The Perfect Lesson Plan #4- Professional Players

Some may question my wisdom on offering suggestions on practice routines to professionals and it seems like a reasonable conclusion. In spite of my lack of concern for accosting negative remarks, I will continue towards my goal for continued perfection in the trumpet world anyway.

If you are a professional player with no problems, please leave this site for without problems, I can’t be of assistance. But, if you have run into some of the problems I have faced in the past and resolved, you may want to continue to read further.

Problem #1.

No work-

I can’t help you.

Problem #2.

The pay isn’t enough when I do work-

I can’t help you.

Problem #3.

My wife doesn’t understand me-

That’s OK. Your wife doesn’t understand me either!

Problem #4.

I can’t play as well as I did in college/high school-

You’re older now and you practiced more back then.

Problem #5.

I have a hard time hitting the high notes-

How often do you practice in the upper register? If you don’t practice up there, what makes you think you can play up there?

Suggested reading

Problem #6.

I have an improvised solo and I don’t know how to improvise-

Suggested reading

Problem #7.

The second chair player is playing too loud all the time-

Mention to the second chair player “You sound as if you have stronger chops than I do and I think you should play lead from now on”. See how quickly he/she gets the idea.

Problem #8.

After hard, blowin’ jobs, it takes me days to get my lips to feel good again.

What I have found to work wonders is to buzz on a trombone mouthpiece as I drive home from the gig. The next morning I feel normal again.

Problem #9.

It seems as if I’m using too much mouthpiece pressure.

Suggested reading

Problem #10.

Our leader tells me how to play my part all the time.

Either learn to play it his/her way or get a new job.

Problem #11.

I know more than the leader of our band.

Start your own band.

Problem #12.

I’m having trouble getting the pages turned fast enough during a show.

Make an extra copy of the problem page and have it next to your score.

Problem #13.

The singer in our band sings out of tune.

I can’t help you on that one other than pulling the cord on her/his mike a few times. I thought all singers were taught to sing that way!

Problem #14.

I keep missing the same phrase every time.

Suggested reading

Problem #15.

I think I need a new mouthpiece to improve my playing.

If you already own more than five mouthpieces, the problem is not your mouthpiece; it’s most likely you.

Problem #16.

I don’t have enough time to warmup before each job.

Keep an extra mouthpiece in your car and as you drive to the job, start warming up during the drive.

Problem #17.

I have a hard time reading the music.

Suggested reading

Problem #18.

The music sits too low on the music stand for easy reading.

Suggested reading

Problem #19.

My valves seem to be wearing out unevenly.

Suggested reading

Problem #20.

How can I oil my valves while playing a show?

Suggested reading

Problem #21.

I suffer from dry, chapped lips.

Suggested reading

Problem #22.

I need a new plunger.

Suggested reading

Problem #23.

I have this obsession to collect trumpet related material and “things”.

Suggested reading

Problem #24.

I have stiff chops all the time.

Suggested reading

Problem #25.

My trumpet is starting to wear through and I don’t want to spend a lot to fix it.

Suggested reading

Problem #26.

I have a hard time coming in on a high note.

Suggested reading

Problem #27.

I hate the chair I have to sit in on stage.

Suggested reading

Problem #28.

I would like to play a very high note at the end of our show but don’t have the chops.

Suggested reading

Problem #29.

How can I build stronger chops?

Suggested reading

Problem #30.

I have problems doing shakes.

Suggested reading

We could go on like this for several days but if I have not covered what you are troubled with, feel free to contact me on this site and if I don’t know the answer, I’ll make something up.

Later….. I have to find out why the check bounced from my last gig!

The Perfect Lesson Plan #3- High School Player

At this level of development, the expectations and requirements are similar to the Junior High student with a few exceptions. Foremost at this level is the added amount of performing such as in jazz bands, concert bands, marching bands, all-region and all-state tryouts and as well as solo/ensemble performances. At this juncture, the player needs foremost to continue to gain playing techniques as in Junior High but needs additionally to be aware of the condition of his/her lip at all times. Too many players run into lip problems at this level which can easily be avoided. I have listed below a few situations where the player must be aware of and prepare himself/herself for these situations.

