Practice Routine Is a routine essential? What elements should be involved? How long should it last? What should be achieved? Firstly, regular practice is essential, and the establishment of a routine will enable the musician to a) become familiar with the instrument b) keep a check on progress c) build up stamina. How often do we observe players taking their instrument from the case and either playing very notes or attempting a difficult solo passage without regard to how much playing they done or to what lies ahead. This to me reflects how a player approaches his or her daily routine. Let me say at the outset that all playing is important whether we are in a practice session band rehearsal or concert venue. Regularity and familiarity is the only route to improved playing. Not everyone enjoys the routine of practice, however, we can learn to vary our practice and make it interesting for ourselves. Making progress at any level is important and therefore a system should be devised to note and track progress: keeping a note book log of things you are practising clear pencil marking in books create a computer file Everything requiring physical effort involves stamina, and therefore careful consideration needs to be given to musical fitness. Ensure that the conditions for your practice are good (i.e. not cramped or too hot and good access to your music) Know how much time you can spend on your practice when you begin and tailor your routine to fit the time available. Remember music is a creative art, so make even your practice creative and diverse. Invest in books / tutors that give you access to varied musical styles and exercises. Look at Internet resources / articles on brass playing or your instrument; you will be surprised how much information is out there. If it stimulates your thought processes in your practice it is worth the effort. The player who is not willing to at least look at new ideas is a player without learning or discovery. There are of course occasions when a routine just cannot be kept to, and practice has to be late at night or in a hotel room or even in a quiet car park (I’ve done all three!). However the regular investment in time and the establishment of a routine is rewarding and therefore recommended. Elements of practice can vary greatly; however, there are certain fundamentals, rules if you like, for practice. These elements are linked to musicianship and the application to all aspects of playing, whether solo, ensemble or band.
We all have our own ideas as to the things that are the most important, and I offer my suggestions in no particular order of merit, except to say that in my view, the sound we produce underpins all that we do, bearing in mind that banding in a ‘listening’ activity. Sound quality Do the best players produce the best sounds? In my opinion, yes. As stated already, the creative aspect of music is very important, therefore from an ‘artistic’ point of view, we are looking to produce something of beauty. In Salvation Army banding we are fortunate to have the opportunity week after week to improve our art of melody playing. Some players relish this opportunity, many don’t. So I would like to speak up for the cause of HYMN TUNE playing as a practice resource of routine. Listen to good players and good singers. You will discover and hopefully emulate some of their ways of LEGATO playing, EXPRESSION, RUBATO, and PHRASING. The best compliment that can be paid to a brass player is that it ‘sounded like someone singing’. Lyrical playing is an essential practice element. Never underestimate the power of communication or influence available to us through the playing of a melody with its associated lyrics. Make a recording of yourself playing a melody. Aim for a consistent sound quality throughout the range of the melody. Aim for a smooth note production Ensure that the phrasing points are musical. Some phrases can be too short as well as too long, however, for practice purposes, extend your phrasing as much as you can (i.e. 4 bars 6 bars 8 bars or longer, at different dynamic levels). Practice time should be given to different areas of study, e.g. LONG NOTES Listen carefully to the sounds you are producing and aim for the fullest and round a sound as possible. Compare notes against each other for their quality. MELODY PLAYING Lyricism is an important part of brass playing and time should be given to the art of expressive playing. SCALES All types of scales (Major / Minor / Chromatic / Whole‐tone) should be explored in all keys. Make yourself play in extreme keys. Diligence will pay off. TOUNGING Many players ask how do you double or triple tongue. Only constant practice will develop a fast tonguing action. Be careful that the articulation is even. Enable yourself to tongue passages right through the range of tempos. Work should be done on the separate ‘throat’ sound (‘ku’) in double and triple tonguing
Keep a constant airflow and strive for a lyricism even in fast tonguing sections. As most of our playing is within a single‐tongue boundary, time should be given to Clear accurate production (using different note lengths from staccato to tenuto style) STUDIES RANGE FLEXIBILITY INTERVALS BAND PLAYING SOLO PLAYING It may be useful to create a printed model of your daily or weekly routine. Bearing in mind that the average TV programme is 30 minutes, it would then be reasonable to expect that this time should be the least time we should be investing in practice each day. A one‐hour practice session would be, in my view, a much more reasonable expectation for the player who wants to achieve a higher level.