This blog post will give you full guidance on how to use my advanced stamina exercise. If you are serious about using this to enhance your playing then most importantly you need to read everything very carefully. Please do not skip through and miss important information. Please also remember that what works for one player might not work the same for you, so always experiment with your practice and adapt any exercises to suit yourself. A video demo is at the bottom but I recommend reading all of the text first.
My advanced stamina exercise is brilliant for developing your ability to play for longer periods if done correctly and with the right thinking. It also helps so many different areas because the exercise is cleverly loaded with all sorts of other things. It helps breath control, sound quality, concentration, articulation, legato playing, range and many other aspects of brass playing. It can be used as an all round exercise and when done correctly, you should notice positive results in a very short space of time.
The idea of this exercise is not to build strength by over working the embouchure but to develop a relaxed way of playing, using the strength you already have. This concept is the winning strategy so if you use the exercise to burn yourself out or push yourself too far, then you will only see negative results. If you miss out the fine details which I go into then you are missing an opportunity to make faster progress.
In order to attempt this exercise you need to be able to say yes to the following statements:
1) I practice regularly, know how to warm up correctly and have a good practice routine.
2) I can start a note very softly without using the tongue, only the air.
3) I can play all dominant 7th arpeggios from memory.
4) I have a range of over an octave and a half.
5) I can practice without being disturbed.
6) My fundamental ability to tongue and slur is good.
7) I have a metronome and a tuner which can be used simultaneously.
If you answer no to any of these statements then I would advise you to work on that area first before attempting this. For number 3, you could use a scale book but ideally don't want to be turning pages during the exercise. You also need your ears focussed on the metronome and eyes focussed on the tuner so it is not ideal to need to read music for this. Dominant 7ths are super easy arpeggios if you know all your major arpeggios. The 7th note is always a tone lower than the tonic, so just add that note to the major arpeggio but you cannot be stopping to think, so learn them in advance. In fact, if you get disturbed or have to stop the exercise at any point, then just abort and try again the next day.
The exercise is a series of repeated sets, with specific instructions. The metronome is set to 88 BPM but this tempo can be altered to suit your needs and ability. I normally do this exercise with a slower tempo, but for the guide video below it is set to 88.
Before starting this exercise, make sure you have warmed up. I like to do a simple warm up, then a few simple maintenance exercises covering all the basic playing techniques like slurs, tonguing, intervals, dynamics, fingers (or slide) and range. Then I do this exercise in full and then I rest. Later in the day, I will then work on other things. It is essential to do this exercise at the same place in your routine every day so you are never tired before starting it and can see your own improvement.
The first set looks like this and every future set just goes up in semi-tones:
After the 6 beats rest, you repeat the whole exercise up a semi-tone, so starting on G# (F# bass clef). You follow all of the instructions and keep repeating the exercise up a semi-tone for as long as possible, just keep going up!
Important things to note:
1) Start with no tongue on the first note of each set.
2) Legato tongue the repeated tonic note, do not breath here (bar 7).
3) Bar 13-20 can be tongued but don't put any gaps between the notes, let the tongue release the air and keep it very soft.
4) The quick breaths need to be deep and relaxed, take one beat if needed but work on making that gap less as you get better at it.
5) The last part can have a crescendo and diminuendo as marked.
6) Experiment with vibrato and no vibrato, make it melodic.
7) Move precisely with the metronome, especially after the breaths.
8) Watch the tuner, avoid using any slides or triggers to tune, just use the ears.
9) Play soft, find your limit, if a note doesn't speak don't panic, just learn to keep the air flowing.
10) Keep the embouchure, mind and body relaxed at all times.
11) During the 6 beats rest between sets, tell yourself that you are still at full strength.
12) Use only faster air to ascend to the higher notes, let the crescendo help.
How and When to End
The plan is to get as high as possible without feeling tired. At some point, you will start to feel tiredness in the face. You might notice this at the end of a set but then after 6 beats rest you feel rested enough to attempt the next set, this is fine, go ahead. Use the 6 beats rest to reset, you never want to feel tired, that is the goal. To develop better stamina we are not building more strength consciously, we are learning how to play in a relaxed manner at all times so we are not using the muscles, we are using the air. When you feel that you are getting tired it is better to stop before the next set. Do not keep going until you cannot play another note. It is better to stop sooner rather than later. Stop while you are still in control and still making a nice sound.
The sets to start, in the low range, are easy to complete without getting tired but at some point any player will start feeling a burn in the embouchure. It is better to stop earlier and take note of where you got to, then aim to maintain that the next day until eventually you can go further and further. The more you do it, the better you will get and the more relaxed you will learn to be. I aim to end on the set which takes you to a high C (high Bb in bass clef) but there is no reason why you cannot continue up further if you feel it is safe to do so. Sometimes I allow myself to take a 12 beat rest, but only once in the entire routine.
After you finish, just play some long pedal tones to relax further and do not play again for a few hours that day.
Ways to adapt it.
1) Change the tempo
2) Change the articulations
3) Change the resting time between sets
4) Use a different arpeggio (Diminished 7th for example)
5) Practice circular breathing in the long phrase
Alternatively it can be viewed on Youtube by clicking HERE.
The last thing I would recommend is to continue supporting your stamina progress by using the book, Technical Studies for the Cornet by H.L. Clarke.
I hope you find this useful and I would love to hear from people who have given this a try for an extended period, just drop me an email at email@example.com. Likewise, if you want more help, I do offer regular or one-off online brass lessons, just enquire via the email above.
Thanks for reading.