Trumpet Challenge Week 24

Trumpet Challenge Saturday, Week 24 – A Different Posture.

Today’s practice was short in its length but excellent in its overall quality. It’s funny how even just one additional practice in the week (Monday) helped me see greater gains than the once a week.

I decided to try something different in today’s practice regarding my posture, standing rather than sitting. Up until this point I have always sat down when practicing, no reason in particular just because that has been my preference. I thought it would be interesting to see if the standing position would effect my tone, pitching and accuracy of notes…it definitely did, a lot less notes were broken throughout the entire session.


I continued with my standard warmup regime of lip slurs. Starting on my Middle C, slurred up to the next position (G) and back down, each note held for a minim on 72 BPM. The slurs from C, C#, D, D#, E and F were all rather comfortable. A found a lot more air was needed for the next set of notes (F#, G, G#, A, Bb, B and C) however, it was still possible with only a little bit of not breaking. I continued my warmup with a C Major scale (one octave) and C Major arpeggio. I might look at including my F and G Major scales in the coming week.

Repertoire – Accent on Achievement.

My revision of the first book of Accent on Achievement continued today through the revision of pages starting with “Easy Does It”. This piece had me focus on my C in the third space and lip slurring to the G. It became evident in this song and latter ones in the practice that I need continue to work on my downward slurs in different positions, such as from the Low D to the Low C.

This technical problem continued with the songs “New World Symphony”, “Song of the Volga Boatmen” and “Liza Jane”. I have slightly changed my video recordings to give a little more speaking into the areas of the songs I am having difficulty with and the things that I feel I need to work on technique wise. This is to assist me as I review the recordings to reflect on the areas of growth I need to focus on, highlighting areas that some of the students I have in bands might also be experiencing.

Unfortunately, my session was cut short due to the arrival of my next student…I guess that’s always the joys of the Music Teacher, you always have to cram in your own Professional Development in-between lessons to encourage and inspire others!

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Trumpet Challenge Week 23 Monday

Week 23 – A Second Day Inside the Week.

Today I have managed to have some success with managing a second session for the week. I managed to get up early this morning, get my work out done and arrived at school by 6:50am and was starting to blow my first notes just after 7:00am.

I have band start at 7:30am in the Junior School, this is about a five minute walk from the Senior School Music Rooms. This time constraint meant i knew that realistically I’d only get 10 – 15 minutes before needing to walk down to open up for the boys who are diligent at arriving on time.

There has been a lot of reflection over the past few days on my Trumpet Challenge, the approach to writing my blogs posts and the actual practice sessions them self. The purpose of this challenge is to try to learn a good fundamental approach to the trumpet, fingering, embouchure, breathing and tone to allow students I have in band to communicated to effectively when they are beginner to intermediate students. Some of my more recent posts and sessions don’t really reflect this, I have grown a little lazy in my warm up and technical excursuses and definitely not taking the necessary time to reflect on my progress. I made the decision that this would change today.

Warm Up.

I returned to the advice of the trumpet teachers at school regarding warmups, in particular the use of lip slurs. I worked on the slurs starting with C up to G (open position) and gradually progressed up the instrument, each notes I held for four counts on approximately 72 BPM, slurring up and then back down. I found the first few easy (C – G; D – G; E – A; F -Bb) but then started to struggle with the ones above this (F# – B; G – C, Bb – D). I will try to keep working on these, particularly focusing on my embouchure and air support, I have a bad habit of not angling the trumpet correctly against my lips and not having enough top lip in the mouthpiece cup.

Accent on Achievement Book.

Today I focused on the next lot of pages in the book, starting with “Sakura” – a traditional Japanese folk song. The ending of the piece was challenging due to muscle fatigue and not positioning my embouchure accurately, especially the top lip.

The next piece, “Clarinet Climb” focuses on lip slurs. Most of these I managed reasonably accurately, the most challenging was the slur down from an E to the low C. I experience similar problems in the next song “It’s Raining, It’s Pouring”. I managed to improve the sound and not breaking the notes as much by slightly angling my head down, ensuring that more top lip was in the mouthpiece cup and that the instrument was still supported against my lips, but not too much pressure.

The traditional Chinese Song “Arirang” went reasonably well. I did have some fatigue problems towards the end of the price. I also need to continue to work on my articulation, particularly the slurring.

I had an interesting problem arise with the famous melody “Ode to Joy” from Beethoven’s Choral Symphony (Symphony No 9). For the first time ever I found myself pitching the notes too high at the beginning. I think that this happened because of where I was pitching the piece in my head from the instruments I play.

My practice continued into the next page with “Stretching Higher” followed by the Largo Theme from Dvorak’s New World Symphony. I did have a number of pitching issues with this one, largely due to muscle fatigue and embouchure positioning, two issues that I will hopefully continue to address tomorrow.

I am hoping to start to get some of the videos up online later this week. I am a little nervous as to how this will be received but feel it will be an important log of my development that I will be able to reflect back on as the year continues to progress.

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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…


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!

Trumpet Challenge Week 9

Well it’s been another challenging week for consistent practice. The College Musical is in full swing and between this, teaching and wanting to see my family a little there has been limited time for everything else!

A positive note is that I got to play my trumpet once this week, boy oh boy was it average! Two weeks off has a significant impact on ones playing the trumpet both in terms of pitching, tone and endurance. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find my trumpet book that I was using so it meant a lot of warmup exercises to try and build up my chops again.

I also had a great conversation with one of the trumpeters performing in the production, trying to get some tips on improving my playing and range. He has suggested looking at doing lip slurs over my known range. This means playing a note and changing the tension of my embouchure to play a different note in the same position, the trick is to do it without tonging (slurring) and making it not break. This is a challenge I can’t to get into my routine.

Look out here I come!

Trumpet Challenge Week 8

The first week back at school and the first challenge, no practice for the entire week (including my usual Saturday time).

I find this incredibly frustrating that this has been the case but it really has been one of those things out of my control. The school week has proven chaotic between preparing work for the term, ensembles, the College Musical that I am playing in and Parent Teacher interviews, not leaving much time for anything else!

My Saturday practice time was taken up with the moving of my Music Studio location. There has been significant pack up and moving of all of my resources. I still haven’t managed to find the time set everything back up, hopefully this will be achieved before next weekend or else it might turn into another week of no practice!

Trumpet Challenge Week 7

The start of Week 7 has seen me see quite considerable improvement in my playing over the course of Week 6’s practice regime.

I didn’t get to do any practice yesterday (the end of the Week 6 cycle) due to a number of circumstances out of control. I was interested to see what the effect would be on my playing…would I be able to still hit the D on the fourth line easily or would the day off have a significant negative effect?

I started my practice in the same way that I have been in recent times with a number of warm up exercises, focusing particularly on being able to accurately pitch notes played in the same position and being able to play up at the top of the range later in my breath when my lips are fatigued.

I was pleasantly surprised with how well this went after a day off. In fact, the whole practice was quite a productive one. This does raise an interesting point that I think a lot of beginner students fall into after a while, complacency. I have had a few good weeks of practice, built up a store of muscle memory habits, this has meant that missing one day hasn’t had too much of a negative effect. However, if this became two days then I know that the effect would be greater felt, three even more so. The dangerous path that leads is that then a student cannot do the things that they used to be able, this means it has to be relearnt before they can progress which leads to frustration and desire not to practice. This not practicing leads to more frustration and eventually it ends with a student quitting. How much better it is when a student doesn’t develop those bad habits of missing days int he first place! I had better make sure that I don’t fall into the same trap as the school term commences and my time becomes a lot more limited!

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