The Progressive Warm Up is an integral component of every brass player’s daily practice. Brass teachers have always been at odds as to what a good warm-up should consist of. My teacher Claude Gordon believed that there should be no prescribed warm-up, as the first notes of the day would fill that need. Others believe in a set warm-up that is done the same every day and never changes. And then there are those teachers who believe a warm-up should cover every aspect of playing, sometimes lasting two hours or more. I end up in the middle of all this with The Progressive Warm-Up.
When does the warm-up become practicing? A warm-up should consist of familiar material, but not so familiar that it becomes stale. It should also address the fundamental aspects of trumpet playing without over-pushing the limits of our technique. Follow the warm-up with a technique session and then work on music. This format will keep your practice fresh, consistent and productive.
The Flow studies are based on the famous flow study by Vincent Cichowicz. The idea is to establish a smooth, consistent, easy flow of air throughout each phrase. The entire phrase is just an extension of the very first note. Think of the whole phrase as one note.
The Tonguing studies are to be played lightly and staccato but never brittle. You may start slowly and pick up speed as you progress. You may use a metronome once your fingering is solid. Your tongue and body should be relaxed and the jaw should not bounce while tonguing. The tongue should have the shortest stroke possible to achieve the desired result.
The air in the Tonguing studies should flow just like it did in the Flow studies. Never stop the support of air in any of the studies. This always remains constant. Play music from the first note. Don’t treat these as studies, but think of them as a performance and start making music from your first note. Use dynamics, expression, style and inflection with everything you play.
The Slur studies are loosely based on some of the Schlossburg studies. Each one starts with a hold to get the air flowing on that one note. This is followed by the 1⁄2 step below and back to the starting note and then up diatonically. This 4-note intro is a 3 miniature flow study designed to get the air going and carry you right into the slur. Take your time on these four notes and feel the air flow and ride it into the following slurs. There are some dynamics here, but feel free to be expressive and play your way. Remember we are making music, not just playing exercises.
Most of the harmonic fingering are marked so use them whenever possible. When you get to the extensions, harmonic fingerings are not used. Rest between each exercise! This is very important when warming up. A good warm- up will set you up for a good day of playing. If you rush through and don’t rest properly you may be looking at a long day of bad playing
Most of the exercises have extensions that are labeled A-E. Follow the instructions in the Lesson Plan for adding the weekly extensions. Do not attempt to use harmonic fingerings on any of the Slur study extensions.
Play at tempos that are comfortable when doing this warm-up. Remember this is a warm-up, not a technique session. The Flow and Slur studies can be played rubato, but never let up on the support of air. The tonguing studies can start slowly and speed up as you get more comfortable and become warmed up.
How To Use This Book
Follow the routines outlined in the Lesson Plan on page X. It is recommend that you stay on each lesson for a week, but sometimes two weeks is needed. If after a week, you feel comfortable with the material, then move to the next set. If you are not comfortable after a week, then stay on that lesson for a second week.
Towards the end of each exercise and study, the range is increased. This may make it more difficult. If you are having trouble getting to the highest note of a study, make one attempt only and move on. This is very important as this is your warm-up not a range study. Start fresh the next day and by the end of two weeks, if you don’t get the high note then move on. The high notes will come if you practice this material correctly!
The Progressive Warm-Up consists of three groups of foundation exercises:
- I. Flow Studies
- II. Tonguing
- III. Slurs.