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Thread: Comprehensive training compilation for amateurs

  1. #1

    Comprehensive training compilation for amateurs

    One topic I wanted to bring up for a long time with some professionals in brass playing, is the lack of training literature for amateurs. And if I say "amateur" I am not talking about people spending all their free time practicing but about people that have 15-30 minutes a day (in average) to spend on training (next to other hobbies, family life and a 12-hour shift).

    There are many great books available – such as brass gym, arban study books and similar, but they are great only for absolute enthusiasts, professionals or at least semi-professionals or music students at the university. For amateurs playing in a community band – such as myself, they are useless or even frustrating. Why? They ask for far too much time! This is true for all “daily routine” books I found so far. It takes at least a couple of hours, just to get through the basic exercises. As a result, most hobby musicians I know neglect any basic training and by that make no progress – which would be possible I am convinced, also with very limited time.

    With 15-30 minutes a day, no-one will become a second Steven Mead but it should be enough to produce a decent sound and provide musical entertainment that is fun to listen too, i.e. play medium level literature without hurting anyone (ok, for a non-professional audience ;-)

    So what am I looking for? It would be a great help to have a book with a comprehensive weekly routine based on 15-30 minutes a day and a medium difficulty level, e.g. do not waste paper on exercises with 32nds or triple-tonguing. Perhaps it could even have a modular build to allow for different amounts of time (from 10 minutes up to perhaps 1 hour max) and it should also contain some basic songs that are fun to play (for all the guys that play 2nd and 3rd and don't ever use their high register in rehearsals).

    I could try and compile something like this by myself but to name only two issues with that:
    - I would have to buy a lot of literature, I could never use – e.g. I will never be able to play at least half of the exercises in the Arban Study Book I have or from the “Brass Gym” book I bought
    - I lack the know-how about what exercises would be more important or most efficient.

    Why should someone write a book like that? I do not know, how this is in the UK or US but in Switzerland the standard "musical career" of an amateur looks like this: 3-6 years individual lessons with a music teacher starting with age ~8-10 (or training just with an enthusiastic amateur) -> playing in a youth band until the age of 18-20 -> after that, playing in a community band (ideally until the end of one's life ;-). Currently, there are approx. 72'000 amateurs registered within the Swiss Windband association, of which probably ~80% belong to the category of amateurs described above. ~50% of these amateurs playing a brass instrument would result in >28’000 potential happy customers in Switzerland alone. As chairman of our community band, I would not hesitate buying something like that for all our members and I am sure, many of my colleagues would feel the same. So there should be quite some market potential for such an "amateur training" book as I am quite sure, there is a similar musical culture also in Germany and perhaps France.

    Perhaps there is already something like this available. In this case, please let me know.

    Regards
    Marco
    Last edited by BigMc; 11-09-2015 at 11:01 AM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
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    3,220
    Hi Marco, welcome to the forum.

    i don't know if there is - or could be a book like you're looking for. 15 - 30 minutes per day is not going to help many musicians improve. I'm an amateur and it takes me just 20 mins to warmup before I start working on anything. I've often heard that to maintain your ability it takes at least an hour per day, and two hours per day to improve.

    Sorry if if I couldn't help any.
    Rick Floyd
    Miraphone 5050 - Warburton Brandon Jones sig mpc
    YEP-641S (on long-term loan to grandson)
    Doug Elliott - 102 rim; I-cup; I-9 shank


    "Always play with a good tone, never louder than lovely, never softer than supported." - author unknown.
    Symphonic Band of the Palm Beaches
    Russian Christmas Music (Alfred Reed)
    El Cumbanchero (Rafael Hernández) cell phone video

  3. #3
    Marco,
    I understand your desire to find a productive training routine that would be enjoyable and could be completed in about 30 minutes. All of us have lives away from the horn, and it can be difficult to peel away from our other things (both work and fun) to find practice time. I think I would disagree with you somewhat on the usefulness of Arban for amateur musicians. Outside of a weekly rehearsal, I probably get about two to two and a half hours of practice a week (40 minutes, 3-4 times a week), which I think would put me in the type of musician that you describe. I use Arban just about every time I practice, and stick mostly to these sections: Scales, intervals, and "first studies" I think they are called in my version, which are basically half note and quarter note exercises with simple melodic lines and easy intervals. There are tons of pages in Arban that I may never even play, yet alone master, but there is still a lot in there for amateurs. And all of the exercises in those sections can be slowed down and turned into long tone exercises or sped up any way you please to work on single tonguing speed or consistency.

    I don't know of any single resource that would have a "training program", but if it were me and I had to stick to 30 minutes, I would probably do something like this:
    ~5 minutes - Long tones, I like to do a routine I saw in a Steven Mead video starting on concert E in the staff, and then moving upward and downward in progressively larger intervals (so concert E, up to F, down to Eb, up to Gb, down to D, etc...), but obviously any long tone exercise would do
    ~10 minutes - Some other exercise from Arban, it would probably be best to alternate daily so you can at least get ten minutes on any given thing, but I might work on some of the scale exercise in 4 or 5 keys that I seem to be needing a lot for band pieces, or better yet 4 or 5 keys that I don't know so well! Then the next day I might spend 10 minutes on intervals, particularly on the sort of "transition" ranges between my high notes and mid notes, or my low notes and mid notes, then the next day 10 minutes on
    ~10-15 minutes - Something fun and pleasant sounding that is musical and will work on melodic playing as well as build up comfort moving around the horn, for me I could pretty much never get tired of playing the Bach cello suite transcriptions. I got a trombone version of all six for around $15 USD.
    ~30 seconds of easy, soft pedal tones to make your lips feel good after practicing.

