Trumpet Challenge Week 30 Thursday

Trumpet Challenge Thursday Week 30 – A Challenging Week.

My midweek practice sessions this week have been incredibly difficult in every way. It’s been difficult to get up early enough to practice, when I do I have found my lips have been increasingly tired and I have struggled adapting my embouchure between saxophone & clarinet to the trumpet. Having said this, I have managed to spend time on the horn on both Tuesday (only briefly) and Thursday (a little longer).

Tuesday Review.

My Tuesday session only went for approximately ten minutes. It was difficult to get to school in the aftermath of the College Presentation Night at the Concert Hall the night before. I did, however, get to school with enough time to pull out the trumpet and work on long notes, lip slurs and scales. There was minimal repertoire work.

I found that I experienced a similar problem to Saturday, my embouchure was inconsistent. This lead to many problems on my higher notes both pitching and getting a full sound. I will need to spend some time researching ways I can continue too develop this and also move between instruments with greater ease.

Thursday Review.

Today’s session was a little better than the previous two although I still am struggling with the movement to my higher notes, especially in repertoire including “Pomp and Circumstance” (A to D) and “American Patrol”. I am pulling out the difficult phrases to work on them separately, which I can do, it is hard to get the accuracy when playing in the context of the piece as my lips are a little more fatigued by the time I reach the passage.

My practice started with the usual long notes, lip slurs and scales. These all went reasonably well. There were a few problems with my higher slurs (Bb – D; B – D#; C – E; C – Eb; C# – E; D – F) but they are slowly getting more fluent. The tone is still quite thin at the top, I need to stay focused on not using pressure when playing to get the high notes. I can tell when this is occurring as the notes sound strained and thin in their timbre.

I continued the session with scales, playing my Majors in all Twelve keys, one octave. There are still some errors with remembering fingerings for my notes but these are gradually improving. Some of my higher starting scales need a lot more attention including the F, E and Eb Major Scales. The arpeggios are a little less polished but slowly improving. I will continue with these scales for another week before introducing my Harmonic Minors.

I did manage to spend some time on repertoire, however, as previously mentioned, struggled with consistency in pitching. My main difficulty is having fatigued lips in the middle to end of phrases and having to play up high. I’ll keep working on developing and strengthening my embouchure further to hopefully overcome this.

I am looking forward to tomorrow’s practice. I managed to get a good half an hour in last week on the Friday, hopefully I can replicate that for a second week in a row!

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Trumpet Challenge Week 30

Trumpet Challenge Saturday, Week 30 – Finding the Balance.

It has been a fortnight since my last post on the current progress of my Trumpet Challenge, not due to a lack of practice but more due to trying to find the right balance between home, work and professional development…I think I’m slowly getting there.

Before moving onto this previous week I will recap on Week 29 briefly.

Week 29 was another productive week of practice despite a number of interruptions / priorities that were of greater importance than spending time on the trumpet. I managed practice sessions on the Saturday, Tuesday and Wednesday of the week all of which continued to show improvement in the strength and consistency of my higher notes and lip slurring abilities. I did not practice on Monday as it was my birthday and there were a number of celebrations planned. My practice took a hit in the latter part of the week due to me being called for a fill-in sax gig last Friday night with a band that I hadn’t played with before. I had to learn by memory 50 songs in three days, this took priority being a paid professional gig. As a side point, I managed to learn all 50 songs and the gig went really well. I will try to write a post about it separate to this one at a later date.

Moving onto the week that has just finished, I am happy with the progress that I have made. I have finished the first week back at school, in the past this has resulted in my practice quality and quantity taking a significant hit due to the amount of tasks that I have to get completed. I had, however, made a concours decision to be at school early enough to get practice completed before the rigours of the everyday life of a Music educator began. I managed to achieve this on three separate days (Tuesday, Thursday and Friday) with all sessions being quite productive. My overall time on the horn also increased with the Friday session coming in at just under 25 minutes, this is something that I am quite proud of. Throughout these weekly sessions I have continued to see improvement in my ability to pitch notes and the range is gradually increasing sometimes being able to hit “F” on the top line of the staff. I have started incorporating scales and arpeggios into the regime, playing my Majors in all 12 keys around the Cycle of 5ths. I am still making some errors with the valve positions, especially on the scales that use the same valve in close succession on the higher notes. I am sure that this will be overcome with continued practice.

Today’s Practice Session – Saturday 14th October.

