Warming Up

Warming Up

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Practicing: Sound the Trumpet

I’ve been switching up my practice routine a bit lately. Sometimes I get into ruts. I tend to focus a lot on tone and sound and playing exercises – flexibility, slurs, lip bends, scales, etc. This is all good stuff to do, but I’ve been finding more and more lately that while this kind of practicing helps me keep my trumpet technique in shape, it’s not really helping me on a lot of my gigs. Sure, it’s important to maintain ones chops – range and endurance and basic technique – but I only have so much time each day to practice. Most of the money I make from playing is from private cocktail jazz gigs and from church/wedding gigs. Maybe I should be focusing my practice attention on making my playing in those situations better. Instead of playing tonguing exercise in Arbans, why don’t I make up my own, specifically creating exercises that work on arpeggios or scales that I might use while improvising on a tune. If I’m doing lip bends, why not do them in the form of the triads from the Giant Steps progression? I’m starting to realize that I need to make the most of my practice time to truly get the maximum amount of musical benefit out of the little time that I have. The key for me is going to be, I think, finding the balance of keeping the trumpet maintenance portion of practicing in balance with the music making part of practice (learning tunes, playing etudes, practicing music for upcoming shows/projects). I just discovered a really cool website and iTunes podcast series that’s been giving me some great ideas.

Sound the Trumpet: How to Blow Your Own Horn. There is a ton of info on this site and tons more if you start clicking the links. Chicago-based trumpet player and educator Jonathan Harnum has put together a massive amount of info on his site. And he also created a pretty sweet podcast series on iTunes: Sound the Trumpet: Podcast for Trumpeters. This past weekend I listened to the podcast interviews of jazz trumpeters Avishai Cohen and Ingrid Jensen. Harnum specifically questions these masters on what and how they practice the trumpet. Hearing how these players balance the time they have with what they need to work on has been a big inspiration for me. The Ingrid Jensen interview was particularly enlightening, specifically with regard to her use of a drone in her practicing. She sets up a tanpura drone (but one could use anything to create a drone – or for that matter, another person can create the drone if practicing with someone else) in whatever key and then she practices off of it. Scales or arpeggios or patterns or even progressions with the intent of hearing the actual intervals in relation to the drone note. And the cool thing is that the drone could be the tonic of a chord or it could be the third or the fifth, or whatever. This concept really reminds me a bit of my friend and bandleader Bobby Zankel’s interpretation of Ornette Coleman’s Harmolodics concept. This drone practicing is all about developing the ear. But at the same time you can practice necessary trumpet technique. I just downloaded a free tanpura app from iTunes. I’m going to practice with this tonight to see what kinds of things I can come up with. I might try to keep the drone going and set up a pulse with my metronome and then assign myself a scale to play. Or maybe triads over a partial cycle of fourths.

The possibilities are endless. And this is really the key to practicing. There is so much to learn and the journey is such an individual one. We have to make the most of what we have. A quote from Jensen’s interview sums it up nicely:

“Really get it together as it’s supposed to go, but also explore with it; take it down the road, take it for a walk around the block, climb to the top of a building and come back down with it, and then come back and play it exactly as it’s supposed to be as well.
There is no end point. The more you learn, the more that you find out there is to learn.”

I’m excited to explore my practicing more. I always enjoy playing but I’m going to try, or rather allow myself
to make the most of it. Check out this site and the podcast. Great stuff!

No comments:

Post a Comment