what an athlete does with their bodies to play their sport.  No one blames the football for a player having an off day.  Yet, we tend to blame the equipment more than we blame our own maintenance, approach and practice / playing patterns.  I seriously doubt you’d see a pro athlete going full steam all out the day before a big game… just something to ponder.

“Optimism is a happiness magnet. If you stay positive, good things and good people will be drawn to you.”

Mary Lou Retton
Gymnast and Olympic Gold Medalist

Have a GREAT week!

Sincerely,

Keith