Last week we lost one of the greatest trumpet players ever. Lew Soloff passed away at the young age of 71. For those who may be unfamiliar with his work by name, see his discography here. I am not a huge fan of Wikipedia, but this discography seems put together more comprehensively than many I have found. You have probably heard him countless times in television or movie soundtracks, if not on someone’s album. Take a minute and look him up on YouTube, enjoy, and be inspired.
I have sent out emails to parents and posted on the blog about practicing before. And something I want to reiterate since we have many, many young students (still in their first two years of playing), is that in the beginning years of playing music many students won’t spend a great deal of time practicing their instrument at home. We would never recommend forcing a student to practice or play music. Music is to be a discipline, but also an art and something enjoyed in the making and the listening process. But like any discipline, the hard work and routine of serious study and discipline takes time to develop and desire.
But Lew was all about practicing. For good reason, the more we work on our instrument the more we are able to create and enjoy, because we have a greater ability to do so (our instrument doesn’t defeat us). I wanted to offer some brief highlights from some of Lew’s warm up routine that I found. If nothing else, trumpet players should try to get on the horn and warm up at least a couple of times a week. I would shoot for three to five minimum, but again, consistency will grow as you or your children do.
- Buzz, without the horn or mouthpiece for a handful of short periods/notes (7-10 seconds).
- Do this for about three minutes or so, until the blood is filling your lips and they feel full and ready for work. Make no mistake: playing the trumpet is work.
- Play music on the mouthpiece. Lew believed the majority of music practice should be musical rather than technical. I agree. We learn music so we can create music, not to run scales. Scales are important, and we have and will continue to discuss that. But start with something you love. Lew recalls turning on a CD he enjoyed and playing along with it as if I having the trumpet in his hand. This is good advice. Enjoy it and have fun before moving on.
- After warming up on the mouthpiece, slowly build up your range. Startling at the bottom of the horn, work a one a octave major scale, at a dynamic between mezzo-piano and mezzo-forteh. Then reset. This is very important. Take the mouthpiece off the lips, reset, buzz, get the blood flowing, and breathe. Move up a half-step to the next scale, staying relaxed and easy. Repeat this your way up the mouthpiece.
- Try to do this for ten to fifteen minutes each day.
This is ALL off the horn. I will continue with his on the horn tips tomorrow.