Today’s practice was quite frustrating, I felt like it was a definite step back from where I had managed to get to over the last few weeks. In reflection I think that the quality of my practice has been effected by the time of day it was done. I have been practicing first thing in the morning while my its are fresh. Today’s session occurred after four and a half hours of private teaching over three different instruments (sax, flute and clarinet) and from the first long note everything felt tired and out of sorts.

Technical Work.

The session started with technical work which lasted for approximately 8 minutes. During his time I worked on my long notes and lips slurs. I had some problems today with some of the slurs from the note “F” upwards. I did managed to push through to eventually get up to the C – E slurs but it took a lot of work and there were a number of mis-pitched notes.

I continued with scales and arpeggios. This went reasonably well with me getting more comfortable with the scales in all twelve keys. Some more work is needed in the upper range with a number of errors in pitching / nothing able to hit notes and also valve positions.

Repertoire.

My repertoire today was a real struggle, this is disappointing after having such a strong day yesterday. I managed to play the warmup piece “Las Manzanitas” reasonably well but then I struggled with the next two pieces “Pomp and Circumstance” and “American Patrol”, particular the transition up to my “D” in the staff. I have been doing really well with this over the last week, I guess it shows that it is always possible to have a bad day.

I am hoping that I can continue to find a good balance in all aspects of my life as I head into this week. There are some big events on including my school’s Academic Awards Night which could throw a spanner in the works, it’s going to take discipline and a positive attitude to ensure I get the outcome I want.

Bring it on!!!

 

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Trumpet Challenge Week 28

Trumpet Challenge Saturday Week 28 – Signs of Improvement.

When I reflect back on the week that has just passed it has definitely been a roller coaster ride of successes and failures on the trumpet. Overall though, I do feel that significant progress has been made. My high notes are slowly becoming more consistent, as I experienced throughout today’s session.

I successfully have managed to complete five practices inside the week, a goal that I set for all my students from a practice perspective. I cannot remember the last week that I managed to reach this goal myself personally on the trumpet (yes, that is shameful).

I also had an amazing experience where I got to watch a symphony orchestra performer demonstrating buzzing to children as a part of a workshop. I noticed that his embouchure was slightly different to how I have been forming mine, particularly the top lip position. I have been working on trying to incorporate this into my playing since this experience and it seems to be showing some improvement, especially in my high notes.

Warmup / Technical Exercises.

I commenced today’s session in a similar manner to other sessions; long notes, lip slurs and scales. I worked on readjusting my embouchure to have more top lip overhanging / in the mouthpiece cup. This proved successful with being able to slightly adjust for the higher notes in the slurs and made for a more consistent tone. I also managed to push higher in my lip slurs than previously with me managing all lip slurs up to the C in the third space comfortable. The slur from the C to the E did work but there was significant breaking and mismatching, I could not manage the C# to E or D to F slurs, hopefully int he next week these will work a little better.


Today proved be a real good day for my scale exercises. I managed to complete my C Major, D Major, G Major, Bb Major, A Major without many problems. I had some difficulty with the Eb and E Major Scales (top few notes) and tried to be adventurous by playing the the F Major (this didn’t bode well at the top end). Hopefully I’ll be able to continue to stretch myself in this coming week and have an even better outcome by this time next week.

Accent on Achievement Repertoire.

I started at the same place that I have been throughout the week, Page 30. I was hesitant with how the first few pieces would go as I have had some difficulty with the high notes in both “Crossing the Break” and “Kum Ba Yah”. Interestingly, today was probably the best I have played these, there’s still some work to do but it was an improvement, especially “Crossing the Break”.

I played Trumpet Voluntary quite well, I think that this will be dropped from my routine during this week as will “Finlandia” as both of these are being performed nicely.

I continued with Page 31 with some good success on the first few songs. “Shepherd’s Hey”, “Botany Bay” and “Reuben and Rachel” were all performed well, this means that I will drop these during the coming week. Some additional work is going to be needed on “Amazing Grace”, particularly the movement between C and A at the start of the second line. I did not attempt the technical exercise at the end of the page. This is a really good exercise that I want to look at adopting into my practice routine, I will make a note of this for me to use during the coming week.

