Wouldn’t it be great if you could pull your horn, cold out of the case, and feel prepared to play anything and sound great doing it from the very first note? The truth is; you can.
If you’re like many trumpet players, you’ve spent so much time relying on a long, tedious warm-up routine that it has become a crutch for you; not to mention, a long, tedious and boring activity that not only robs you of valuable practice time but can actually decrease your day-long endurance. It doesn’t have to be this way. Perhaps, you’ve forgotten how much more fun it was to play your trumpet when you were young, first started, and didn’t take it so seriously.
As we get older, we’re taught all of these routines; ways to breathe, buzzing the mouthpieces, slow long tones, etc, etc. Some of what we are taught is good advice, but some of is not and I believe it can actually cripple our productivity.
Over the years, I’ve become convinced that long warm-ups are a waste of time for the majority of trumpet players. If you’re one of those trumpet players who really believes you need 20-30 minutes to warm-up, ask yourself if you could learn to cut that time in half. If you can cut a 20-minute warm-up routine down to 10, then with more practice, you should be able to get it down to 5, then 2.5, etc., etc.
Warming up is like anything else. With practice, we will get better at it. If you can learn to be ready to play your best in one minute or less, wouldn’t you want to? With practice, you can do this!
Don’t Waste Your Practice Time On Warm-Ups
Trumpet practice, in general, should be geared towards making us perform better on the instrument; not developing routines that take time away from the goal of our true craft – which is music.
The practice is a habit and habits are hard to break. The longer we warm-up on the trumpet, the more we become addicted to the routine and we brainwash ourselves to believe we need 30, 40, or even 60 minutes to be ready to play. I speak from personal experience. I used to be a warm-up fanatic.
I can remember a few times during my breaks home from college when my parents would ask me to play something for guests and I was afraid to death to perform because I didn’t have time for my usual 30-minute warm-up routine. That was definitely an unhealthy addiction and I can promise you that I would have been a much better player had I only known what I know today.
There were many times during my warm-up routines where my playing would get worse instead of better. Also, I would become reliant on the low, relaxed register to prepare for the rest of the range of the horn and there were some days when it just didn’t happen.
All of the excess baggage added onto my trumpet schedule was not helping me become a better player. Warming up can be like a drug fix. The more you do it, the more you think you need it and you can never get enough. The way to get over this destructive warm-up habit is to stop it in its tracks. You’ve got to quit, cold turkey. Here’s a better way to warm-up and it only takes one minute.
One Minute Warm-up
Take your horn out. Always wash the mouthpiece with warm soap and water before you play for the first time each day. Avoid the temptation to buzz the mouthpiece. Instead, put the mouthpiece directly in your horn and begin to play arpeggios at a full, but not overly loud volume.
Attack the notes crisply and with energy. Play some scales; do some single, double, and triple tonguing. Do some intervals and octaves, both slurred and tongued for flexibility.
The last 20 seconds or so, work up to the highest part of your range that you are most comfortable playing and hit a few of the high notes. For example, if double-C’s are part of your playing range, blend them into your 1-minute warm-up routine.
Don’t spend more than a minute warming up, even if you don’t feel like you are ready.
Like all other aspects of playing a musical instrument, it takes practice to master the art of the 1-minute warm-up. During that 1-minute warm-up, use your technique, power, and range; don’t save it for later in the day. Play low – play high. Play soft – play loud. Tongue hard, tongue soft, and do it all in less than 60 seconds.
I started following the 1-minute warm-up routine just recently and was amazed at how much stronger and fresher my playing was in just the first week. Now, after just 60 seconds, I can pick up a classical trumpet piece like Carnival of Venice or Maid of the Mist Polka and sound and feel more confident and more prepared than ever before.
I only play for fun these days, but for a serious, aspiring trumpet player, those extra 20-30 minutes saved on a long, tedious warm-up can be used for becoming a better, more musical trumpet player. Use that extra time to practice sight reading, mastering difficult technical passages, learning jazz scales, practicing jazz chord changes, or any number of the things that make us more musical and proficient on the horn.
As any trumpet player knows; there are more things to practice than there are hours in a day. Make it your new goal to practice more efficiently, and become a little less routine-oriented in your approach to getting better. Music is anything but routine. It all starts with the warm-up and the fresh, new mindset that you’re going to sound great in less than 60 seconds.