Category Archives: Trumpet for Beginners

Practice- When?


What difference does it make when you practice? That is a very good question for little has been written on this subject. I will share some of my feelings on this in hopes that you can gain some insight into the affects of practicing at various times throughout the day.

What is the best time of the day to start practicing?

The best time of the day to start practicing is early in the morning. Your schedule will dictate if this is possible but if scheduling is not an issue and you could plan out your whole day around practicing, I would suggest that after your shower and breakfast, you should start your practice for the day.
Why is it better to start practicing early in the morning?

Repetitious actions such as warming up are much easier when you’re half asleep in the same way brushing your teeth in the morning is something we do but really never think about. I’m not saying that your warm up is not important but that chore does not require any more concentration than the every day act of brushing your teeth.

Is one practice session better than multiple sessions?

If you have only one period in the day to practice, that would be the best for you. If you are able to break up your practice into several periods, that would be better. It has been proven that most people can only fully concentrate for twenty minutes at a time. Because this is true, it would be more effective to break your practice sessions into twenty to thirty minute segments. You will be able to accomplish much more in this manner than you would if you practiced for a longer period.

What disadvantage is there to breaking the practice sessions into several twenty to thirty minute segments?

One big problem with multiple practice periods is the fact that many times we start the day with good intentions but because of conflicts and unseen distractions, we many times do not get back to practice the additional material. And for most players, after working all day at their jobs, be it school or work, they are more tired at the end of the day and our productivity and energy is at a lower level.

Can I practice at night?

Of course you can. If this is the only time in your daily schedule that you can devote to your instrument, that is what you should do. Practicing in the evening can be very relaxing after a busy day and I encourage you to do so. There are some issues which you should consider when practicing in the evening.

• Melodic playing is more pleasant to perform when you’re tired.
• Technical passages are more demanding and require more concentration.
• When the body is tired, your endurance will drain faster.
• High range playing can many times require more effort when you’re tired.
• Concentrating on finger exercises can be helpful.
• Before beginning your practice, do some deep breathing exercises to help you wake up.

When I’m away from my horn, is there anything I can do during the day to practice?

There are several things you can do during the day which will benefit your playing.

• Keep an extra mouthpiece in your car so when you drive down the road, you can practice buzzing.
• In addition to the practice on your mouthpiece you can also practice buzzing without the mouthpiece.
• Buzzing with and without the mouthpiece is also great practice for developing better intonation for if you are able to buzz a recognizable melody, you will be improving your intonation ability.
• Buzzing lip flexibility exercises work the embouchure in the same way that playing on the instrument does.

What would be an ideal schedule for each day of practicing?

That would totally depend on the individual. I have found for me that this works best-

• Mouthpiece warm-up after breakfast (twenty- thirty minutes)
• Arpeggio Studies (twenty- thirty minutes)
• Lip flexibility exercises (twenty- thirty minutes)
• Valve work (twenty- thirty minutes)
• Range and interval studies (twenty- thirty minutes)
• Melodic studies (twenty- thirty minutes)

Our next post will get down to the final issue of what material needs to be practiced on a daily basis.

Practice- Why


Why do we practice?

We practice to get better.

Why do we have to practice?

We don’t but if we didn’t we would not be pleased with our performances.

Why are we concerned about our performances?

We are motivated by pride, or fear of embarrassment.

Some people do not practice because of their lack of pride or share an attitude that playing poorly is not all that important to them. To the rest of us, we are driven to prove our value in music and because of this pride; we are determined to spend many hours alone in a practice room. There will always be C grade students, content to “just pass” each course. Their interests may be in sports, auto shop repair or any other life goals but to a musician, our focus is in the direction of music and music is not the easiest art form to achieve.

So why are we compelled to beat ourselves up behind the music stand. To perform well on any instrument requires training of many parts of our body and mind. To depress the trumpet valves in a coordinated fashion at the correct instant requires muscle coordination, speed, strength and timing. In order to hit the correct pitch requires the exact tension in the embouchure as well as the correct position of the tongue and jaw as well as the proper amount of air with the correct amount of force. All of these adjustments must also happen in a combined way in order to play just one note.

