Quick tip for brass: getting back to “center”

It’s happened to all brass players at one time or another.  Maybe we’ve been doing a lot of playing lately.  Maybe we had a really strenuous gig the night before.  Whatever the reason(s) might be, when we go to pick up our horn to play, we get that feeling of playing too “spread out.”  Our sound is diffused and unfocused, and our lips aren’t responding as they should.  If I’m not getting ready for something, I’ll usually put the horn away and try again in a couple of hours or perhaps even the next day.

If I have a gig that I’m getting ready for, I have no choice but to practice.  Years ago, I learned this trick from another trumpet player a really good way to get your sound back and to get rid of that spread out feeling that we dread so much.  It’s worked for me without fail, and I hope you’ll give it a try when the need arises.  Here’s the scoop:

Take a Bb major scale.  Play it at about quarter note = 60 bpm, and play it in whole notes ascending and descending.  So far, so good?  There’s just one catch: you need to play it as softly as you can.

For this exercise, it’s not critically important that you sound as amazing as possible.  In fact, you’re probably not going to sound all that great.  But that’s not the point!  What this exercise is great at doing is helping your muscles and your air get back to center instead of that spread out feeling we’ve been talking about.

When I do this exercise, I generally need about 2-5 minutes on it.  After I play a scale, I’ll play something lyrical that doesn’t go too high or too low.  The focus should always be on playing as quietly as possible and of keeping your air very steady.

Once you think you’re ready, try playing something around mezzo forte.  You should notice a huge difference in your sound and in how you feel.  If you’re not quite playing as you should, spend another couple of minutes on it.

Is this something that you’ve done before?  Do you have another tip for getting rid of that spread out feeling that brass players sometimes get?  Post a comment below and let us know what you think!





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