Endurance Issue?

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by cmathis, Aug 19, 2010.

  1. cmathis

    cmathis New Friend

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    Aug 19, 2010
    I'm currently practicing to get ready for drum corps, but I'm having a bit of a problem.

    (I got braces off about 3 years ago, and since then I've practiced on and off, sometimes for a few months before stopping. I've only just recently become serious again about my playing.)

    I'll be playing along fine, then only about 5 lines down in whatever I'm playing (Cascades by Allen Vizzutti is one piece), my lips will start to feel tired and my notes all become fuzzy and airy, and it becomes harder to play the high-ish notes (G on top of staff). If I take my mouthpiece (Schilke 16C2) off my lips for even 30 seconds and then put it back, I can again play a few lines, and the problem will then happen all over again. Is this just a sign that my endurance needs working-on? Can you give me any excersises to practice that will help correct this problem? Thanks a lot!!
     
  2. Scatmanblues

    Scatmanblues Pianissimo User

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    First, you are to be commended for beginning to prepare for drum corps tryouts and the season NOW rather than in a couple of months. It doesn't sound like you've already got a regular routine developed yet, so you have some time to establish one.

    Second, what are your goals for drum corps? Do you want to make a lower part at a top corps, try for a top spot in a smaller corps, or something else? I'll be honest, if you aren't disciplined enough to already be practicing with a purpose for several solid years you're not going to have a shot at lead in any of the upper-tier drum corps.

    Finally, what's your experience with marching and with drum corps in general? Both of those things also play a big part in what you should focus on and what your potential is for the horn lines to try out for and that you'll have a shot with.

    Those things said, there are some things you should be doing regardless of which corps or part in the horn line you want.

    1. Marching fundamentals. PERIOD. If you can't march and produce a quality sound, you'll be in a lot of trouble in drum corps. If you are just starting out in a small corps, they will teach you much of what you need to know and the standard will not be too high. If you want into a top-tier corps you'll need to come in with well-established fundamentals. Either way, you should be working now on flexibility, core strength, eliminating bounce in your marching stride, and overall posture and fluidity. The best way to prepare is to find someone who has marched in the corps you want to join and ask for their help in how to march and what to work on. Ask them to watch you march and offer critiques or ideas. You should be practicing marching fundamentals every day. They have to be learned and become automatic just like having your scales under your fingers and your music well-memorized for the show. Whatever you do, don't try to learn marching fundamentals on your own. If you don't have a lot of marching experience or don't have someone around who can offer INFORMED feedback, then just work on marching in a straight line, stretching, and building a strong core and let the corps you try out for fine-tune your approach.

    2. Endurance comes with regular, disciplined practice. Your description of how you tire makes it sound like you are practicing too hard and with material that is too difficult for you. When I was preparing for drum corps, my lesson instructor had me playing articulation exercises and lip flexibilities at low volume almost all the time. We rarely played loud or went above the staff. And we rested as much as we played. There are some really good threads on here about building a strong embouchure, and I recommend you give them a look.

    3. Breath control is something you will need to develop as well. Marching is a cardiovascular workout with a difficult and delicate activity (playing a horn well) put on top. If you are not strong in the core (abs, back, and upper leg muscles) you'll not be able to march and play well no matter how much endurance you have.

    In addition, you need to learn to support and control your air supply while moving. The exercise we used for that was to breathe in and out according to steps. So, say you are walking down the hall at school. Inhale a deep, full breath for 8 steps, then let it out in a steady blow for 8 steps. At the end of the exhale the goal is to have NO air left in the lungs. Repeat that until you can maintain a constant air flow across the entire 8 counts of the exhale (without tensing or closing off the throat). Then, do the same, but only inhale for 4 steps. Then 2. Then, finally, take a deep breath in 1 step and exhale for 8 with a steady and strong flow. Once you've mastered the 8 step exhale, do the same progression of breathing exercises with a 12 step exhale, and finally a 16 step exhale. If you're really good, you can do that while jogging (we used to run a mile a day taking timed breaths). The progression of breathing exercises can also be done while sitting or laying in bed at night (its a great way to relax -I still use it when I have trouble going to sleep).

    I explained more details in the "Marching band woes" thread you can look at too.

    Good luck,

    Scatmanblues
     
  3. cmathis

    cmathis New Friend

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    Aug 19, 2010
    Well, I DO have a routine developed with breathing (Breathing Gym), mouthpiece buzzing (mainly slurs with keyboard accompaniment), Clarke, tonguing, stuff like that, but sticking to it is just hard for me. I lose interest when playing repetitive stuff like that for more than a few days. I guess I need to just get past myself and stick to it.

    This year, I'm going for Crown as my main corps, with Boston as my fallback. (Would you consider them a lower corps?) I know I more than likely won't make a lead spot, but I couldn't care less about that. I just want to march... badly.

    I have been practicing with drum corps in mind since I got my braces off, but my 1-2 months off here and there (not TOO frequent) haven't really helped. I've never thought I was ready, so I never actually tried out. That's my fault, as I'll never KNOW if I'll make it until I actually try. "You're always your harshest critic." But saying this, I do believe it is a possibility for me to make a lead spot in one of the three years I have left to march.

    I have no experience in drum corps, but I do in marching band. Not bragging here, just being honest:

    Everyone in my band looked up to me as an example of how to march and play. Even the teachers asked me how to do certain things sometimes.

    The Breathing Gym focuses on this A LOT, so I'm pretty good in this area.

