How to keep the suck out while on break

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

Why I love the 15 Minute Warm-Up, and so should you.

Q: Dear Dr. J - Why are you such a maniac about the Brass Buzz and the 15 Minute Warm-Up?

Answer:I like 'em so much, I bought the company!


Not true, but full disclosure up front - I love the 15 Minute W.U. and the 20 Minute W.U. so much, that after 10 years of use, I have collaborated with Mr. Davis to help him with some of his current projects- this is not a "paid testimonial".

I, as all of you, have been doing long tones, lip slurs, etc. since the dawn of time. . . .well. . . . for me, since about fifth grade. I had a great teacher who got me started doing the Remington Warm-Ups and and similar exercises. I DID do them, but not as often as I would have liked, and certainly, NOT as thoughtfully as I now wish I would have done.

As Malcolm Gladwell talks about in his now often quoted book- it takes 10 years or 10,000 hours of practice to master a skill. What people often leave out, is that it takes THOUGHTFUL practice, not just the time.

Q: Why do I use the 15 Minute Warmup, or the 20 Minute Warm-Up on a daily basis?
A: Because it provides structure, pitch and rhythmic reinforcement, and gives me a "starting point" or "emergency w.u." that I can do at a bus station or in the car on my mouthpiece, or when at home it's like stretching/running the bases- then I can supplement it with other exercises that I need that day, or my face tells me that it needs more of. I often follow it with another 20-40 minutes of flexibility, articulation, range exercises, but always start with the accompaniment (EVEN THOUGH it may seem seem a bit "cheezy" to some) - as it allows me to:

not. . . . procrastinate. . . . or. . . . put. . . . it. . . . off. . . . .

If nothing else, in 10-15 minutes, I have hit all the major areas that I need when going into a gig/etc. and will be functional. For those of use with kids/day job/unexpected events- this is a godsend, as I put it on my phone/iPod, and can buzz along with it when traveling or have a few minutes of downtime.

I cannot recommend it highly enough (again, not a paid plug) - There's a reason why Remington codified the exercises in the Remington Warm-Ups (it's the kind of stuff great brass players had been doing for the last few hundred years in various fashions - lip slurs, long tones, articulation, etc.)

The 15 Minute Warm-Up helps me "Get 'er Done" while constantly reinforcing my internal sense of TIME and PITCH. My internal auditory precognition (hearing the pitch and sound before I play it), pitch accuracy, and internal sense of time has greatly improved since I started using Mr. Davis' books in 2000.

I can't recommend it highly enough- if you're not sure, go pick up his video lesson - he's got a fan appreciation promo going right now where you can pick it up for only $5! - I'll attach it below.


Sorry for the long post, but have found in the last third of my career, as I have been using it nearly daily since 2000, that it has made a huge impact in the stability, strength, and accuracy of my physical chops, and my mental focus & discipline. I work with students from 3rd grade through professional, and I have seen an increasing challenge in getting people to discipline themselves with a "daily routine" as we all did "back in the day".

The accompaniment (even if lighthearted or "cheezy") makes a big difference in the rhythmic and pitch fundamentals, but also in the "I hit play-and play til it's done" department- it removes the resistance that we all occasionally face when picking up the horn to do the daily routine.


Use the links below to claim your prize, and thanks again for your support!

15 Minute Warmup CODE: 4xR9E
20 Minute Warmup: CODE: V8W3w

15 Minute Warmup: CODE: 74dsD
20 Minute Warmup: CODE: V33uj

Michael Davis and Hip-BoneMusic