Limited practice time and breaks

Discussion in 'Trumpet Pedagogy' started by jdostie, Apr 12, 2008.

  1. jdostie

    jdostie Piano User

    Feb 20, 2008
    So it seems consistent that most everything I am reading suggests breaks - in some cases at least an hour (this was in "Systematic Approach to Daily Practice) - after doing certain practice exercises. However, for a working adult with limited time to practice as it is, I barely find an hour and a half to two hours to practice - period. And this includes what I'll call mini water breaks - where as I start to feel fatigued, I'll go fill my water bottle, drink some, play some pedal tones, and start again.

    I'm trying to find a lunch time solution at work to add a bit more time, but most times I find myself working through lunch.

    So, my question is for those on a tight schedule - how do you fit in practice and rests between, or do you do as I, and try to find mini breaks?

    Any advise from the more seasoned?
  2. Pete

    Pete Piano User

    Nov 17, 2007
    This just my estimate of a day on the run for me!

    7:15 AM – Bobby Shew 5 minute Warm Up
    7:20AM – Reinhardt Spider Web Warm Up
    7:30 AM – Drive to work, doing lip fluttering and listening to music
    2:30 PM – Bobby Shew Warm Up while driving( I keep a Kelly mouthpiece in the car)
    I do the last step when I get to my destination on the horn.
    3:00 PM- Clarke’s Study One – all of it
    3:20 PM- REST
    3:30 PM- Clarke’s Study Five- all of it
    3:50 PM- REST
    7:00 PM – Bobby Shew Warm Up
    7:05 PM – Read through Etudes or Jazz Solo Transcriptions
    7:20 PM- REST
    7:30 PM- Practice with Aebersold recording for 15-20 minutes
    7:50 PM – Done

    This is about 1.5 hours of actual playing time, not counting the rests.
    I have two teaching jobs. The second is 3 days a week, after 2:30 PM. I do at least this routine if not more on those days. An hour and a half is better than nothing. It also keeps your chops fresh because your not trying to fit all practice into one session.

  3. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    It depends what you are trying to accomplish.

    If you have gigs that require a certain type of playing, that must be reflected in your routine.

    What are you trying to build and maintain on 90 minutes per day?
  4. brassandzin

    brassandzin New Friend

    May 5, 2006
    San Francisco
    This is THE MOST IMPORTANT and DIFFICULT thing for any of us. It's very easy to sit in front of the TV and play through Clarke or Schlossberg exercises without really thinking about what the "practice time" is leading to. Every note we play during our practice time should have a very specific purpose, and relate to some MUSICAL concept. Ultimately our practice time is for making our "music-making" better.
    Pete has a very strict approach to time management, but whenever I've budgeted my time to such a degree, I've always failed to keep it going for more than a day or two. (I hope others will relate how they've managed to fit daily practice into their day-job lives.) Pete's approach certainly puts the "rest-time" into your routine, but there is a more important issue at hand here. Making your limited practice time the most valuable time possible.

    Rowuk asks what you're trying to accomplish, and that's key. For instance, I had a recent gig where I was playing some very difficult music that used mixed meters and some very novel approaches to dividing the number of beats in a bar. So during my "warm ups," instead of just playing Clarke No.2, I would use the rhythms of the gig music, and apply it to the Clarke No. 2 note patterns. If I'm between gigs, I'll play the Clarke patterns over the chord changes to a jazz tune I'm working on (play Clarke No. 2 or 3 over the chord changes to Joy Spring, for instance..... always with a metronome).
    Whatever you end up doing, jdostie, make sure that before you even play a note, you have a clear idea of what that note is for. How does it relate to a piece of music your working? Does it help you get better at a particular technique? Does it help solidify your time? How does it improve your ability to "make music?"
    As long as your "practice time" helps answer those questions, even if you time is limited, it will be time well spent.
  5. jdostie

    jdostie Piano User

    Feb 20, 2008
    Wow, what am I trying to build and maintain? Well, at this point there are sooo many things I have to work on. In principal, I am like a 17/18 year old trumpet player who never had trumpet lessons, and played "well enough" for drum corps, and for people to comment that I was pretty good, but knowing that there were numerous areas that needed work. Now, all these years later, many of the skills I had managed to obtain have atrophied, some seem to be roughly where I left them though with further limitation from range and endurance, and still others I never developed sufficiently. So I want to develop everything, but not one thing or another all at one.

