Whether you are a performer or a student, summer is often a time to recharge the batteries and get some time off the instrument so we can come back refreshed and ready to perform. As good as our intentions are many of us do come back to work after a long break with “summer chops.” Here are a few pointers to help ease back into the routine of practicing 2-3 hours a day and having to make it through fatiguing rehearsals.
Start slow. One of the hardest things about not being in shape is that you want to be in shape right away. It may feel pretty good for the first few days of playing regularly but the crash is sure to come. Keep at it. You may want to adjust your routine so that it is shorter; the idea is to keep from getting frustrated while still focusing on everything you need to get back in shape.
Stick to a routine. To ensure the fastest way back to top form the consistency of a routine is extremely important. It should include 1) breathing, 2) long tones, 3) lip slurs and 4) scales and Clarke studies incorporating articulations including double tonguing and triple tonguing. Spending about 5 minutes on each part of this routine will make a nice 30 minute warm-up if you rest a little between parts.
Rest. This is not always easy to incorporate into a busy schedule but practicing in 20-30 minute chunks is the best way to build strength, especially after some time off the horn.
Long-Tones. These are an excellent way to build strength. The best long-tone aid I have come across is Walter White’s “Long-tone Accompaniment” (which you can buy here http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/walterwhite2 ). Listening to the cd while playing long-tones keeps you focused and relaxed and playing as suggested in the cd explanation builds in rest and helps develop breath control. This is an excellent tool.
5. Focus on basics. Do not try to take on the Tomasi Trumpet Concerto in you first lesson. Go back to basics with your teacher. Revisit your routine and talk about how to build one that will better suit your needs as a player. Go back to breathing and relaxation. Use some simple etude books to give you playing time where you can really focus on these basic elements. Getchell/Hovel “Practical Etudes” is an excellent start.
6. Seize the opportunity. Use this state of being to become the player you always wanted to be. Start from scratch; leave those old habits behind.
Keep it up, be patient and make sure to rest. It will take time but taking it slow is well worth it.
Shawn Spicer is principal trumpet of Orchestra London Canada and teaches trumpet at the University of Western Ontario. He has performed with True North Brass on a number of occasions, most recently our performances in Toronto, Penticton and Haliburton.