Sunday, January 8, 2017

Balancing Quality and Quantity: A Three-Hour Trumpet Routine

“Most successful performers have set routines. Repetition is the mother of perfection.” – William Vacchiano

Time and time again I find that young trumpet players (specifically, high school and undergraduate students) seem to have problems trying to find a detailed, written practice routine on how to diligently cover and accomplish everything needed to become a successful “all-around” trumpet player and ultimately, a better musician. Many just stumble around without knowing when or what to cover when practicing. I too had difficulty when I was at this age but with the help of many teachers as well as “trial and error”, I have created a scheduled routine I now use myself and within my own private teaching studio. With this routine, I find that you are able to balance both quality and quantity within three-hour segments.

But, first, notes:

-       As an educator, I love to use analogies to teach the physical, mental and emotional aspects of music. One of my favorite analogies is: “Just because I wear a size nine shoe, does not mean you wear a size nine shoe.” It pretty much comes down to this…every single person is different! Just because this three-hour daily trumpet practice routine works for me now, does not mean it will work for you. As creative human beings, however, it is our job to listen, understand and then take what we will to benefit our certain structure of success when practicing in the field of music. This schedule is simply here to help those who may need help in developing a structured routine. Use it all, take what you will or use none of it.
-       Speaking of analogies: “A tree will not stand strong without the support of its roots.” I cannot express how important it is to practice session one and the enforcement and enhancement of fundamentals. If nothing else during the day, fundamentals should be visited.
-       The overall goal within each session is the beauty of sound. No matter what techniques or style you are working on. The goal is, was and should always be the sound.
-       The breath is the MOST IMPORTANT component of playing a wind instrument. To quote trumpeter Ryan Anthony: “music begins when we start the first intake of air”. Breathe deep from the diaphragm with no restriction or tension in the throat (thinking the syllable, “Oh” instead of “Ee”). The air should be continuous both in the intake and breathing out. 
-       While mouthpiece buzzing, the use of the first and second finger only while holding on the non-dominant hand is required to reduce the use of pressure.
-       As a wind player, the tongue can be our worst enemy for it can restrain the continuous airflow we aim to produce. Make sure to use very little or none at all in the beginning of session one.
-       Use of drones and metronome throughout this routine is highly recommended.
-       It is important to remember that music is not vertical but horizontal. Always moving forward. This complies with the flow of the musical line, phrasing as well as range.
-       The books mentioned are only suggestions. There are many other books and methods that can supply the same topics/exercises.
-       Rules were meant to be broken. Think outside the box when using method books but keep close to the path given.
-       Practice fast, learn slow. Practice slow, learn fast.
-       To summarize a quote I remember from the late Adolph “Bud” Herseth: “I practice today what was is opposite of what I practiced yesterday.” Make sure you practice your opposites. If you recently have been practicing nothing but extremely loud exercises and/or passages, practice soft exercises and/or passages. Do not focus the majority of your time on what you are good at. Focus on what you are NOT good at.
-       Each session should be separated by more or equal-time of rest. However, rest should also be taken WITHIN each session to not only give your “chops” a break but also to help your brain think and analyze what needs improvement. Quite simply: rest as much as you play!
-       The use and warm-up of multiple trumpets/horns in session one are recommended especially if needed for session two and/or session three.
-       Group and/or ensemble music should also be addressed and practiced OUTSIDE this three-hour routine.
-       Listening should also be addressed OUTSIDE this three-hour routine. Do not just listen to players of your own instrument but all instruments, chamber groups and large ensembles.
-       Three-hours is suggested but not limited to the amount of time to practice. It all depends on your physical and mental captivity.
-       Make sure to try and record yourself in each session to achieve maximum results while hearing back how you are practicing and what needs improvement.
-       Focus is key to achieve both quality and quantity within this routine.
-       Express yourself, enjoy and have fun!

First Session – Warm-up and Fundamental Enforcement - (1 hour)

- Breathing Exercises: “The Breathing Gym”, Yoga Breath, Fast breathing through nose – (5 minutes)

- Mouthpiece Buzzing/Free Buzzing: Stamp, Thompson, Frink/McNeil – (5 minutes)

- Long Tones, stable and moving; breath attacks, very little tongue:
           Schlossberg, Vizzutti, Stamp, Sachs, Bond, Arban, Frink/McNeil – (10 minutes)

- Technical Studies, fingers, tempo and dynamics; breath attacks, slurred, tongued:
           Clarke, Vizzutti, Schlossberg – (10 minutes)

- Articulation Studies, single, double and triple with use of vary syllable:
           Arban, Saint Jacome, Peter Bond, Gekker, Frink/McNeil, Vizzutti – (10 minutes)

- Scales and Arpeggios, fingers, tempo and dynamics; slurred and single, double and triple tongue with use of vary syllable and articulation – (5 to 10 minutes)

- Interval and Quick Register Studies, comfortable flow and fluent in all registers:
           Arban, Frink/McNeil – (5 to 10 minutes)

- Flexibility and Lip Slurs/Trills, fingers, tempo, range, fluency in all registers:
           “Advanced Lip Flexibilites” Colin, “Modern Flexibilities” Belck – (5 to 10 minutes)

Second Session – Etudes and Repertoire – (1 hour)

- Flow Studies: Cichowicz, Concone – (10 minutes)

- Transposition Studies: Daval, Hering – (5-10 minutes)

- Characteristic Etudes: Arban, Charlier, Brandt, Bitsch, Vizzutti, Gekker, Top Tones, Snedecor – (10-15 minutes)

- Solo Repertoire – (30 minutes: 5 to 10 minute focus for one section of music)

 Third Session – Orchestral and Jazz/Lead – (1 hour)

- Orchestral Excerpts – (20 to 30 minutes)

- Jazz Patterns, scales, transcriptions, improvisation, composition:
           “Beginning Jazz Improvisation” Yoder, Jamey Arbersold, “Patterns for   Jazz" Coker/Casale/Campbell/Greene, LISTEN TO RECORDINGS – (20 to 30 minutes)

- Range Exercises and Lead Trumpet Excerpts – (10 minutes)