In working with my beginning trumpet students, there are two issues we commonly address regarding practice. The first is “how often/long should one practice?” The other is, “what happens during trumpet practice sessions?” I recently held a live online session to talk about developing an effective trumpet practice strategy. Scroll to the bottom for the replay of that session, and continue reading for a summary…
Trumpet Practice Schedule
Regarding frequency and duration we have to deal with the ideal and compare that to ‘real life’. Let’s start with the ideal: for a brand new beginner on the trumpet, I recommend 20-30 minutes daily. After a few weeks of that routine and when strength/endurance is built up a bit, one hour daily can produce great results, and is what I recommend.
I also get that we’re all different in areas such as attention span, motivation, and lifestyle, and one hour a day isn’t what everyone can consistently commit to. And to those people, I say it’s still possible to enjoy playing the trumpet and improve. In my experience with my students, anything less than three days a week for at least 30 minutes will not produce results one can build on. Sustain trumpet ‘fitness’, yes, but significantly improve, no. A compromise commitment that while less than ideal can still produce motivating results lies in a model that looks something like 4-7 days a week, 30 to 60 minutes each. Much of what determines success and improvement lies in the second topic, what actually occurs during that practice.
Trumpet Practice Content
Getting the most out of your practice time is key to not only improving, but to enjoying playing the trumpet. Every practice session should include a warm-up, developmental exercises (i.e., lip slurs) for building strength and flexibility, and work on musical content (etudes, melodies, solos…). A concept that I emphasize as early as I can with my students is that of the ‘practice unit’. A practice unit is a specific number of notes or measures we practice. Initially there’s no need to rehearse an entire melody if there are two specific 2-bar passages that present the biggest challenge. Focusing quality practice on those 2 bars will generally yield faster improvement than playing the entire piece over and over. In other words, focus your practice on what needs to be practiced!
Take a listen to the recent live online presentation where I reviewed some of these concepts, and see if you can develop your own strategy for effective practice…