Gooood morning trumpet players! The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and it’s time to get your horn out for your warm-up. Maybe you’re excited and feeling fresh. Or, maybe you’re feeling tired and less than motivated. Either way, you need to get started somehow. Here are some warm-up exercises that can help you feel ready to take on whatever practice, rehearsals, or performances the day has in store for you.
First things first, you need to make sure your airflow and lips are working together to vibrate efficiently and give you the best sound possible. It might be a good idea to use breath attacks (no tongue) to achieve this goal. For me, using breath attacks is the best way to begin my playing day with the least amount of tension. I usually gauge how my air and lips are working by doing something like this:
After your airflow is established, taking some time on the mouthpiece alone will give you an opportunity to focus on creating a full, resonant sound. Beginning in the middle register and working outward eliminates the possibility of overworking your embouchure muscles too soon. However, it is a good idea to buzz in a variety of registers to ensure you will get the best sound once you put the mouthpiece back on your horn. Something like this can be done in as little as 5-10 minutes:
Buzzing with pitch rather than just sliding up and down is a great way to develop your sense of pitch accuracy and train your ears to hear the center of the pitch when you put the mouthpiece back on the horn. When I buzz, I hold the mouthpiece with my left hand and use my right hand to mimic the fingerings I would use on the trumpet!
Having established a resonant sound through your buzzing exercises, making sure you sustain that resonance while covering all registers of the horn is the next step. This is where I usually put my long tones. I vary how I practice long tones, but most often I find myself using this model so I know I am really connecting each note to the next:
It took me many, many years of playing trumpet to realize that yes, long tones are necessary and in fact great for my playing. Now, they are one of the most meditative and relaxing parts of my day, and I look forward to them! Embrace your long tones. Love your long tones.
If you’re short on time, this might be enough of a warm-up to get you ready for the day. However, I would recommend adding some of the following fundamental elements and technique exercises to be the most ready for anything you might have to play and to improve the quality of your playing overall.
As trumpet players, we come across lots of different articulations throughout the day. Adding a variety of legato, staccato, single, double, and triple tonguing into your everyday routine can make everything easier in your playing, from sightreading to large ensemble playing. Try the following exercises to cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time:
Adding flexibility (or lip slur) exercises to your warm-up routine will give you more control on the instrument and help you stay tension-free. As you can see, much of my goals for my warm-up session involve removing as much tension as possible. So far, exercises like these have helped me do just that:
I really make these up as I go on a daily basis (which is why you won’t see a score in the video), but in general, something that starts lower and gradually builds up to a higher register works well for me.
If your range has not developed enough to reach the higher partials, don’t worry! Practice these exercises in a range that is comfortable for you, and eventually expand them to include higher and higher notes!
The Hard Stuff
We all know those one or two things in our playing that just seem to give us the most trouble. For me, it is usually large interval leaps or low register playing. Since these are typically less-than-pleasant to practice, I like to put them at the end of my warm-up session. My chops are ready to take on something that is a little more difficult for me, and I can leave the session feeling accomplished. Even if I get frustrated with this harder thing, I can walk away from the trumpet for a little bit before I come back to practice something else, not feeling like I have skipped anything or am unprepared to play other music for the day. Whatever this area of trumpet playing is for you, be empowered to tackle it head-on, and feel great about yourself for doing it!
These six areas of trumpet playing will set you up for success in a wide variety of playing scenarios. Depending on how many exercises you choose to do, these can be done in less than an hour. I am the type of person who loves to do the same thing every day and keep a routine, but if that isn’t for you, switch up the exercises every so often to keep yourself from getting bored. Each individual player has different needs for this sort of practice, so make sure you do what is healthy and the best for you--but don’t be afraid to challenge yourself! Even something as basic as long tones or articulation exercises can be an opportunity to stretch your creativity and challenge yourself to grow as a player.
Here are some method books that I choose exercises from regularly to switch up my warm-up and fundamentals routine. I would highly recommend any of them!
J. B. Arban, Complete Conservatory Method for Trumpet
H. L. Clarke, Technical Studies for the Cornet
James Thompson, The Buzzing Book
Vincent Chicowicz, Flow Studies Volume 1
Max Schlossberg, Daily Drills and Technical Studies for Trumpet
John Daniel, Special Studies for Trumpet
Eric Swisher, Basic Skills for the Developing Trumpeter
For easy access, here is the link for the playlist as a whole.