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Do I have to play 2-3 hours every day to make sure I can do this, or is there a way to do something like "weight lifting" for the trumpet?

I'm self taught, and stamina is an issue. I know technique has a huge role in stamina, and I'm working on this as well, but so does muscle development.

I guess my question is, just like running sprints for 20 minutes regularly can help you play a 90 minute soccer game, is there some equivalent for brass, that doesn't actually require me to play the same length of the gig I need to play every day?

Sorry for the strange question or if this is obvious and I just don't see it. My first thought is lip slurs, I guess, but just wanting feedback from experienced musicians about what they've found actually works for them.

I just played a 2-hr gig and at 1.5 hrs I was pretty blubbery. Boo. At least I had a snare drum to play on and a clarinetist who was willing to take more on...,

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    I haven't played the trumpet in decades so I'm probably not qualified to give a full answer, but when I did, I remember one thing that helped was keeping just the mouthpiece with me at all times, just to practice armature and strengthen facial muscles if I wasn't going to be able to do a full practice. (Obviously, even with just the mouthpiece, the noise can be annoying to people around you, so best to do this only when you're alone.) Jun 22 at 16:22
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    I can't answer better than others have, and I struggle with this myself most of the time, but when I was playing a lot and did have that kind of endurance, I found the most helpful book to be Max Schlossberg's Daily Drills and Technical Studies. There are some real killers in there, helpful also for building range. That, and H. L Clarke's Technical Studies for the Cornet - great stuff to practice for endurance and has a side effect of promoting fluency across keys. Jun 22 at 18:05
  • I never played trumpet; only trombone, and I hope you agree there's no real difference here. Either way, are you suggesting two hours of playing a trumpet without rest? Jun 22 at 22:21
  • As you're transitioning, can you find a buddy to do a sort of a job share with you? Jun 24 at 5:44

4 Answers 4

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I struggled with endurance for many years, thinking I could not gig because of it. However, my clear experience was that my endurance (and range) improved once I was rehearsing and gigging regularly, and practice outside of the gigs was just for maintenance, not requiring extraordinary amounts of time.

The essential element of improving my endurance were at-least-weekly rehearsals of about two hours. This kept me playing for long periods on a regular enough basis that I could play two or three three-hour gigs with reasonable confidence.

If rehearsals and/or gigs aren't happening at least weekly, then I suggest one weekly practice session of two 45-minute segments with 15 minutes in between. This is roughly equivalent to a two-set gig or rehearsal and should be enough to keep your endurance up. Make the next day a rest/recovery day, then for the rest of the week just do normal practice, whatever that is for you.

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    +1 I think this can apply to many instrument types - personally, I struggle equally on bass [because of an old carpal tunnel injury] & vocals [because it's vocals;). By the time you're gigging regularly, you've done the heavy lifting. It's the one gig every 6 months that's tough.
    – Tetsujin
    Jun 22 at 7:21
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My suggestion has two parts:

.1 Practice every day. Even if it is only a short time, every day is the recipe. 15 minutes seems to be a good starting point (set the egg timer).

.2 Do the most effective practice. Generally playing long sustained tones. In my experience shift between very high tones and very low tones. High tones for muscle training, low (= below the staff) for learning how to relax. Aim for very little or almost no pressure on the mouthpiece, it is the muscles that should work. Best is to play with a tuner and start pppp slowly increasing the same tone to ffff and then slowly going down to pppp again, all on the same breath.

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  • I don't think it's good advice to "play with a tuner", because tuning should rely on your ears not your eyes. Jun 22 at 15:29
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    I agree with this advice and was also going to suggest long tones. They do wonders for your tone quality on the trumpet. And Contrary to @BrianTHOMAS I actually have found great results by playing long tones into a tuner. The goal is to train the ability to modulate the pitch where you want it. Training your ear is important too, but that is a separate skill, and you will train your ear watching the tuner as well. Also a lot of tuners have tone generators which would be useful for training your ear (e.g. play a long tone at a constant interval above the generated tone)
    – Nigel
    Jun 22 at 18:07
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I'd suggest dividing your practice session into 10-minute sessions, so you have recovery time in-between, but in each 10-minute slot you spend as much time with the instrument on your face as you can. I'd avoid just long notes because they don't reflect musically what you'll meet during an actual rehearsal. It's more productive (and tiring) to play lots of repeated notes at the same pitch instead.

Exercises like this are useful - each repeat is a semitone higher than its predecessor. Continue until you can comfortably progress until you've climbed an octave.

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I play in a UK brass band - we have two 2 hour practices a week, and on every other day of the week I play at least 30 minutes. One of the stamina exercises we do as a band is turn to our red hymn books (every band has them) and play hymns one after another for 20 minutes solid. Exhausting, but rewarding. Also playing hours of carols at Christmas is good for building stamina.

Finally, on gig day, warm up for 20 minutes in the morning, playing gentle stuff - nothing too high. You'll find your stamina later in the day is better than you'd expect.

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  • How much time are you suggesting between the 10 minute practice sessions?
    – pixelearth
    Jun 25 at 0:55
  • @pixelearth - whatever you're comfortable with. There's no definitive rule. But splitting up your daily practice sessions mean you can play in intensive bursts. Jun 25 at 15:10
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I believe both existing answers are very good, but seeing this question I was immediately reminded of the book "Fitness for Brass" by Frits Damrow (Amazon | Scribd).

I don't have experience using it myself (it's not really aimed at horn players), but I've seen it being used by good amateur trumpetists I know.

Perhaps it can serve as a supplement to the other, more practical advices.

For horn players happening across this, try "Thoughts on Playing the Horn Well" by Frøydis Ree Wekre (Amazon | Scribd)! I see now this also happens to be recommended for trumpetists. It's not as focused on endurance though.

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  • Sounds like a great book, but it's only with a free trial, meaning you have to give them your credit card and remember to cancel.
    – pixelearth
    Jun 22 at 20:01
  • Ah sorry. I'll edit.
    – Oliphaunt
    Jun 22 at 20:33

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