Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Text Size

Warmed Up

I was fortunate to study with some of the finest trumpet teachers in the world, and this was made possible by my uncles, Louis and Milton Davidson, both of whom were prominent trumpet players of their time.

A common thread between almost every teacher I studied with was that they had studied with Max Schlossberg. For years he played second trumpet in the New York Philharmonic, and many of his students went on to play with the major orchestras in the United States. For many trumpet players Scholssberg’s book Daily Drills and Studies is the bible of trumpet playing. In this volume there are no solos, no excerpts, no etudes, but anyone who can play this book cover to cover is able to play anything. The beginning warm-up, which starts on a low C and descends to F-sharp, would not be used in most teaching studios today. My own practice sessions begin with Vince Cichowicz’s warm-up

and flow studies, which begin on second line G and progress through the different registers at a relaxed pace.

I once asked the great Arnold Jacobs what a warm-up is. His answer was simple and logical: “It’s trying to get back to the place you were the day before when you played the best.” He then picked up his tuba, played a beautiful two octave scale, and finished with a two octave arpeggio. “Some days in five minutes I’m ready to play just like that,” he said. “On other days after 45 minutes I’m still trying to get there.” I hasten to add that the latter was a rare occasion for him.

Even one of the greatest brass players in the world had a difficult time getting the sound and the air to work perfectly one night. He simply put his horn in his lap, closed his eyes for a few minutes, and then walked onstage and nailed the Mahler 5 solo to the back wall. A colleague asked him a few days later what took place in those moments of silence, during which he seemed to be in deep concentration. He replied, “I was just trying to remember what it felt like on the very best day I ever had.” As with the game of golf, playing an instrument is 90% in the mind, and 10% in the execution.

My freshman year in high school opened my eyes to the importance of warming up. The band rehearsed during first period. We always started with “Americans We,” “National Emblem,” or some other march. I simply put the mouthpiece in the horn and started to play, and after that march I was shot for the rest of the day. After a while I asked the director if I could come in 20 to 30 minutes early and warm up before the rehearsal. What a difference this made. I have always used the analogy of a football practice. The first part of any practice is spent getting all the muscles loose and warmed up, so when a defensive player makes that first tackle or block or a running back takes that first hit, the body is ready to absorb it. Think about this the next time you get ready to play the first notes of the day. During my many years in symphony and opera orchestras I rarely knew where the conductor would begin in a rehearsal. It could be a loud, demanding section, or a delicate, soft, and high passage. If a warm-up is done properly you will be prepared for any eventuality.

My first recording session with the Afro-Cuban band “Machito” started at 8:30 a.m. I arrived at 7:45 and warmed up for 45 minutes. This was a big mistake! This is fine to warm up for a symphony or an opera session, but not for commercial music. Renauld Jones, formerly the lead trumpet with Count Basie, also played with us that day. He arrived at 8:20 a.m., took his horn out, and started going from third-space C to high C, D to D, E to E, and so on. His chops were still fresh after three hours, but I was really tired. The type of playing you have to do should determine the warm-up used, in addition to how you feel after the first few notes.

In March 2005 the world lost the person I consider the greatest artist-performer in my lifetime, trumpeter Timofei Dokshizer. He also wrote a book, Daily Drills and Studies. I had the honor to edit and have it translated, and in the process I discovered his insights on practice routines. Timofei’s daughter-in-law, Irina, donated the last 60 copies of this book to the legacy fund of the International Trumpet Guild. I recommend this to you, and all proceeds go to the I.T.G. (For details, contact me: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ).


Editor’s note: Copyright 2006 the Instrumentalist Publishing Co., reprinted with permission. Subscribe to The Instrumentalist at 12 issues yearly for $21 (student group subscriptions for only $11) by writing to 200 Northfield Road, Northfield, Illinois; telephone 888-446-6888; fax 847.446.6263; instrumentalistmagazine.com

Ron Modell, professor emeritus, Northern Illinois University, was founder and director of the nationally acclaimed NIU Jazz Ensemble from 1969-1997. He was principal trumpet in the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. Most recently he was assistant conductor with Quincy Jones, world tour with pop vocalist Phil Collins in 1998, and soloist and clinician throughout the U.S. and Europe from 1997-2005.

About the Editor: Lisa Blackmore is Adjunct Professor of Trumpet at the University of Missouri-St. Louis and Adjunct Professor of Trumpet and Horn at East Central College in Union, Missouri where she also teaches Music History and World Music. She is a member of “Cadre” at Missouri Baptist University, teaching trumpet and assisting with the concert band. Lisa earned a Doctorate of Musical Arts (D.M.A.) in Trumpet with a minor in Music History at the University of Illinois-Urbana/Champaign, where she received the Graduate College Dissertation Award in Musicology. Dr. Blackmore also holds degrees from the University of Missouri-Columbia and SUNY-Stony Brook. She previously served on the faculty at Lindenwood University and under her direction, the Lindenwood Trumpet Ensemble performed at the 2007 ITG conference at the University of Massachusetts―Amherst. Her private studio teaching has resulted in students performing in the St. Louis Youth Symphony and various Missouri All-State ensembles.

Lisa is a member of the Stonehenge Brass Trio and Confluence Brass. She was a bugler with the Missouri Military Funeral Honors Program from 2008-2013 and performed Taps at over 350 military services for Missouri Veterans. She performs with the Compton Heights Concert Band, and she is principal trumpet in the St. Louis Wind Symphony. She serves as a trumpet adjudicator for the Missouri All-State groups.

Lisa lives in Wright City, MO with her husband, Mark (also a trumpeter!) and their two cats, Chet and Ella. In her spare time she makes practice mutes and also enjoys reading and traveling.

Restore Default Settings