My session continued with Page 32 and the song “Syncopated Rhythms”. This was played well and will be dropped from the regular routine to allow time to focus on more difficult repertoire. The songs “Russian Sailor Dance” and “Ye Banks and Braes of Bonnie Doon” have both shown some improvement but a greater amount of time is needed on my higher notes, especially the transitions to and from the High D. “Tom Dooley” at the end of the page needs a lot of work, especially the movement to the High D and High C.

Unfortunately, my session was needed to be cur short at this point due to my next Saturday morning student arriving. This is just a reality of my life as a musician, I’m not phased by, rather grateful that I get to live the life I do teaching, playing and writing music.

The coming week should be an exciting time for me and the Trumpet Challenge. Hopefully I’ll get the remainder of the book completed and maybe have all five days under the belt again. I know that there will be some changes to schedule during this week, hopefully I can smash out another great and progressive week…bring it on!

 

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Trumpet Challenge Week 27 Tuesday

Tuesday 26th of September – Two Steps Forward, One Step Back.

I went into today’s session with a huge amount of hope and excitement at what would be possible off the back of some excellent sessions over the past few weeks. I really felt that I had started to see significant growth in my tuning, pitching and accuracy of high and low notes…silly me!

Today’s practice was nothing short of frustrating! The good work that had been present in all areas of my development felt like ti went out the window today, high notes were mismatched and broken, intonation was shocking and low notes wouldn’t come out – I had a terrible day to the extent it felt like a two steps forward one step backwards sort of day…actually more like one step forward and two steps backwards.

Warmup / Tecnical Exercises.

I commenced the practice in the same manner that I have for the past few weeks, lips slurs, longnotes and scale. The session started well enough with the lip slurs, I did start to run into problems a lot earlier and found it challenging to maintain the high notes cleanly and accurately. I just couldn’t get my embouchure right today for some reason!!!

The scales work was also a challenge, I managed to play C Major accurately, but after this had problems pitching the low notes (G, A and B) for the G Major scale and the high notes (C, C#, D and Eb) for the D and Eb Major scales.

Accent on Achievement Repertoire.

I had hoped to continue my progress in Accent on Achievement form yesterday’s great session and build on the concepts that I thought I had consolidated…this did not happen at all!

I started on Page 30 as I have been and struggled with the accuracy of notes for my High C and D throughout the entire page. I had made great progress with the song “Finlandia” over the last week but today the high D was just not there.

Page 31 continued this trend, high notes proved challenging and there seemed nothing I could do to improve my embouchure. One positive from the is page was the song “Reuben and Rachel” where I managed to play most of the low Bb notes (first valve) without many broken notes…if only I could put both he high and low note accuracy together!!!

I didn’t get past Page 32 in today’s practice, this page had some positive moments. The most positive was the song “Russian Sailor Dance” which I managed to play without any broken notes, including the high C and D. Unfortunately the song “Ye Banks and Braes of Bonnie Doon” didn’t have the same consistency, especially int he movement from the Bb to D on the first valve. The final song on the page, “Tom Dooley” has a significant number of errors in it, a lot more work and attention is to be needed.

I feel that a good goal for me to have after today’s practice would be to try and have the book completed prior to Term Four commencing. I do feel that this is possible although a significant amount of work will be needed consistently over the coming week and a half to achieve this.

This goal will allow me to start preparing for the next books, both another Accent on Achievement and a separate repertoire book. I am happy to take suggestions from Trumpeters out there as to what a good beginner repertoire book is. Feel free to give advice in the comments down below!

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Trumpet Challenge Week 27 Monday

Trumpet Challenge Monday, Week 27 – Feeling Blocked Up.

Well I have managed to get out and start off the holiday season in style with a good session on the first day, WooHoo! I honestly didn’t know how today’s session was going to go, I am still suffering from a cold and my sinuses are quite congested (ugh!!!).

Warm Up / Technical Exercises.

I managed to start the session with a good variety of long notes, lip slurs and scales. My lip slurs went well up to about the F – Bb (first valve) where I started to break the notes. I did managed to continue the lip slurs up to the Bb – D (first valve) where I returned to tonguing each note. My final position change was from the C – E (open valves).

The scales I worked on today included my majors in the keys of C, G, Bb, A and Eb. I had significant trouble with my G Major scale, the first notes (G, A and B) were very difficult to get out. I am going to have to keep focusing on my lower notes as well as the higher ones. I do find thesis particularly difficult after having played towards the top of my range, the repositioning off the embouchure is proving quite challenging!

 

Repertoire.

