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I'm a somewhat experienced trumpet player — not sure how to quantify it since I played intensively for a few months about a year and a half ago and then didn't play so much after that until about a month ago when I dove into another intensive practice schedule. My ability to play high notes is still developing pretty quickly — last year A5 (5th partial) was barely attainable, but since I started playing again it's become something I can hit much more reliably and I've managed to squeak out a C6 for a moment.

I'll be playing in a concert in less than a month and I'd like to be able to land high notes as cleanly and reliably as possible by that point in time. My question is this: in order to best meet this goal, is it advisable to take days off from practicing to let my muscles recover and build strength? Is one day the longest I should rest? How frequently should I take rest days? When I do practice, should I stop playing when it becomes extremely difficult to play notes that are normally within my range?

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Your facial muscles are different than your other muscles in the sense that they won't get huge if worked intensely.

Typically when brass players rest, it's due to lip sensitivity. Resting more than a day will cause you to begin losing well-honed fine motor coordination.

I believe that the best way to achieve your goal has nothing to do with rest, but with preparation. I have a good answer on here somewhere about extending range. You (or somebody else) should search for it and take a look.

Each day you practice, you should begin by playing long, low, medium-soft tones in the lower-third of your instrument's register. Never play high at first. Start in the middle or most comfortable part of your range and work both directions of your range. If you want to play high, you have to learn how to play low, and vice versa. Every high exercise you play should be balanced with a low one.

You should play every day, even if you just buzz on the mouthpiece. Even after a heavy day, your lips should be fine for the next day.

In terms of actively extending range, the rule of 3 is best: give yourself 3 tries to play the target pitch. If you can't do it within three tries, you're done for the day. The worst thing you can do is get frustrated and keep trying to hammer at it until you get it. You're just damaging your instrument (your lips).

Remember that the piece of metal you hold is just an amplifier.

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    Further, the more you practice, the more (one hopes!) you improve your diaphragmatic breath control, which takes stress off your lips as well. There are many facets of playing ( breath, finger coordination, interpretation, etc) which require daily work, so unless there's true soreness or damage, best to play every day. – Carl Witthoft Jun 12 '17 at 12:12
  • How long is it best to spend warming up on low- to mid-range exercises before working into the upper part of my range? – intuited Jun 19 '17 at 20:04
  • Depends on your focus. If you really want to improve tone, then you can play quiet long-tones for 30 minutes, for example. Or if it's a regular session with mixed goals, 3-5 minutes. I'd recommend doing what feels the most right / what works for you versus being a clock-watcher. – jjmusicnotes Jun 19 '17 at 20:10
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No, don't plan days with no practice. You've had good advice about how to practice effectively.

  • Interesting. Do you think a day with no practice is always a bad idea? Do you think practice away from the instrument is possible? – Richard Jun 11 '17 at 14:56
  • It's occasionally inevitable. You invariably notice the next day! – Laurence Payne Jun 11 '17 at 19:26
  • Not really useful – Carl Witthoft Jun 12 '17 at 12:10
  • You'd prefer a different answer, @CarlWitthoft? – Laurence Payne Jun 12 '17 at 22:52
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    I'd prefer one with content. – Carl Witthoft Jun 13 '17 at 11:24

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