Periodicity and the trumpet

Improvement in either the fitness of the body or in a mental skill requires stress. For muscles or the brain to adapt to the stress levels you impose on them, they must also experience a period of recovery. The cycle of stress and recovery is called periodicity. Trumpeters need this periodicity for peak performance.

If you want to get better at playing with stamina, you must stress out the muscles of your embouchure. One great way to do this is to play long tones. If you want an extra portion of stress, then try doing long tones without relaxing your embouchure during your breath. This is a widely-accepted strategy for commercial players, but it can be very helpful to classical trumpeters as well. Cat Anderson had a famous warmup that included 20-minute-long long tones. Carmine Caruso developed a helpful method for this type of embouchure practice. For classical trumpeters, great value can be had from a soft approach to playing H.L. Clarke Technical Studies in one breath. Focusing on stamina in the context of moving notes and of playing softly compliments the requirements of what a classical trumpeter does.

If you want to get more stamina, you need one more thing. Rest. You need to rest frequently on the scale of a practice session: “Rest as much as you play.” Then you need to rest during the day between your practice sessions. Frequent small sessions are better than one or two mammoth sessions. Think about the rest in your week. When do you need to perform at your peak? When can you recover? Getting bigger, you can periodize your whole year. Many famous trumpeters, such as Bud Herseth and Ryan Anthony, have taken weeks off the trumpet in order to rejuvenate (typically during the summer).

The important thing is to plan with your own goals in mind. Think about your important performances. Plan rest in between.


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