Ninety percent of the time, trumpeters need to keenly focus on their practice. But every now and then, a practice in front of the TV, while watching something not too gripping (like sports), allows for a great changeup in practice habits. Change can be refreshing and a growing experience.
This evening, I HAD to watch my alma mater, the University of Alabama, play the Ohio State in the championship college football game. But I have a recital looming in the not-too-distant future. I decided to practice while watching the game. This strategy is normally not great. Being distracted while practicing usually results in a bad habits. But as a rare changeup, it can be a very healthy practice session, incorporating lots of rest into it. In most of my recent practices–focused on my upcoming recital–the main focus had been on stamina: they were, in large part, designed to insure that I can get from the beginning to the end of the recital. This evening, however, I totally allowed myself to the luxury to polish passages that had been a little less-than-perfect.
If you have read any of my Trumpet Building Blocks, you know that I recommend all kinds of methods to help you squeeze a little trumpetpractice (or composing, in the case of my last post, “The Portable Composer“) in between all of your other daily activities. I write about this so frequently because I face busy schedules myself everyday, and I think that some of the tricks and strategies I use can help out other busy trumpeters.
But in this post, I want to advocate a different way. I want you to waste time every now and then. When you have a few hours, or an afternoon, or even a Saturday, take the whole time to fool around on the trumpet. Play through your etude book. Play all of the Clarke Technical Studies. Play all of your fundamental exercises. Hang out with your buddies and sight read duets and trios and orchestral excerpts. Play along with all of your Aebersold jazz recordings.
This kind of time “wasting” is not, as you probably can see, a waste of time. It is just the thing you need to really improve. The late piano master Arthur Rubinstein, who practiced very little when he was young, changed his ways when he was first married. He began to practice for 6 to 9 hours a day. And a funny thing happened. He declared, “I began to discover new meaning, new qualities, new possibilities in music that I have been regularly playing for more than 30 years.”
We trumpeters cannot stretch out and practice all day long every day. Our lips will not sustain the kind of regular schedule Rubinstein embraced. Most of our other commitments will not allow us to practice that much anyway. But when we have time and a fresh lip, we should try it. I think you will love it.