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The Trombone ForumTeaching & LearningPractice Room(Moderator: blast) Bad days - do I need rest, or more practice?
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henrikbe
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« on: Aug 18, 2017, 12:57AM »

Hi!

I've been playing the trombone for about half a year now, after a 20+ years break. Generally, I think I'm improving steadily, with a decent tone in my rather narrow range. But some days, like the last couple of days, it seems like the trombone hates me. The sound is terrible, and I have no endurance at all - my lips feel numb almost immediately. If I play for a few minutes, then rest for maybe 30-60 minutes, play, rest etc, then maybe I can hear a slight improvement by the end of the day, with better but still not very good tone.

Is this a common problem, for newbies at least? Have I been practicing too much, and just need some rest? (I was practicing long notes near the top of my register the last few days before this happened.)

If anyone else experience bad days like this, do you just keep playing until it improves, or do you take a day off, in order to give your lips etc time to recover?
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« Reply #1 on: Aug 18, 2017, 01:18AM »

Just as with many muscular activities, as you get tired you become less able to hold your correct position, in terms of embouchure and sometimes even holding the horn up.  If you continue past that point your are reinforcing the wrong things - you're not building, you're tearing down.  Then the next day you start where you left off - the same wrong form.  If you continue doing that, you start to get strong in all the wrong ways, and can't get back because you never knew what was really correct.
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« Reply #2 on: Aug 18, 2017, 09:55AM »

Just as with many muscular activities, as you get tired you become less able to hold your correct position, in terms of embouchure and sometimes even holding the horn up.  If you continue past that point your are reinforcing the wrong things - you're not building, you're tearing down.  Then the next day you start where you left off - the same wrong form.  If you continue doing that, you start to get strong in all the wrong ways, and can't get back because you never knew what was really correct.

This really is true. It is important to know when to stop.
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« Reply #3 on: Aug 18, 2017, 10:38AM »

I had a bad evening of practice last night and I have a recital next Saturday (26th). I said to my self this is an exercise in futility. I played some scales and put the horn back in the case. Today seems fine. On Wednesday my rehearsal with my pianist was one of those moments when we were spot on. Was it perfect? No. Was it musical in both of our minds it was. There is a book by Dr. Bob Rotella entitled "Golf is Not A Game of Perfect" in which he states there is practice then there is swing the club and hit the ball. Music is a lot like that. Also practice in short time periods like 15 minutes and then rest foor a few.  I try never get to the point of stress, aggrevation, etc. Playng the trombone is fun. My accompanist loves playing for trombonists because they are interesting people.
 
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« Reply #4 on: Aug 18, 2017, 10:42AM »

We all have bad days.  If it's more than one in a row, stop and reset.  Don't push anything.  Just play what you feel you can.

If you feel you aren't making progress, maybe it's time to take a lesson with somebody.  Even Tommy Dorsey used to have brush-up lessons with Jaroslav Cimera when he was in Chicago to keep his technique up.  It's no shame.
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« Reply #5 on: Aug 18, 2017, 11:06AM »

Hi!

I've been playing the trombone for about half a year now, after a 20+ years break. Generally, I think I'm improving steadily, with a decent tone in my rather narrow range. But some days, like the last couple of days, it seems like the trombone hates me. The sound is terrible, and I have no endurance at all - my lips feel numb almost immediately. If I play for a few minutes, then rest for maybe 30-60 minutes, play, rest etc, then maybe I can hear a slight improvement by the end of the day, with better but still not very good tone.

Is this a common problem, for newbies at least? Have I been practicing too much, and just need some rest? (I was practicing long notes near the top of my register the last few days before this happened.)

If anyone else experience bad days like this, do you just keep playing until it improves, or do you take a day off, in order to give your lips etc time to recover?

I find that when I super-focus my embouchure in an effort to hit higher notes, I end up playing with more muscular effort than I really should. It makes my lower/middle tone wonky and gets me tired way too quickly. From experience, I know I tend to lose my tone on my lower/middle range when I single-mindedly focus on higher notes.

