Brendan’s Current Daily Routine!

I have succumbed to the most  popular enquiry on here. ‘What stuff do you practice?’

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A Buccina in the Museum of Germanities – Stuttgart. One of the best musical instrument collections in Europe. I wonder what these would be like in The Pines of Rome?

Things have changed a lot recently and I have been travelling much more than usual. In two months, I have been to Scotland four times, Hof in Germany three times, Stuttgart, Nuremburg, Malta, Birmingham a couple of times, Manchester, London and,  oh yes, a couple of solo engagements and recording session in Liverpool of all places!

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Hedley Benson & I with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra

I might add that I went from 20 degrees in Malta to minus twenty degrees in Hof, Germany, in January. That was a noticeable change!

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In the Walker Art Gallery with composer and long time collaborator Ailis Ni Riain

All this travel has meant that I have seen many new things and been forced to try lots of different food!

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The sad news is we had to say goodbye to Scooby in December. We will take a long time to get over him but he had a good life and was almost sixteen!

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It has been a bit hectic but that’s the way I like it. I have had some days at home too, of course and have done my best to do justice to my increasing ‘stable’ of students. They all appear to be studying hard in my absence as all are getting stronger, more technically assured, and musically more interesting with the message they are conveying through the trumpet.

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Peter Lawrence – Solo Trumpet Hofer Symphoniker

Perhaps I should go away more often!

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A Solar Farm in Bavaria – there seem to be a lot of these in Germany

As an aside, I always say I am going to do less teaching. Also, I always advise my students not to take on too much teaching incase it interferes with their form and development. However, I realise as much as anyone else that taking on students can really help to keep the wolf from the door.

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Alan Korck – Solo French Horn Hofer Symphoniker

Having made that last statement it would be unfortunate if I were interpreted as putting teaching in purely financial terms. To see a student blossom and fulfill their potential is as rewarding as playing a good J.S. Bach second Brandenburg Concerto  or to play the glorious Der Rosenkavalier by Richard Strauß.

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A Cornet in the Museum of Germanities – Stuttgart

My point is, and some people really don’t appreciate this sentiment, that I am training professional standard trumpeters to play to and achieve their optimum. Let’s take a look and perhaps define ‘professional’. The word was first explained to me as ‘one who is paid in fees, rather than a salary’.

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In the magnificent Symphony Hall with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Perhaps having the type of job that is respected because it involves a high level of education and training would be another way of looking at it. The word is often used to describe someone who does a job  for money that people do as a hobby. Maybe a consummate professional would describe someone so experienced they can rescue any given situation in their field: who’re yah gonna call!

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Pete Lawrence and I outside the local curry house

Therefore, call me old fashioned, but teaching is part of the ‘nineteen guineas’ scenario of a professional musician. I have been criticised for this outlook and one silly person in a former organisation told me as she left that she didn’t consider me for any education work for five years because I mentioned money!

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The off-stage trumpets for Mahler 1 in Kronach, Bavaria

Anyway, I have digressed far enough from the point of all this. Sometimes, as professionals we have to balance the budget somehow. I advise students to do whatever it takes. Professional playing could mean undertaking tasks that perhaps the professional didn’t envisage when entering that chosen lifestyle. I have played dressed as a chicken.

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Renowned organist Ian Tracey and I after our recital in Liverpool Cathedral

On the other hand, I have been paid to sit at a bar for a month and drink as much as possible for a month. I once received a princely sum for playing about five notes on Delta Force Two (Paris for the week too!) and I have received very little recompense for being frightened to death, for something really lonely  and hard, in front  of three thousand people and on live television.

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Concert Hall in Kronach

One of my greatest professional pleasures is to play something new. Of course, another pleasure is partaking of the well known tribute act to dead composers, known as the canonic repertoire. A great Brahms 2 or a superb Beethoven 7 would reward our soul! For me, I would turn down the familiar for a walk down the wild side.

