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Brass Player Tips To Improve Technique

If you are a brass player (or to be honest, almost any instrumentalist) and you want to improve these things:



Note Reading


Scales and Arpeggios

Finger Dexterity

Quiet Playing


You absolutely have to be using this book - Clarke Technical Studies.

Clarke book

It is my go to book for almost everything. If I find myself not having something specific to practice (rare but does happen), I use this book. If I have had a little break and want to get back into shape, I use this book. If I feel that my finger speed needs to improve, I use this book. If I want to play in a more relaxed way, I use this book. Click the picture for the affiliate link.

Here is an example of one of the Etudes found in the Clarke Technical Studies book. Notice how I have set myself some goals for what I want to achieve. I am miles off where I want to be and I will keep working on things like this until I notice improvements. Then, the goal posts just move again. More on that in a bit.

Is This Book Too Hard?

Some students I have taught, have told me this book is too hard for them. This is usually because it covers all keys, major and minor. You often hear brass players warming up and playing some of the well known exercises from this book, starting on C or F, which they can play quite fast. I always want to go and ask them to play the B or F# version at the same speed.


If you want to break yourself slowly into using the book, then I strongly recommend you get this book to start with. It is an edited version, reorganised so you can work on specific key signatures. In theory, you can still get all the benefits by using this book rather than the original one. Click the picture for the affiliate link.

Clarke easy book

Using The Clarke Technical Studies Correctly

Lots of musicians want to improve and are often in too big a rush to get there. If you are patient, this book will open new doors for you and bring your playing to new levels but you have to use it correctly. If you attempt any of this book and go too fast or play too loud or play with poor rhythm, then you are just practising bad habits. You get good at what you practice. Make sure how you practice is good.

Check out some tips on how to use the book to great effect.

Tip 1

Read every word that is written in the book before starting playing. It is also written in French and German. You must follow the instructions, do not just dive in.

Tip 2

Play as slowly as is needed to play perfectly. By perfectly I mean, every note in the exercise is correct, at the right volume, with the correct articulation, evenly spread notes, rhythmically accurate, perfect posture and finger positions and maximum relaxation. You must have a high level of quality control, if it is not perfect, then go slower. It is likely you can do some keys (C and F for example) better than others (A major and F# for example). Never speed up until you can play them all at the same speed.

Tip 3

Always use a metronome. The written tempo markings should not be attempted to start with. Use tip 2 before you increase any speeds. Make a note of the speed you are working at and when that speed is perfected, increase the speed a bit.

Tip 4

Go as far as you can with each breath. When playing slowly, you will need to take more breaths but try and use the book to improve your breath control. Even if you stop after you run out of air, take another breath and continue from the spot you stopped. It might seem like this isn't a natural way of playing but otherwise you will end up taking tiny breaths and might even be tempted to miss a note for a breath. As you speed it up, you will be able to get closer to being able to play entire exercises with one breath. Use a breathing device to help.

Tip 5

Warm up with a good daily maintenance routine prior to using this book. Then decide how long you will use the book for in that practice session and set a timer. I like to do my routine, then have 10-30 minutes using this book (or some days I might use a different book. like The Arban) and then I will get on with any solo or band repertoire practice.

Tip 6

This one is optional but I like to continue from where I left off in the book in my last practice session. This way, I get to cover a bigger chunk, or even the entire book in a certain time frame. Alternatively, you might decide to only work on one part of the book for an extended period and try and speed it up as you go before moving onto another section of the book. Being flexible in your practice is the key, make decisions and set goals, don't just flick through randomly.

Tip 7

Play the written dynamics, which are mostly very quiet. This will help you stay relaxed and develop the ability to play for longer. Use any crescendos as a means to support your sound as you ascend in pitch.

Tip 8

Focus on making the best sound you can. If you are tight and tense, your sound will amplify this and you won't make good progress. As you start to increase tempos, pay careful attention to your sound quality, it should never diminish. Here is an article about sound.

Tip 9

For valve/keyed players, force your fingers to make no extra movement than what is required to play each note. Make sure your 3rd finger is doing what it should and not making excessive movements. If you designed a robot to play your instrument, how would you design it so it's fingers move efficiently? That is how your fingers should move. For brass instruments with 4 valves, practice every exercise in 2 ways. With and without the use of the 4th valve.

Tip 10

Do the exercises in a variety of ways. Single tongue, double tongue, repeated triple tongue on each note, dotted styles and many others, get creative and come up with new ways to alter the written notation to make it harder.

I hope that this post can be helpful in pushing you towards your musical goals. Anything is possible!

Mark Glover

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Thanks for reading! ❤🎵

Mark Glover


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Feb 10

Mark, I believe you started playing when you were 10 and you're now 43 (or so). So it's taken 33 years to reach your standard. I started when I was 68, so I'll be able to play like you when I'm 101.

Feb 11
Replying to

It has taken me a lot longer than was required, wish I knew back then what I know now!

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