    That is pretty long winded, and true it is not from one source, but if I were to compile a source I think those are the sources I would take for a fun and accessible daily "training". Hopefully it gives you some good ideas.

  4. #4
    This is a topic near to my heart, because I'm working a full-time job in technology and also spend a lot of time arranging music and managing the website/forum. My practice is very limited. For recitals coming up I have to make a lot of sacrifices in personal time to squeeze out 1 - 1.5 hours of practice a day. But normally I'm lucky to find 30 minutes a day and luckier still to make it happen every day.

    So I use (and teach, during lessons) the concept of multi-tasking. I almost NEVER focus on just one thing. If I am doing scales...

    • obviously I'm working on getting the fingerings, so that is one focus.
    • along with going through a bunch of keys, I vary patterns. You can play a scale using dotted-eighth/sixteenth rhythms or using triplet rhythms (to make sure you actually make them sound different from each other!). You can do one or two of the keys as a broken scale - in C ascending it would be like C, E, D, F, E, G, etc.
    • during each scale I focus on evenness of note volume and TONE.
    • play one scale at forte and the next at piano.
    • play one or two of the scales at ppp - make it as soft as you can possibly play on the first note and try to keep it even as you go up and down.
    • tongue one, then slur one. Also bring in multiple tonguing, both by repeating each pitch 4x for double-tongue practice or 3 or 6x for triple-tongue practice.
    • slur up an octave on each note.
    • slur down an octave on each note.
    • etc.

    Note that I don't do all these on any given day, but I try to mix in several different concepts. That is the general idea, and it can be applied to all of your warm up, less intensively for the first couple of minutes and more intensely as you get warmed up.

    Don't just use scales, but also think similarly on arpeggios and lip slurs. And always keep a solid tone as you do this.

    Within your practice try to include at least one pretty song, and play it once softly, as though for a lullabye, and once with much more projection, as though in a large hall with a band accompanying you.

    You can use a lot of the above within one 30-minute practice.

    There are many other things I incorporate, but that should give you food for thought.
    Dave Werden (ASCAP)
    Euphonium Soloist, U.S. Coast Guard Band, retired
    Adams Artist (Adams E3)
    YouTube: dwerden
    Facebook: davewerden
    Twitter: davewerden
    Instagram: davewerdeneuphonium

  5. #5
    Thanks for the answers so far. @aroberts: I did not mean Arban is completely useless. I am using it myself. It is just that there is too much in there which is about as achievable for most of my colleagues - including me - as walking on the Moon...

    @ Rick: "Improving" is a very relative term. I would say, around 50% of the people participating in community bands around here do not do any basic practice at all but just struggle with their parts and join the weekly rehearsals. Some even touch their instrument only once a week for the rehearsals. Correspondingly frustrating is the experience for those who do at least some practice. Getting these people to do some basics - even if it's only 15 minutes a day - would mean a huge improvement, believe me. We start on a very low level here. If you are lucky, you have got a good player (some former army band member or the like) on the solo parts (Solo Cornet, Flugel, Solo Euph) that drag the others along. But that's it. As musicians are on short supply and the community bands also have a strong social function, throwing people out is also not an option. You would end up with no band at all quite fast. This means I have to work with what I have got and try to make the best out of it.

  6. #6
    [QUOTE]
    Quote Originally Posted by BigMc View Post
    I did not mean Arban is completely useless. I am using it myself. It is just that there is too much in there which is about as achievable for most of my colleagues - including me - as walking on the Moon...QUOTE]
    Ha, fair point! I agree that there is a lot in Arban that isn't necessarily required for one to make progress as a perfectly happy amateur player, as much as I would love to bang out the final Carnival of Venice variation -- or walk on the moon!

    I really like Dave's point about playing something pretty every time you practice. I chose the cello suites as an example as something I like to play, but any melody or song or solo or excerpt can be used to reinforce techniques, particularly tone production and musicality, in a way that doesn't feel like a chore.

  7. I find various etudes are an efficient method of accomplishing what you are looking for. There is a free download of Anton Slama 66 etudes at:

    https://archive.org/details/66etudesinallmaj00slam
    Bob Tampa FL USA
    Euph -- 1984 B&H Round Stamp Sovereign 967 / 1978 Besson NS 767 / Early 90s Sterling MP: 4AL and GW Carbonaria
    Tuba -- 2014 Wisemann 900 CC / 2013 Mack 410 MP: Blokepiece Symphony American Shank and 33.2 #2 Rim

  8. #8
    The other thing I'd recommend is to listen to recordings to develop your sense of a characteristic euphonium sound. There's so much on youtube (you can start with Dave's channel) and branch out from there.
    Adrian L. Quince
    Composer, Conductor, Euphoniumist
    www.adrianquince.com

    Kanstul 976 - SM4U

  9. #9
    Oh, I am quite pleased to see this topic being discussed in detail. I have been confused as to what exactly constituted a daily routine. I bought Arbans, Brass Gym, a Mead book of solos, but never understood how much I should attempt to accomplish per day (not counting the band pieces). I hope you all provide your 'two cents' and then from that maybe we can create a daily practice plan!

    This will be great!

    Chris
    Chris Bunker
    Adams E1, Wick 4AL

  10. #10
    I just remembered that Eric Bolvin published a guide to practicing the Arban book with progressively increasing difficulty. Might be worth a look: http://bolvinmusic.com/product/arban-manual/
    Adrian L. Quince
    Composer, Conductor, Euphoniumist
    www.adrianquince.com

    Kanstul 976 - SM4U

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