5 top tips for successful brass playing in 2011


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tipsWelcome to the New Year at BrassMusician.com!

Starting in May 2010, the goal of BrassMusician.com was simple: To provide an online resource for brass players, by brass players.

In the 8 months we’ve been online, we’ve done just that, providing a portal where brass players from around the world can share news, reviews, interesting stories, tips, advice and more, via our online magazine.

In late 2010 we introduced the BrassMusician.com forums, providing further opportunities for free discussion between brass players.

Now, in 2011, what better way to start the year than to provide some great top tips for successful brass playing!

Top Tip #1: Practice musically, perform musically

Here’s a newsflash for all you brass playing “meatheads” out there: Playing musically is much more important than playing high and loud!!

Definition: “Meathead”
A brass player concerned only with technique, equipment, high notes, and loud playing.
Thanks to Jens Lindemann for that one! :) )

High and loud is interesting for about 1% of the global audience (namely, other brass playing “meatheads” :P ) However MUSICAL playing is always interesting, no matter who is listening. Yes, Maynard Ferguson could play high and loud, but he always did it musically!

So when you are practising long notes, scales, arpeggios, studies, etc, aim to play them musically – this will give you a greater sense of purpose when practising, and help you to naturally play musically in performance.

Top Tip #2: Be prepared

Always be prepared when you arrive at rehearsal. Make sure you know the repertoire, including any difficult passages that might come along. Also, check to see that you have the right instruments (in the case of various keyed trumpets etc) and mutes on hand! And finally, don’t forget to bring a pencil!

Top Tip #3: Listen

It could be argued that your ears are the best brass teacher you’ll ever have. By listening to the playing of other brass players, musicians, and singers, you can learn about different sound concepts, different types of articulation, phrasing, and so on. Apply what you hear to your own practise. Emulate, develop, re-invent. This is equally appropriate for jazz, commercial, dixie, classical, solo, chamber – brass players of all styles.

Top Tip #4: Record yourself

When we practise, what we hear, and what we *actually* play can be two different things. I remember practising some double tongue passages from Scheherazade many years ago, thinking that they were going far too slowly, and wondering how I might speed them up. However upon listening to the recording of my practise session, I realised that it just *felt* slow (i.e. easy) but in actual fact, I was sounding more like a machine gun than a trumpet player! Which brings me on to the next tip…

metronomeTop Tip #5: Make use of simple technology

Metronomes: If, when practising rhythmic music, your metronome has a tendency to speed up and slow down all by itself, you may need to spend some more time with your little ticking box! Practise rhythmic music and exercises often with a metronome. It will help you nail your timing.

Tuners: For long note practise, and to give you a rough idea of where you are pitch-wise, these are great. However be aware that if you are practising a melody, where certain notes will want to ‘tend’ one way or another ( i.e. major 3rds should be low, minor thirds high, major 7ths high etc) , your ears will be the best judge of pitch.

All the best for a successful, prosperous, and fun 2011!

2 Responses to “5 top tips for successful brass playing in 2011”

  1. Add: Stick to a routine.
    love your “meathead” definition!

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