Summer Practice Suggestions for Low Brass Players

At the time of this posting wind, brass, and percussion juries at Ole Miss are half completed, so my students have either already begun or are preparing to begin their summer breaks. Some will be working at various jobs, some will be taking summer classes, but hopefully all will be putting in some useful practice time during these months off. Indeed, a break from the weekly lessons in which practice materials are determined primarily by one’s teacher can provide a great opportunity to review previous materials as well as discover great music that might not show up on a regular weekly assignment list. Here are some suggestions for making the summer as productive as possible for your playing.

  1. Take some planned time off.

This might seem to be an odd suggestion for such an article, and a particularly peculiar choice for listing first. But, taking a break from playing for a week or two (rarely more) can provide a necessary respite both physically and psychologically. I always find myself rejuvenated after such breaks, and eager to get back to work on my instruments. I make this suggestion first because it is vital that such a break be planned in advance, planned in such a way that you will have a week or so to recover fully before any performing obligations, and strictly adhered to. If you just say “I’ll take some time off during the summer” you’ll probably end up taking more time off than is necessary or helpful, and/or doing so in an erratic fashion with a day or two off at various points during the summer, and end up losing a lot of ground before school starts. Plan to take a break at an appropriate time, and otherwise maintain a normal (or close to normal) practice schedule.

  1. Commit to performing a thorough daily routine each day.

The daily routine should be part of a brass player’s normal practicing anyway, but use the summertime to perhaps make this routine more comprehensive (my students might try using my Level 3 routine instead of the Level 2), and/or experiment with routines from other teachers and players—lots of great stuff can be found on the internet these days! Additionally, while hopefully you will be keeping a normal practice schedule except during the aforementioned break, summer vacation has a way of introducing unexpected interruptions, such as a visit from an old friend or parents needing you to help with a home improvement project. Commit to completing your fundamentals work early every day so that you won’t lose much if such circumstances deprive you of the remainder of a day’s practice.

  1. Revisit and further develop old materials.

I have my students purchase several method books, and in most cases each student will rotate through four throughout the course of an academic year. I make a special effort to have students work primarily from materials that will benefit them throughout their playing careers. One truly never gets “too good” to work through materials by Arban, Clarke, Kopprasch, Bordogni, Concone, Blazhevich, Snedecor, Mead, etc. Indeed, my decision whether or not to play along with a student during a lesson is often based on whether or not I think I need extra practice on those materials! Use the summer as a chance to revisit the etudes and solo repertoire you’ve already played, as well as to look ahead to what is coming up in the near future. You might also consider “enhanced” practicing of some materials, as well; Joseph Alessi suggests practicing Bordogni etudes as written, in tenor clef (i.e. up a fifth), down an octave, up an octave, and in tenor clef down two octaves (i.e. down an eleventh). I have used this pattern many times over the past fifteen years and have yet to fully master most of the etudes using it, but the benefits to my playing have been enormous. You can try this and similar patterns with most or all of your assigned practice materials.

  1. Read through materials not normally covered in lessons.

There is an unprecedented selection of great study and performance materials for low brass players these days, and one teacher cannot hope to cover them all during a student’s years of study. Why not use the summer as a chance to read through solos, excerpts, and etudes that you don’t know? Listings of solo repertoire and common band and orchestral excerpts for each low brass instrument can be found in many places on the internet as well as on my website; many of the parts for excerpts can be downloaded for free from IMSLP. Here are a few method books that I don’t always assign in lessons that can be great for summer reading. I will repeat suggestions that are applicable to multiple instruments.

Alto Trombone

Anderson: Complete Method for Alto Trombone
Maxted: Twenty Studies

Tenor Trombone

Bitsch: Fifteen Rhythmical Studies
Blazhevich: Sequences for Trombone
Charlier: 32 Etudes
Edwards: Lip Slurs
Lafosse: Complete Method
Mantia: The Trombone Virtuoso
Maxted: Twenty Studies
Snidero: Jazz Conception

Bass Trombone

Bitsch: Fourteen Rhythmical Studies
Edwards: Lip Slurs
Faulise: The F and D Double-Valve Bass Trombone
Grigoriev: 50 Etudes
Pederson: Advanced Etudes
Snidero: Jazz Conception
Teele: Advanced Embouchure Studies

Euphonium

Arnold: Masterworks for Trumpet
Brahms: Twelve Etudes
Charlier: 32 Etudes
Clarke: Technical Studies
Mantia: The Trombone Virtuoso
Schroeder: 170 Foundation Studies for Violoncello
Tyrell: 40 Progressive Studies

Tuba

Bobo: Mastering the Tuba
Clarke: Technical Studies
Friedland: Building Walking Bass Lines
Grigoriev: 50 Etudes
Sheridan: Style Studies
Teele: Advanced Embouchure Studies
Tyrell: 40 Advanced Studies

  1. Begin Preparation for Recitals and Auditions.

If you have a junior or senior recital coming up, and especially if you are preparing for graduate school or even professional auditions, the summer is a great time to get a head start on the process. If you have not yet chosen repertoire, start reading through standard works that interest you, and listen to recordings to get new repertoire ideas. Send your teacher an email and ask for suggestions—he or she will be thrilled that you are thinking ahead! Professional auditions almost always have prescribed solo and excerpt lists, as do many graduate schools; look up the lists from schools that interest you as well as recent auditions to provide a starting point for your reading and practice.


The summer “break” should be both restful and productive, and the respite from weekly lesson assignments can be a great opportunity to explore exciting new techniques and materials. Happy practicing!

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About Micah Everett

Micah Everett is Associate Professor of Music (Trombone/Low Brass) at the University of Mississippi, Principal Trombonist of the North Mississippi Symphony Orchestra, Bass Trombonist of the Great River Trombone Quartet, and Assistant Editor (Audio/Video Reviews) for the International Trombone Association Journal. He is the author of THE LOW BRASS PLAYER'S GUIDE TO DOUBLING, published by Mountain Peak Music, and released his first solo recording, STEPPING STONES FOR BASS TROMBONE, VOL. 1, on the Potenza Music label in 2015. In addition to his professional work, he maintains an avid interest in the study of the Bible and of Reformed theology. He holds doctoral and master's degrees in music from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, a bachelor's degree in music education from Delta State University, and a certificate in systematic theology from Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary. The opinions expressed here are solely those of Micah Everett, and are not necessarily shared by the employers and organizations with which he is associated.
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