Rolf Quinque/Ian Brown Study…

Those who read my posts about trumpet playing will already know that I am no great champion of over long ‘warming up’. During earlier periods of my career and as a student I adhered to many well known routines. For years I would do lengthy flexibility exercises and strengthening studies.

With experience, I have learnt that the more warming up a player does, the more he has to do! Also, I find that lengthy routines of this type tend to train the player to be tired when the warming up is over and the time finally arrives to actually play music. Even worse, the student who feels the need to do hours of lip slurs, pedal tones etc often leaves the best ‘chops’ behind in the practice room and goes onto the concert platform under par! Personally, I find that too much playing of this stuff also means my chops always feel a tad sore, un-supple and a constantly tired embouchure can make the mouthpiece feel in the wrong place and other embouchure problems can quickly ensue…

I also find that too much routine, mundane practice can tend to make a routine, mundane player. Therefore, I believe that the warm-up should be as brief as possible. Get the breathing going, the lips vibrating, move around the range to make certain the notes are still all there (!) and most importantly to get that brain going! I get straight to playing music as soon as I can. I see little value in playing pages of exercises when I can be playing a concerto, sonata or a musical study. Pages of calisthenics and technical exercises seem to me to be a way of using up a long time. This leads me to say to any student, “… Play to sound great! Don’t practice to feel tired.” (I heard that phrase of a fantastic teacher called Kristian Steenstrup, but I suspect I may have heard it previously, accredited to the great pedagog Arnold Jacobs. It doesn’t matter who first uttered those words, it is some of the best advice I have ever heard.

I have already stated in previous posts that I am fond of the ‘Flow Studies’ by the great teacher, Vincent Chicowicz. I don’t always use these, however. Most routines are intended to achieve similar aims – to get the player ready for the trumpet playing that day. It is not necessary to be a slave to one routine or another. I like to change to some different studies at least once or twice a week, just to avoid getting stuck in a rut.

Here is an exercise I used to hear Ian Brown, the great first trumpet of the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, play many times as he loosened up in the pit. I subsequently found many similar exercises in a book by the German teacher Rolf Quinque. The exercise  encourages suppleness and gets me ready to make music quickly.

Tijuana Taxi 2 5

For me, these days, twenty minutes would be a very long warm-up. As already stated, I simply loosen up to get going. I remember meeting Charles Colin many years ago, and his son Al. I had just left college and they seemed horrified that I was spending the best part of my practice session playing the entire first part of Mr Colin’s famous ‘Lip Flexibilities’ book!


Good luck with your playing.

About brendanball

Professional Trumpeter: Soloist, Orchestra Player, Chamber Music, Contemporary Music & Education.
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3 Responses to Rolf Quinque/Ian Brown Study…

  1. Steve Uttley says:

    As a very mediocre player I fully concur. Poorer players can get away with less so its important to get the warm up right. Great players can get away with nearly anything and still succeed so they often don’t notice bad practice. They thrive in spite of it, but believe they thrive because of it. After trying over long warm ups suggested by the likes of Vizzutti I am sceptical of routines that leave one tired for actual playing. I am also sceptical of lip slurs (for warming up). They are a fairly hard calisthenic – you need to be warmed up to do them properly so they are a post warm up exercise in my view. Done cold they are a strain. Usain Bolt is the fastest man on the planet but he doesn’t warm up by sprinting flat out. He jogs slowly. The Charles Colin exercises (and similar) are harder on the chops than most pieces so they are useless as a warm up – you will do less damage by just playing something easy straight away (I will anyway).
    One of the best and most effective warm ups was shown to me by a teacher called Brian Rance, who I took a number of lessons from about 10 years ago. His basic warm up starts by gently blowing air through the horn and descending chromatically from low C to F# and back. No attempt is made to force a note, just go up and down until they cut in then extend up from C to F# and back, once comfortable with that to middle C and then up and down to F# on top of the stave and on to top C and back down chromatically to low F# until all the notes are comfortable. The exercise can be done at a steady quaver or triplet tempo. The key element is never to force just go over the scale until the notes come. Once the notes are in place some long tones can be played to clean up the tone and get the singing sound one hears in ones head. The whole routine can be done in around 5 minutes and the usable range is in place with little strain. If needed the exercise can be extended above high C or below F# (though Brian himself doesn’t like pedal tones as he believes they over relax the lip). It makes perfect sense that any warm up should begin with chromatic motion as that is the least stressful movement.

    • brendanball says:

      Personally, I wouldn’t even bother with that Steve… 🙂

      • Steve Uttley says:

        Even less than that? For example start with an easy piece and let that be the warm up? I know that (for instance) James Morrison claims to do no warm up and for my money he’s every bit as effective as Vizzutti.

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