Sore lip

If too much mouthpiece pressure is placed on the lip, the player may actually bruise lip tissue which is not helpful when playing your instrument. To make sure that you are not exceeding the normal pressure on your lip, be sure to read the following posts-

How to Identify and Deal with Excessive Mouthpiece Pressure- Part 1


How to Identify and Deal with Excessive Mouthpiece Pressure- Part 2

Stiff lip

This is a very common problem with players for the more they practice, the more the embouchure can gain strength and at the same time lose flexibility. If you are not sure that you are suffering from this problem, the symptoms are these.

1. Airy sound
2. Difficulty with soft dynamics
3. Takes longer to warmup
4. A constant uneasy feel about playing

The solution to your problem may be found here-

How to Combat “Stiff Chops”

Do You Ever Suffer From Stiff Chops? Part #2

Final “Stiff Chops” Post………. (for now.)

Continuing to improve your basic playing ability will be a continuation of the same material suggested in the Junior High Lesson Plan with a couple additions.

Continuing to improve high range

Once you have gained higher notes to your satisfaction, you should now continue to apply the higher range you have gained and to do that, I suggest that you begin playing through etude books which incorporate these higher notes. To do that, I suggest that you move over into some of the better woodwind etude books such as the following

Expanding Your Upper Register

You might be interested in the following melodic material which will improve your practical high range-

Second Book of Practical Studies for Clarinet

Selected Duets for Clarinet Vol. 1

Rose 32 Etudes

Improving Your Sight Reading Ability

Improve Your Sight-reading- On Line

Tips for Improving Your Sight Reading

Developing your Jazz improvisational abilityPatterns for Jazz

Vol. 2, Nothin’ But Blues: Jazz And Rock (Book & CD Set) (Jamey Aebersold Jazz Play- a-Long)

Learning To Transpose

Sachse 100 Studies“>Sachse 100 Studies

The Perfect Lesson Plan #2- Junior High School level player

At this point in your advancement as a trumpet player you should now be able to play with a good tone, know all of the fingerings used on your instrument and have a decent range (a solid A to the C just above the staff) and a reasonable amount of endurance. At this point in your advancement, you will be performing regularly in a large ensemble (usually a concert/marching band) and will be starting to think about performing solos as well as small ensemble music. Within this post I will try to cover some of the more advanced expectations you will be facing and some suggestions as to the material and the implementation of that material in your regular practice sessions.

How much should I be practicing each week?

By now you should feel comfortable practicing an hour a day and again I suggest that you practice six days a week and rest one for the same reason I suggested it for a beginner in our earlier post.

What should I be practicing?

At the Junior High level, you should include the following areas to cover in your practice period-

Warm-up material
Lip flexibility exercises
Scale exercises
Range exercises
Melodic material
Finger exercises
Endurance material
Contest material

Each of these areas should be included in your hour of practicing. I will give some brief ideas as to what and how each of these categories should be implemented.

Warm-up (5 minutes)

Beginning to get your lips working is very important and should take at least five to ten minutes at the beginning of your practice session. Some players find benefit playing long tones, many players feel that slow lip flexibility exercises work the best for them and still others favor pedal tones. Whichever your choice, make sure that you start softly and with short exercises. Be sure to continue the “Rest As Much As You Play” method for this will assure you that your lips will continue to feel good at all times.

Lip Flexability Exercises (5 minutes)

The best book I have ever used for better lip flexibility is this one……. 27 Groups of Exercises by Earl Irons

Be sure to follow the suggested instructions offered in the book. Doing a couple of these exercises each day will help gain better tone as well as lip flexibility. Usually five minutes on these exercises would be enough in each of your practice sessions.

Scale exercises (5 minutes)

The very best book for studying scales would be the Arban Complete Conservatory Method for Trumpet

Every major scale is covered completely with many variations for each key.

Range exercises (5 minutes)

My favorite method would be without question..
Systematic Approach to Daily Practice – Trumpet

Follow the included instructions and be sure to read the opening statements for they are also important to your advancement.

Melodic material (10 minutes)

Included within the pages of the Arban method are many short melodies which will be helpful to develop tone, phrasing, intonation as well as the general control of your instrument.

Finger exercises (5 minutes)

Your development in finger coordination is vitally important for clean and effortless playing. There is no better method on the market than the Clarke Technical Studies

Endurance material (5 minutes)

Again, the Characteristic Studies at the end of the Arban method will be very helpful to increase your endurance. Remember to implement the “Rest as Much As You Play” routine otherwise you will actually decrease your endurance as you practice.

