O.J.'s Trumpet Page Articles and reviews

FLEXUS - Trumpet calisthenics for the modern improvisor

Book cover

As the subtitle says, this book is trumpet calisthenic for the modern improvisor. But what does that mean? The Introduction in the book says the following:

To improvise effectively, the physical act of playing needs to be a conditioned reflex - freedom of expression is only possible when the physical demands of playing are under control. To this end, FLEXUS asks the student to momentarily put aside the study of music itself and instead practice the muscular movements involved in playing the instrument.

Both authors are students of the late Carmine Caruso and FLEXUS syntesizes the teaching techniques of Laurie Frink, John Mc Neill and Carmine Caruso. A central idea in their teaching is exposure to repetition:

Learning comes through exposure and repetition - you expose yourself to what you want to learn and then repeat the exposure. The great brass teacher Carmine Caruso used the analogy of a baby learning to walk; the baby experiences nothing but failure in its attempts until the first successful step. It does not judge itself for its failures, but simply tries again.

Another important aspect is timing and coordination:

Timing and coordination are 100% of trumpet playing. What we call coordination is just the synchronized movement of muscles in time. When given a consistent tempo, muscles coordinate much more easily. This results in muscular balance, which leads to greater facility and endurance.

The first exercise in the book, under the section Preliminary Studies is Caruso's original "six note exercise". These preliminary studies are used to stabilize the embouchure before being exposed to more challenging exercises. The rest of the book is divided into different types of studies:
These studies are divided into subsections, 3 sections for Flexibility and Articulation and 5 sections for Quick Register Changes. When the student has mastered section one, he can move on to section two, etc.

A very great help and bonus with FLEXUS is the companion CD where Laurie Frink has recorded many of the studies. In addition both authors talk about different subjects like, Thoughts on practicing, How to use this book, When to move on and How to apply calisthenics to music.
If you have never done a lip bend before, it is great to listen to how Frink perform it. Or, how to play the exercise called Flexando? Just listen to the CD.

I orderen this book and CD from the publisher OmniTone


About the Authors

Laurie Frink
Laurie Frink has been a freelance trumpet player in New York City since the 1970's. In addition to extensive recording work, she has played trum­pet with Benny Goodman, Gerry Mulligan, Mel Lewis, Maria Schneider, Andrew Hill, Dave Liebman and Kenny Wheeler. She is a member of the faculties of New York University The New School and the Manhattan School of Music.

John McNeil
John McNeil is a jazz trumpet player living in Brooklyn, New York. He has played with Horace Silver, Gerry Mulligan, The Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra and many others. John has led his own groups since the late 1970's and has recorded many critically acclaimed CD's. He is also an active writer/producer on the New York jazz scene.

o.j. 2004