My solution is to relax and play low a while to get a bigger, fatter and broader tone established. Then I do slowish lip slurs, starting from either middle Bb or middle F and working chromatically down, slurring up one or two partials, concentrating on relaxing the embouchure more and keeping it relaxed while letting the air flow. Sometimes it's best for me to warm up that way, even before doing a "warm-up" routine from my favorite book. Warming up from middle to lower and higher helps me establish and keep my tone. And after playing high a while, I find it beneficial to re-center my tone by doing the above again. Not everyone may agree with this approach, though - so I am merely telling you what I like to do, not what I think you should do.

If - no matter what I do - I find myself unable to play well, it's time for a break; maybe even a complete day off. It is a difficult concept that one can actually improve by doing nothing at all. If taking time off is inconceivable to you, just try playing middle-range  long tones for 15-20 minutes and letting it go at that. At least you can believe you were actively engaged in accomplishing something.

I have no idea what your dilemma really is, but maybe my experiences can get you thinking.

...Geezer
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« Reply #6 on: Aug 18, 2017, 12:22PM »

This really is true. It is important to know when to stop.

Yes. but, SO HARD!  At least for me. 
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« Reply #7 on: Aug 18, 2017, 01:09PM »

"It is important to know when to stop."

Unfortunately, the gig doesn't end for another hour! :D
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« Reply #8 on: Aug 18, 2017, 01:14PM »

"It is important to know when to stop."

Unfortunately, the gig doesn't end for another hour! :D

Been there.  Done that.  Got the T-shirt. :)

That's when you take the Watrous solo down an octave... :/
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« Reply #9 on: Aug 18, 2017, 02:45PM »

That's when it's helpful to KNOW your own correct form (the stuff that I teach) so you can force it to stay correct instead of breaking down into damage territory.
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« Reply #10 on: Aug 18, 2017, 03:28PM »

Agree with Doug.

Rest days are good to take for physical and mental breaks.

And to get something out of my time, I'll listen to great recordings of the music I'm practicing.
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« Reply #11 on: Aug 18, 2017, 04:04PM »

The best thing you could ever do for your playing, endurance, upper register, mid register, lower register, tone, happiness, well being, and self-actualization, is the following kind of exercise as the basis of all your other playing:

(Key of Ab)

play that kind of phrase as easily and with as little tension as possible. Imagine the most perfect trombone sound you possibly can imagine, and use your air and feel the resistance in the trombone make that sound into a reality. You don't need rest so much as you need to relax your face and build the base of your pyramid. You wouldn't just work sprints forever if you were a sprinter, or just work on boxing technique as a boxer. Boxing is the end state of what a boxer does, but it's built up on a base of overall fitness and stamina that is a lot more mundane than boxing techniques. High notes might be what you want to do but they are built up on a base of much easier, but uncompromising exercises.

if you feel weak on a given day, you don't need to go more than a few steps higher than that, but definitely lower (as your instrument allows).

That's the basis of your tone, and your playing. If you can't play sustained high notes or have a weak tone, even if it's only the case on certain days, it's a sign. Go back to the base of your tone pyramid. Play the exercises  (or something similar) slowly and listen and feel. As you get better sounds coming out, use the same embouchure feeling and work your way upwards and also downwards into the neighboring registers. No shifts in the face, just the air!

If you find yourself making a lot of shifts, even after months of building strength, borrow a mouthpiece one rim size bigger from a friend and try to see if that eliminates some of the shifts. Eventually the base of your pyramid will contain all of the notes in all of the registers and will be so wide that you won't miss or get tired and fall off. Shoot for the widest, flattest, easiest to jump on non-pryamid you can imagine.
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« Reply #12 on: Aug 18, 2017, 06:39PM »

Or cut back for a few days.
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« Reply #13 on: Aug 18, 2017, 07:15PM »

That's when it's helpful to KNOW your own correct form (the stuff that I teach) so you can force it to stay correct instead of breaking down into damage territory.