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Frank Cottrell-Boyce and I in Liverpool Cathedral during the HFT event

At this point, speaking of diversity, I would like to interject with one of my favourite pieces of poetry…

The Road Less Travelled By

Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

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Pete Lawrence and Aneel Soomary in the Italian restaurant in Hof

I don’t play a lot of authentic period instrument music these days but people do get in touch when they want difficult parts written by Bach & Handel to be played on modern instruments. Given a choice, without any denigration, I would rather do this than the established core of the symphonic repertoire. It is generally a little more involving even though partaking of the canonic repertoire does stimulate the hairs on the back of the neck.

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Mahler One trumpet section rehearsing in Hof

When brand new music comes along, I am all ears. New music can be hit and miss. You may be in an artistic cul-de-sac,  you may never hear the ten minute BBC commission again (even though, as one piece did, it took two months to learn), or you may (as I have) suffered a playing injury from playing like a Barbarian!

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Aneel Soomary and I in the workshop of Christoph Endres with the new piccolo trumpets Christoph has made for us

I have ‘wandered’ into doing a lot of new or contemporary music. One of my most respected mentors says ‘if a piece isn’t improved by rehearsing it, then don’t bother taking any trouble! ‘For myself, I don’t think I’m so judgemental. Well alright but I would rather take part in case I miss the making of history. Something new could pass me by whilst I continue the old tried and trusted music and I always like to try new techniques and experience new sounds.

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Pete Lawrence, Aneel Soomary and I in Hof

The First Time I Saw You…

NOW THEN!

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Trumpet section of Manchester Camerata Bridgewater Hall, New Year’s Eve.

The point of this long drawn essay is to illustrate a few things in a conversational manner. There is a whole myriad of opportunity out there. You can make a turn in any direction, each and  every time you arrive at an artistic crossroads. It is an easy thing to say but to be ready in situ, at the drop of a hat can be the hardest thing of all. I find that I have to cope with a whole mountain of diversity. Stay calm and cope with entirely different stuff being thrown at you all the time.

Preparation seems to work for me.

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A set of mouthpieces made for rotary trumpets given to me by Karl Breslmair

Thoughts on Preparation

Some seem to get by doing nothing; I have to work at it. I don’t mind the struggle because I have wanted nothing else since I was about eighteen months old and nowadays I want to get as  far as I can in the practice room too. However, we are not paid as professionals to practice at home. We have to turn up all over Europe and impress at all times, in any situation. Diversity is healthy but does come at a price. You have to stay in shape, just in case the worst nightmare of horrendously difficult music is around the corner to surprise us.

One problem with travelling a lot is the necessity to take a practice mute. They are not especially good for trumpet playing but are better than nothing.

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I like to have a fairly regular set of routines. Simple things, which are easily remembered and portable. Stuff I can do anywhere really. Here goes…

How to stay in shape!

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Sushi in Malta

This is what is hard about imparting knowledge.

What to do, how much, and when: if anyone could ‘can’ that, they would be rich!

I don’t teach dogma. I have to say set formulas just don’t work. There are too many variables to be precise about trumpet practise.

At the moment, I personally do these studies. I do change at the drop of a hat!

Many readers may be surprised at how simple my chosen studies are.

If I feel a bit bruised  up or under-practiced I do Chicowicz Flow Studies.

The Chicowicz Flow Studies

Sometimes I leave these studies alone.

If my ‘chops’ feel like they are already in the zone I just start playing…

Next, on a free day I do some Arban, a few studies only. My favourites are:

Arban Page 14, number 16

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I do this little exercise almost every day. I play it as sustained as possible. The psychology for me is to treat each phrase as one long note; at least, as far as the use of air goes. I play this one four times: single tongue, back tongue only, double tongue and backwards double tongue (yes, k,t,k,t,etc).

I would progress to the next exercise but I have never perfected this one!

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Rabbit is a famous dish in Malta

One of my favourite studies

I play the next two pages for stamina. Numbers 41 – 45 are just for limbering up. Sometimes, if I have been out all day and get in about ten at night, I will play number 46 through once because if I don’t have time to practice, this will give me a workout.

