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Insight into the work ethic of a professional orchestral player!

One Ring Cycle completed, two to go! Check out our new website at www.sfoperaorchestra.net. There you'll find all installments of "Wearing the Ring," including this from Principal Trumpet Adam Luftman:

My name is Adam Luftman and I've been Principal Trumpet of the SF Opera since 2007. Though I have played runs of Rheingold and Walk...ure since joining the company, this is my first full Ring Cycle. Each musician in the pit spends countless hours preparing to play this monumental work. I began months ago and will not finish my individual prep until the Summer Season ends. The schedule does not allow for us to rest on our laurels and feel that the prep work is done. Due to the fact that there are four very long operas that need to be rehearsed and performed in rotation, we do not get the same sense of cohesion that one gets when performing a symphonic program day after day throughout the course of one week. There can often be a week or more in between services for a specific opera.

Therefore, I must revisit many of the aspects of my preparation throughout the entire run.
As with each opera that we play, I get a copy of the trumpet part and full score with plenty of time to learn the music before the first rehearsal. For this Ring Cycle, I spent many hours with scores and DVD recordings familiarizing myself with the context of each passage before I started practicing "the licks". This helps me to learn the story so I can attempt to convey the character of the moment to my passages. I like to listen to the material immediately before an entrance so many times that I get a feeling in my bones that it is time to play. These entrances need to be played in a confident manner, so this is backup in the rare case I have a momentary lapse in counting. Wagner's use of leitmotifs finds many of the brass players playing similar passages throughout all four operas. But, many times the underlying harmony is different.

A great example of this is the use of the sword motive in the first act of Walkure. This is why I like to spend a lot of time with the score. It is important to know what voice of the chord you are playing at all times especially when it is chorale-like writing. Marking this information in the part is very helpful for knowing how to color a certain passage. Also, I like to be positive of where in the orchestra I need to listen in order to line up. While I am marking things in my part, I also use a red pencil to circle all of the transposition changes. Wagner's music has more transposition changes than most others. For those non-musicians reading, transposition is when the written notes on the page are to be played in a different key. On a given page, you could see what looks like the same passage written four times but in 4 different transpositions.
The Ring has no shortage of challenges trumpet-wise.
 Wagner was also great at spreading the work around with many solos in all three trumpet parts (four, counting the Bass Trumpet.) My technical prep starts with getting as comfortable as possible playing my German Rotary-Valve Trumpet. Though these instruments are necessary to get the appropriate sound for this music, they are very difficult to play in tune and require a ton of additional prep work. For me, spending a lot of time practicing fundamentals and etudes on this instrument is essential and I record myself constantly. We have been getting together for months as a section to play trios on these instruments as they respond very differently from the piston horns that we use most of the time. Another challenge for all of the brass players is that we often have to make very exposed entrances after sitting for a long time without playing. I practice this by picking up the horn cold at various points in the day and playing the most challenging passages without giving myself a chance to warm up. This is essentially how it feels for most entrances in the Ring.

Another very important part of my preparation is the time that I spend in the recording library listening to playbacks of our rehearsals and performances. With such tight quarters in the pit, it is often difficult to know how things are lining up with colleagues on the other side of the orchestra and with the stage. During the rehearsal period we have the wonderful folks on the music staff to help with notes from the hall. Throughout the course of performances, however, things can change. For example, the singers can start taking more time or slightly change stage position, which can affect the balance. It is easy to become a caricature of yourself as a brass player, so I depend on these recordings to make sure that I am doing things the way that I intend to.

The final piece of the puzzle is general health and well-being on and off the horn. In addition to making sure I am organized about my warm-up and warm-down routines, I also need to tend to my physical health. I make sure that I am eating well, sleeping well (including short pre-concert naps for focus), and getting even more exercise than usual. At the gym, I try to stretch a lot and alternate between swimming and running. Believe it or not, when I am performing Wagner's music, I have a special routine in the pool that incorporates swimming full laps or more underwater on one breath. This helps me to utilize my full lung capacity, which is necessary to play some of the insanely long phrases. When I am extremely diligent about this pool routine, I can almost play those calls toward the beginning of Rheingold without feeling like I am going to completely pass out!!

All of this hard work from everyone involved completely pays of when we see the joy that it brings to the members of our audience. We hope that you are able to come join us for this epic musical journey.