In many occupations, the coordination of so many elements is not required. For a carpenter to drive a nail into a board, only the muscles in one arm and hand plus the visual measurement from the hammer head to the nail is required. To replace a spark plug, the mechanic is required to cover the plug with the proper socket and turn counter clock wise with the handle. I do not mean to minimize the talents of either a carpenter or a auto mechanic but when speaking of muscle, eye, coordination, a musician is faced with a much more complex situation

Coordination, speed and strength of our body requires repetition in order to be certain that we will have the ability to achieve each task in performing our parts. These elements can only be improved through regular repetition and we achieve these abilities through regular practice. We learn to control our air and embouchure through slurring exercises. We learn to move our fingers in a coordinated fashion through finger exercises. The ability to read new music is developed through sight and past images of notes and endurance can only be improved through progressive studies which increase our muscle tone.

To my knowledge, there is no pill you can take to become a better performer. There is no mantra you can chant which will make you a better player. There is no fountain of youth or any other magic potion which can be substituted for regular practice. If there were, I would be the first in line to get started. I hate practicing but the alternative is not worth the pain and embarrassment. I am a musician and I will continue to pound away my hour a day until someone comes up with an alternative.

Now that we have addressed the issue of why we practice, we will address the more practical issue of practicing which is when to practice and what to practice.

Practice- Why, When and What?


One of the most distasteful and laborious chores I endure each day is practice. Whether you play a trumpet, trombone or the kazoo, we are all faced with this task if we want to improve or even retain what abilities we have.

If you have ever been out for sports, you will remember those early morning routines on the track or the warm-ups you religiously participated in on the baseball field, football field or tennis court. When participating in sports, whether high school, recreation department teams or in a foursome on the golf course, you were motivated by the people around you. Your coach was there to make sure you were at the field on time. Your basketball team was there to join you in practice sessions. Your usual foursome was there to encourage you on your next putt. Through all of these practice sessions you were given support and that support made the practice session all that more easy to get through.

Now you are expected to practice on your own with your instrument in order to improve your art. Practicing an instrument is like shooting free throws with no one there to feed the ball back to you and that is the reason most of us have a hard time getting the instrument out of its case every day. Friendly encouragements on the field will make your work a little easier than if you were alone. Seeing your friends working hard during a practice session helped you go that extra mile. This is not the case in a practice room when you are alone. Whether you are a student in high school, college or a musician playing regularly in shows, the motivation needed to spend countless hours practicing your instrument is not easy. It isn’t easy for me either, but it is one of the unchanging facts in life- “If you don’t practice, you don’t get better”.

In this series, I will try to address several issues related to regular practice and it is my wish that some of this information will help you in your efforts to practice and improve on your instrument.

My next post will address the issue of “Why do we need to practice”. The next will cover a seldom motioned topic, “When is the best time to practice”, and the last will deal with “What you should cover during your practice session”.

Can I Play Cornet Solos On My Trumpet?

Of course you can. And you could hunt elephants with a 22 caliber rifle also, but I wouldn’t recommend either.

How are cornet solos different from trumpet solos?

Literature which has been written especially to be performed on a cornet usually follows these characteristics-

• Melodies are most often very lyrical and smooth.
• Traditionally more vibrato is used in cornet solos.
• Cornet solos many times have drastic tempo changes with grandiose retards and sudden accelerandi.
• The cornet solo gives more liberties in the musical interpretation than in the trumpet literature.
• Most cornet solos draw from a more romantic period.
• Dynamics tend to be on the softer side when compared to the trumpet literature.
• Many of the cornet solos were written in a Theme and Variation form which illustrates the many subtle effects capable when playing a cornet.
• Even when double and triple tonguing during a solo, the cornet retains its smooth and connected tonguing style.
• The cornet exemplifies the extremes in playing, i.e. soft-loud, fast-slow and lyric-bombastic.

Who should I listen to in order to understand how to play cornet solos correctly?

There are many recordings available of previous and current cornet players but if you really want to understand the fine art of cornet playing, I would recommend that you visit this site The James F. Burke Tribute Page for not only will you be able to hear wonderful examples of cornet playing, you will also be able to learn everything you need to know about one of the modern greats of the instrument, James Burke 1943-1974).