On the horn / Off the horn 20160125


On the horn

This week has been a busy week on the trumpet, filled with great practice sessions, rehearsals, workshops, and gigs.

My routine so far looks like this:

  • Dunlop Warmup (usually takes 10 to 15 minutes now)
  • Clarke Study 2,3, and 4
  • A segment of Paul’s adaptation of the Bill Adam routine

I am now looking at what I do on days where I don’t have an evening rehearsal or gig. For example, Paul’s first study is essentially a long tone study moving up and down the horn. Today being a day where I don’t have to play at night I decided to do this in place of the Dunlop #1 study. It’s early in my practice session, however, I went up to the F# before feeling “out of balance”, meaning if I go further I would likely put too much pressure against my lips in order to get the next note.

I’m also seeing a trend in the Clarke Studies and am noticing that I am able to play the studies in the keys I’ve bene able to get to 7 to 12% faster while keeping the sound clean and focused. Here is a sample of my chart:

Clarke #4

First Attempt Second Attempt



Clean Tempo Target Tempo % (clean/target) Clean Tempo Target Tempo

% (clean/target)

Quarter note = Quarter note =


A 84 144 58% 92 144 64%


E 100 144 69% 116 144


81 A 100 144 69% 104 144


  • There was about a 2 weeks time difference between the first and second attempt, so over a two week period I could see a minimum of a 3% improvement

What I’m trying to record and observe is measurable improvement on the horn. I am interested what happens after collecting this data for a longer period of time, perhaps over a year. My hypothesis is that the trend will be similar to the stock market over the past few decades. While there are ups and downs in a short time period, over a longer time period I should see an upwards trend. This will provide me with a clear indication on how I am progressing.

As I am now feeling stronger physically playing the horn, I am now able to focus on the musical aspect of the trumpet. As such, I’m going to incorporate elements of jazz studies into my routine. While I feel that I now have a good daily routine going, I will focus on a bigger picture and develop a weekly routine, where I might only do certain elements on a specific day during the week.

Off the horn

You can learn something from anyone, anywhere! I’m bringing this up as I overheard a person say “Oh, I don’t think I’ll take a lesson from mr.X as all he says is blow harder”. Well, perhaps this might be true, however, there can be a take away from anyone that applies to you if you just open your mind and truly listen to what they have to say.

I have recently come across James Morrison’s DVDs, and while some may say that their only take away is that James’ is saying “Blow Harder”, I thought I would share my point notes taken while watching the DVD. I’ve included my nots for Part 1 and 2 and would love to hear your opinion on the James Morrison DVD.

Notes on James Morrison’s video

Part 1: Breathing

  1. Relaxed breath in, focused breath out
    1. Practice by emptying the body of air, holding the breath for a few seconds, and letting go. Notice how the body inhales air without much thought or involvement
  2. Full control of Air
    1. Think of a lithium battery. The energy stays at a steady level at all times. When the energy runs out, the power completely stops
  3. Don’t blow the Trumpet without having focused air as the sound will suffer

Part 2: Sound

  1. Pre-hear before you play what it is you wish to play
    1. Hearing the pitch is important, however, not the only aspect of the sound
      1. Hear the pitch, the sound you want, how that sound fits into the room, etc.
      2. Be as detailed in your pre-note as you can
    2. Hear what you will do before you do it
      1. Might be a bit mystical, however, the fact is that you will have a better chance (99.9% for some) of getting the sound
      2. The actual technical aspect of playing the trumpet (measurement in newton meters, etc.) cannot be measured and the player usually doesn’t know what the values are, however, the masters know the “feeling” of a note, phrase, sound, etc. Leave the technical aspects to the sub-conscious. In the conscious mind, focus on the “feel”.
  2. Get used to a sound in each venue you play in so that you can pre-hear properly in the venue
  3. If you blow the trumpet without pre-hearing, you are not in control and at the mercy of the trumpet

On a business note

I truly believe now more than ever that the process to becoming successful in this business has a lot to do with self discovery. Just like when you play your horn and find a routine that works for you, so must you self discover your way in the business. The truth is, as confirmed recently during a discussion with Steve McDade via Facebook, that one can no longer rely on the phone to ring. It seems that everyone from someone like me who just decided to do music full time to seasoned players such as Steve McDade need to expand on more than just the technical skill on the horn. Be that a niche such as Brownman, a successful trumpet player in the Toronto and New York area, who runs his own groups and is well known as being involved in the hip hop community amongst others, or someone that is versatile in various genres, such as Steve McDade.  For me, the words of Al Kay rang true. As I took private lessons with him, he continuously referenced the idea that you cannot be a one-dimensional player. I am holding this true on and off the horn. In fact, over the past two weeks I have been asked to transcribe horns from recordings for a Latin band and just yesterday, for a three horn band playing Sammy Davis tunes. I have the tools to do this, thanks due to my great education at Humber, although I don’t do this a lot and feel it is a bit outside my comfort level. However, I cannot say no to an opportunity that will allow me to expand on my skills and make me a multi-dimensional carrier musician. I am also going to be in front of a band conduction, which is something I’ve enjoyed during my high school days. The point and my motto is, don’t say NO to opportunities just because they may seem to be outside of your comfort level.

If you’d like more information or to hear the players mentioned in this blog, please visit their websites:

Steve McDade – www.stevemcdade.com *Check Steve out live with the Dave Young Quintet at the REX this Thursday January 28th at 9:30pm

Brownman – www.brownman.com

Alastair Kay – www.alkay.ca