Do your lips respond REALLY well?

We have all been there, right? You play a passage with a leap, a soft entrance, or perhaps you are just not warmed up enough–or who knows what exactly is happening. And, “whooh”–your lips don’t vibrate. No note. No response. Then we say something like, “I’m having response issues!” But do we have to live with this problem? No!

You really have two options when notes aren’t responding. The first is to play louder, because there will be some volume at which your lips will eventually respond. The long-term results of this strategy is that you increasingly require a louder and louder volume to insure that a note will respond. Unnecessary loud playing can lead to stamina and range issues. And even more response issues.

The other option is a strategy that I want to recommend: play soft and rest a lot. It is a strategy best used in the practice room, because it requires patience and lots of time.

Let’s say you’re practicing a Herbert L. Clarke technical study (which is always a good choice), and you’re practicing it super soft, like he recommends. You will inevitably have a response issue. Resist the urge to play louder. Resist the urge to ignore the problem. Instead, rest a few seconds and backup a little. Then try again, insisting on your super soft dynamic. If it still doesn’t respond, then stop. Rest again (maybe longer) and try the same section another time. Continue in this way until the notes respond. THIS is the way to give your body (and lips) notice that your standards are not going to lower for physical limitations. THIS is the way to get your body to adapt to your standards. In your practice session, you will see some improvement, but in the long run you will see a lot more improvement. Your body’s ability to adapt is quite impressive if you give it several weeks to learn a new way. The lips become more supple. The airflow more dependable. Your timing becomes more exact. Your response becomes better.

The only factor you need to concern yourself with is how high and demanding are your standards going to be, and how much time are you going to allow yourself to transform into the trumpeter you want to be.

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