An aspiring jazz trumpet player's blog about jazz improvisation and ear training.

December 26, 2003 Trumpet Technique 5 Comments

My daily practice routine


In 2019, I started taking trumpet lessons with Nadje Noordhuis. At the end of each lesson, she gives me a new warm-up routine that is designed to target specific weaknesses and goals that I have at that time. That warm-up has replaced the WARM-UP and FLEXIBILITY & TONGUING exercises that you'll see below. I still think my old routine was useful, but in retrospect, I could have streamlined it quite a bit and it probably would have been just as effective. As Nadje once told me, the exercises were good, but by eliminating some things (or alternating days), I could have spent more time playing actual music.

Also in 2019, I started taking jazz improvisation with Garry Dial. Material from those lessons has replaced the ear training and jazz portion of my daily routine.



Caruso 6 Notes, followed by Caruso interval slurs (just 2nds so far): I added this to my routine (replacing chromatic long tones) in May of 2004, after attending a masterclass with Randy Brecker. His live demonstration of the Curoso exercises, and the explanations behind them, provided me with enough interest to give them a try. It's June 13, 2004 as of this writing, and I can already feel some benefits. Mostly, I feel this exercise is helping me to develop a more steady airstream. When I do try to play higher and louder, my notes seem to have more power than before I started the routine.

In 2009, I replaced the Caruso exercises with Chicowitz flow studies. After those exercises I work on my range by playing 2-octave scales. I'll start on a low Bb, playing that scale two octaves and then continue up by half notes. Usually I can get to an E or F scale before I'm unable to continue playing the highest notes.

The warm-up takes about 15 minutes and I typically start it at 7:30 in the morning. It is important to include periods of rest in your playing routine. A general rule is to rest as long as you play. So, prior to continuing with the rest of my routine, I'll rest at least 15 minutes.


Slurs: I play all of the slurs in the "Flexibility - One" section of Flexus. After these slurs, I move on to the Flexando's, followed by the Arban's slurs on page 44 (#22). After all of that, I return to Flexus for a few of wide interval slurs (Flexibility - Three). The final slur exercise I'll do is #22 from the Arban's book's slur section.

Intervals: I'll play through the first 6 or 8 lines from the Arban's book's intervals exercise #1.

Tonguing: I single tongue study #2 from "Technical Studies For The Cornet" by H.L. Clarke. I try to go as fast as I can, with a steady beat and a clean-sounding attack. I typically start at C below the staff and play ascending exercises up to a starting not of A in the staff. I then repeat the exercises, this time with smoothed double tonguing (duh guh articulation). I usually end my tonguing exercises with Arban's expanding interval routine on page 125.

For all of the above, I only play as high as I can go without using excessive mouthpiece pressure. Once I'm unable to comfortably hit a note, I take a break and move on to the next exercise. Occasionally I try to continue where I left off, but usually my chops were right the first time. That is, they already knew I couldn't play any higher ;-)

The above exercises take 15-20 minutes. Since I start early, I'm able to get my warm up and chop-building exercises out of the way well before work begins! Well, actually, work often begins around 6am, but that's another story...


In December, 2011, I added 10-15 minutes of etudes to my daily practice routine. During the etude portion of my practice routine, I'll work on one or two classical pieces that challenge my range, endurance, articulation, or some other aspect of trumpet playing.


As discussed in the ear training portion of this site, I believe ear training is an extremely important, but often overlooked, portion of any practice routine. I try to spend 15-20 minutes each day with a variety of ear training activities.

Random Melodies: I use my ear training tool to play random melodies. I listen and try to play the notes on my horn. Having worked with my ear training tool for several years now (as of Sept 2009), I've gotten fairly accurate with 5-6 note random melodies that use any note from the chromatic scale. After random melodies, I'll often put my ear training tool in Jazz Lick mode, modulating the exercises at about 160bpm. These have been liberating exercises, helping me to move away from the notion that some keys are easier than others.

Simple Song Playing: I use my simple song randomizer to produce random starting notes and song titles. I then try to play the songs by ear, from the starting notes. When playing by ear, it is important to relax. Allow yourself to make mistakes. Don't get stressed out and criticize yourself, regardless of how many errors you make. I find, the more you worry about precision, the less precisely you'll play. Everyone should read The Inner Game of Music, or the book that started it all.

Play-along with recordings: Put on some music and try to play along. Obviously, the same can be done with solos. Pick a phrase and try to play it back. At the same time, try to figure out what key tunes are in, try to figure out the changes, etc�??????????�?????????�????????�???????�??????�?????�????�???�??�?�¢?�??????????�?????????�????????�???????�??????�?????�????�???�??�?�¦ all by ear.


I try to spend 10-20 minutes a day improvising (in short sessions). I find that when work gets frustrating, all I need to do is pick up my horn and start playing along with jazz recordings. After a few minutes of improvising, my mind is clear and I'm ready to get back to work. After work, I try to improvise for at least 30 minutes, but there are plenty of days where I have no extra time at all. I have a bunch of Aebersold play-a-long's, but I much prefer improvising with actual jazz recordings.

Comment by Maury

Why do you improvise over actual recordings? Is it a distraction having someone on the recording improvise?

I am a pianist and really trying to learn the language. I have tried transcriptions and listen daily, but still don't feel like I am making good progress.

I think I am going to start trying to listen and copy short phrases. I have a teacher that says I really need to work on phrasing. I believe this will happen once I try using your method of singing first.


Comment by Rick

Hi Maury,

I play along with jazz recordings (normal recordings, not play-a-longs) for a couple of reasons:

1. My main improvisation session occurs immediately after I finish working for the day. Making the transition from work to jazz is a lot easier when I play along with a recording, because the music gives me ideas and puts me in the mood to play.

2. As I'm improving with ear training, it's becoming a lot easier to mimic what I hear in recordings, with decent speed and accuracy (not great, yet...). I'll try to play the tune up to tempo by ear. Or, I'll echo what the soloist is playing (they play a phrase, I copy the phrase, etc). All of this helps with ear training. It also helps in the development of material and ideas. You can take a short phrase that jumps out, and go off on your own tangent.

I understand how it could be distracting at first to play with a recording, especially while somebody else is soloing. As time goes on, you'll likely find it's not distracting at all.

If you're having trouble with phrasing, I'd focus on note-limiting and rhythm-based exercises. My LEARNING TO IMPROVISE - RHYTHM guide might be a good start. And yes, singing is also highly recommended.

Lastly, try not to get discouraged by your rate of progress. If you work on your core elements like ear training, rhythm, and phrasing, the rest will come. It just takes patience and practice...

Thanks for posting!


Comment by Tommy Gunn

Long story short, I'm a hard partying comeback trumpet player with a chance to play in a prominent vancouver (BC, CA) ska band. The other horn players have master's degrees. i'm trying to find my chops. auditioned last night and they didn't say don't come back, which means they're stuck with me. so any excercises that you could suggest which would improve my range and power, (and no i don't have coin to drop on method books right now), would be appreciated. i've still got the cd from my old high school jazz method but it's pretty simple call and response stuff. tips hints and suggestions are definitely welcomed. i need help bro, throw me a bone.



Comment by Rick

Hi Tom,

I'm definitely not the best person to ask for range tips. I've been struggling with range and endurance throughout my comeback and even had problems before I originally stopped playing (you can read about that stuff in the "My Playing History" articles in the ABOUT ME section of this site).

If I were you, I'd post your question at the Trumpet Herald forums or do a few searches: http://www.trumpetherald.com/forum/

Best of luck to you with your new gig!


Comment by Tommy Gunn

Thanks man, will do. Good luck yourself

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