Today proved to be quite a fruitful day in the Accent on Achievement Book No 1 for Trumpet. I started on Page 30 with “Crossing the Break” which took some time to settle into, there were challenges with the high D being clear still.These problems continued with “Kum Ba Yah” before I settled into a good routine and tone for the final two songs on the page; “Trumpet Voluntary” and “Finlandia”. I managed to play “Finlandia”, including the High D half way through the piece, with great accuracy, just as I did on Saturday.


The session continued with Page 31. The first two pieces, “Shepherd’s Hey” and “Botany Bay” were both played with a good accuracy. I am particularly happy with “Botany Bay” as the high D in Bar 10 has always caused me some difficulty. I am still having difficulty with “Reuben and Rachel” in the pitching of the low Bb (first valve), the note continues to break and be difficult to pitch. If there is any advice Trumpeters could give me to improve this after having played up higher it would be greatly appreciated! The final piece on the page, “Amazing Grace” was played better than in previous sessions. I am still having some difficulty with the high C in Bar 9 but it is getting stronger.

Page 32 proved a little more challenging. Three of the songs “Russian Sailor’s Dance”, Ye Banks and Braes of Bonnie Doon” and ” Tom Dooley” all focus on movement to and from the high D (first valve). There were a lot of broken notes, this page is going to need a lot more work to master!

Rather than finishing there I continued with Page 33. This page introduces the note Eb (2nd and 3rd valve). The first song “Mixin’ It Up” was quite easy to complete due to not having a large range however, “On Top of Old Smokey” proved difficult towards the end. I, again, experienced difficulty with the low Bb towards the end of the piece. I played the phrase separately a few times before playing in context to try and master the slight nuances needed in embouchure. I will continue to work on this over the coming week.

The page continued with “March Slav” and “Las Mananitas” both of which I managed without much difficulty. The final song on the page, “Pomp and Circumstance” proved a little more challenging. The movement from an A to High D really stretched me and will need some focus to get the jump clean and accurate consistently.

My session finished with the song “American Patrol” which is the final song in the book. This will need a lot of additional work, I am under no illusions. Hopefully by the end of this week it will be done and dusted (if I get my sessions in).

I am happy with how the session went, I have managed to pack a lot in. Hopefully this trend will continue with another session tomorrow!

 

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Trumpet Challenge Week 23

Week 23 – If I was consistent I’d be dangerous!

Well, it’s been another disappointing week of practice with only one session possible inside the 7 days. Having said that, it was a really good session today with not too many pitching errors and a greater consistency in tone…and that’s after I had played my sax for two hours prior to practising the trumpet!

I really think that if I could get constant at this thing I’d be able to give it a red hot crack!

I continued to revise the concepts in the first Accent on Achievement book during this session, trying to stretch to play my C in the 3rd space accurately every time, particularly towards the end of a piece after fatigue has set in. All I can say is that it’s slowly getting there!

I have been thinking a lot about ways to get more consistent in the regime, I know that this means needing to do some at school by getting there a little earlier. That means I need to get to bed on time, get up on time and make it priority to do first thing when I get to school (all of these things I’m currently not particularly good at).

I have started videoing sessions again, the aim is still to release these publicly, I am looking at perhaps using vimeo for this at the moment. My reasoning for this is that it looks like I can keep greater control of the content and, in time with me hoping to start releasing online Saxophone lessons for people to pay for I can work on setting up videos to be only shown on my sight and even with restricted access. These parameters are very attractive to me.

Well, it’s time for me to do the editing / preparation of the Week 23 Video, always a confronting concept to listen back to my sessions but I also find it so helpful in charting my development.

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Trumpet Challenge Week 22

Trumpet Challenge Week 22 – Boy, My Lips Are Tired!

I have just finished the first actual “practice” of my trumpet for about two and a half months. I know, it’s absolutely shocking with the lack of commitment I have shown!

It has been a significant challenge for me to try and commit to regular practice, as mentioned in previous posts, due to a number of factors including school commitments (Term Three is always a challenge with performances), completing the assignments for my Certificate IV in Training and Assessment (just waiting for my results now), job applications for promotional positions at school, every week lesson planning and marking and (the worst reason of all) the loss of my trumpet book.

The good news is that a lot of these commitment are now completed, meaning a lot of my objections should be removed now. Whilst I still have a number of performance commitments at school in the second half of the term, I don’t have job applications, my Cert. IV assignments, as much lesson planning and, most importantly of all, I have managed to find my trumpet book!!!

