I have a total of five weeks Summer holiday from the orchestra this year. I have always liked to play the trumpet a lot and have never been a player who just shuts the trumpet case at the commencement of the vacation and opens it again the day before work begins. After all, I took up trumpet playing because I like doing it!
In fact, I will probably do more practice during holidays because, without the distractions of work, I can really concentrate on my playing. I can address areas of technique, get repertoire ready for the RLPO next season, continue to improve solo pieces and learn new solo stuff for the coming year.
Whilst undergoing a heavy schedule of work, a professional trumpeter has to be careful to save his best ‘chops’ for the concert stage and not leave them behind in the practice room by overdoing things, even slightly. This, of course, is a difficult ratio to judge and if anyone knew the answer to what, how much etc they would be the best player in the world and the richest for selling the secret on.</p>
I always over-practiced as a kid, as a student and as a professional. This holiday, I have decided to concentrate my technical practice to three Arban studies, despite what the title suggests. One of the three I do most days anyhow, so that doesn’t count.
As readers will know, the RLPO were in Cardiff last week. I had the good fortune to spend an evening with the legendary trumpeter, Terry Lax. For many years, Terry was Principal Trumpet of the Welsh National Opera Orchestra, belting out Elektra, Salome, Der Rosenkavalier and all those Janacek pieces to his heart’s content.
Like me, Terry had failed to see the benefit of lip slurs, pedals and all that ‘calisthenic’ stuff that is recommended for trumpeters by many, as some sort of weight-lifting or fitness regime. After a few pints, we got onto the subject and discussed over-practicing etc.
My own thoughts, oft documented here, are similar to Terry’s. Get the lips vibrating (I personally buzz a bit on the mouthpiece), ‘pootle’ around a bit, maybe play a few bars of a couple of tunes, then I play a particular Arban study. I am not tied to any routine though, and by the time I have cycled to work I may not have time to do a long warm-up.
This Summer, I have decided to do a couple of little studies recommended by Terry Lax. They are Arban; page 24 and 25; no.s 9 and 11. Nothing too taxing, perhaps, but early in the session I don’t think we should be ‘bruising up’ too soon. The exercises are pretty much mid-range. They are fairly tuneful, but also jump around a bit. I am going to intersperse them with Arban page 14, no. 16. I practice the latter study as smoothly as possible; single tongue, back tongue only, double tongue and backwards double tongue.
I am practicing the other two studies over and over, really. Never going beyond good sound and stopping before it gets sore or before it starts to sound bad! I use the p.14. no. 16, intermittently between play throughs of the outer studies. Yes, I treat them as a musical sandwich. I vary the articulations and note lengths as much as my imagination will allow. Numbers 11 and twelve are the crust and no. 16 is the filler. If my chops feel good after about two run throughs, I go straight to practicing music; if I need twenty minutes, then so be it…
Try it! It works for me…