Returning to playing brass after a break

Returning to playing brass after a break doesn’t need to be traumatic

Many brass players have been restricted from playing with other people due to COVID restrictions. This has been disastrous especially for youngsters just starting out. Much of the fun of playing a brass instrument is making music with other people.  A generation of new entrants into our playing community are missing out on early instruction with many losing interest before they become even somewhat proficient.  Many experienced players have also lost motivation and taken a ‘sabbatical’ from playing. Returning to playing brass after a break doesn’t need to be a traumatic experience. 

Perhaps the most noticeable loss of ability will be endurance.  Facial muscles, like any other muscle, need regular exercise to stay strong.  I took a 20-year break from playing at one stage and, for me, my endurance suffered the most. My range was unchanged and once I remembered how to read music, I was back in the ‘saddle’.

The solution

The solution to rebuilding endurance is to play long, high notes — without placing pressure on the lips from the mouthpiece.  Focus on tonal quality, steady pitch and volume.  Play long notes until your lips become tired, then take a break.  Rinse and repeat.

Find bands to play with at least twice per week where you will have a lot of ‘face time’ with your instrument. Establish a regular (and frequent) practice routine.  Become friends with your instrument again.  Find familiar and new exercises to play.  A famous exercise method book for brass instruments is Arban’s which can be found online for free these days.  If you can master those exercises, you should be able to play just about anything put in front of you.

If you have issues with your embouchure, now would be a great time to address them.  It will be easier to adjust the way you play now before re-establishing old, bad habits.  Get advice from experienced brass teachers. Many talented brass teachers are now providing online lessons which has opened access to the best teachers from around the world without leaving home.

Reignite the passion you once had for playing and have fun getting back into playing with others with a fresh perspective.

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