Saving lip time

“We can only play so many notes on the trumpet”–Bernard Adelstein, former principal trumpet, Cleveland Orchestra

Have you ever wanted to practice more, but your chops are just too tired? Have you tried to taper down your lip-time for an audition or performance, but you still want to practice? Then it’s time to expand your practice modes. Time to start practicing without playing the trumpet. Here’s a short list of things you can do!

  1. Listen. Listen to all kinds of music in general, or listen to your own piece(s) as you are preparing them. In fact, you can record an audition list or a solo ahead of time, and relax as you hear the best version of yourself play. Confidence building and mind-sharpening.
  2. Sing. Sing the music you want to play, and this frees up your mind from all of the fingering and technical limitations of the trumpet. Try to stay on pitch, checking yourself out with a piano, tuner or drone. One way I like teaching jazz, is when I ask a student to sing a chorus or two. Then, when she gets back on the horn, she sounds so much more spontaneous and sophisticated.
  3. Work on fingerings. Either on the trumpet or just on your lap. Combine finger practice with listening or singing.
  4. Vocalize your articulation practice. Herbert L. Clarke, our patron saint of technique, said that he would practice tonguing while walking to and from his rehearsals every day. Practice single tongue, “K” tongue, double tongue, triple tongue, and even exotic tonguings such as groups of five (for Stravinsky’s Soldier’s Tale).
  5. Breathe. There are whole books and videos on breathing (such as the famous Breathing Gym). Explore them. Relaxed, natural breathing is the way to go. In fact, hitting the actual gym or the “road” to do aerobic exercise is fantastic for you breathing and overall playing.
  6. Organize. Sit down and think about how you practice. Plan your future practices. Keep a journal. These things don’t require lip time, but they make your practice sessions much more effective.
  7. Meditate. Be still, and as random thoughts appear in your mind, gently let them go. Practiced frequently enough, you are improving your attention and focus, which will improve your ability to stay calm in performance.


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