Weekly Trumpet Tips 3/3/15

Trumpet Shadow

The Shadow

Welcome to Weekly Trumpet Tips:

(1) Jack of All Trades!

(2) Tired Chops Continued!

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Tip #1 – Jack of All Trades!

Years ago while on tour with Maynard,  Carl Fisher and I were discussing being a working trumpet player in today’s world.  The best advice that I had heard to that point was when Carl said, “You have to be a jack of all trades and nearly a master of none.  Be able to read, play high, solo, etc. to a high capacity… but specializing in any one will limit you.”

At first, this was advice that was tough because I was good at high notes (to a degree).  My reading was okay and my soloing ability was nil! But as the years have rolled by and I work on all aspects of playing I find that Carl’s advice was accurate!

In the last 3 months I’ve gotten calls that require me to play in a classical style (piccolo), play improvised solos (jazz / R&B / Fusion / Rock), play lead with tons of high stuff up to and above double C, as well as play ballads in a softer more gentle style.  Some of these have been on the same gig!

Today’s first tip for you is to work on all aspects of playing characteristics.  Be able to read, play in a classical style, jazz style, R&B style, be able to solo competently and keep the chops healthy!  While we shouldn’t try to be all things to all people / circumstances, being well versed does help the phone to keep ringing!

Tip #2 – Tired Chops (Continued)

Last week we discussed that the chops don’t have big enough pain receptors in them to tell us when they’re tired, the necessary amount of rest and hydration.  Because trumpet players are plagued with the never ending issue of tired chops I felt it important to elaborate more on this topic for this week.

I am not one of those guys that can take a full day off the horn and come back the next day feeling better or at least stable as I did in the days beforehand.  So I don’t take a complete day away.  What I WILL do though, is drastically alter and reduce the playing down to minutes.  I find that even if I just do 10 minutes of playing, I respond better than if I do no playing.  This could be more psychological than anything, but I learned this about myself years ago.  So I will set aside 10 to 30 minutes and play.  NOTHING taxing, and certainly nothing high!  Typically I’ll run patterns I’m working on, Clarke studies, etc.  I really won’t even do any flexibility exercises the first day of recovery.

If I can get away with taking 2 days down, I’ll keep my playing to a minimum once again on the second day… although this time I will add back in some flexibility exercises (in a mirror) to monitor any movement that may try to creep in.  I will most likely spread my playing out over hours, but will limit actual playing time to roughly 30 minutes again.  I may test the upper register a tiny bit, but only to see if the chops are healing and recovering as expected.

By the 3rd day, I usually have had enough recovery time that I can do a planned warm up and be back in the swing of things.  Rarely does my recovery time go past 3 days… when it does, it means that I’ve damaged tissue and I will be going through a rebuild process – much like an athlete that sprained something and must work to rebuild that muscle back up to optimum levels.  This can take a week or more and requires patience!  Patience in this arena has never been a strong suit for me, so I have learned to avoid injury by listening to my body and understanding the warning signs of fatigue before I get to that injury point.

By learning your limits and allowing for enough rest / recovery time, you can minimize fatigue and the inherent problems that tag along!  You’ll build stronger muscles by allowing for rest and recovery than you will by endlessly beating yourself senseless…

The will to succeed is important, but what’s more important is the will to prepare.

– Bobby Knight, Basketball Coach

Have a GREAT week!