Physical Fitness and Playing Trumpet

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by trickg, Nov 22, 2004.

  1. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

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    As of late, I have been very frustrated playing trumpet due to an overall lack of endurance, and I'm not completely sure why. I play in a rock and roll party band and over the last few months, gigging with this band has not been much fun. I find that I'm hanging on for dear life by the end of the gig - I just don't seem to have any endurance anymore. In fact, I'm usually hitting bottom sometime in the second set - not good!

    At first I just chalked it up to the fact that I wasn't practicing like I should. I have been playing a lot of drums lately and I was choosing to do that rather than break out the horn. After all, I don't have ANY chops problems when it comes to playing drums. However, over the last few weeks, I have really upped my practicing on my horn in an effort to bring about some change so that I can start enjoying myself on the gig again. Unfortunately, I'm still chopping out as if I wasn't practicing at all. After 24 years of playing and gigging, you would think that I would have a pretty good idea about things that I can do in the practice room that would help to aleviate my lack of endurance on the gig, but this time, it doesn't appear to be working.

    One aspect that I have considered is that it could possibly be how the sets are structured. The horn book has over 230 charts in it and it's pretty much at the whim of the bandleader what we play and what order we play it in, so it is possible that if certain tunes are called in sequence, I could be hitting rock bottom fairly fast because there are some tunes that are long, LONG blows.

    Something else that I have considered is my general lack of physical fitness these days. For 10 years while I was in the Army (1989 - 1999, age 19 - 29) it was just expected that you stay in shape, plus toward the end of my time in the Army, my state of physical fitness was a top priority for me and I spent 5 - 6 days a week lifting weights and doing cardio. (stationary biking, running, stairmaster, etc) Unfortunately, since I left active duty military in 1999, due to not having time built into my work schedule for it, my efforts at maintaining my physical fitness have been hit or miss, and I'm probably in worse shape now than I have been in over a decade.

    Could that lack of fitness be what is killing my endurance on the bandstand? After all, trumpet is an incredibly physical instrument, especially if you are playing in a rock band.

    So, if anyone has any insights regarding this, I would be more than happy to hear them since playing trumpet and gigging in this band have become very frustrating for me.
     
  2. dizforprez

    dizforprez Forte User

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    Nov 2, 2003
    i dont think the two are related in your case.

    i am short on time right now but i will try to post some more info on this late tonight or tomorrow that will hopfully be able to help you out.
     
  3. Mark Heuer

    Mark Heuer New Friend

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    I am in the worst shape of my life by a long shot. I also am playing better than I ever have. Relaxation techniques and proper air usage have made the difference for me.
     
  4. dizforprez

    dizforprez Forte User

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    Hey Patrick,

    Unless you are to the point that you cant walk up a flight of stairs or that your are winded after a brief walk I would say that you physical shape is not impacting your trumpet playing. Too many people incorrectly believe that trumpet is, as you put it, an “incredibly physical instrument”. While it is certainly one of the more physical demanding instruments, that is along way off from, needing to hit the gym to play high c’s and above.

    There are two books that I think every trumpet player should read that talk about some of these issues; Song and wind by brain friedrikson and Teaching Brass by Kristian Steenstrup. These are two books that go into great detail about what is needed in the way of physical effort to play the trumpet.

    Since I have the teaching brass book here in front of me I will give you some points from it.

    “A number or methods, especially for categories of instruments needing high air pressure, especially the trumpet and oboe, have encouraged a specific training of these muscles because of their obvious involvement in the increasing the intraoral air pressure during expiration………”but it is not necessary to produce the pressure needed to play” [the trumpet].“

    “...Abdominal muscles are able to exert a pressure of 300 –400 cmH2O” as a maximum, but later the book states that pressures of around 30 to 100 are needed for the trumpet, trombone and oboe.

    Page 61-62 Teaching Brass

    The teachings of Arnold Jacobs discuss many times about how many muscles that should only be used for weight lifting, child birth, etc..Are often used incorrectly applied, or muscles that should be used are used inefficiently, for brass playing. .

    For you to be seeking a correlation between physical conditioning and trumpet playing I can only assume that you are using muscles that you shouldn’t be or using to much force when playing. If anything such a physical concept toward the horn will negatively impact your playing. The unneeded tension will cut back on your endurance and make things much tougher for you. Perhaps some of the real experts on this stuff can give you some more info on this, I only wanted to get the ball rolling with what I thought….

    Hope that helps,

    jason
     
  5. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

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    Jason, I hear what you are saying and that is all fine and dandy in a perfect world. The fact is, this is not a perfect world and I have far from perfect technique. I don't get winded walking a flight of stairs, but I can tell you that I can't play the longer phrases like I used to. My lung capacity simply isn't what it used to be. Since I have some long standing bad habits with my playing, part of how I play is in fact related to how much wind I can push. According to what you have posted, that shouldn't be the case and on that, you are probably right, but it is.

