Recommended Practice Activities
Warm up Routine
A series of simple melodic phrases or slurring exercises that will help you establish your best sound for the day.
For work on fingering and flexibility. (Technical Studies by Herbert L. Clarke)
Additional Lip Slurs
For embouchure strength and flexibility.
(27 Groups of Exercises by Earl Irons)
Scales and Arpeggios
All major and minor scales and arpeggios should be covered. Pick several keys each day. Play some tongued, some slurred, some mf volume, some pp volume.
This is where you put it all together, and play as beautifully and musically as you can.
(Concone Studies or any book of easy lyrical etudes)
(If you do the above you will become a better trumpeter. If you also do the material listed below, you will become a better musician as well.)
Challenging etudes will help you improve both technically and musically.
(Preparatory Melodies to Solo Work by Pottag, 27 Melodious and Rhythmical Exercises by Small)
Single tongue, double tongue, triple tongue.
(Arban Conservatory Method)
For improving embouchure control.
(Schlossberg Technical Studies)
This is a skill required of all orchestral and commercial players. Start with simple melodies out of the Arban Conservatory Method, playing them up a step or down a step. Gradually move on to more distant transpositions.
Playing by Ear
This will develop your ear, which will help your overall playing, and prepare you for improvisation work if you so choose. Pick simple tunes (folk or pop) and play them in different keys by ear. Or turn on the radio or a recording and try to play along. This is fun, and very beneficial.
Solo works and orchestral excerpts
Prepare solos works to perform in public. Also, study orchestral trumpet excerpts if you aspire to perform in an orchestra.
Practice scales, chords, patterns, etc. Seek out a teacher who will get you started.
My Teaching Approach
My goal as a player and a teacher is to make trumpet-playing as easy as possible. As in any other activity, ease of execution is achieved by improving one’s efficiency. Only by addressing issues of efficiency can the player begin to be free to successfully execute and interpret music in performance.
How is efficiency improved? In my teaching, I attempt to encourage the student to let his/her body (respiratory system, embouchure, etc.) operate in as natural a fashion as is possible. The body knows how to achieve optimum efficiency if we let it. But often we try too hard to make things happen, thus introducing excessive tension which severely undermines our efforts. The key is to learn to let the body operate in a relaxed and supple fashion, utilizing only the necessary muscle tension to get the job done, and no more.
Trying Too Hard...
It is normal for us to expend a great deal of effort in the acquisition of new skills. The player who is anxious for his playing to improve, will often make the mistake of thinking that more effort will result in improved strength and endurance. But it is clear that our bodies do not necessarily work this way. If we look to sports for example, we know that the athlete performs at his/her best when in a state of “relaxed readiness.” Excess tension will usually result in diminished performance whether it be on the basketball court or the soccer field. So it is with trumpet playing.
In my teaching, I first have the student play at a fairly soft dynamic level in his easiest register. I want the student to experience effortless playing. This feeling should be ingrained as a remembered experience that can serve as the model for that student in the practice room day after day. With that goal clearly in mind, the student’s practice will have a direction, and the student will be able to evaluate his efforts based upon that model.
From this relaxed “state of being” the student can begin to expand the dynamic level and range while trying to maintain the same effortless feeling. Obviously, as louder dynamics are attempted, more musculature must be brought into play by the embouchure to control the additional airflow. Trial and error will enable the student to find the correct minimum amount of tension necessary, while emulating as closely as possible the model of effortlessness established in the beginning. As in all aspects of trumpet study, the quality of the sound will be the final arbiter of success in these matters.
A Balanced Approach...
I do not put much stock in teaching approaches that stress one aspect of playing (e.g. embouchure tension, airflow, tongue level) over all the others. I believe that a good trumpeter must focus on developing a playing approach which balances all of these aspects in a way that results in the most efficient use of his playing apparatus. I typically work with students in a way that helps them understand the proper way to use the embouchure, the respiratory system, and tongue level. Then, it is up to them to find the right balance for themselves, and work for consistency in achieving that balance.
My trumpet students will typically do the following kinds of things:
Warmup and Developmental Routine
This routine is designed specific to the particular needs of the student. The exercises I assign are all contained in a book (The Trumpet Blue Book) which I have compiled over the years. This book contains exercises that I have found effective in my teaching, and includes scales, lip slurs, arpeggios, pedal tones, tone bending, interval exercises, tonguing, and various other types of material.
I encourage my students to do some lyrical playing early on in their practice. The various published editions of Concone and Bordogni vocalises are ideal for this. These studies are also ideal for transposition work.
The Clarke Technical Studies are primary to any trumpet study. I have practiced these exercises for over 40 years and continue to profit from the challenges they present. My students work in this book on a daily basis.
