How much and what to practice are questions that all trumpeters face. Of course, there is no one answer to either question that is appropriate for all players. Beginners, whether youngsters or adults, are often well served by a half hour per day using an all-inclusive method book. Intermediate players will find that while that half hour is sufficient to maintain skills, an hour, plus or minus, is needed for improvement. College music major trumpeters, preparing for professional careers, should expect to put in two to three hours a day, while professionals often agree that “an hour a day is maintenance time.” (Do the right things in the right way for an hour each day and all essential skills at that level can be kept up.)
Whatever the time frame, it is useful to approach it with a plan in mind. A plan can help you avoid spending all of your time on one or two items while neglecting the rest. What might that plan look like?
Let’s say that an intermediate level avocational player is able to spend one hour a day in practice, and hopes to improve skills (as well as have fun). That hour should start with a warm up period of perhaps 15 minutes followed by five minutes of rest; technical practice (scales, arpeggios, fingers, tonguing, lip slurs) for about 10 minutes and then five minutes of rest; lyrical and technical etudes for 10 then five minutes of rest; and finally ten minutes of solos, favorite tunes, band parts, improvisation, etc. The resting is important, and you can make it doubly so by using that time for ear training, singing, silent fingering, keyboard skills, a little qi gong or yoga, breathing, listening to music, looking at something beautiful – you get the idea.
Here are a few final thoughts. More frequent, shorter practice sessions are usually more effective than longer, less frequent ones. Don’t be afraid to do two half hour sessions per day! And for sure, half an hour each day for six days is way better than three hours one day and nothing for five. Naturally, some avocational players will find that they have less available trumpet time on some days and more on others. If all you have time for on any given day is a short warm up, be sure to do it. Play the trumpet some, every single day.
In future articles we’ll unpack issues around specific practice skills for improvement, materials to use, and the warm up. Meanwhile, see you in Lubec! Bob Stibler