Thursday, June 16, 2011

Stop Already!

"Stop or you'll blow your brains out, or worse yet, your chops!" Woodwind players can always buy more reeds, but brass players can't buy a new box of lips. Easy does it with those non-stop workouts.

You've certainly got a metronome, tuner, and maybe even a decibel meter in the practice room, but how about a timer? You need something that regularly signals that it's time to rest and come up for air. The chops need a break and some fresh blood circulation. Muscles are strengthened by resting as well as by exertion.

Mandatory resting might seem like advice for wimps. Hence, you rarely see a timer in a trumpet player's bag of goods. For us obsessive/compulsive types some sort of stopping device should be a must-have.

Andre is reported to practice many times a day in brief sessions. Vacchiano advised us to put the horn down while the embouchure still feels good. Strategic resting preserves chops while impatient blasting tends to destroy them quickly. Try practicing a little a lot rather than a lot a little.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

When Soft Speaks Loudly

Keep this picture in mind as you practice this week. You do not want to be constantly seeing the maestro's shushing gesture or the palm of his left hand. His "softer, trumpets!" indications are not always this kind and gentle. You can keep him off your case and out of your face with a simple strategy.

Your strategy: a daily generous dose of playing softly! Warning: side effects may include lack of breathing and/or boring playing. If so, take a breath and sing normally. Low decibel work should not mean loss of support or interest. The softer you play, the more you must sustain air and line. The goal is not just being quiet, but playing quiet beautifully.

Develop the skill of controlling a quiet product. Train yourself to be comfortable in pianissimo dynamics.The benefits for you are confidence and favor with audition committees. The soft excerpts are often the deal-breakers in finals. Many wield the big stick, but few can also speak softly.