So how fast should we be practicing?
We’ve all heard that we should only practice things at the speeds which we can play them perfectly and gradually increase tempo. This is solid advice which all too often goes ignored. Players with amazing technical proficiencies such as Rafeal Mendez suggest practicing at tempos which are slower than we can already play a passage. In fact, Mendez suggests that the longer you practice something slower than you can already play it the faster you will achieve your goal tempos.
The more times you repeat an action slowly the more comfortable your body becomes in executing that task. The more proficient the body the faster it can perform the given task.
I would like to offer one extra bit of advice in deciding on a practice speed which relates to the previous post on thinking in sound and that it this: practice at tempos which you have aural control of the material. In other words, work at speeds which you can think predominantly in sound rather than the physical execution of the passage.
The more we practice this way the better. There are times of course when we simply do not know how the passage sounds until we’ve played it many times. During this phase it is exceedingly beneficial to play extra slow (sans metronome) and focus on trying to hear each successive note in your mind before you play it.
As trumpet players it is crucial that we actually hear the things we are playing. In this regard we are essentially vocalists but rather than vibrating the vocal chords our mind sets the body in motion to vibrate the lips.
Once we can accurately hear the passage, get out in front. Focus on your sound traveling through a point of focus (POF), filling the room, or any other visualization you like which gets you to forget about function. Once we are playing from out in front continue to practice the phrase keeping your ear and chops in sync. The more repetition at slow tempos the greater control you will have over the material. This directly relates to your ability to improvise and play in all registers of the horn with sureness of pitch and sound.
Transcribe a ii-V7 lick and practice it through all twelve keys in this manner. Pay no attention to how fast you can play in each key but rather to singing the line in your head.
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