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Number 47 loosens me up again after the ‘chops-crusher’ which precedes it!

Two studies which jump around a bit.

Arban p.142 & 143

These two pages are something I try to play each day. If I don’t have time for a warm up or to play anything else before leaving for work, these will do. Once again, I try to play them as smoothly as I can. I try to use the air as though each line is one long note: nothing short here. The manoeuvres are subtle and they keep me supple. They work me through all the keys and cover much of the range I have to play. I try to use these a study in perfection.

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My Endres Piccolo Trumpet under construction in Nuremburg

The fingers and tongue must work together precisely.

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Arban pages 150 & 151 were set for a Royal College of Music examination whilst I was there. I didn’t have to take that particular test but the studies have proven very useful for me. I play them as I have marked, alternating between quiet and short and loud and sustained. They are great for coordination.

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My view of Valletta – the capital of Malta – A view I will see a lot this year!

I have never actually played no. 61!

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I have always been impressed by the trumpet playing of the American Tim Morrison. Apparently, the great John Williams wrote this piece, Summon The Heroes, especially for Tim. It is a good study in sustained playing. I challenge myself to play it as perfectly as possible.

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I recently did some concerts with the amazing Kathryn Tickle, who plays the Northumbrian pipes so beautifully. This was her encore and I treat this as my multiple tonguing exercise. I triple tongue from the second bar, even at a slow tempo. So, the lower Gs in the second bar are played utilising the back tongue. Half way through I change to double tongue when the music slips into duplets. Once again, I try to play all the notes as long and as smoothly as possible: treating each phrase as though it were a long note again. Short notes can come later in the day. My routine is mainly about smooth air.

unnamed.jpgThis study may be a little tough for some , so I recommend Arban. Page 155 and onwards for intermediate players is as good as anything out there. I don’t particularly concern myself with speed, in fact slower tempi give more time to evaluate. In ‘Bill Charlton’s Fancy’ (and Arban) I switch my triple tonguing between TTK and TKT and I employ backwards double tonguing sometimes too. Even though I am playing smoothly with the air I try to clearly pronounce the starts of the notes; just no gaps.

A little multiple tonguing practice goes a long way.

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If you listen to Kathryn Tickle playing this super little piece you will have in mind the exact concepts I am aiming for.

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Octopus in Malta

I always like to finish my routine off with a good old fashioned cornet solo. They test everything! Slow, low, fast, high, style, stamina, all the techniques.

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Venue for the Saint-Saens Organ Symphony in Hof, Bavaria

The most important thing here, in my mind, is to perform like there is no tomorrow. Imagine there are two thousand people out there, paying $70 a ticket to hear you play. As you play, tell them a story they will never forget!

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I learnt this particular solo from memory. I didn’t actually have the music until my great friend, the cornet virtuoso Howard Bousfield (he has a very famous trombone brother and a very musical, welcoming family) recently generously donated his part to me. I learned it via ear, from vinyl recordings and live performances of the great soloists in the UK.

It turns out I wasn’t too far off!

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Scoglitti Fish Restaurant in Valletta, Malta

I try to play a different cornet solo each day. Watch out for my new solo cornet album!

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Liverpool Cathedral

Most questions to my website are concerned with my daily routine. The above is it! There is no magic!

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Marsascala – Malta

After that, I simply practice whatever it is I am getting paid for as that is what pays the bills. The exercises will be familiar to my students (well, most of them!). You will not find endless pages of pedal tones or lip slurs here. I don’t pay them any heed. I did all that stuff  and all the wicky-wacky exersises for years and now wish I hadn’t!

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Works for me anyway!

About brendanball

Professional Trumpeter: Soloist, Orchestra Player, Chamber Music, Contemporary Music & Education.
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2 Responses to Brendan’s Current Daily Routine!

  1. Gurnos Rees says:

    Brendan, great article, hope all is well. Do you see anything of Gareth Small these days.

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