Whether you play trumpet, trombone, French horn, or any other brass instrument, there are several key factors to improving. Development of tone, technical facility and embouchure are important components. All of these areas will improve if you develop endurance.
The Mechanics of Developing Endurance
Developing endurance is nothing more than developing the ability to play your instrument while maintaining proper technique for an extended period of time. As many beginners know, practicing can be very tiring when you are first learning to play. Your embouchure gets “soft” after a while and it becomes almost impossible to play any longer. Extending your practice sessions beyond fatigue can not only lead to sloppy technique, it can also blow out your chops, which can keep you from practicing for an extended period of time.
Developing proper technique and endurance should be thought of in terms of training for a marathon. You push it a little farther every day until you can make the full distance. You have to work on developing the muscles of your face and your diaphragm. You can do this by working slowly over an extended period of time, all while maintaining proper technique.
Many players benefit from finding and working with a good private teacher. A great instructor will be able to offer direction and trumpet endurance tips to develop proper technique. It is also crucial to have a teacher who is able to critique and monitor your playing until you’ve developed good technique. Bad habits learned at this stage in your development will be difficult to break and can form future roadblocks to your development down the road.
Basic Trumpet Endurance Tips and Exercises
Here are a few tips and exercises to get you started developing your endurance.
• Buzzing is a great warm up and a good way to build up your chops without needing your instrument. Buzz your lips as if you were playing. Change the tension of your lips as you would when playing harmonic notes. Take a slight break every few minutes for rest.
• Do the same buzzing exercise, only this time into your mouthpiece, still no horn. Same sequence, taking a short break every few minutes.
• Play an easy note and sustain the sound for as long as you can. If you have a metronome (and you should), set it to a quarter note = 60bpm. Each beat is one second; count and keep track of how long you can sustain the note. Strive to add one second per day. Do this exercise on several notes, with a break in between each.
• Practice lip slurs. Start with the valves open, and play G to low C, then cycle back to G, then to C, and continuing. Start with quarter notes and slowly increase your speed until you can play 16th notes. Then cycle through the valves; repeat the exercise down a half step using the harmonics with the second valve, then the first valve, etc. This will help train your muscles to make rapid subtle embouchure changes, as well as build breath endurance.
• Learn, memorize and practice your scales. Working on scales will not only develop your ear, breathing and embouchure, it can help you significantly extend your endurance.
• Play as softly as possible. After your warm-up exercises, continue your practice as softly as possible. Practicing softer notes will force you to focus on your lip aperture. This will help you develop your embouchure and make it easier to expand your range. Start this exercise with scales, and as you become more confident, introduce more technically-challenging exercises into your routine.
These are just a few exercises to help you get started. There are many endurance exercises readily available on the Internet. If you do have a private instructor, work with them; ask for trumpet endurance tips and etudes. Developing your endurance is one of the first steps toward mastery of your instrument!
Photo by Frederick Noronha