    Range and endurance are pretty much immediate needs. You'll see why as I describe my current daily practice routine.
    Flexibility follows right along as well.
    And sight reading is in terrible need of work.
    Add to this some fingering issues (drum corps used only two valves when I played, and I neglected any development there on the trumpet when I was a kid)
    Then, there is all around development/improvement required - work on multi-tonguing, etc.

    Currently, I follow this routine (Clarke's is a recent addition, without my teacher whom I won't see till next Saturday), and may or may not be well placed in the routine.
    - Long tones starting at G within the staff and working chromatically down as far as I can go - holding each note until I run out of breath.
    - Gentle slurring arpegios
    - Arban's slur/trill exercises. I will usually stop during the middle of this for a drink of water. We're only talking about two pages here.
    - Arban's double-tonguing 1 page
    stop for a drink of water
    - Arban's triple tonguing 1 page
    - Arban's rhythmic studies 1 page
    - Arban's C major scales (first page)
    -Arban's F major scales (first page)
    Arban's G major scales (first page)
    Clarke's first lesson with a break before the etude for a drink.
    By the time I am reaching the high C's, I am already fatigued - I have to force myself to back off some and relax - and will miss the notes often if slurred, and possibly if attacked directly, back off a bit, and attack, and continue where I left off. I am conscious that I am playing a bit too loudly here though I am trying to play softly - maybe this is part of the problem, maybe not.
    Then I'll work on a piece of music, I am currently working trumpeter's Lullaby as it seems fitting for the stuff I am working on.
    warm down with long tones

    Reading this, it doesn't look like 1.5 hours worth of practice, but it does take me that much time - some perhaps because I work something a few times if I mess up, some because I may not be at tempo.

    Now there will be additions and adjustments to the routine I am sure, moving to other scales, and back etc. Also, I'd like to spend more time on music pieces, maybe always have 3-4 pieces at different levels of development that I am working on.

    So back to why I said range and endurance were first on the list, not because I want to be Maynard, but because this does not seem like a lot to be able to get through without being fatigued. Chop builders would of course bring about fatigue, but this doesn't seem like much - I am pretty sure at 17/18 I could have gone through this routine without the short water breaks, and I know that high C would not have been a challenge even fatigued. So, I'd say I need to work on EVERYTHING, but in trying to work on everything, range and endurance are weak points that need attention.

    I hope I've explained well, I am not sure if I missed anything in my routine, but if there are gaping holes, that would be good to hear about. By the way, Clarke replaced chop-builders in my routine.

    Now, I have effectively just commented on two threads I started with this one post as they are related, and in discussing one I felt I had to discuss the other. So if you are interested in the other topic "Athleticism or technique/why is it (regarding range and flexibility)", you can find it here

    Or if you think more appropriate you can comment on both here.

    Thanks, I look forward to seeing what you think.
  6. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    From your practice list, I think that you are on the right track, let's look at what could be holding you back:

    Breathing. I ALWAYS start students with breathing exercizes - every lesson! I have documented my "circle of breath" several times here. Visualize the inhale/exhale cycle as a circle with the left side inhale and right side exhale. Notice at the top and bottom of the circle that there are no "bumps". Rather there are smooth transitions from one state to the next. Without the trumpet, practice this breathing. Fill up deeply and then without tightening the throat or neck muscles exhale (imagine yawning during the whole process). It takes a while to get the hang of this and does need to become a habit! Once the breathing cycle works without the horn, you replace exhale with play. This is not a no-brainer as the trumpet has more "resistance" than an open yawn! Vital is staying relaxed and open. Very often range goes DOWN first after learning to relax, because we need to build proper habits to as the poster above properly said "synchronize". The first benefit of relaxation is a much bigger sound and increased endurance. I know of no "success" stories with a DIY approach to breathing. Every player that I have taught that had minimal lessons or no previous teacher, played so tight that I needed at least month to get reasonably stable consistent breathing. The student was able in the very first lesson to get into relaxed mode, but only under supervision. After a month, they were able to "see", "feel" and "correct" themselves.

