Weekly Trumpet Tips 5/12/15

Trumpet Shadow

The Shadow

Welcome to Weekly Trumpet Tips:

(1) Chops Health 

(2) Visualizing A GREAT Performance!

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Tip #1 – Chops Health

Like any other muscle in your body your lips require a work load, rest, nutrition and WATER!  We’ve talked about all those things before, but what we haven’t hit on is the warm up / warm down phase of getting ready to play.

The last several weeks have been EXTREMELY busy for me – a great blessing!  Playing sometimes 2 and 3 performances in a day!  And as we use the lips more doing what we do to them, I find that my warm up routine has to be altered slightly.

When I’m feeling great and not pushing it extremely hard, my warm up consists of flexibilities, jazz patterns I’m working on as well as Clarke Studies… all of this is played over the stretch of roughly 2 to 3 hours with more rest / breaks than actual playing.  As my chops start to feel “ready” I’ll move my way up into the upper register… again resting more than I actually play.

But as the days and weeks of hard playing continue on, I incorporate more soft playing in the low register as well as pedal tones to help get the chops loosened up.  Stiffness and swelling becomes the enemy here so it’s imperative to do things that promote the relaxation of the muscles and reduction in swelling.  I personally avoid taking medications to reduce swelling as I don’t want to mask what’s really going on if I can help it.

When I start pushing things a bit I also spend time warming down… typically in the car on the way home or to the next performance I’ll do horse flaps – no mouthpiece / horn.  This can be very relaxing and again helps promote blood flow, etc. in the chops.

Long story short – don’t be afraid to slightly alter your warm up routine according to your playing demands because your chops will need different things on different days.  Some players are staunch advocates for doing the same thing in the same way everyday.  I only suggest allowing small degrees of alteration according to how you feel.  Your chops will tell you what’s going on pretty darn quick.

Tip #2 – Visualizing A GREAT Performance!

May 3rd I was fortunate enough to be a part of a tribute to Maynard Ferguson in Los Angeles, CA.  There were incredible players such as Arturo Sandoval, Charley Davis, Walt Johnson and Serafin Aguilar involved / in attendance.  So playing in this show was (needless to say) a bit nerve wracking!  Couple that with the heavy playing demands I wanted to make a good impression and not have a bad night.

One of the variables that we are ALL too familiar with is nerves and getting psyched out for a major performance.  This was one for me that I wanted to go well… so what I did to prepare for this performance (since practicing would require more chops strength than I could spare) I would do a lot of visualizing!  Some would call it meditating or fantasizing… I like the word visualizing!  I would even go so far as to put on the recording that I did as well as MF playing the tune and imagine myself in front of the band on stage performing.  I would hear the cheers and feel (in my mind) how easy and fun it felt.

Now I didn’t really know if this was going to work or not, but it was suggested to me that I at least try it… so I did that several times per day for weeks!  By the time the day came I was amazed as to how relaxed and “in the zone” I felt.

This weeks 2nd tip is for you to at least give this a shot.  If you have a major performance (or anything that is making you nervous) coming up, try seeing yourself having fun, playing well and feeling that sensation of a cheering audience.  I think that’s what helped to addict me to playing in the first place… Do this several times per day and really allow yourself to feel the emotions.  You may be as amazed as I was!

Here’s the performance…


“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!