Blog # 57: Trumpet Secrets:
Trumpet is a very strange instrument. I don't know any other instrument which requires the type of discipline that trumpet does. You have to practice every day for years and years just to get a decent sound and if you are slacking, the trumpet lets you know IMMEDIATELY. Everyone has heard the old adage:
if I take one day off I notice,
if I take 2 days off my friends notice,
if I take 3 days off the audience notices.
or Dizzy Gillespie's famous line:
"Somedays you win, and sometimes the trumpet wins, and it goes on and on like that until you die...and then the trumpet wins."
I thought I'd take a second to share a few little tricks I've learned.
My first trumpet Secret is if I'd had a really rough gig the night before and my chops feel beat-up. I'll do a very slow warm-up while drinking some hot tea. I think drinking the tea while warming up helps me slow down and take more rests between exercises as well as getting the blood flowing in my lips. I try to save this for the morning after a hard gig, when I know I have another one the next night. I try not to over use this trick because I don't want to 'spoil' my chops or make it a habit.
My second trick is for when the trumpet 'just isn't happening'. I use this trick every so often when I feel like my chops aren't responding or when I just can't get satisfied with my sound. I'll wear a pair of headphones while I'm practicing. (not the kind that completely cover your hear, just the kind that go over the top of your head and sit on top of your ear). This kind of muffles the sound, and lets you focus on the notes themselves, as opposed to your sound. This way you can work on your phrasing and lines without obsessing on imperfections in your sound when you're having one of 'those days'; and this way you'll still have a productive day.
Years ago I used to use an Alto Horn Mouthpiece to buzz on the morning after a hard gig. I thought this helped loosen my chops. It may work for you, but I haven't used this technique in a few years. I liked it for a while though during my college years.
Obviously the real key to good trumpet playing is consistency. I studied with Laurie Frink for 2 years('05-'07 and still see her occasionally) and she gave me a wealth of exercises that keep my trumpet playing together. My playing has become so much more consistence as a result of our lessons. I have 3 different warm-ups that are all different lengths depending on how much time I have. The most important thing though that I always tell my students is, 'If you want to play consistently, you must practice consistently', and I think the last time I took a day off from the trumpet was back in '03 when I had my wisdom teeth taken out(and even they got infected because I started practicing again too soon). All the tricks in the world won't shortcut hardwork, but the ones I've shared above can help out a little bit.
Please share your 'Trumpet Secrets' under Comments