    Body use: This is also a very big subject not lending itself to a DIY approach. The clearest description of what needs to happen can be found here:
    David G. Monette Corporation
    I have often found that getting yoga or swimming LESSONS can get your body into playing condition faster than anything else.

    Proper routine: like being a master Chef, it is not the ingredients that guarantee success, it is how you use them! My daily routine (and the structure of every lesson that I give) is divided into 3 equal groups: long tones and slurs (played VERY softly!!!!!!!!!!), repertory then last, etudes and technical studies (also played very softly!!!!!!!!!). Why? The long tones and slurs get the juices going and lay the foundation for the rest of the day. After that I am still fresh and THAT is when we need to play music. NEVER PRACTICE MUSIC WHEN TIRED! Music is the essence of our soul and demands the very best mental and physical condition! After this section, I cover the technical things like double tonguing, finger patterns and range building. You claim 90 minutes, that means 30 minutes each for my 3 sections.

    If you get breathing and body in order, 90 minutes a day should get you moving forward in short order. If you fight with your body, 6 hours a day won't help. This fight is not unusual - especially where no real proper training was ever received. When we are young, our bodies are resilient. That pretty much ends once we have reached 30. To succeed when older, we MUST replace muscle with brains. We know how hard it is to teach an old dog new tricks (I am 51 - believe me, it is TOUGH!).
    Brassman64 likes this.
  7. tedh1951

    tedh1951 Utimate User

    Oct 18, 2007
    The Wide Brown Land
    Robin has made this point very well before - I started back as a 49 y.o. (early mid-life crisis) and it is really tough. "Listen" to ROWUK, you will always get sensible suggestions. On the other hand, if you wish to learn something - try teaching a little.
    Brassman64 likes this.
  8. jdostie

    jdostie Piano User

    Feb 20, 2008
    Rowuk, thanks for your reply. I have seen your description of the "circle of breath" several times, and have a vague notion of what you are talking about. I'm something of a novice martial artist as well, so this is something that's important in more than one thing I practice, and something I know needs work - for martial arts though it's more a habit of holding my breath when I am concentrating. But, regardless of why I need work, I need work. It could be that this is a problem area for me with trumpet as well. I will do a further search to see if you have a more detailed description previous post - not that what you've written here is bad, but that I am missing something either in my reading of it, or in understanding.

    I've also bookmarked the page you indicated for further study.

    Sometimes things work and sometimes they don't which could be anything from lack of muscular development/fatigue to inconsistent technique when practicing (you alluded to this I think with "under supervision," and I know that I have experienced this to some point with my teacher. I think inconsistency is the most frustrating thing, "I was able to do this yesterday - or even a few minutes ago, why not now."

    I am sure this will all work out in time, I think this time I am going about it right, or at least trying to, so in the end it should pay off.

    Thanks again.
  9. Brad

    Brad New Friend

    Nov 23, 2004
    Very good question and the responses are wonderful as well. One thing I do at work is tap out rhythms with a pencil. I bought a book that has preprinted rhythms and also has a CD to play along. I can do this at work at lunch without disturbing anyone. It has been helpful for sight reading and works for those times I cannot play my horn.

    The book I have is called The Rhythm Bible by Dan Fox. I am sure there are many similar books.

  10. NickD

    NickD Forte User

    Well, darn the luck. I've got to be more alert. I started a thread on this and one already existed. Oh well...

    I thing the spaced pracice is extremely important!

    When I first went into music as a very young man (pre MF road experience) I was practicing 6 to 8 hours a day. I would go for a couple of hours at a time, more, after I did my basic C-G thing. I tried to maitain a 50/50 duty cycle, but, alas, I rarely stuck to that and would regularly just wear my chops out. I had heard stories of the greats practicing long hours. I didn't realize that they were also using good sense , too! "My bad!"

    I think practicing in increments is hugley important. However, I think we need to pick what we practice carefully, as well. You want to maximize your growth - chops, technique, musical development, etc. Therein lies the rub, for me. The strict CG routine can be difficult to schedule for the working person striving to maximize their trumpet skills.

    Many have offered great ideas along those lines in this thread already. Great stuff!

    Brassman64 likes this.

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