Practicing on rotational schedule

Most of my practice is on a rotational schedule. I don’t always do everything everyday. Why is that?

Firstly, no one has the stamina and endurance to practice everything. I have been playing 45 years on the trumpet, so my collection of scales, slur exercises, long tones, articulation practice, transposition studies and etudes are just too long–they would take months to play, back to back.

Secondly, after learning the basics of an exercise, a trumpeter gets less and less from it if practiced everyday.

A practice rotation helps to ease the daily “chop burden” and keep the mind fresh. For example, if you play the Clarke First Study on Monday, you will, of course play it reasonably well. You will dust off any problems you might have and play the chromatic scale better and cleaner. And if you do not practice it again the next day, you will lose just a small fraction of your ability to play a clean chromatic scale. This decrease continues, day after day, until you play it again. If you wait for a week, then the next Monday you will start the same process over–with a nice refresher. But in my experience, at no time during the week does my ability to play the chromatic scale diminish too much.

If you do the same rotation for the other Clarke studies, every day of the week, then you will experience a substantial amount of growth every day without getting stale on any one of the studies.

You can try different rotations for different types of study. For instance, you can practice jazz scales, patterns and tunes on a two-week rotation. You would focus on one tonality each day. In two weeks, you will have covered all 12 keys–with two days left over.

In large books, you can try the “date method.” Today, as I write this blog, it is the 17th of May. The last digit of the date is 7. So, I could choose to play all of the exercises in that book that end in the number 7 (7, 17, 27, 37, 47, etc.).

For an extremely large rotation–for instance, randomly reading through your collection of solos or etudes, you can try dividing your collection into arbitrary groups. My etude collection could be divided into studies written by composers of four different nationality groups, and workable rotation might be based on the weeks of the month. The first week is focused on American/English etudes. The second on German, Scandinavian, Austrian and Dutch etudes. The third week is on Mediterranean countries (Iberian and Latin American, French/Belgian, Italian etc.). Then the fourth week of the month is focused on Eastern European, Russian, and Asian.

Think about some of the large amounts of material that you want to master, or at least be familiar with. Try to come up with your own rotations that work for you!


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