Playing Tips


posted 2 Sep 2011, 13:23 by Unknown user   [ updated 17 Sep 2013, 09:24 by Andy Wyatt ]


The practice room is the place where we really get to know our instruments, we also get to push our limitations and develop the skills to tackle new playing projects. When people discuss how much time should be spent practicing they are effectively putting the cart in front of the horse. Quality is much more important that quantity. Five hours practicing with the T.V on in the background and whilst trying to show off to anyone who’ll listen, is merely five hours of teaching your body how not to play! It’d be much better to do 30 minutes of focussed, planned practice making your best sound.

However, why leave it there? Why not do five hours focussed practice if you have the time and opportunity? The more you do, the more you can do, it’s a simple equation. I’d like to discuss an approach to practice that can be used to keep interest levels high and to mark progress. This approach is only linked with technique practice, time must also be allowed for warm ups, practice of music and warm downs as well.

Practicing technique

Start by writing down all the different aspects of technique that can go into playing. For a simple starter list you could just have - long notes, finger drills, lip flexibilities and single tongue. Later you could add high register, low register, loud playing, quiet playing, double tongue, triple tongue, transposition, sight reading etc. Take the time you have allotted for technique practice and divide it by the amount of categories you have, then set the timer. This is the important part, stick rigidly to the timer, don’t stop till it goes off, but don’t carry on afterwards, no matter how ‘into’ your exercise you are, move onto the next area. As time progresses you will be able to add more categories and spend more time on each one as you gain strength.

A few pointers, firstly, slow and steady ALWAYS wins the race. It’s better for something to be perfect and slow, than rushed and wrong. Also, always consider your sound with every exercise, if you can sound good while practicing fast lip slurs then you can sound good on a lyrical phrase. Finally, don’t practice to fatigue. The more you push yourself after the point of no return, the more you’ll pay the next day.

Practice can be fun, if you work in easily managed sections and can mark progress daily. All the skills you build up through technical practice will help you play harder and more demanding pieces and will make the pieces you’re already playing easier.



posted 2 Sep 2011, 13:01 by Unknown user   [ updated 12 Sep 2013, 03:34 by Andy Wyatt ]


Breathing is one the most important and fundamental things we do on a brass instrument, yet, because we breathe everyday subconsciously it is one aspect many players fail to work on. How many times have you heard the sayings “I’m having a bad chops day” or “I just can’t play for long enough, my lips aren’t that strong”. Our lips are only two flaps of skin that vibrate when air flows over them, without air they do nothing. The more we work our air the less our lips have to pick up the slack and so we can play for longer, with more control and more power!

I am very aware that there are many resources on the internet, in DVDs and in books which focus on breathing, and I see no point in trying to summarise them all here. All I wish to do it raise awareness to players and maybe give a few pointers. With my pupils, after only a few lesson focussing on the breath, their sound opens up, and they immediately show an improvement with every aspect of playing.

The key aspect with breathing (as with so many sections connected with playing) is the duality it demands. We must take in air to capacity sometimes which is a physically demanding act, and yet remain relaxed. Tension created on the intake or expelling of air will translate to tension in your sound! So, it is our job in the practice room to rehearse that action, increasing our volume of flow, while remaining relaxed and flexible.

The first step is to make sure you have an open throat, I recommend saying the word ‘hor’ as you inhale, this opens the throat and helps the air to flood the lungs. If you haven’t really focussed on breathing before I recommend starting with ‘stretching the lungs’. This is more linked with stretching the concept in our brain of how much we can inhale. Take a full breath in, then sip 5-6 more breaths on top, notice how much more we can fit in! Then blow out in a relaxed fashion. Repeat only once or twice with this exercise, otherwise you risk hyperventilation!

Once you realise just how much you can fill your lungs with I recommend looking at the flow of your air. This helps us to control our air both on the way in and out. Start by breathing over 4 beats in, followed by four beats out. Breathe in to full capacity and out to completely empty each time. Once you are happy with this start experimenting, see how many beats you can breathe out for, how short a breathe in you can take in etc.

I obsessed over the concept of breathing linked with playing for many years and have read a lot about the topic. There is no need for you to go this far, but a little practice away from your instrument will show immediate benefits and will make playing a lot easier.

Finally, remember to link your breath out with the type of playing you are doing. Don’t always try and use the most amount of air, as you will constantly play too loud, similarly don’t always breathe to capacity, just focus on relaxation, deep breaths and see the huge difference it will make!

If you have any questions or ideas for new ‘tips’ to be put up please contact me through the site.


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