Orchestral Trumpet Studies
Compiled from a recent discussion on TPIN

"I was trained as an orchestral player and collected hundreds of excerpt books. The literature is where we spent most our practice, but without a role model for sound and style it becomes a jungle out there. In my 64 years on this planet the styles, sounds, equipment has changed over and over.
Listen to current recordings, but do not miss the joy of the past years. This little list is just a begging point for picking up books. Find a orchestral teacher and better yet a member of your local orchestra to study from. Own CD's - and play along with the great players.

The work is limited for fulltime opportunities, but there are thousands of local and semi-pro opportunities. There are still a few churches that play orchestral music - good for them!
Remember that the music you listen to is the music you have stored in your mental memory bank. If you do not listen to orchestral music chances are you will never become an orchestral musician. Do not wait until High School or College - start today if this is what you desire. "

from TPIN:

Phil Smith excerpts CD should be a resource in constant use,
Kalmus used to publish some excerpt books about the same time that International were publishing theirs.  Dave Hickman's publications in general,
Phil Norris' book"Top 50 Orchestral Excerpts", which someone else mentioned as being published by Tom Crown.  It's actually published by Crown Music Publishers, which is not related to Tom Crown

Orchestral Musician's Library, although to buy the complete set of trumpet parts is quite expensive,  the parts in this library are all public domain music.  The good thing about this library is that it's available for all instruments, and if you wish you can also buy the full scores disks, which often is helpful in trying to learn how best to play the trumpet excerpts.

Dave Hickman's publications in general,

IMSLP is the best resource for orchestra parts. You can download the actual
parts for most things.

Hickman/JC Dobrzelewski  volumes are VERY GOOD.  
Voisin books (which included Bartold
and a few other compilers) published by International.

Younger players must define the air column from lungs to bell.

The best way to accomplish a consistent blow is to start your sessions with the tuning slide removed. The sound goes in the mouthpiece and exits at the end of the leadpipe.

Play a MF sustained, unwavering tone in the middle of your range vibrating the lips from the front shiny portion, to the back wet portion - all the way through the aperture tunnel. This note will sound near an f,f#, g range. move the air continuously and let the tone be full of overtones.

Next blow the tone up to the octave above and sustain as before.
Rest a few seconds and move up one more level.
Reat again and move up to the next level.

There are 2 more workeable levels depending on your abilities. Move up if the tone is nice and rich with overtones, DO NOT PINCH THESE OR SQUEEZE THESE TOP PARTIALS!!!!
When you finish these play second line G  with the tuning slide back in place and maintain that same blow - full and rich with overtones, and then expand your range out 1 step up, 1 step down. etc. until you feel "free".

You can continue this exercise for the rest of your life and allow it to be a benchmark for your air - vibration focus and control.


Learn to be aware of the director at all times. He should believe that every time he looks at you you are looking at him. You can see as much in his eyes as in the beat pattern. Learn to read his body language. This ability will take you far in your musical development.

I suggest you use your eyes and not your feet to experience the time. When we tap our foot we are adding a middleman to the transaction between you and the director. It usually cost you something more then you expect. Concert music is not the same as pop music. There is more freedom or interpretation from the conductor. The tempo is fluid, and musical. Always try to be one with the conductor.

The same is true of intonation. Let your ears listen for the lower bass tones. When you struggle to "hear" yourself, you often get sidetracked into listening to yourself and not the ensemble. When you allow your ear to hear the lower pitches your ear will automatically give you a sense of the pitch. More about this later in another tip.

Remember to watch, listen, and respect your director.

Practicing Lip Slurs -

First of all there is more to lip slurs than the lips. Fact is the lips are a small portion of the control mechanism.

Let's start with middle G up to C and back. Now C down to middle G. The slur down is always easier, but it is also the secret that shows you what you are doing correctly or incorrectly.

Slurring down will reveal which options you use to slur. Do your lips relax to slur down, do they open, does your air slow, does the pressure from your mouthpiece decrease?

These can all be present - the goal is to train the correct employment of the combination of these tools.

Here is the breakdown.:

When you slur your mind decides in a split second what you will do. If you have practiced and conditioned your entire embouchure to work together correctly through concentrated practice, then your mind will decide correctly and slurring will be not only clean and pure, but simple and automatic.

Slurring is not unlike shooting a pool ball into a pocket or hitting a baseball, or returning a tennis ball. It happens without conscious thought, but after your mind and body hove agreed on what is to be employed - in the practice room.

