This week's blog is shorter and is pretty much anecdotal about my experience in practicing and working as a trumpeter. This will also be a shorter blog than my usual article.
I have had friends who play and work hard call me or reach out electronically about how to deal with challenging gigs - gigs or extended engagements that tax their chops to extremes. The concern is how to survive without beating their chops any more. Typically the concern is how can they reasonably practice when they have to work so hard. They want to keep the progressive efforts up abut are afraid of how their chops will react. Well, I have a couple of techniques I use. I'll outline one here.
I will often practice flugelhorn on off days after a string of brutal gigs. I use a huge mouthpiece on flugelhorn with a French horn style cup and at least that deep. This allows me to play very quietly with a smooth sound. There is absolutely NO temptation to bring any sort of sizzle to the game as the mouthpiece and horn just preclude that possibility.
I also avoid playing anything high. In fact, on days when I practice like this, I never play anything above a high C. Some folks who are newer to the extreme trumpet game might feel a little anxiety over not practicing your high notes on any given day. Let me assure you that you can let that thinking go. Simply taking it easy on the loud high stuff on days like this is not going to coast you any range. In fact, practicing on flugel and keeping it all low and quiet can enhance your range!
On your flugel light days, keep as much of your practice as possible very quiet. I often practice on the threshold of break up - so quiet the notes are on the verge of dropping out. I bring the volume up only enough to stay on top of that threshold.
I also fragment my practice even more than usual. Typically I practice in about 20 minute segments maybe 30, if the stretch is particularly easy on the chops, but NEVER more than that. Well, on my flugel days, I might keep it down to 10 to 15 minute segments.
Practicing this way will NEVER wear your chops down. If you are feeling a little banged up from a rough gig the night before, this will help things just feel a lot better.
Next, the bigger flugel mouthpiece will allow you to smooth out your sound after a rough gig. Sometimes I feel like I sound a little harsh after a tough performance. So, the flugelhorn approach really helps me settle that all down.
So, in conclusion on this shorter blog, if you are looking for a way to practice during a tough gig cycle, just play flugel and keep it all on the down low. Try it!
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