    Also, I've started running here within the past 1-2 months and am now up to about 3 miles/day. I've done SOME breathing exercises while running, but I will definitely start doing some more with a purpose. I didn't even think about it having a large effect like that... Duh.

     
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2010
  4. Scatmanblues

    Scatmanblues Pianissimo User

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    It's not a routine if you don't do it. Routine means its a habit -something you do all the time. You've listed the things you would do DURING your routine. The short answer is yes, you do just have to stick it out. When I marched corps we spent 4-6 hours a day doing nothing but marching fundamentals and playing warm-ups. Is it always fun, of course not. Is it how you get better, absolutely. If repetition bores you (and I can relate) mix up the exercises, use etudes as vehicles for practicing fundamentals, play with a keyboard backing rhythm to work time awareness, or come up with games or challenges to play with yourself. For example, set a goal and compete to get it. Let's say its playing all 12 major scales without a mistake on the first attempt. If you do it, you get $5 to eat out with. If you don't, you have to give the $5 to your sister. Then, put her in charge of judging...hehe.


    In that case, you have some wiggle room. You appreciate what a realistic goal is, and it is attainable. Too often, people with no credible experience think they'll make lead with Phantom or Cadets in their first season and then get discouraged when it doesn't happen. If you are happy marching in the middle or bottom half of a section, you can make almost any corps outside of the top ten with hard work.

    Just do it. Prepare well, play and march your best at the tryout, and be honest about your experience level. No matter what kind of bravado comes out of someone's mouth, it's obvious within 10 seconds of the first note or first steps if they can't walk the walk. You don't want to be that guy. They'll not hold not having polished skills against you, but they will notice if you come in out of shape, unprepared, or without having looked at the tryout materials.

    Most corps (outside the top ten) don't expect a first time marcher to come in with perfect or even average fundamentals. As long as you have a minimum of skill, are eager to learn and responsive to instruction, and have a good attitude about the demands of being in a drum corps you'll make a horn line somewhere. Smaller and local corps are used to developing marchers and musicians throughout the season, and some even function like minor league "farm clubs" for the larger, top-tier corps.



    In the context of the rest of your posts I recognize you aren't being cocky. Just recognize that only the most passionate of marching band nerds try out for and volunteer to march drum corps so when you get to the tryout, guess what? You're just like everyone else there. It won't be something that sets you apart so much as its just something that is assumed about the types of people who try out for a drum corps.


    One last detail about drum corps that I think pertains here, and which I hope will put you a little more at ease. Drum corps (in the majority of cases) are not full of astounding technical musicians who can play circles around a flitting bumblebee. If you are a solid high school player with a strong embouchure you can handle the book in a drum corps (excepting most lead and solo parts). Only in the top 10 or so corps is the musical and playing skill at a high collegiate level. Most corps play at the level of a good high school band, but just spend more time polishing and refining the final product to make a better show by the end of the season. Don't psych yourself out that your playing isn't the best. More important is being able to play well enough while marching to hit the part -and they'll spend a whole spring and summer getting you there.

    Scatmanblues
     
  5. cmathis

    cmathis New Friend

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    Aug 19, 2010
    Scatmanblues, you have been INCREDIBLY helpful with your posts. Crown just recently placed 4th this year after a 2nd place finish last year (highest ever for them), and Boston just placed 9th, so I think I'll focus mainly on making Boston this year and then Crown the next two. If you were to listen to Boston's brass, you could definitely tell they are not full of "astounding technical musicians." Some may be, yes, but the majority are not.

    Regardless, I will now make my list of "things i would do in my routine" a routine, and stick to it. When I begin to notice improvements in my playing, then I will begin to focus more on my actual audition pieces. You know? I've kind of had it backwards. If I just keep working on the pieces now with no technical exercises, I'll never be able to play them very good. If I work mainly on technical exercises and focus less on my music until my playing improves, I will improve in my skills and be able to play my music much better in a shorter amount of time. Sound about right?
     
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2010
  6. Scatmanblues

    Scatmanblues Pianissimo User

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    Ahhh, I see. The established pecking order has been upset a bit since I was last involved in and aware of the scene (late 90s). Good for them. I think it is possible to make those corps out of high school, especially with the right attitude. The reason I hit so hard on the distinction between smaller corps and top ten corps is that the level of competition to get in and the amount of national exposure is drastically different between the two. Only those top corps typically make any news outside the DCI world, and thus they attract a larger number of people to audition. Not necessarily "better" people, just more. That decreases your odds no matter how good you are.

    All corps also tend to rely on word-of-mouth from current and former members as to who would be a good fit, so if you know someone in either organization feel them out about what they think your chances are and how they feel about you. They'll probably be asked about you at some point. The top ten corps, because of the larger number of people trying out, sometimes weigh insider recommendations more as a way to thin the herd.

    The nice piece of that is that if you make one of those corps and work hard, you'll have a much better chance of moving up in a horn line from within. So, if you want to play lead for Crown, you'd generally have a better chance of getting there by getting onto the horn line on third part and working up than you would by starting with an equal corps and trying to jump across. You have to earn a lead book in any corps, and that's typically done in one of two ways: playing your way up from within, or playing strong lead for a smaller regional corps and stepping into the larger corps after a season or two. The only exceptions I have seen are when a horn line director grooms or recruits one of their own students to step directly into a lead book (that was how I got on lead in the D2 corps I marched with).

    As to the practice ideas -good for you. Don't stop playing music or the audition music entirely, however, just be intelligent about it. Don't do those things to the exclusion of the work on fundamentals, and always play the audition music with an ear towards improving some aspect of your fundamentals.

    Scatmanblues
     

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