This.

Knowing what your tendencies are will guide you through these moments.

Rest when you can, but approach the next practice session with a game plan. What went wrong? What am I trying to improve upon? What physical flaws am I trying to eliminate.

You've already listed many symptoms which are good clues as to how to go about correcting your form. A good teacher (of which Doug is one of the best) will use this information to give you a game plan going forward.

I regret many things I have done over the years, but having a lesson with a good teacher is not one of them.

Andrew
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« Reply #14 on: Aug 19, 2017, 06:03AM »

The best thing you could ever do for your playing, endurance, upper register, mid register, lower register, tone, happiness, well being, and self-actualization, is the following kind of exercise as the basis of all your other playing:

(Key of Ab)

play that kind of phrase as easily and with as little tension as possible. Imagine the most perfect trombone sound you possibly can imagine, and use your air and feel the resistance in the trombone make that sound into a reality. You don't need rest so much as you need to relax your face and build the base of your pyramid. You wouldn't just work sprints forever if you were a sprinter, or just work on boxing technique as a boxer. Boxing is the end state of what a boxer does, but it's built up on a base of overall fitness and stamina that is a lot more mundane than boxing techniques. High notes might be what you want to do but they are built up on a base of much easier, but uncompromising exercises.

if you feel weak on a given day, you don't need to go more than a few steps higher than that, but definitely lower (as your instrument allows).

That's the basis of your tone, and your playing. If you can't play sustained high notes or have a weak tone, even if it's only the case on certain days, it's a sign. Go back to the base of your tone pyramid. Play the exercises  (or something similar) slowly and listen and feel. As you get better sounds coming out, use the same embouchure feeling and work your way upwards and also downwards into the neighboring registers. No shifts in the face, just the air!

If you find yourself making a lot of shifts, even after months of building strength, borrow a mouthpiece one rim size bigger from a friend and try to see if that eliminates some of the shifts. Eventually the base of your pyramid will contain all of the notes in all of the registers and will be so wide that you won't miss or get tired and fall off. Shoot for the widest, flattest, easiest to jump on non-pryamid you can imagine.

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I don't know why Harrison doesn't get more validation.

...Geezer
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« Reply #15 on: Aug 19, 2017, 07:39AM »

Hi!

I've been playing the trombone for about half a year now, after a 20+ years break. Generally, I think I'm improving steadily, with a decent tone in my rather narrow range. But some days, like the last couple of days, it seems like the trombone hates me. The sound is terrible, and I have no endurance at all - my lips feel numb almost immediately. If I play for a few minutes, then rest for maybe 30-60 minutes, play, rest etc, then maybe I can hear a slight improvement by the end of the day, with better but still not very good tone.

Is this a common problem, for newbies at least? Have I been practicing too much, and just need some rest? (I was practicing long notes near the top of my register the last few days before this happened.)

If anyone else experience bad days like this, do you just keep playing until it improves, or do you take a day off, in order to give your lips etc time to recover?

Solution?

Sure.

More rest coupled with better practice.

I personally never, ever "take a day off," but after a bad day I concentrate on "fixing" whatever has gone wrong. The question remains...what is a bad day? One can have a bad day of practice (rare for me since I figured out how to practice...others' results may vary) or a bad day of work. (Not so rare...sometimes on a job we simply have to play past our endurance levels. It happens...) We also all wear down once in a while...physically, mentally, emotionally...for whatever reasons. That's when it's important to be able to control your practice. Not too little; not too much...the Goldilocks mean. Juusst right. For me, that means getting a the best balance in the main registers of the horn that I can achieve in a relatively short period of time...an extended warm up, one might say...and then walking away. Practice for me is often a healing process...a place where I am essentially in a meditative state, a place where all of the ills of the world disappear in a safe, well-controlled environment.