Contest material (10 minutes)

More progress will be made if you isolate one section (8-10 measures) and spend all of your time on that during this period of your practice than to try learning the complete material. Start with the most difficult section (usually it is the darkest area because of the faster note runs). Try to master short sections one at a time and eventually you will be able to put it all together before contest.
The best advice I can give you for truly learning your contest material would be to memorize it! If you dedicate your time in memorizing, you will be better prepared for your performance.
Spending 50 minutes a day adhering to this routine will make you a better player because, like an all inclusive daily vitamin, it has everything in it that you need to advance.

The Perfect Lesson Plan #1 “Absolute Beginner”

When first beginning to play trumpet, your expectations are usually high and the amount of energy spent also indicates your desire to succeed. Unfortunately ones desires and expectations sometimes are higher than ones ability. Too many times we are told, “You can do anything if you try hard enough”, which unfortunately many times is inaccurate. I could try the remainder of my life to be able to fly but “it ain’t going to happen”! Before we begin on your lesson plan, I wanted to say that if you are interested in playing trumpet, I encourage you to begin, and with practice, you will improve. But, if you expect to be an accomplished musician in a short period of time without practicing, you will find that it also “ain’t possible”.

If you are in a school program where you are expected to use a certain book or method, by all means get the material and stay with the assignments your director assigns. Your first responsibility is to your local instructor and any and everything assigned must be practiced and accomplished first before you do any of my assignments.

The best book for beginners I have found is called…….

The Essential Elements For Band, published by Hal Leonard.

The reason I favor this method is that it has an excellent use of assignments augmented with audio files which give the student a fine example to emulate. Following the material within its pages will help you to become an accomplished player. If this is not the same method that you are using in your school, I suggest that you buy a copy of the method listed above and begin working in that one as well as your schools required method book.

The reason I am suggesting that you work out of both methods is that you will always need to follow your band director’s instruction, but working in two methods will only improve your playing. Just remember that your director will be expecting you to learn that material he/she has assigned.


You will be expected to practice regularly and there has never been a pill which would eliminate this chore. Notice that I am neither excited nor overjoyed with practicing. I find it boring and uninteresting, but without this quality time dedicated to my instrument, my ability as a performer is lessened. In other words- “there is no other way to accomplish your goal without practicing”!

How much time should I practice each day?

I would suggest that a beginner practice no more or less than 30 minutes six days a week. Having one day off your instrument is needed in order to keep your interest going and missing one day will not effect your improvement. In fact setting your instrument aside one day a week will help improve your embouchure (lip muscles). Which day you rest is not as important as keeping the same schedule every week. It is much better to rest the same day each week for the consistency of your practice will be better if the resting day is the same each week.
Where should I practice?

Being able to practice in an area where you will not be interrupted or distracted is very important. If you practice in your bedroom, be sure to shut the door to help eliminate disturbances. Your family will appreciate the isolation also.

How should I practice?

Your sitting position is more important than most people think for good posture while you practice will improve many things in your playing. The best advice I can give you is to sit on a straight-backed chair and sit far forward on its seat. This position will automatically position you in a way that will improve your breathing as well as your tone quality.

Be sure to have your music well lit and by all means, use a music stand. Propping your music up on your trumpet case sitting on your bed is not the way to get things done. Use a music stand at all times.

Many students believe that you should practice until you get tired. This is incorrect for you should feel good at all times when you practice as well as when you perform. I have advocated the “Rest As Much As You Play” concept most of my life and still continue to practice it myself. By resting as much as you play, you will be able to cover more material and improve your playing much faster than If you play till it hurts.

If you follow the material in the book which I suggested, you should be able to accomplish a great deal of improvement by the time you complete the method and at that point you will be ready for our next post which covers players at the Junior High level.

I have many posts which will be helpful to you as a beginner on this site and I strongly encourage you to read the following-

The Different Parts of Your Trumpet

Practice- Why

Trumpet Hand Playing Position

Wet or Dry- That is a Question

Good News For Beginning Trumpet Players

Trumpet Fingering Chart

Basic Maintenance Information For Your Trumpet

Trumpet Mouthpiece Placement

Lesson Plans For Those Without An Instructor- Part 1

Finding the Correct Mouthpiece Placement

How A Trumpet Is Made

Start at the top of the list and read one post a day.

