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Tip #1 – Summer Is Winding Down… Get The Chops Back In Shape!
A great many young students take a LONG break over the summer from playing, and it’s important to understand what the affects of not playing is and what it will take to rebuild your chops the most efficient way.
It takes approximately 10 days of no playing for us to atrophy and lose playing strength and control. Muscle atrophy is the result of lack of use. Imagine having to stay in bed for a week… the first time you stand, you’ll be much weaker than you were before the ailment that kept you bed-ridden. Doc Severinsen has been quoted as saying, “If I take a day off, I feel it… if I take 2 days off, my band hears it, and at 3 days I’m useless!”
If you’re one that has fallen victim to not playing most of the summer and are faced with marching band practice forth coming, or just want to get back into shape for the impending school year, here’s some pretty quick and easy things you can do to help rebuild what you’ve lost.
The first day back, plan on making it a light day… start by playing soft long tones! Long = 3 minutes as softly as possible on a second line G. Once you’ve done this, rest for at least 20 minutes. Then proceed into doing some flexibility exercises with the idea in mind that you want the AIR to do the work – not the tightening / loosening of the lips to speed up and slow down the air. I find it best to do this in a mirror. You’d be surprised at how little we feel…
Start increasing your practice time throughout the first week back, and add in scales, sight reading, etc. After the first week reduce the long tones down to every 2 or 3 days, and increase the minutes. This should help rebuild the control, endurance, and tone quality.
Tip #2 – Mouthpiece Choices
This is something that I don’t write about too often anymore because I tend to stand on opposite ground from the masses and the “popular” beliefs surrounding mouthpieces.
So since this is about mouthpieces, let’s get this out of the way. I believe that the rim diameter is much like a pair of shoes… not everyone can walk (let alone run) in a size 12, so to relegate players to a 3C, 1 1/2C, etc. is just as ridiculous to me as forcing an entire track team to wear size 12 shoes! My background on mouthpieces was a completely confused one. I too was playing on a 3C and 3C equivalent and suffering for it. After getting advice from MF to “try” a smaller diameter, I found that it was more comfortable pretty instantaneously. It did NOT, however, give me range… the misconception about smaller diameters is that they are “cheater” mouthpieces. There is no such thing… just ask Wayne Bergeron! What helped me develop range was exercises done correctly – repeatedly. Driving out old habits that did not serve me, and replacing them with good consistent ones that relied more on the air and less on the chops.
If you’re in the market (as most trumpet players always are) for a new mouthpiece, take the following into consideration:
1) Don’t look for range improvement through a mouthpiece. Look for comfort, and the tone quality / color you’re after.
2) Bad habits such as pinching (tightening) the lips on a larger diameter mouthpiece will make a smaller diameter feel closed instantly. The smaller the rim diameter, the more relaxed we need to learn how to play…
3) Cup depth, throat drill, and how quickly a back bore opens will all affect your tone quality. A tighter back bore and smaller drilled throat will cause a brighter tone quality… as will a more shallow cup depth. Larger sizes = darker / bigger
Throats are typically a 27 as a standard number. The larger the number, the tighter the throat. The smaller the number, the larger the opening… Maynard Ferguson played an 18 throat while I was on his band.
4) Most of the time, it will take time (weeks into a month or more) to really tell if a mouthpiece will work long term or not. The more variables that you change from your current mouthpiece, the more confusing it can be. I’d suggest changing only 1 aspect at a time. Whether that be “JUST” rim size, or just cup depth. This will give you a better idea of what will work for you vs. what will not.
5) BE PATIENT! Tired chops / under worked chops will not give you an accurate reading.
“To succeed in life, you need three things: a wishbone, a backbone, and a funny bone.”
Singer, Songwriter, and Actress
Have a GREAT week!