Today’s practice went a lot better than I had expected to, the quality was good, duration not as magnificent. I am still managing to comfortably play with reasonable accuracy all of my notes up to the “C” in the third space. The “D” on the fourth line is still breaking on a number of occasions and will need a lot more work get accurate, but today’s practice was never going to be about this. After warmups I have managed to revise the music from pages 17 – 24 comfortably without many issues of pitching, breaking notes or intonation. The biggest problem was muscle fatigue as the practice continued, playing brass instruments really does use the lip muscles in a different way to playing reed instruments!

Now that I have found my book, I am hoping for a greater consistency in practice throughout this week. The book won’t get lost again as it will live in my trumpet case. I am thinking a might try to get some of the easier jazz band parts from school for both the Senior and Middle School Big Bands, some additional practice material will come in handy as I continue to revise the concepts learnt in the first Accent on Achievement. Hopefully by next week (or the week after at the vey latest) I will be ready to move onto Book Number 2.

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Trumpet Challenge Week 20

Trumpet Challenge Week 20 – The Continual Disappointment.

We’re now nearly half way through the challenge and I am really finding it difficult to regularly practice. I had hoped at the beginning of the year that as I got into the challenge things would get easier, that I’d find a good routine and then be able to stick at it…

SILLY ME…

Since my last post I have only picked up my trumpet probably only three times, each one at the Intermediate Band rehearsals. It’s not that I haven’t wanted to, it’s more that there’s been so many other things that I have just had to get done as a part of my everyday job…I’m barely getting any time to play my saxophone, let along the trumpet.

We’re now in Term Three, the performance term, loaded with performance after performance. The term has started out in this manner and probably won’t ease up until the end of it, actually more like half way through next term. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining as it’s why I do what I do – giving students the opportunity to perform is why I teach music, and I love that. It just means that I haven’t had much time for my own practise and development musically.

I did have to have a couple of weeks of intensive piano practise to get my accompaniment skills back up to scratch before a big Music Eisteddfod. I was accompanying a number of younger students and really wanted to get the parts right to help them as best I could, especially as for some of them it was their first public solo performance.

Hopefully in this next week everything will get into a better routine, that would mean maybe a chance to practise twice to three times a week (which would be awesome). Here’s to a better few weeks to come…on that note I’d better go and try to find my book, it’s still missing!!!

Trumpet Challenge Week 17

The trumpet challenge has taken a few hits over the past month, hence why there have not been consistent posts.

School has been frantic, there have been many events over the last four weeks of school, especially in the last two weeks of the term which has eaten up a lot of additional time. On top of this there have been additional meetings I have needed to attend, reports to write, marking to complete and job interview panels that I have had to sit on.

Away from school has been just as frantic, trying to spend time with my beautiful family (which I fail at so often), private teaching and being there to help my extended family. I have also been working hard to complete all of the assignments needed for my Certificate IV in Training and Assessment (which I finally did yesterday).

I will be clear on one point, I have been playing my trumpet at least once a week, that usually has been occurring in the Intermediate Concert Band rehearsals. My personal practice has been terrible, only limited to Saturdays, and that is only if I am lucky. I currently can’t find my book, that will have to change over the next few days.

I am no closer to finding a good video player for my video evidence, this is very frustrating for me as I am keen to be able to upload all my videos to demonstrate the improvement.

As always I am open to suggestions as to the best way to achieve this goal.

I am hoping as this next term starts that I might find a little more routine and regularity in all my practice endeavours. I am hopeful but know that it will be a difficult challenge to keep up consistently.

Trumpet Challenge Week 13

It’s been a number of weeks since I have posted anything relating to the Trumpet Challenge. I can honestly say on this occasion that I have been spending some time playing my trumpet, in fact usually twice a week, I just haven’t done a weekly update on progress.

I have continued to record my sessions and hopefully in the near future I will workout how to have these all uploaded and available for viewing…it just hasn’t happened yet!

My improvement is quite slow, the focus has been on long notes and improving my tone quality/accuracy of notes from pitching. This has taken another turn recently with me starting to play the trumpet in the schools intermediate band on occasions for rehearsals. There’s still a long way to go but I do fee there has been some improvement. I need to keep working on pitching and not overblowing in an ensemble setting. I hope to continue to pursue the band option over the next month – let’s see whether my theory on playing in bands accelerates one’s musical development!

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