Whatever the reason for that bad day/next day syndrome, first you need to figure out what exactly went wrong on the "bad day." Now...the OP says "I was practicing long notes near the top of my register the last few days before this happened." He does not say exactly how he was doing this, but I am going to make an educated guess and say that however he was doing it, he was doing too much, too long and without enough rest breaks. One of the most important things that Carmine Caruso taught was that when practicing in any register, once notes start to not sound or the general quality of sound/playing starts to deteriorate, it's time to rest. He also taught that after serious practicing in any extreme range, one should almost immediately play some easy stuff in the opposite direction. Getting back to home base, so to speak. Keeping the center's feeling. If, for example, one spends a "few days" concentrating on a difficult range...especially if you are doing strenuous long tones in it...unless you understand how to balance that effort out with other exercises that remind your body of how your main ranges should feel and sound like,  you are liable to wake up a day or so later having lost the good balance in the middle ranges that should be he basis for everything you do. Trust me...been there, made that mistake. carmine Caruso used to caution every student about overworking his interval exercises, especially in the higher ranges. And every one of us that I know had to learn that lesson the hard way. Then Carmine would smile, say "I tol' ya!!!" and we'd go on about our business.



There are different kinds of physical fatigue, too. There is the kind where a quite short rest...a minute, maybe a little less or a little more...will reinvigorate the musculature involved. The Caruso interval exercises are like that. You play them...in whatever directions...until one of the notes do not sound. Then you rest for a short period, start again and and stop when the next note fails to sound. After you take a rest and the next interval doesn't sound, you are through with that exercise and should take a longer break.

Then there is also fatigue that does not disappear after a short break. Then it's time to take a longer break. Duh. After a longer break...15, maybe 20 minutes...if upon picking up the horn and after a couple of minutes of easy playing you still feel seriously out of balance, it's time to end the practice day. For me, it means ending it permanently, because I have found that if I try to come back from that state after a number of hours, I am always still out of balance. 

There's always tomorrow...

As a result of these tactical methods, I am regularly able to have 6-hour practice days on multiple instruments and make good progress on whatever I am doing.

However, as Doug says above, if what you are practicing is not "good" practice...that is, if your basics are wrong...you are only amplifying the problems by practicing them.

That's another can or worms...

Later...

S.

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« Reply #16 on: Aug 19, 2017, 11:14AM »

Hi!

I've been playing the trombone for about half a year now, after a 20+ years break. Generally, I think I'm improving steadily, with a decent tone in my rather narrow range. But some days, like the last couple of days, it seems like the trombone hates me. The sound is terrible, and I have no endurance at all - my lips feel numb almost immediately. If I play for a few minutes, then rest for maybe 30-60 minutes, play, rest etc, then maybe I can hear a slight improvement by the end of the day, with better but still not very good tone.

Is this a common problem, for newbies at least? Have I been practicing too much, and just need some rest? (I was practicing long notes near the top of my register the last few days before this happened.)

If anyone else experience bad days like this, do you just keep playing until it improves, or do you take a day off, in order to give your lips etc time to recover?

Must be something that doesn't work like it should. Best thing to do is to go to real good teachers like Doug, Sam or others that might  see/listen what you really need. Seems to me you have gone into a blind road?

Leif

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« Reply #17 on: Aug 19, 2017, 02:23PM »

"Like"

I don't know why Harrison doesn't get more validation.

...Geezer

Because validation makes you weak.  :D
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« Reply #18 on: Aug 19, 2017, 02:39PM »

Definitely agree with Growlerbox.

Also because my good advice is hidden deep within and surrounded by mostly nonsense posts intended to bring joy and frustration to a forum that is sometimes marred by really stuffy chit chat (although it's getting better or worse depending on your viewpoint [I think it is always improving!]). I try really hard to be taken only semi-medium seriously.

I'm sorta sad Snores-worthy is gone. He was a great springboard for lively discussion.
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« Reply #19 on: Aug 21, 2017, 06:27AM »

Well, I won't validate the above two posts b/c I want those guys to stay strong!  Evil

But I definitely think Harrison needs more cheerleaders on TTF! We already have several cults. We need one more.  Clever

Harrison's post was so good, it needs framed.