So here are the building blocks of nice clean slurs:

A) Your lips need to be supple not tense
B) Your air must increase or decrease in a relaxed and pulsing manner. Much like when singing the slur.
C) The mind sees the slur, your ears hear the slur, your air pulses or relaxes, and lastly your lips respond to the air to resist it and maintain their degree of "togetherness", or to not resist allowing the lips to relax to the correct degree of "togetherness".

In step A you practice this by performing air attacks - letting the sound come from a simple exhalation and then sustain by continuing the steady airflow and maintain the "togetherness" of the lips.

In step B you develop air quantity and speed control by practicing crescendos and decrescendos while maintain a pure sound. Do these on a low tone, middle tone, high tone, in order to learn to float the soft to loud to soft on the air, and to not let the air form a Bubble or point of expansion in the front of the mouth. This expansion traps the embouchure muscles into  the process of keeping the lips from pulling apart and stops allowing the air to activate the muscles to the sides and below the lips which cause the lips to come together.

Your air must come from the back of the throat and lungs as if saying aah or fogging up a mirror.

In step C you combine the increase or decrease of air with the will to either maintain the lips (go higher) or relax the lips ( going lower). In my experience the tongue action is an expansion or thickening from the mid and front portion acting as a rudder to SLIGHTLY assist the air speed by compression or decompression. This subtle action of the tongue is the single most perceived action in the performance of the slur. But in reality it is not the cause of the slur. It is the fine tuning mechanism that allows the precise and clean control of the slur at a specific tempo.

Practice these things with a metronome and perform simple slurs between two adjacent notes in an up and don fashion 1000's of times. Keep this practice as the final section of a 'DEVELOPING SLURS' session. I suggest you spend 10 to 15 minutes at a time on slurring and then rest at least 15 minutes before resuming or moving on.

Stage Fright, Nervous mouth, dry lips, sick stomach - Ring A Bell?

This link will take you to a wonderful resource for overcoming these
Click Here

Building better air !

Your school band director has access to instruments and mouthpieces. Ask to check out a larger instrument - baritone, trombone, euphonium, alto horn. And play long tones on it for 10 or 15 minutes before a short rest period and then play your trumpet or cornet. The mouthpiece will feel small on your horn for a minute or two, but if you have not blasted away on the big instrument, you will discover that your air column is nice and relaxed, your throat more open, and your sound is fuller.

Maynard playing the baritone!

This gives you a mental picture to go back to when your sound gets thin or airy. Most students find that just a few sessions with the larger horn is more than enough to paint that mental picture and it lasts a long time.


Clean your instrument, oil the valves, treat the slides, and get the slides all moving smoothly.

When you get in the morning play about 2 minutes with the mouthpiece in the horn, but with the tuning slide removed. Play a few long sounds, some tonguing, and a few slurs. Use your air to float the sound. This get the lips vibrating, the air moving, and your focus on moving air through the leadpipe.

Before band starts flap your lips about 15 seconds, take a few deep breaths - each one bigger. Set your mouthpiece in the horn and on your lips gently two or three times to stimulate the release of tension and fluid from your lips.

Play a few very soft middle G's, and at least two very long tones - use a mute if you wish.
What about a mouthpiece?

If you are a AirPlay user and desire a gRawlin mouthpiece top and a Warburton Backbore I suggest you shop in the store here and Buy your Warburton backbore from the Warburton site.

 If this is your first experience with backbores you definitely need to start with #7B or a 7BL. The L is more for power players and the 7B for more technical players, bands, etc.

If you cannot afford this approach here are suggestions I have found to be helpful:

Beginning players - Bach 6BM, Bach 5C, Bach 3C, Schilke 12

Intermediate players - Schilke 11, 15C3 (or 4) D, 15B, 17C3d, or 18

Bach  5C, 6B, 3C, 1.5C, 2C, 1X, or straight 1.

Commercial players - Reeves 41, 42, 43.  or Purviance 8 or 9
gRawlin # 1,2,3 Flugel  with the 7BL Warburton Backbore.

Symphonic Players - Bach 1's, the Gary Radke line, Schilke 20D2d, 22, and 24

Some suggestions on being an effective student of musicby David Zerkel on Monday, August 16, 2010 at 2:22pmHere are my notes from a chat to the brass students at UGA on Day 1. A top ten list of sorts... I hope they listened!

