Music is a joy when it’s not all study, but includes free flowing creative time.
Most babies and small children will sit at a piano, pick up a drum, or any instrument they can get their little hands on—even things that aren’t instruments. And they will begin to make music. They will bang on a pot, tinkle the keys of a piano, and even sing along with what they are doing. My 9 month old likes to sing while I work on my long tones on the trumpet. He even matches the pitch! It is important for musical development that no matter how in-depth we move into the study of music (like scales, theory, rhythm, and learning new music) that we continue to have regular times of fun, just seeking to find joy in music making. Ideally, we should do this every time we pick the instrument up.
Here are three simple tips for regular trumpet practice. These can be applied to any instrument, but because the trumpet is so physical and development of the embouchure takes time, these are especially tailored for trumpet work.
- Get Comfortable and Relaxed: Music must be relaxed, especially an instrument as physical as the trumpet. It is best to be stress free, relaxed, and free from anything that would make you fearful of free music making. Music should never cause you to fear. If you get a little nervous or embarrassed with mom, dad, sister, or brother watching (which happens to us all sometimes), ask your family to help you out. You need a time and space just for you and the horn, for your own development.
Grab a chair, stool, piano bench, or you may stand if you prefer. It is important that you sit or stand with excellent posture. Sit straight up and down with your back, yet relaxed. Turn out the lights, light a candle, open the blinds, and maybe even take off your shoes, whatever gets you comfortable and relaxed. I like to begin my practice and music sessions with meditation and often incorporate it into my practice. If this interests you, I’d love to talk with you about it, or feel free to check out The Tuned In Musician.
- Work in 15-minute increments: Because the trumpet is physical, working in small increments of about 15 minutes gives a student time to work on the horn, and then time to rest the chops. Play the horn for 15-minutes, then set it down and break. Do something else for at least 10 minutes, preferably something fun or relaxing, and not mentally challenging.
Even if a trumpet player is advanced, 15-minute increments are still helpful. Simply move on to a new routine or a new study after every 15-minute routine, but break when you need to.
- Five Fun Minutes in Every 15: Music should be fun. Make sure that whatever you are working on, you give at least five minutes of every fifteen to fun, child –like music making. Don’t think about what you have been working on, or what you need to work on, just make music. Play a favorite song. Don’t worry about any mistakes or playing it wrong. Make something up. Whatever you do, have fun!
It might look like this: Set a timer if it helps. If you are working on scales, spend ten minutes working on scales. Take your time, make every note count, and make every note beautiful. Focus, breathe, relax, and try to enjoy making the music even in the study. When the ten minutes are up, forget everything about studying the scales, and just have fun for five minutes. Now when the fifteen minutes are up, you can get up and take a break leaving on a good note, you just had fun!
For advanced students: Do the same, but after your fifteen minutes (ending with five minutes of fun) just move on to your next fifteen minute increment if you don’t need a break. I usually play no more than 30 minutes without a break, because I know my chops, and I tend to press or tighten up, so breaking helps me avoid this.