Two simple but highly effective breathing exercises for brass players

As I have written before, brass playing is not about using a lot of power and forcing your lips to vibrate by compressing as much air through your system as possible. It is all about finding the most relaxed way to move a lot of air through your instrument, while keeping your (correct) embouchure in place. These simple exercises should point you in that direction.

The breathing exercises

The two breathing exercises described in the video below are great for brass players. They will help you open up your throat for free air flow, as well as relax your upper body for a more optimal breathing.

The first one described in the video is the Breath Of Fire (go find your inner dragon), and it is a great way to kick start your breathing before playing.

The Root Lock is a tremendeous way to release tensions in your abdominal region. It might make you feel a bit light headed since you force some extra oxygen to your brain, so don´t overdo it. Deep sighs have a similar effect, but I don´t find it quite as effective as the root lock. A good fast fix though.

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    Trombone lesson: focused practicing in 7 steps

    Practicing with a wandering mind
    I don´t know about you, but my mind tends to take a stroll during my trombone practicing. I have surrendered to the fact that I will walk around the room while playing, that´s ok, but not being focused on the task mentally is worse. This post is not about cleaning your mind, meditation, finding your inner zen or other new age-ish approaches.

    Solutions
    My best solution is to plan what you will work on, and stick to that until you got it down. Don not try to cover all fields of trombone playing; scales, etudes, legato, flexibility, long notes, short notes, high notes, low notes, green notes, slide bending, trombone case remodeling, mouthpiece disinfection… Choose one or two focus areas, and find some suitable exercises (preferably some that you can not play properly already) and stick with that until it works. Of course you should work on general trombone playing as well, warming up properly, and make sure that Continue reading

      Trombone lesson: Tongueing – Tuh or Tut?


      How to improve your trombone playing with 5 minutes of theory (and a lot more practice…)
      or
      The only way to get to the next level of brass playing
      or
      Get that music-school-trombone-sound out of my life!!!
      or
      The truth about one of the worst and most common bad habits among brass players

      Are you convinced that you continue reading this? Good, then let us get down to business! This post is about attack and tonguing for trombone players and ALL other brass players. This post is about how to discover one of the most common bad habits among brass players – and more important – how to get rid of it. Continue reading

        trombone lesson: Improvisation as a daily routine

        It does´t matter if you are a jazz or classical player, you still want to make music. And you should still make music in your practice room. A really good way to get some music into your daily routine at an early stage, is to play some free improvisation. Again, it does not matter what genre you play, as a matter of fact, if you are a non-improviser I would say that this tip is even more important!

        Here is what I want you to do:
        Find a simple warm up exercise and play it for a few minutes, just to get some air through the horn. Then you play a totally free improvisation for five minutes. Just play, and see where it takes you! Don´t worry about stiff lips, bad sound ore any other detail that probably would distract you if you where playing your standard 4 pages of flexibility exercises.

        “But I have never learned how to improvise!” No problem. Here is the key: Continue reading

          Trombone lesson: Dynamic versus static practicing

          Ask a trumpet player if he would rather play the lead part of Thad Jones´ ballad To You twice in a row, or have a sex change surgery! This tune is a great example on demanding static playing – lots of long, soft notes and few breaks to relax the lips.

          When practicing a brass instrument, I make the distinction between static and dynamic exercises. Static exercices are based on long notes and slow legato lines with the lips constantly vibrating. This slowly build up lactic acid in the muscles controlling the lips, and make them stiff and numb. Dynamic exercices at the other hand, are built up around shorter notes, variation, staccato phrases and more space between the notes. Continue reading

            Trombone lesson: Save chops!

            You might know the feeling, playing all those scale patterns one half tone up at the time… Seven keys to go ands the lips already feel as flexible as a train rail track!

            There are lots of exercises where you gradually expand the range, and end up playing in either the extreme high or low register. I will give you a little but effective tip how to get the most out of those exercises, without busting your chops.

            Expand from the middle
            The solution is simple, make sure that you start in the middle range, and work your way both up and down from there. Mixing high and low range both save chops, and helps you to play with the same embouchure in all registers. This mouthpiece exercise works this way. Continue reading