5 Top Tips for Successful Brass Playing

Top Tip #1: Practice musically, perform musically

Here’sa newsflash for all you brass playing “meatheads” out there: Playingmusically 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 islistening. Yes, Maynard Ferguson could play high and loud, but he alwaysdid it musically!

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

Top Tip #2: Be prepared

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

Top Tip #3: Listen

It could be arguedthat your ears are the best brass teacher you’ll ever have. By listeningto the playing of other brass players, musicians, and singers, you canlearn 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

Whenwe practise, what we hear, and what we *actually* play can be twodifferent things. I remember practising some double tongue passages fromScheherazade many years ago, thinking that they were going far tooslowly, and wondering how I might speed them up. However upon listeningto 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 machinegun than a trumpet player! Which brings me on to the next tip…

Top Tip #5: Make use of simple technology

Metronomes:If, when practising rhythmic music, your metronome has a tendency tospeed up and slow down all by itself, you may need to spend some moretime with your little ticking box!  Practise rhythmic music andexercises 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 arepitch-wise, these are great. However be aware that if you are practisinga 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.