Date: Fri, 17 Apr 1998 08:59:10 -0700
From: "Dennis Hill" <>
Subject: Re: Old Man and the Trumpet

> From: David Lukens <>
> Anyway my question is two fold.  Is there any hope (I am 69 years old)
> and two if there is what should I do to improve endurance and range.  My
> practice for these now is mostly lipslurs.

the successful key to many things (weight loss, physical fitness, a second language, etc) is little by little. i too am starting out again after a 21 year retirement. and i  am not being too hard on myself. strangely, i have more range and a better tone than i did when i played for a living (after 3 months now) but endurance and accuracy are still problems. but i am having fun, and that is the key to whether or not it is worth it, in my opinion.

i would recommend doing some fitness work to accompany the trumpet. it might help. (make sure you don't overdo it).

also here are some fun lip isometrics that were posted by bruce richardson in  - so far, they seem to be helping me.

DISCLAIMER--The effectiveness of these exercises is lost if your tone production technique is flawed.  Generally, your chops must be close and relaxed while playing, you must use proper air volume and velocity, etc.  I am not addressing these issues, and if this does not sound like what you are doing, get a teacher to correct these problems.  I'm also not addressing "fingers" or overall musical expertise, which are both prerequisite to any true progress.


Get an unsharpened wood pencil.  Close your teeth, and place the unsharpened end against them.  Wrap your lips around the pencil, and let go, holding the pencil straight out in front of your face with only the muscles in the lips and surrounding area.  Continue holding it straight out until your muscles burn.  Rest.  Repeat.


Push your lips out as far as you can in an overly exaggerated pucker.  Now focus the energy even harder, as if you have to hold some tiny object "in" this pucker by drawing your lips into an exremely tight drawstring effect. Hold this position until the muscles burn.  Rest.  Repeat.


As in Exercise 2, push your lips into the most concentrated pucker possible. Now reverse that facial expression and smile as widely as possible. Alternate between these two positions as fast as you can.  Do this until the muscles burn.  Rest.  Repeat.

This is a DAILY regimen.  Alternate these exercises in each "session" and keep it up for a couple of months  MINIMUM.  You will see results much sooner than that, but what you are trying to do is build the muscle in your face to extreme levels of size and strength.  After a couple of months, every other day will maintain your progress.  As with any physical conditioning, progress will come in leaps and plateaus.  It's important to keep exercising through the plateaus to reach the next leap.  It is also VERY important to do each of these exercises until you feel pain in the muscles being worked.
Unlike playing the horn until you feel discomfort, which is highly destructive, the "pain" you feel in these exercises are the muscles telling the body and brain, "HEY, I need some help here, sign me up for some increased tissue."  It's the equivalent of sending your face to the gym for some serious buffing up.


So many players with poor endurance will just slave away on the horn, building bad habits and damaging tissue as they go.  This can easily make a player, especially a young one, feel that progress will never come.  And indeed it may not.  Trumpet playing is an incredibly physical activity, the forces required for extended range being extreme.

Just as a football team begins spring training doing everything BUT playing football, a trumpet player needs to build an extraordinary facial muscle base before reaching success.  It can certainly be done on the horn, but this is the SLOW way.  I believe, and have ample evidence in my own playing that this series of exercises WILL do the trick.

An added will never need a facelift. <g>  These exercises WILL change even the appearance of your face, greatly enlarging the ring of muscle around your mouth.

Best wishes to anyone who tries this method.  I have used it in my own private and class teaching over the years, and have passed this method on to many of my colleagues in the education biz.  Nobody that has given it a serious application has failed to reach the goal of greater endurance and extended range.  It's just common sense.

- --
Bruce A. Richardson