Oh No! It's Spring Break/Christmas/Hanukkah/St. Mary the patron saint of Brassologist's Day/etc. and I've got a big gig/audition rich after break! Well friend, let's face it: there's no quick fix, and no magical fairy to having chops--trust me, I've looked.
Here's just a few quick tips to keep you focused and come back perhaps stronger than ever:
1) "Repetition is the mother of all skill."-Anthony Robbins. Face it- if the horn is on your face you have a 100% greateter chance of increasing your strength, flexibility, range, stamina, or your audition piece than if it's in the case until the day you come back (or night before). -You cannot rush muscle building or fast track the learnng of repertoire. Remember what Mom told us about the tortise and the hair? Slow and steady wins the race. -now what? Well, sit down with a blank piece of paper, or better yet, your planner And start blockig out 30-45 minute chunks 1-2 (or more if you're a crazy person like me) times a day. Make sure you get in at least 5x a week, and do not take two consecutive days off if you can possibly avoid it.
2) If NOTHING else, get a good daily routine (if you don't have one, take a lesson with a great coach in your area-- find the top classically trained player you can afford and ask them what they do, and what they reccommend for a player your age, ability, and aspiration level. -"Wait a mintute Dr. J, a CLASSICALLY trained teacher? I study with Bernie Kerschmilowicz and he's freaking AWESOME!". --Indeed, as a regular performer in Jazz, Salsa, Rock, R & B, SOME players really have a good understanding of the fundamentals of the instrument. In truth, they all have some level of comprehension, otherwise they wouldn't be good--however, a highly trained classical artist will have years of study on the expreme minutia of tone production, range, articulation, and more-with a much finer degree of nuance and success. You can literally save yourself YEARS here. I know, be aide I personally have completely changed my philosophies on breathng, embouchure, tone production, and range- all in the last 10 years. Want to guess when I've had the most explosive growth in my results? --If you have no time to practice anything, then practice the fundamentals, as they are constant in every style of music.
3) "But I'm in ______________ and can't bring my horn." -Awesome! Do daily lip fluttering for 40-60 seconds 5x a day, AND bing your mouthpiece. "What do I buzz?" --A) get a good warm up book with a CD accompaniment, buzz your warm-up with that, go have fun, then later that night do 10-15 minutes of the items below --B) buzz simple songs you know by ear (Old MacDonald, Jingle Bells, Mary killed a little rat, etc) --C) turn on the radio and find a pop/rock station you like. (WHAT?!?! Pop musik?) Yes, pop music. The melodies are quite repetative, have great rhythmic backgrounds to work on your internal sense of time, and the melodies are lyric in nature (don't hop around a lot--they're more scalar). --D) if you have a laptop download (SmartMusic and buzz along with one of the 50,000 technical exercises, 15 Method Books, or a Baroque Solo.
As I right this, I'm in the air from San Francisco to New York to play principal trombone with the YouTube Symphoy- a contest I won after not playing for three days.......really. My smartest choice? NO. But, I was forced put of town on business, then upon my return spent two days building my practice studio and moving the office to create space for our coming baby.
Here's the skinny--had I not had several weeks of chops (good warm ups and practice sessions) I would have fallen flat on my face. I did lip flutter and do a little buzzing in the car, but I'll be honest, my face felt like garbage.
So, final thoughts before I wear out my phone by typing this non-stop tome?
Just one: Practice for YOU, not Mom, your band director, your private teacher/etc. By building up your chops and skills you become more as a player, but also as a human. You will do better in band and at in your musical battles, but more importantly, you will develop discipline and character that will serve you in LIFE, and all professions.
Have some fun with it! I suck, you suck. I practice today, so that TOMORROW, I will suck less than I do today! ;) :) :0
Chief Bonehead, Dr. J