Playing the trumpet is physical. Not in the sense that the instrument is heavy to lift and to hold, and not in the sense that you would be gasping for air as you would after running a marathon, but the trumpet does required muscles to be developed and used properly so that you can play well and play with command of the range of the instrument, even after playing for a longer period of time.
Students ask me how they can play higher notes on the trumpet and play for longer periods of time before getting fatigued. I will address playing high notes on the trumpet in another post, but keep reading for information on building endurance. Endurance on the trumpet starts from the very first time we pick up the instrument and make a buzz with our lips in the mouthpiece. You make a buzz, and you have a difficult time sustaining it after doing it several times. This is natural, because you are using embouchure muscles in ways that most people do not.
A key component of learning to play for long stretches is breathing. Practice breathing into your diaphragm by sitting in a chair, grab your ankles, and breathe in. You will notice that the breathing in seems to bypass your longs and go straight to your belly. This is the sensation you want when you take in a breath for playing a wind instrument or singing. When your diaphragm has the air, your sound will be supported. Practice breathing in this way to make it a habit, especially when you are playing your trumpet.
To develop the muscles so that you have the physical capacity to play, make sure you are warming up properly. I recommend long tones on a G or C to begin. From there, simple slurs downward chromatically with a G or C in between each note is a good exercise. It looks like this:
The importance of continuing to return to the upper note keeps your embouchure set at the higher pitch, which will build up strength while aiding in developing lip flexibility. You should do these exercises at varying speeds and from different open notes.
Another great warmup exercise can be found in the James Stamp trumpet method. I recommend the basic warmup page to develop your pedal tones in the sub-register of the trumpet. It is most important to keep your air moving through all of the intervals and provide equal weight to each note.
REST AS MUCH AS YOU PLAY
Now, here's the kicker. Rest as much as you play! You might think, well, I'm resting more than I play because I play for 30 minutes and then I rest for 23.5 hours. That's not what this means. If you play the above warm up or a Stamp exercise, and it takes you 20 seconds to play through it, rest for 20 seconds. This is critical for you to develop your muscles so that you will have endurance to get through a two-hour band rehearsal without fatigue. Rest as much as you play for each warmup exercise.
With this same concept in mind, one of the simplest and most effective ways to build up endurance quickly is this: Leave your instrument sitting out on a stand or in an open case in an area of your home that you frequent several times per day. It could be the kitchen, bathroom, den/TV room, or where ever, but strategically place your trumpet there. Then, each time you pass it, pick it up and play it for a few minutes. Nothing too strenuous, just toot the horn. You can then put it back down until the next time you pass by the trumpet. You will do this several times per day, and after a week or two, you will be able to play your trumpet for much longer stretches of time without being too tired.
Lip slurs can also be called "lip flexibility" exercises. To have a great endurance our muscles must be flexible. Use lip flexibilities as part of your daily routine warm up. Begin with exercises like this:
Continue on down chromatically. Notice that each part of the exercise is three measures long, and there are three measures of rest between each one. Make sure that you count the rests at the same tempo that you are playing the notes. This way, you will be RESTING AS MUCH AS YOU PLAY!
When you have completed this exercise, you can add the next higher partial, which is the open C in the staff, and your exercise will change to this:
And when you are ready, having completed all seven chromatic finger combinations, simply add another partial:
Lip flexibility exercises will help you build endurance and strength in your trumpet playing. Use them every day in various combinations. If you would like to get a more complete set of these exercises, free of charge, with trills and exercises that will develop your embouchure for endurance and range, please click RIGHT HERE!
Thank you for taking the time to read this post. Stay tuned for more helpful insights on trumpet playing and many other aspects of the wonderful world of music!