The Summerglen Files

Music, Creativity, and Everyday Life at Summerglen Music in Raleigh, NC

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Back in Brass – Returning to Playing After Being Sick

September 6th, 2008 · No Comments

Ugh, this week has been somewhat frustrating, because it’s been a “get back into it” week trombone-wise. Two Tuesdays ago, I was hit with an awful case of food poisoning, and I didn’t have the energy to practice until this past Monday. Looking on the bright side, I did get a week off from “work”…but for a brass player, a week off can be quite destructive.

Playing a brass instrument requires well-developed musculature in the face, and keeping those muscles at their best requires consistent effort. A week without practice means that you’re going to lose something you’ve worked hard for, simply because you haven’t been keeping the muscles toned. This week, I lost 3 or 4 notes off the top of my high range, lost some endurance, and my reponse has suffered. (So instead of being able to produce a tone with a clean beginning, air comes out first, like “Phhhh-wah.” And I can’t even Phwah for long before getting tired. Guh.)

So, how does one get back into playing on a regular basis? Three things have worked well for me this week:

1. Practice every day, no matter what. – Consistency is one of the most important aspects of practice. After time off, my face needs to be reminded how it’s supposed to work. A bit of practice every day helps retone the muscles of the face and remind my body what playing is like.

2. Practice in very small chunks. – If I don’t have much endurance and I practice for an hour or two, I’m going to do more harm than good! So I limit myself to ten minutes at a time. When ten minutes is up, I go and do something else to let my chops rest; after the break, I come back refreshed and ready to play again. This allows me to get things done without doing myself in.

3. Buzzing is good. So is breathing. – Much of what goes down the tubes for me with time off is range and flexibility. Buzzing allows me to work on these things in isolation. If I can’t hit a note anymore, I can work on buzzing up to it first. If I Phwah, I can work on making my lips vibrate without a delay. Doing breathing exercises supports the buzzing and opens up my breathing apparatus–so when I get back on the horn, it sounds good!

So, I’m getting there. I have a couple of rehearsals coming up this weekend, so I may post soon about “How to Survive A Salsa Rehearsal When You’re Not Quite Up To Speed Yet”. Hopefully, though, I will be up to speed. And soon.

Tags: Practice Tips · staying healthy

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