Monthly Archives: December 2013

Endurance and Loud Playing

Here is a helpful mini-lesson I found on the blog called The Trumpet Gearhead.  The short article on endurance and loud playing is actually some instruction from non other than David Bilger, principal trumpet of the Philadelphia Orchestra.  I plan to try these out soon!


Editor’s note: The following excerpt is written by David Bilger and used with his permission. It describes an exercise for improving power and endurance that Mr. Bilger learned from Renold Schilke.  Mr. Bilger currently is Principal Trumpet of the Philadelphia Orchestra, and was previously Principal of the Dallas Symphony. He currently teaches at The Curtis Institute of Music and Temple University in Philadelphia.


As is the case with range, endurance is also a combination of many of the topics we have already touched upon, and will benefit from many of the same etudes. The two other things that will most quickly improve endurance are efficiency and loud practice.

1. Efficiency is a necessity for any brass player. Playing the trumpet is extremely physical, and efficient playing will reduce the demands on the player. Efficiency can be achieved by taking care of the following:

  • Always use a good volume of air, and high air speed
  • Always play with your embouchure set
  • Do not use excessive pressure
  • Practice upper body relaxation
  • Always think about what you are doing while you play


2. Loud practice is another part of trumpet playing that is often overlooked. Remember, when practicing at loud dynamic levels, always keep your sound from distorting, and never cause yourself physical pain. Do not use excessive pressure! Orchestral excerpts are a good source of loud material, as are the Brandt Orchestral Etudes. Perhaps the best resource for loud playing are the Schilke Power Exercises. Playing 5 minutes of these a day will be all you need to develop the necessary strength for increased endurance.

Mr. Bilger writes specifically about this exercise:

I had the pleasure and honor of working with Mr. Schilke for a week at the Banff Centre in 1980 when he was hanging out with the Canadian Brass who were on the faculty there. During that week he showed me the power exercises that I outlined in my master class materials. I have all my students do them!

They should be played at quarter note = 60, and with huge quick breaths after every four half notes. And most importantly, they should be played as loud as the player can control, with attention being paid to stability of sound and pitch, as well as dynamic. They are designed for developing an “orchestral” sound, but are of use to all players who want to develop additional power in their playing.

Transpose into different keys.

(right-click and open in new tab/window to get an enlarged view of the exercise)

Power Exercise-Bilger



Are Spit Valves Necessary?

I was thinking about spit valves Thursday night, and the general surprise and slightly amused displeasure of our church choir members at the sight of brass players emptying their instruments.  After playing a choir/brass/organ rehearsal a couple days ago, I noticed the usual puddles of water by the brass players’ chairs.  It got me thinking about why trumpets simply have spit valves and other brass instruments need to remove slides more frequently and empty their instruments that way.  Is there a benefit to either method, and could a trumpet be cleaned/emptied the same way as say, a French horn? Or is there even another way to clean the instrument?

I came across this blog, The Trumpet Gearhead which gives answers to frequently asked questions about trumpets and trumpet playing.  Here is the blog author, Jim Donaldson’s answer on emptying the trumpet without using the spit valves:


Q: How do I empty all the water from my trumpet without using the spit valves?


1. Hold trumpet as normal;

2. Tilt 90 degrees to the left (i.e., counter clockwise) so that the valves are horizontal, with the valve buttons pointing to your left;

3. Angle the bell up a few degrees;

4. Press down 3rd valve and blow (some folks find it best to remove the mouthpiece before blowing);

5. Press down 2nd valve and blow;

6. Press down 1st valve and blow;

7. Rotate 90 degrees counter clockwise so that valve buttons are pointing straight down;

8. Tilt bell downwards and lots of water runs out clearing all parts of the instrument!

This employs the the same technique used by french horn players. It really does work and can be far faster than removing slides or even operating 2 water keys.