 1. Take your classes seriously. Theory, Ear-training and Music History provide you with the tools to understand the language of music and your mastery of these subjects WILL help you play your instrument better. If you have had a math course beyond algebra, music theory should present no problems, as it is structured in a very systematic way. Ear-training will help you learn what you need to hear, whether you are playing your instrument or standing in front of a band. Music History will equip you with the tools to approach your interpretations from informed perspective and will give you the insight needed to play with style.

2. Listen to as much music as you can! Naxos online music library is a great resource, as is our incredibly complete music library. A hard, but not impossible, goal is to spend the same amount of hours listening that you spend practicing. Listening to music and familiarizing yourself with a broad spectrum of music is where your REAL musical education will take place.

 3. Learn and know your scales and arpeggios, as they are the building blocks of western music. Realizing that virtually everything that you play is constructed with scales and arpeggios will make mastering your instrument exponentially easier.

 4. Schedule your practice time as though it were a class and make yourself a tough attendance policy. Success in music, like anything else in life, is dependent upon disciplined and persistent effort. Hard work will trump talent any day of the week. The world is filled with incredibly talented people who never reached their potential because they were lazy. It is the observation of the brass faculty that the overall work ethic of the students in the school of music is quite lax compared to other places that we have been. Each of you has the power to reverse this condition that affects the culture of music here at UGA. It is really cool to not suck… daily practice will help you to appreciate your potential and your ability to improve.

 5. Go to concerts! There is no substitution for listening to live music—every performance you hear provides you with the opportunity to learn something about your own performances. Whether you will teach or perform, you will spend the rest of your life evaluating performances and diagnosing the strengths and weaknesses of what you hear. You will develop this skill much more quickly if you are going to concerts.

 6. Embrace what technology has to offer us in developing as musicians. Rhythm and Pitch are the two empirical truths in music--- either they are right or they are wrong. Don’t look as your metronome and tuner as though they are nagging you that you are not good enough—learn to make chamber music with your Dr. Beat and to look at your tuner as the teller of truth. If you really want to use technology to improve your performance skills, purchase a digital recorder such as a Zoom 2 (or use Quicktime on your computer) to record your practice. This will help you to become your own teacher. The greatest period of growth that I have ever had as a developing musician happened when I was recording and evaluating my practice on a daily basis.

 7. Be curious! Strive to know the repertoire for your instrument. Practice something everyday that is NOT part of your lesson assignment for the week. Read ahead in an etude book or check out some music from the library. This will help your sight-reading skills immeasurably. Strive to be a comprehensive musician, not just a jock on your horn!

 8. Play with your peers! Form a chamber music group or play duets with a peer as much as you can. Chamber music empowers each of us to make musical decisions without the input of a director, which is a critical skill. Playing chamber music will also help grow your ears in a dramatic way.

 9. Be serious about your pursuit of excellence. Set the bar high and work hard to be the best that you can be. Music is an extraordinarily competitive field—remember that there is always someone somewhere that is working harder than you are and someday you will meet them at the audition or the interview. You owe it to yourself to be the best musician that you can be. You will only be a great band director if you are first a great musician.

 10. Know that every great musician in the world still considers himself or herself a student of music. Wynton Marsalis is a music student. Joe Alessi is a music student, as is Gail Williams, Steven Mead and Oystein Baadsvik . Make lifelong improvement and lifelong learning your goal. I am not as good as I think I am and neither are you. The older I get, the more I realize that I have only begun to scratch the surface of what there is to know. Use this blessing of an opportunity that you have as a full-time music student to your advantage. Your hard work will pay off in the end!

Here is a very quick way to warm up.

So you show up at band practice and there's no time to warm up! Ugh!  OK just stick a mute in the bell, do a horse flap with your lips. Stretch them in all directions.
Now start tonguing 8th notes in the staff loud then get softer and then louder for about 30 seconds. Play this arpeggio: G down to C back to G up to C and back to G.

This takes a minute or so and you are ready to play.

Nice note from a young student:

Dear Mr. Rawlin,
I am pleased to say that after applying your advice to my daily practice routine, I have now passed the regional solo competition with a superior rating!  I am so happy with the results that you have handed to me!  Thank you so much!  I am now heading to State Solo Competition!
In your debt,
P.S.  I was playing the English Suite III:  Prelude, Aria, and Finale.  Quite a good arrangement, if I do say so myself.

Q - How can I get in shape for concert season?