Technical Etudes and Solo Literature
The ultimate goal of any trumpeter is to be able to successfully execute any music set before him or her. Technical etudes solo literature give the student the opportunity to bring all of their skill to bear on a single piece of challenging music. I generally use etude books by Pottag, J.L. Small, Charlier, Vannetelbosch, and others, and a variety of solo works.
Trumpet students are well-advised to work on their transposition. Orchestral musicians and commercial players alike often have need of this skill. Furthermore, I have found that transposition practice improves the student’s concentration skills. I use various materials for transposition work, ranging from Concone vocalises to duets in the Arban book. For orchestral-oriented players, I move on to orchestral excerpts as soon as I can, and for commercial players a lot of time is spent interpreting lead sheets while transposing up a step.
Jazz Style and Improvisation
In my studio, I introduce jazz style to the student in the freshman year by the use of jazz duets. I believe that all trumpet students should have some jazz knowledge, at least in terms of jazz interpretation. If students show an interest in improvisation, I will often devote some time to this as well.
My book, entitled Ultimate Chops, is a good starting point for young improvisers as it takes the student through a multitude of scale and chord patterns.
The Student’s Role...
My goal as a teacher is to teach the student how to be his/her own teacher. The student is in my studio only for a short time each week, but is in the practice room daily. The practice room is where the real improvement is made. Only by constantly working toward the goals set in the lessons, can the student achieve them. Mindlessly playing through the exercises will not accomplish anything. The student must evaluate and assess his progress constantly, being guided by recognized concepts of efficiency and effortlessness.
Many students come to me and want to be taught to play well. More rare are the students who come to me and want to learn. There is a difference. The students who want to be taught are looking for the quick fix. The student who wants to learn understands that he must find his own answers using me as his guide. This student understands that this endeavor will take time, and he is willing to put forth the concentrated effort to achieve his goals. This is the only path to improvement.
Are you practicing for results or are you satisfied with doing the same old thing, practicing the same old way out of habit, and thinking that you are doing all you can to make progress?
What are the important parts of a practice session?
- Warm up
- Technique development (tongue, emb. development, air efficiency, fingering, flexibility, transposition, etc.)
- Musical development (etudes, solos, orchestral excerpts, ensemble music)
Simply doing these things is not enough. The "what" is not nearly as important as the "how".
We should not be satisfied to just put in the time necessary to satisfy our practice habit. We should practice for results. Here are some important things you should be doing to maximize your practice.
- Schedule in definite times, and make them top priority.
- Find a quiet, relaxed environment.
- Take your time, especially when you first start, so that you can become mentally focused, and physically relaxed.
- Concentrate throughout your practice session, so that you can constantly evaluate the way you sound and feel. "Be your own teacher." Always ask yourself how your playing can be improved.
- Take frequent breaks even if you know that you will not get to everything. "Programming" yourself to be physically and mentally rested is an important part of trumpet performance.
- Focus on the BIG 3!
I Images that help your body learn to respond correctly to mental stimuli
G Goals that you and your teacher have identified to improve particular weaknesses
The BIG 3:
Breath: Reintroduce yourself to proper breathing at the beginning of each practice session. This will reinforce and strengthen the programming that has taken place in previous practice sessions. It will also relax you and help you get mentally focussed.
Try various breathing techniques:
- Deep breaths
- Blow through the leadpipe of instrument
- Use breathing bag
- Use other breathing devices
- Intersperse your practice with breathing exercises
Images: The body learns best with INDIRECT instruction. Use imagery to accomplish this. We have dealt with images before. Some of these are:
- Blowing warm air
- Blowing for distance
- Visualizing your sound "out in front" of you, not inside of you
- Visualizing your airstream as "thick"
- "sighing" the air
- Imagining that you are breathing from the breathing bag when you are playing your instrument
- Imagining the you are Bud Herseth or some other great player
Goals: We must always be working on our specific weaknesses. Your personal goal may be to work to improve an embouchure problem, or hand position problem, or rhythmic deficiency. You cannot afford to ignore your problem areas and hope that they will go away. Work extra hard on those things that you have trouble with. Keep these specific goals in mind throughout your practice and ask yourself from time to time if you are making improvements toward these goals.
Efficient practice requires a great degree of concentration. Don't just put in the time. If you do that, you will be disappointed with the results. In fact, you may simply be reinforcing bad habits, instead to learn good ones. Practice SMART and be GOAL-ORIENTED. Stay positive, be consistent in your practice techniques, and evaluate your playing constantly.
(Click the links below to open the files in .pdf format)
4ths and 5ths
Embouchure/Air Speed Excercises