[frame] 
The best thing you could ever do for your playing, endurance, upper register, mid register, lower register, tone, happiness, well being, and self-actualization, is the following kind of exercise as the basis of all your other playing:

(Key of Ab)

play that kind of phrase as easily and with as little tension as possible. Imagine the most perfect trombone sound you possibly can imagine, and use your air and feel the resistance in the trombone make that sound into a reality. You don't need rest so much as you need to relax your face and build the base of your pyramid. You wouldn't just work sprints forever if you were a sprinter, or just work on boxing technique as a boxer. Boxing is the end state of what a boxer does, but it's built up on a base of overall fitness and stamina that is a lot more mundane than boxing techniques. High notes might be what you want to do but they are built up on a base of much easier, but uncompromising exercises.

if you feel weak on a given day, you don't need to go more than a few steps higher than that, but definitely lower (as your instrument allows).

That's the basis of your tone, and your playing. If you can't play sustained high notes or have a weak tone, even if it's only the case on certain days, it's a sign. Go back to the base of your tone pyramid. Play the exercises  (or something similar) slowly and listen and feel. As you get better sounds coming out, use the same embouchure feeling and work your way upwards and also downwards into the neighboring registers. No shifts in the face, just the air!

If you find yourself making a lot of shifts, even after months of building strength, borrow a mouthpiece one rim size bigger from a friend and try to see if that eliminates some of the shifts. Eventually the base of your pyramid will contain all of the notes in all of the registers and will be so wide that you won't miss or get tired and fall off. Shoot for the widest, flattest, easiest to jump on non-pryamid you can imagine.
[/frame]

I already know what he means. Discuss among yourselves...

...Geezer
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« Reply #20 on: Aug 21, 2017, 08:35AM »

Because validation makes you weak.  :D

It is a rough, tough world ;-)

To OP: We all have bad days, different reasons. Sometimes I don't feel like playing, then I rest that day. As long as it is not rest EVERY day I will improve from the rest. Once I thought a day of no playing would hurt me but time showed me it is not at all the case. If I am too tired, out of focus for whatever reason or just exhausted physical or mentally or have sore lips. I take a day off and see if the next day is better. It usually is.

"Practise does not make perfect practise makes permanent". This means don't do more practise if it is wrong.

/Tom
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« Reply #21 on: Aug 21, 2017, 08:54PM »

Another approach would be to practice a few short (5-15min.)sessions .Playing very softly and relaxed.Then take the rest of the day off if things don't begin to feel closer to your normal.I highly recommend as little mouthpiece pressure as you can get away with.
Begin the next day fairly to really softly and stay there volume-wise for that day.Things should really start to come back by the third day,as long as you refrain from any strenuous playing during those few days.
  Once you start back to more normal routine try to keep in mind to warm up to more full volume levels and more upper range practice.always try to keep in mind your basics,especially not to use excessive mouthpiece pressure.

Hope This Helps,

Bob Riddle
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« Reply #22 on: Aug 22, 2017, 03:54AM »

Wow, this is a great forum! Thanks for all your help!

I've been focusing a lot more on mid-register now, building only very slowly up to the higher parts of my range. And I think I can already notice a slightly more open sound in the high range. So from now on, I'll spend a lot more time in the third partial.

I've also contacted a local professional trombone instructor, planning to take a few lessons with him over the next few months.
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« Reply #23 on: Aug 22, 2017, 05:59AM »

I started playing again after 10 years off.  Same thing, the chops sometimes felt numb and tone suffered.  You gotta realize that even though the muscle memory may be there, your muscles themselves don't have the endurance.  You're 20 years older, man.  You wouldn't expect to play football like you did as a kid, would you?

Take a day, do some long tones and leave the horn alone for the rest of the day.  You're not a pro, so don't sweat it.  If you have high expectations for yourself, plan the next day's practice.  Practice smarter with your limited time.  You'll get there, it just takes time.
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