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Saturday, May 27, 2006

Tips & Advice - #1. Warming Up (introduction)

This is the first of my new series of posts called "Tips and Advice" (see previous posts). This week I'm going to be talking about warming up. I anticipate this topic will be covered in several postings. This is the first - "Introduction" - to be followed by a number of other headed posts. Anyway, lets get going....

The topic of warming up has aroused some debate among trumpet pedagogues. Many argue that warming up is a waste of time, citing players who can play straight "from cold" with little or no problem as evidence. However I would like to suggest that WARMING UP IS NOT A WASTE OF TIME!

Why? Why is this you ask? Well I'll use the example of the 100 meter athlete. In their chosen profession the runner is required to put their leg and arm muscles under considerable strain, working them hard to reach the line first. Most, if not all of these athletes would agree that warming up by doing stretches light jogging, is of utmost importance in order to avoid injury. This seems obvious to us. If the athlete stretches he loosens his muscles allowing him not only to move more easily, but also to avoid injury. Many brass players however, ignore the fact that they are athletes too. It's true! Think about it. A brass player puts enormous strain on the lips when playing, stretching them and pushing them to the limit in order to finish the piece with style and panacea. If we accept this then, it is sensible for the trumpeter to warm up his lips before he commences heavy playing. Indeed, a good warm up stimulates blood flow, and loosens muscles allowing them to be used without ease without risk of damage.

But how should you warm up? This is a typical question which is all to often answered incorrectly by tutors who attempt to impose their own methods (or that of a well known player) onto the student. In fact, it is important to recognise that every player will necessarily have a different style of warm up, and it is their [the pupil's] job to work out what suits them best. Of course, this can only be achieved by experimentation and guidance from other more experienced players (whether that be through reading or tuition). Indeed, despite my earlier comments it is crucial for teachers to guide their pupils in sensible warm up technique in order that they may understand the best way to employ the exercises they have at hand. Many players have very poor warm up routines which do more harm than good, and this is often because of a lack of guidance.

General advice. Warm-ups should strike a balance between ensuring that all muscles to be used in playing are suitably loosened, whilst not over straining the lips before they have even started. Herbert L. Clarke outlined that one of the best ways to do this is to play quietly. Not many people do this, but all the best players will tell you that they always practice quietly because it affords them control, accuracy and allows them to play for longer. Seriously, play over your old exercises quietly (no more than pp) and you will start playing better. I've also found that reducing pressure has improved my playing (especially in stamina and range). A good way to reduce pressure on the lips is to remove your little finger (right hand) from the hook when playing. This will seem hard at first, but once your muscles adapt you will find playing becomes much easier because your muscles are stronger (they no longer reply on pressure to hold the shape).

Final Points. Lastly, i should like to point out that there is one other great benefit of a sensible warm upBy following a regular warm up routine everyday, you will find that you become more consistent in your playing. You will have less days when you come to the horn and say "oh, I can't play today because it feels stiff". The same exercises everyday will train your lips to respond in the same way everyday - this will help your playing (and practice patience!) no end.

In the next installment i'll be dealing with the free buzz and mouthpiece buzzing so keep checking back. Remember, any questions, post a comment!


Blogger Dave said...

Please note, that alll further posts will have the same title format. So look out for that when searching for the next installment.

9:11 pm, May 27, 2006  
Anonymous Blueknight2112 said...

Having marched in a Drum and Bugle Corps, I can personally tell you warm-ups are critical! Everyday we would warm-up for at least an hour, doing long low lip slurs. We would then rest after doing one series and then start again, progressively going higher and louder. With continuous playing in the upper registry and at very loud volumes, a long steady warm-up was essential.

I have since taught my son to do the same thing. What it provides is endurance, a more consistant tone and you won't blow your chops out or damage them. Every pro out there will tell you that you need to warm-up.

5:35 pm, September 06, 2006  

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