Notes on a Warm-up
Vince DiMartino
 



Most teachers and performers agree that some form of warm-up is necessary to facilitate performing. The types of materials employed in these warm-ups, however, sometimes seem to be at opposite ends of the spectrum upon casual observation of related materials.

In order to evaluate this or any other warm-up one must define what end we are
trying to reach with these materials, as we have in the first line of the former paragraph "to performing,'' and what are trying to "warm-up.  Most people agree that setting the embouchure is a very important part of the warmup. To me, the embouchure is more than just lips or face muscles. It is the balance between the supported air column, the muscles of the lips and the tongue position. It is also the ability to play any note, in any order, at any dynamic, at any speed, at any time. Therefore, when you warm-up, you must use a total embouchure on all notes. No flabby, unsupported low notes or squeezed and forced high notes. If a warm-up satisfies these criteria, it is technically a good one.

With this in mind, the most important part of any warm-up is listening to your
sound and developing it. The only thing people can hear is the sound of your music, so it should always be in the forefront of your work. Your sound must be the focal point of your music~ and practice. People can only hear the "sound" of high or low notes, fast or slow notes, or soft or loud notes. It never makes sense to practice any of these techniques disregarding the sound. The music can follow the sound if proper stylistic considerations are taken along with sensitivity training. I believe some things should be practiced before the horn ever is picked up. If we ever are to improve our habits, they must be practiced before the horn is introduced. The two most important are breathing and muscle forming.

I think breathing or air delivery is essential to fine brass playing. Breathing helps the muscles to form properly when it is correct. There are many fine articles and comments on breathing but few exercises to work on it. However, I learned an excellent walking exercise from Emery Remington, the legendary trombone teacher at the Eastman School of Music. You breathe in slowly while walking for 5 seconds and release the air without resistance. Rest in between repetitions of this for at least 5 seconds. Gradually breathe in for fewer counts and out for a longer time, making sure the exhalation is steady and unrestricted, until you can breathe in for a quick count and out for an unrestricted 10 count. Dropping the jaw on the inhalation helps secure a greater volume of air. Also, maintain a very relaxed muscular state on the inhalation. On the exhalation, use a light abdominal force around the belt area which compresses the air a bit. This gives the air the force it needs to support a lone. This must be practiced so the throat does not enter into the picture. It is a passage, not a valve. Air should meet the lips unrestricted. 


The lip muscles exercise that I practice is very simple. I form my lips in playing position with the corners firm against the teeth, being careful not to stretch back, saying the letter "M". Then I firm the whole lip muscle gently and maintain it for one minute. When you first attempt this, you will feel a slight cramp after 15-20 seconds. If it is very painful, it is too tight. Loosen up a bit. After one minute, relax the embouchure muscle and rest one or two minutes and repeat the sequence four or five times. This muscle and the accompanying air exercise can be practiced together for these last repetitions, feeling the air rush over the firm lips unrestricted towards the soon to be added mouthpiece and horn. When you add the mouthpiece, be sure that your lip is in this firm position before you add any pressure. If you continue, each section of the warm-up will be explained point by point.

Upon finishing this routine, you should be ready to tackle the day's practice and performance tasks. At first, the complete routine will probably tire you out, but withproper development as outlined, it will get easier to complete successfully without tearing down your apparatus. This happens the more you delve into your problems and study your own particular habits. The warm-up period is also a self-improvement period. It is a time to improve your basics as well as limber up for a day's work. More good can be learned during this period than any other time of the day. Take advantage of it.

Daily Warm-up Exercises 

Section I
Start each phrase with a breath attack so the tongue does not force notes out. Even though you are playing in the middle range, try to imagine notes one octave lower and one or two octaves higher produced wit the feel that you are using on this G in the staff. If it is too far different in muscle tone, air support, and/or tongue position make adjustments until you could sense success in changing octaves. Most people can play high notes or low notes, but cannot connect them together. This thought helps to set the stage for the flexibility exercises which follow later. Your greatest errors can be made in these first two sections. Rest a few moments between each phrase, remove the mouthpiece and set again for the next phrase. This helps one practice to avoid "first note" phobia and helps build confidence through repetition. Hold each note as long as it is comfortable.

Section II

An extension of Section I, except you never remove the mouthpiece from the lips. The purpose of this is to mirror the type of practice we did with lips alone. Most people never flex the lip muscle for longer than 15 seconds and usually have pretty average endurance. Let the air flow freely across the lips. Breathe through the nose, stopping for a few beats if necessary (demonstrate). Remember, you must use muscles for them to be strong. Most people only call on muscles when playing loud or high. You cannot expect them to develop if you use good support and muscle tone 104b of your practice time. When you call on them for help, they will not be there unless they are building up in your warm-up and normal playing range. If your warm-up is a tear down process and you have to rest for an hour afterwards, I do not feel it is as beneficial. All playing is working to avoid too much tear down. This series can be continued higher if desired. It is very similar to a Carmine Caruso series, but not as extreme in tessitura. Work on range in 1/2 steps as you are able to produce a good sound. Never play a higher note or lower note until you can control the previous notes.

Sections III and IV

Flexibility Exercises Flexibility or lip slurring is essential in brass performance.
To put it simply, you can slur something without tonguing it, but you cannot tongue something without slurring it. Once again, the balance alluded to in the introduction to warming up is the key factor in self-improvement during the warm-up. You can add the tongue at will during these once you can perform them ably all slurred. This will help to put the tongue in its proper perspective. It has 3 parts. The front which is used to articulate, the middle which is used to help speed up and slow down (or intensify and relax) the air column and the back which should not change once the proper position is found. This third part is probably the most neglected because you cannot feel it. When this is too large, a person will have a terrible time with the high register. If it is too small, the sound is very nasal and harsh. I believe the proper position can be sensed by testing your lip slurring around the top of the staff. The position that affords one the most effortless slur with a very good sound is best. This will also facilitate performance in the low and high registers with much more ease. This is the position needed to perform Sections III & IV more ably.

Section V

This section can be an aid to developing the higher register. However, range
development is something that takes time and patience. Most people need only to play up to concert E (above high C) in order to perform the standard orchestral literature and most solo literature. There is little need to perform much higher than that even as a lead trumpet in a jazz group. Once again, concentration on sound is the most important factor when approaching the higher range. The embouchure should feel very much the same as it does throughout the range of the trumpet. In this manner, it will respond similarly. If you play with good support in the low range, your high range will improve. Always use what you know to attack what you do not know or understand. Always maintain the balance mentioned through out this booklet. It is the element that has helped me the most. As you ascend to higher partials, the air is more intensified or faster. You must firm the lips up accordingly to counteract this force and maintain the balance. Therefore the net change in feel is negligible. That is the reason that in the process of slurring properly, it feels like nothing changes (except the intensity of the air). Softer playing requires less air with same intensity (or speed) and louder playing requires more air with the same intensity or speed.

In Section V you can use as many of these exercises as you need or can perform ably. Always use the arpeggio and the beginning of each exercise to tune the top note, especially the 1-3 and 1-2-3 valve combination. Use the first of third slide for this purpose. I've chosen triplets for this exercise because the high note is not on a strong beat and sounds unmusical if it is forced. All of these exercises are to played as vocalises, paying close attention to the melodic aspect and evenness of sound.

Following these range extension exercises the student should perform scales as described in the scale section of this stack. The patterns for the scales have been designed to develop even support even tone at different speeds.

Vince DiMartino 1993