Weekly Trumpet Tips 3/18/14

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 – Horn Maintenance!

This first tip is inspired by Weekly Tips subscriber; Per Soetorp.  It’s a conversation that a great many of us really don’t think we need to talk about or be told about because once you reach a certain “level” of playing, it becomes a given…

Horn maintenance to me goes much deeper than just dropping some oil onto the valves every now and again.  I believe that to keep a consistent feel with the horn, the lead pipe, mouthpiece, and tuning slide need to be snaked out every few weeks or so.  This largely depends on the amount of playing you do, but sometimes gets overlooked.  I’ve had students come in complaining about their horns feeling bad all of a sudden… but in reality, they haven’t cleaned out the lead pipe or the mouthpiece – EVER!

The other part that can get overlooked are the elbows or bends coming off of each valve on the valve block.  Anytime you have a sharp bend, deposits can form… this changes and affects air flow as well.  What I’ll do is pull the valves, bottom caps, and slides, and check the elbows with a flashlight.  If there is a build up, I use a small paper clip that I’ve bent into  shape to help scrape the inside of the pipe.

I don’t always disassemble the horn and put it in the tub.  But, allowing a horn to soak for a bit in warm water can help loosen things that have built up as well.

Lastly, I’ve found that using Pledge Wipes on the valves, valve casings, and slides really helps eliminate small bits of junk that can really gum up valves and slides.

Thanks for the suggestion Per!

Tip #2 – Tired Chops / Rebuild Time…

I ended up back in that miserable spot of over practicing which reduced range, endurance, and flexibility over the last couple of weeks.  As other great players have told me they go through as well, the mind games begin, and you feel like your playing life is over.  It’s a MORE than frustrating place to be and you start second guessing everything about your playing, etc.  No one is immune!

I chatted with Pops McLaughlin a bit because he’s helped me through this before, as he has a great many other players.  In times like this, it’s always beneficial to talk with another player that has a level head and a kind heart!  He brought something to my attention that I really didn’t see (mainly because I was so focussed on my frustration).  The fatigue didn’t happen from one practice session, or even two… it happened from weeks of abuse and I never gave myself enough rebuild time to allow for rest and a muscular reboot.  Looking back, he was right… I could count back as far as 3 weeks that I totally abused my chops.

Here is my tried and true remedy that I have to force myself to do in order to bounce back.  I set aside 3 straight days where I don’t allow myself to play (including warm up time) for more than 20 minutes total.  I do my usual warm up, take a LONG break, and then do some arpeggiations.  That’s it.  Nothing more…

By day 3, I feel like I’m back to where I should be, and I can start to ascend back into the upper register… but again, no more than 20 minutes total.

What gets me here?  Here are the things that I find get me into trouble most…

1)  Over practicing – no real breaks in my playing time

2)  Abusive rehearsals – community bands and band leaders can demand near impossible tasks too often.  No rest from too much of this will seriously damage your chops!

3)  No warm down time from hard rehearsals.  There are times I just don’t do much to help the chop muscles relax!

There it is guys & gals!  Take care of your muscles.  Because when they take a beating, your playing melts like the wicked witch of the west!

“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson
1803-1882, Essayist, Lecturer, and Poet

Have a GREAT week!