A - There are several easy tips for you:

1. when you finish playing for the day take about 5 extra minutes and "warm" down. Start on 2nd space A and play slowly down a chromatic scale to low A. Then the same from Ab, G,F#.
Then rest a few seconds and start on 1st space F and go down using 1&3 for the bottom F. Next start on E and go down using 1,2,&3 for low E.
Next is Eb going down to Low Eb with 1&3. Next is D and Low D is 1,2,&3. Then Db down to low Db with 1&3. Then C down to pedal C using 1,2,&3.

2. Always warm up at least five minutes before each rehearsal during the day. Never play 100% volume - always keep 10% in reserve. This builds endurance.

3. Every other day play at least 5 minutes on a baritone, trombone, or tuba - soft easy notes that respond easily.

On Mar 28, 2010, at 5:10 PM, Scott Snyder wrote:

I have been playing the trumpet for eight years now, and I began playing the alto saxophone recently.  I also know how to read piano music.  My instructors tell me that my pitch is spot on for the majority of the time.  I can write music for trumpets, but I haven't ventured too far from that.  I have, however, written vocal music, with a little success; succes being in this case good feedback from peers.
My passion for music?  What can I say?  Maybe that music is what keeps my life moving.  I take the tempo from the music and apply it to life; sometimes fast sometimes slow.  I steal the dynamics to play into my conversations; loud, then suddenly soft, then a gradual crescendo to another sudden drop.  Sometimes, I find myself comparing life to a song; except it's rather unpredictable.  Sometimes the tempo changes and at other times the dynamics change.  Sometimes the song is light, but other times it is heavy.  Sometimes it seems as if it has a certain pattern that repeats at different times, always bringing memories from long ago and helping me to make connections with what is happening now.  This is my favorite song because I can never know how it will continue on.  Maybe in the next few bars it will merge with another's life song; maybe, in the next repetition of the A part, there may be a variation that I might not be expecting.  Do you see?  To me music is everything.  I love it with all my heart, and that will remain forever.>

This is very cool.
OK - Now some essential extras you can do to transition into college:
1. Listen to everything - even stuff you don't like
2. Buy a copy of Hindemiths' Elementary Training for Musicians - this is the old school gold standard for training. Work through it on your own or with a coach.
3. Start transcribing by ear alone - listen write repeat
4. Deal with all the scales and modes now - get comfortable with them
5. Tackle the piano monster - get some private lessons and get comfortable with simple things and playing chords
6. Find players better than you and find a way to join their bands, ensembles, etc. maybe a community band or orchestra or church band orchestra etc.

More than likely you already are doing a lot of these - but saturate yourself now. When college or University come along classes will devour your time.

<It seems as if I can play in the upper register (Up to high C) in the mornings, but in the evenings -like during concerts- my lip just will not work right>

When you wake up your lips may be a bit tight and maybe a tiny bit swollen from sleep This makes the aperture a little firmer and smaller. So what you need to do is take advantage of this and start the morning with very soft sounds in the middle of the staff for 20 to 30 seconds then breathe and repeat. Do this for at last five minutes. This sets your lips in a nice smaller aperture and sets up the muscles surrounding your lower lip for a good foundation.

Then later on when you are beginning to feel weaker, just remember to relax and let your lips go back to that nice position you had in the morning. You never want to over blow, always save about 10% for reserve.

When we play our lips want to come apart and open up a big aperture. The mouthpiece begins to shift up higher above the top lip for a bigger sound, and often we just let that happen. As players mature they learn to warm up properly and then avoid the temptation to over blow and let the rim slip up.

Of course this is all shown in my DVD AirPlay - and it is on sale now at the gRawlin site.
Good luck and stay in touch


This is usually an attempt to get a more focused and present sound from you. He is moving you in the direction of a fuller, bigger sound. He is also saying "use more air"

I suggest you not try to play louder. This can lead to bad habits and harm your progress. What you should do is :

1. Get your posture in a relaxed but upright position - sit forward on your chair and hold your horn up parallel to the floor.
2. Take deep breaths - down to the floor of your lungs.
3. Keep your teeth apart and your lips closed.
4. Practice pulsing the tones with your air: mpmpmp  keeping the sound clear and open and relaxed. Middle G is a nice note to use.
5. Practice slow scales from low G to C in the staff keeping the same openness in your throat as you go up.

A good private teacher can take you beyond these simple exercises, but these are the basics you will keep for the rest of your life.