I love how Duke Ellington responded with when asked how he was able to accomplished so much:

“I don’t need time, I need a deadline.

You can guarantee efficiency by using time limits in your practice sessions and in your life.

I need to practice at least an hour


I only have an hour to improve XYZ

The latter encourages superior efficiency.

Achieve more with less.

Design your practice sessions using the 80/20 principal.

Consciously focus on the material that will get you the most “bang for your buck.” This applies to routine, or which fundamentals to work on, as well as musical passages.


Tip #1: Develop your musical taste as well as your personal sound.

Your sound starts in your head.  Work on your internal sound (imagination) AT LEAST as much as you work on your external sound (your trumpet).  Inspiration comes first.

Try splitting your “trumpet time” equally between playing and listening. The best are assiduous listeners.

Tip #2: Teach yourself to associate playing the trumpet with a relaxed state of being.

Every imperfect note can be traced to some form of tension.

While not always the cause of imperfect notes, tension is tied to all audible imperfections. Use the following tools to improve imperfect sections:

-Use lip bends to remind yourself of YOUR unique, “ideal” sound; fall in love with this sound and consciously use it every time you play!

-Buzz the passage on your mouthpiece to identify inaccurate pitch, sloppy air flow, and “bounce.” This tool works especially well with a drone.

-Play in front of a large mirror to identify tension in your body; every imperfect note can be traced to some form of tension. Mental stress and physical tension are directly linked–fixing one automatically fixes the other. Physical tension is easy to notice when you pay attention to it, and is easily spotted in a mirror.

-Practice with a drone to perfect intonation and create “bounce,” and overall control of a note. Go for that Arnold Jacobs style buoyancy. Phil Smith’s and Wynton Marsalis’ classical recordings have it too.

-Sing everything that you play. If you can sing it, you can play it. Singing passages will ingrain correct pitches and style in your ear and condition you to stay relaxed during difficult passages.

-Once you can sing it perfectly, buzz it on your mouthpiece. Buzzing requires exceptional accuracy–this will translate into your trumpet playing almost immediately.

Tip #3:  Listen to as much music as possible.

Listening Recommendations:

Maria Callas sings Habanera from Carmen
Her “attacks” are so much better than any brass player on Earth–but we can do it! Model her phrasing, sound, body language, breathing–she does everything perfectly.

Maria Callas sings Norma
Arban turned this famous aria into a cornet solo with variations; it’s great to hear what inspired him to do it.

Montserrat Caballe sings Chi il Bel Sogno di Doretta
This is the aria that a Juilliard student is singing during a Pavarotti coaching. Caballe gets the high note exactly the way Pavarotti is trying to explain to the student–not an easy task. A great performance!!!

Here is said Pavarotti masterclass

Nessun Dorma – Pavarotti You’ve probably heard him sing this, but it’s just so ridiculously passionate–it deserves a repost.

I mentioned Pandora’s Fanfare from the movie Sphere–here is the link to buy it on iTunes. I’ve been told it’s Phil Smith–it sure sounds like ’em!