It’s been almost a year since I’ve updated my blog. So here goes with a bit of a ‘progress report’ of my daily practice.
I practice about at least 45mins to 60mins almost everyday, if I have the time I will do up to 2 hours of practice. I break up my practice into 3 areas. 1) trumpet maintenance practice, long tones and lip slurs; 2) music mechanics and etudes; 3) repertoire and transcribing.
I spent the first few weeks of the new year traveling and staying in hotels. And I needed to keep up some “maintenance” practice as I had gigs coming up. I normally use a practice mute (shhh mute by Bremner) when I stay in hotels, or am in quiet places. However I forgot to take the mute on these trips. This forced me to practice at a quieter volume than what I normally do. I’ve read and heard Wynton Marsalis say that we should work on playing at the softest volume with the biggest sound. This is not easy to achieve but I figured I might as well give it a go and see what comes of this approach.
My long tone exercise starts on a G on the second line of the staff. I play the G as soft as I can while still producing a good tone. I also focus on unnecessary tension in my body and posture and most importantly in my embouchure. I hold this note for about 40-60 secs. Its not about how long I can hold a note for but rather getting a clear, straight, beautiful sound. I then move chromatically up and down. Here are the notes in succession. G, Ab, F#, A, F, Bb, E, B, Eb, C, D, C#, C#8vb and so on until high G on the top of the staff and Low G 2 ledger lines below the staff.
Focusing on have as little tension required as possible with my embouchure has been the biggest challenge in my trumpet practice. If you want further information on this subject check out Mystery to Mastery and get a lesson from Greg Spence. It has been very helpful for me.
After the long tones I do lip slurs. Starting on F# on the first space with all 3 valves down I slur up to an A. I do this slowly and gradually increase the speed. I then also expand up and down through the range of the trumpet up to a high Bb to C down to a low F# to C#.
I’ve always wanted to be able to lip slur really fast as every amazing trumpet player I’ve seen and heard has been able to do this. I was taught that you need to move your tongue to change the air speed in order to lip slur (ahh-eee). However I’ve noticed as I’ve improved and kept a quiet volume that I don’t use my tongue at all. This may be very contrary to what some people believe should happen however it’s the result that people hear not the process. And if the process can be executed with as little effort as possible then I’ll see improvements with the result.
This takes about 20-25 mins.
I then like to play some music before I do (what I call) “music mechanic” practice. I’ll play a bebop melody. At the moment I’m trying to play ‘Eternal Triangle’ by my favourite sax player Sonny Stitt. It’s bloody hard but it’s coming along. I’ve also been working on ‘Prince Albert’ by Kenny Dorham. Or I might play an excerpt of a transcription I’ve learnt like Clifford Brown’s solo on ‘Pent up house’ or Freddie Hubbard’s solo on ‘Byrdlike’ or Lee Morgan’s solo on ‘Swonderful’
The next step in my daily practice routine is music mechanics. I work on playing chord tones over Major and Minor chord progressions and or tunes. I go through the whole progression or tune playing a long tone with an approach tone into just the root note, then the 3rd, then the 5th, then the 7th, then on the 9th, then the 11th then the 13th I don’t use the approach tones. After that I’ll play the arpeggios in this order 1/3/5/7, 3/5/7/9, 5/7/9/11, 7/9/11/13 then 7/5/3/1, 9/7/5/3, 11/9/7/5, 13/11/9/7.
I’ve recently (last 3-4months) have been doing this in 5/4 and 7/4. I do all of this with a backing track so I can hear the sound of the note I’m playing in the context of the chord it relates to.
This takes about 15-20 mins. And that ends my first session. I take a break for at lease 30-40 mins. I normally will have to teach or attend to the admin part to my job.
Session 2 I work on music that I’m playing or required to play and refine bebop melodies or play them in different keys. I’ll also spend some time in this session transcribing. Lately I’ve been working harder on transcribing songs not just solos. I’ve found this has helped in learning tunes and hearing harmony better. Then I’ll just play a tune that I’m working on in a few keys. I’ll improvise on the tune. When I practice improvising I base it of the Clifford Brown practice tapes I hear Clifford Brown going through a tune or progressions and when he doesn’t get out what he’s hearing or execute it perfectly he goes over it. I have also made a New Years resolution to upload to Jam of the week on facebook more regularly. This has also been good for practice as I do that unaccompanied and I play through the whole tune without stopping.
That’s the daily practice that I do. It works for me and if you can get something out of this that’s awesome. I play on average 2 gigs a week. Some weeks a lot more and other weeks one or none. However I do get to play a lot and I learn more in a rehearsal or on a gig than I do in the practice room by myself. So I think it’s important to have a regular performing output. I also run a jam session at Jazz Music Institute and that has been the best development for me as a player than any rehearsed band I’ve played with. The reason for it is because it’s unrehearsed and you have to make music with people instantly. It really brings out the inner personality of people. Plus it makes me a better musician. I used to think that you have to play with better musicians to get better. While this is somewhat true I also have found that playing with beginner jazzers has helped me play with more conviction and sincerity.
Anyway I’m going to leave it there for now. I do intent on doing at least a monthly blog.