    I have noticed at several points in the past that my playing, specifically my endurance, improves if I am lifting weights regularly and working out on a regular basis. My range doesn't really get better - I have what I have regardless of my physical conditioning - however, it does get easier. This is not in my mind. I have been playing long enough and gigging long enough to have taken some mental notes over the years about what affects my playing and in what way. For instance, you might think this is weird, but if I eat a bunch of popcorn while sitting at home watching a movie the night before a gig, I'm going to have some endurance and focus issues the next day. I think it has something to do with the salt. Likewise, if I'm a little low on fluid, not dehydrated, but just low, I'm going to have endurance problems as well. If I'm run down after a long week, same thing. Keep in mind that I'm not really new to playing - I actually used to make my living playing, and when you do that day in and day out, you become pretty attuned to what affects your chops and in what way; things that are compounded by an embouchure setup that is not that efficient.

    I'm the guy that Jeff Smiley refers to in his book "The Balanced Embouchure" I'll quote a piece of it here:
    That pretty accurately describes me. Only now I'm at a point in my life where I just don't have the time to either practice consistently, or workout thanks to the career, the spouse, the house, the kids, etc. There are multiple facets to my frustration, but I do believe that my lack of physical fitness has impacted my playing in a negative way.

    Unfortunately, or fortunately, however you might want to look at it, I'm getting to the point where I'm more than just competent as a kit drummer, and for me I have chosen the path of least resistance. It's either play and practice trumpet, which is frustrating because I can't possibly see that I will ever attain the facility that I used to have, or play and practice drums, which I'm continually getting better at, and I NEVER have chops problems.

    Sorry for the rant. I know what needs to be done, but finding the courage to do it is something else entirely.
     
  6. MUSICandCHARACTER

    MUSICandCHARACTER Forte User

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    I don't think you have to be in marathon shape to play, but it may help. It does make phrasing much easier IMO. Now, does MF at 75 run 5 miles each day? Did he ever? Yet wow ... what control.

    I have heard more than one drum corps player after a summer of marching. Sure, they are playing hours and day. But believe it or not the corps directors try not to kill their chops. They will do many drills that will not kill their chops. Many are breathing drills. But some come back from a corps and find that their playing ability has only moved up marginally (they are not practicing lip slurs, etc. that some in lessons might be) but their breathing is MUCH better, as is their tone, and their stamina.

    Not to be discounted. I am a big believer in the breathing gym. Buy the video - it is better than a new mouthpiece and cheaper.

    http://www.breathinggym.com/bg_price.htm

    Jim
     
  7. dizforprez

    dizforprez Forte User

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    Your lungs do lose capacity as you age but from your posts here on this site I think that your problems stem more from bad habits than lack of fitness. I think the best way to approach this would be to find a very good teacher. Use the time you would work out for lessons and practice, I think that would be time better spent.
     
  8. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

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    If I was a single college kid music major, yeah, I would say that I'm suffering from bad habits, and while my practice habits aren't exactly stellar, I say that I suffer more from life in general. I do still practice, but due to time constraints, I don't practice nearly as much as I used to. It was much different when I played trumpet for a living in an Army band. Now that I'm a computer geek, polishing a seat with my a**, married, with two school aged kids in an area where it seems like you have to drive 20 minutes to do anything, time is something that I'm always running short of. Tonight for instance, I came home from work, gulped dinner and ran back out to do a bunch of errands. It's now 8:56 pm and I just got back to the house. This type of evening for me is pretty typical.

    However, I also agree that I should probably find a good teacher. I have recently (thanks to this board) been email corresponding with Jack Wengrosky, lead player for the US Army Jazz Abassadors. Anyone who has ever heard this ensemble knows that they are truly a world class big band and Jack is a phenomenal lead player. Anyway, I related my frustrations to him and asked if he teaches chops concepts. If he does and has the opportunity to take me on as a student, I think that he might be able to provide some insight into some of my chops problems and offer some solutions to fix them.
     
  9. dizforprez

    dizforprez Forte User

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    Sounds like you have a great plan. Please don’t take offense at my assumption that you have bad habits, I base that on your post (not just on the ones on this thread) and I could be way off. It is hard to give advice over the Internet when you don’t have all the facts.

    For the most part I feel like I was in a very similar situation as you right after I got out of college. Going back and finding someone to study with opened my eyes to thing I have never heard or seen. My lessons provide me with a way to get past my problems on the horn and provide a great source of musical stimulation. I enjoy the trumpet 100 times more now with a different approach to it, I would imagine that a good teacher could help provide you with the same thing. It will not give you a magic wand but it will give you a path to follow.
     
  10. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

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    Jason, I didn't mean to come off harshly about the habits things but after re-reading it, it sounded pretty rough. Sorry.

    I got an email from Jack Wengrosky this morning and I think that he is going to be willing to work with me, although basically he said that I'm going to have to step up and work fundamentals in regular practice. However, I believe that he might be able to give me a lot of new insight to my chops and what I can do to make things more efficient. I'm going to call him and see what we can work out.

    All I know is that I have become somewhat stagnant in a couple of areas in my life. Trumpet playing and physical fitness are just two of them, although my kit drumming is kicking bootie these days! :)

    A fresh approach with a good teacher can only be a good thing, but I also plan on stepping up my fitness efforts too. At this point, I just want to start having fun with my horn again. I don't want to dread an upcoming gig because I already know prior to going that I'm going to have chops and stamina issues.

    Thanks for all the comments. Keep 'em coming!
     

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