Range/Endurance

Q: 

Hey Mr. Sprott, 

I know I just e-mailed you recently, but I have another quick question regarding your words on building high range as I'm having issues in my upper register at the moment. (https://westonsprott.com/articles/blog/high-range) 

I have major issues with endurance in the upper register (which I suspect is from playing mostly bass trombone in the past 8 months), and I've been working on keeping the proper embochure in the upper register as I rebuild strength. It's very tempting for me to do things like flatten my lips or change the mouthpiece position to get out high notes when my lip are tired (which is usually after just 15 mins in the upper register). 

My question is if/when should I do the exercise(s) you outlined in your article where you gliss up to a high note or play slow scales up? 
I ask because I am working on the David Concertino with my lessons teacher which hangs out in the upper register a lot on its own so I am hesitant to spend my strength on an exercise. 

It is also worth noting I did not have this serious of an endurance/embochure problem with the range the David is in until after I started bass trombone. 

Thank you in advance for your response and for all the amazing educational work you do- it truly makes a difference, 

XXXXX

 

A:

I think range-building exercises should be done earlier in the day. If you feel like they cause too much fatigue, increase the amount of time you put in between exercises, or consider only working very hard in this register every other day. Build up slowly. It's worth mentioning that 15 straight minutes straight of high register work is a heavy lift. Instead of playing things that stay exclusively in the high register, work on scale and lip slur patterns that sweep up into the upper register and come back down. Playing lots of long notes in the upper register is exhausting for most people of all levels. Regarding your specific example, it probably wouldn't be wise to do a lot of heavy high-range exercises and then go directly into David without much of a break. You have to listen to your body and tailor your practice routine to the demands currently on your plate. I would highly recommend reading Joe Friehl's book The Cyclist's Training Bible. If you replace the word cycling with trombone, you will find it extraordinarily informative about how to intelligently build strength and endurance. 

A simple principal to consider is that as the intensity of an exercise increases, the duration should decrease and the rest period should lengthen. I often find it helpful to put this in a physical exercise context. If you're tasked with doing 100 pushups, you'll feel differently if you do all 100 in 1 set with no breaks vs 5 sets of 20 with brief breaks vs 20 sets of 5 ​with long breaks. Think about that when working in an intense fashion. When you're lifting very heavy weights, you do fewer repetitions with longer rest periods. This is analogous to the upper register. 

Finally, spend more time on lip slur patterns, particularly in the middle register. This should help endurance. Check out the flexibility section of the Marsteller book and take 15 minutes a day to blow through the first 15 exercises. Regarding embouchure formation and fundamentals of high note creation, if you haven't read Philip Farkas' The Art of Brass Playing and watched the educational videos on YouTube by James Morrison and Charlie Porter, you should do that. There's a lot of good information out there! 

Weston

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