Solving your Jazz and Legit Mouthpiece Problems

On one day you are playing Brahms in an orchestra and the next you are playing Kenton in a club and the choice of sound is becoming a problem. One requires a soft and gentile timbre and the other a more edgy tone with an increased high range. One solution would be to change trumpets for each situation but at the cost of instruments today, who has that kind of cash. Another possibility would be to attempt to color your tone with your existing equipment but you will find this is only an act of desperation. This scenario was exactly what I was facing this past year. Performing classical music on the same mouthpiece I was performing our show in Branson was becoming a problem until I remembered my pair of Purviance mouthpieces resting securely in my endless collection of unused mouthpieces.

Switching mouthpieces for some people can be a problem because of the different size of the rim. The rim is the only section of a mouthpiece to contact the lip and because of this fact, changing rim dimensions, to some people is not possible with confidence. Because of this issue, the Purviance mouthpiece manufacturing company decided to offer two very fine mouthpieces with identical rim size and contours to their customers. And this was the beginning of the Purviance 4* and 5* mouthpieces. Each mouthpiece had the same size rims but the cup, shoulder, throat and backbore were different to accommodate two different playing situations; namely orchestral and commercial settings. The 5* produced a darker and more broad sound and the 4* just the opposite; a more edgy and focused tone. The more shallow cup and tighter throat and back bore on the 4* also helped to increase the players upper register required in a more commercial setting.

To some players, switching back and forth from a darker to a brighter mouthpiece may not be an issue, but for those forced to change tone in two different setting, the use of identical rims on two different mouthpieces may be worth looking into.

With the advent of removable rims, came another possibility for comfort in playing and at the same time versatility in unmatched venues.

Shortly after the Purviance (two mouthpieces/ same rim size) offering came the removable rim. Removable rims meant that you could play on exactly the same rim and change the lower section to match the tone and range requirement. This was an even better solution for now you could keep your comfortable rim and change your tone as easily as changing your socks each day. Every mouthpiece manufacturer began offering removable rims in their catalogs and the trend took off like Maynard Ferguson playing “MacArthur Park”. Several of my fellow section players opted for this possibility and have stuck with it throughout their career.

One must face still two more decisions when performing on interchangeable rimed mouthpieces; whether you want your rim plated in silver or gold. This decision is something only the player can make for some players can tell the difference in feel and sound and to others, no difference is recognizable. To me, I can’t tell the difference and go with the silver every time. I will admit that a silver mouthpiece with a gold rim looks “way cool”. Also, people think you must know a lot to have something that different even though most people choose them because they look prettier. Another possibility of rim change would be more radical than just gold or silver. You may opt for a rim fabricated from something other than brass. Rims are offered in nylon, plastic and wood, just to mention a few. The thought of a nylon or plastic rim while performing with the Floyd Warren Orchestra at the Farm Progress Show in the middle of Winter in some unforgiving town in Iowa does sound more appealing to my now that I think back to that miserable job as the snow was blowing around us on a makeshift stage dressed in parkas with wind chill at 10 below zero!

I have reviewed the options of only the changing of rims but to add to the confusion, you also have the choice of changeable rims, cups, throats and backbores. If these weren’t enough choices, realize the possibilities if you wanted nylon rim, stainless cup, wood backbore in silver gold and polyurethane varnish!

No matter which option you decide, the possibility of “same rim/ different playing situation” may be in your future.

Does Anyone Have Some Valve Oil?

Hold on to your spit valve campers!

You choose the tempo and the circus will do the rest.

I had the great honor of performing this march under the direction of Merle Evens many years ago when the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus came to Dallas, Texas for a week.

Mr. Evens was the most famous director of the shows history. I found him to be very laidback and able to stop a story in its middle, direct twenty minutes of music and return to the story without missing a word. Meeting him was as moving to me as meeting and performing under Arron Copland in Davenport, Iowa decades ago.

Merle Evans was born in Columbus, Kansas in 1891. His father was a foreman in a coal mine. He had six siblings. Evans had an early job selling newspapers on corners. He used his cornet to call attention to the headlines. After holding several other jobs, Evans left home and joined the S.W. Brundage Carnival Company as a cornet player. Evans held several other jobs, including as a band director for the Miller Brothers 101 Ranch Wild West Show featuring Buffalo Bill Codey.

Evans was hired as the band director for the newly merged Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in 1919. Evans held this job for fifty years, until his retirement in 1969. He only missed performances due to a musicians union strike in 1942 and the death of his first wife. He wrote eight circus marches, including Symphonia and Fredella.