Stamina for Brass Players

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by TheConductor, Apr 14, 2010.

  1. TheConductor

    TheConductor New Member

    If you do have any problems with your stamina, Ask yourself ”What am I NOT doing?”
    Here are SIX topics that you should be consentrating on:

    1) Warm UP
    2) Long Notes
    3) Slurring Exercises
    4) Mouthpiece Pressure
    5) Playing Time
    6) Relaxation of the Embouchure.
    Your practice session must include the above.

    Warm up – Take time to allow the muscle to warm by playing in a relaxed range (generally below the stave). Very little pressure from the mouthpiece is required.

    Long Notes – Start on low C’s then work your way up through the octave to middle C. As the notes get higher the bottom lip presses upwards onto the top lip, this tension helps to speed up the vibrations of the lips which cause the pitch to rise.

    Slurring Exercises – Start by slurring small intervals and keeping the same valve combination i.e bottom C to middle G (perfect fifth).
    Play these slowly, crotchet length at about •=60 then as the lips respond speed up to playing quavers, then semiquavers etc.

    Mouthpiece Pressure – Avoid too much pressure. I am not a believer of non pressure, just enough to seal the mouthpiece onto the lips and as you play in the higher range keep the pressure of the mouthpiece at a minimum. By pressing on you restrict the flow of blood to the muscle thus enhancing fatigue.

    Playing Time – The more time you can spend playing the better – However try to play in small periods of say 20 – 30 minutes with a break in between rather than playing for hours without the break.

    Relaxation of the Embouchure – Finally it is very important that you try to relax the embouchure after your practice time, again play below the stave long notes with only a very minimal pressure on the lips.
    I certainly hope that these tips will be of some use to you. Feel free to pass this information onto anyone that it may help.
    If you need to know more go to
  2. davidquinlan

    davidquinlan Member

  3. TheConductor

    TheConductor New Member

    7) Breath Control.

    In some respects I agree, however, breath control has more effect on your quality of tone and range rather than Stamina.
  4. davidquinlan

    davidquinlan Member

    We'll have to agree to disagree then, any professional player and certainly all professional teachers I've been to have pretty much always said that breathing is the key / foundation to brass playing.
    If you breath control is good, this gives you the foundation to build on other playing skills, stamina being one of these (along with quality of tone, and range).
  5. TheConductor

    TheConductor New Member

    I am not disagreeing with you at all and I'm not saying you cant add it to the list. What I'm saying is that if I had posted an article about Tone and Range then Breath Control would be my first on the list. It is still very important but...not as much for the topic posted.
  6. davidquinlan

    davidquinlan Member

    Hmm, to me it's fundamental... so gotta be first on list for almost all aspects of playing... ?

    However, I do agree that at times there can be too much focus on breathing especially when use of the "d" word is mentioned. I see you are relatively new here, do a search for the "d" word.. I can't bring myself to type it.. I'm sure you can guess what part of the anatomy I'm reluctantly referring to... :)
  7. TheConductor

    TheConductor New Member

    David - Thankyou for your opinion.
  8. skweeky

    skweeky Member

    I must agree with David. The reason they are named "wind instruments" is quite self-explanatory . I also agree with "TheConductor's"' tips (for the most part). In regards to playing time however, I consider 20-30 minutes too much like a "short burst" rather than endurance training. You should try to comfortably play for at least an hour. You don't want to get too used to stopping after 20 minutes. Unless you mean breaks to be around 5 minutes?
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2010
  9. steve butler

    steve butler Active Member

    I go for long bike rides
  10. Bayerd

    Bayerd Active Member

    I stopped reading at consentrating....
  11. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    For stamina problems, I would personally seek out advice about my embouchure and breath support before embarking on a series of exercises that may cause unintentional damage.
  12. worzel

    worzel Member

    I'm guessing you mean the diaphragm, and that it's a load of b*****ks. I thought it was nonsense for ages, because your diaphragm is used to draw breath in, not out, but figured what was meant was the abdominals. But then I read some stuff about singing and how one must hold the abs and diaphragm in opposition so one can control the slow release of air. So I tried it, and hey presto, I can now play at F as well as FF, and am working towards MF :)
  13. davidquinlan

    davidquinlan Member

    I see where you are coming from, however, this 20 / 30 min practice is recommended by Howard Snell in his book The Trumpet. You do 3 maybe 4 20/30 min sessions with 10 - 15 min breaks. In your breaks, you do other stuff, read through new repertoire, do keyboard training.. oil your valves etc... :) His book the Art of Practice elaborates on this too, two books well worth having.

    At masterclass with Rod Franks and Rodger Webster last year, they also talked a lot about practicing in this manner, Rod from the orchestral perspective, you sit for ages then bam, you gotta deliver, Rodger from a brass band perspective, in a band concert, you don't play all the time, and have interval, so you come out for 2nd half with chops as fresh as they were for beginning of first half.

    The idea behind this is that the frequent breaks helps recovery time. When I've been a good boy :) and practicing, I find this method helps a lot. I do band playing, orchestral playing and playing in pit orchestras for shows. All different disciplines that have different demands on stamina and recovery.

    Then again, everyone is different, what works for one, doesn't necessarily work for another. Learning to play is a "voyage of discovery".. you gotta discover what works for you.

    Last edited: Apr 17, 2010
  14. skweeky

    skweeky Member

    What about considering the military band perspective?
  15. davidquinlan

    davidquinlan Member

    Hmm, interesting... I don't have any experience there... smile and press hard???

    Ready, Aim, Fire I guess.... :)
  16. trumpetmike

    trumpetmike Well-Known Member

    I would agree with David about this - short bursts are an excellent way of building stamina - it is VERY rare in any situation to have "in your face" playing for extended periods of time. Every good teacher I have had has recommended multiple short bursts as opposed to the potentially damaging extended playing sessions.

    With regards to the original post, I would be VERY careful about the use of the word "relaxed" when speaking about the embouchure - one of the biggest issues I see in many players (especially younger students and those who haven't studied at a high level) is that when they go towards the lower end of the instruments playing register, they do relax the embouchure and the pitch goes very flat.

    When I am finding my stamina is lacking I go back to the fundamental of breathing to help - I have a couple of books of exercises and also the incredible Breathing Gym DVD, which is a superb series of exercises that will get anyone breathing better.
    Every time I work on my breathing I find that my stamina improves dramatically.
  17. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    David Wilken has some useful information relating to embouchure efficiency and effectiveness. I was a little surprised watching the first of the "dysfunction" videos that botox has been used to try and remedy the problem ... :eek:
  18. El Cid

    El Cid New Member

    Don't practice all Winter, then do as many carolling jobs as poss. Then don't practice all Spring, then do as many marches as poss. By the end you can go through 5 marches and only bleed a little!!
  19. Bass Trumpet

    Bass Trumpet Active Member

    So many opinions, opinions, opinions......

    I'm sorry if this sounds controversial, but all the OP is doing is spouting a collection of accepted conventions akin to teaching one's Granny to suck eggs. I hope he's not expecting any praise as it looks suspiciously like a copy and paste job from a dozen other brass forums.

    If you want to be revered as some sort of guru, tell us something we don't know.
  20. Alyn James

    Alyn James Member

    Ouch :wow
    Do you two know each other?

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