Asked and Answered

Someone wrote in with a few questions based on my earlier post about routine (here), and I thought I'd share my response with everybody. Here you go!

Q: Can you suggest some exercises or routines for the following? Playing on a horizontal airstream?

A. When it comes to thinking horizontally, I find that the old Stamp idea of thinking up as you go down and down as you go up is right on the money, and I've got a few tools I like to use to work on that. In my fundamental practice I like to find exercises that I can invert the shape of, and end up with a pair of matching exercises. I then try to play one while thinking very clearly of the other in my head. For example, the following pair of exercises:

The goal of all this is to keep everything right at eye level, never feeling the need to reach up or down. Either a strict inversion of an exercise or just finding something with a reverse contour can be helpful. Intervallic passages can often end up with an opposite shape by displacing some notes by octaves. 


A. Range is a byproduct of quality sound production. If your best sound consistently tops out at a high B-flat but you can squeak out a high F, you should spend your time figuring out what you need to do to play a great-sounding B-natural. When you get your sound production really dialled in, range will follow along with endurance.

Q:...More clarity in articulation?

A. Articulation is about two separate components, sound production and the tongue. Clarity problems can result when either isn't working properly, or when the two aren't coordinated. Is your tongue interrupting the airstream cleanly and consistently? Perhaps your notes just aren't responding how you want them to? Or maybe it just sounds messy and everything is fine when you break it down into components? All of those scenarios mean something different is the trouble. When you can diagnose the specific cause of the problem you know what to focus on.

Q:...Maximize my practicing with limited time?

A. With limited time to practice, having a clear plan and discipline is the way to make progress. If you need to get as specific as breaking your 25 available minutes for the first session of the day into 5 minutes of buzzing, 10 minutes of sound production on the horn, 5 minutes of flexibility, and 5 minutes of articulation, commit to that and keep your eyes on the clock to keep yourself honest. It's amazing what you can get done when you actually stay on task! With limited time to practice there's no reason not to have very intense practice sessions that contain very little rest, you'll have lots of time before your next session to recover.


Hope that's helpful to some of you. Feel free to write in with any other questions, I'll be happy to tell you what I think!