Circuit training is highly regarded as an efficient and effective approach to physical fitness. Performing a series of short exercises in rapid succession targets different muscle groups while providing an overall aerobic workout. The concept can be applied effectively to brass playing. That is the basis of my new book, “The Brass Tactics 6/60 Routine.”
All brass players face the challenge of developing and maintaining control over the instrument. Whereas a pianist starts with the ability to play any note on the instrument, that is a daily and lifetime goal for the brass player. Most of us develop a regimented exercise routine in pursuit of this goal. A common fault is that the routine devotes too much time to one aspect of playing at the expense of another. Another problem is that all too often we run short of time before finishing the full routine, resulting in short shrift for the items at the end of the list.
My goal was to create a comprehensive routine in which all aspects of sound production—including high notes, low notes, loud notes, soft notes, fast notes and slow notes—are addressed within the timeframe of one hour.
The exercises incorporate mouthpiece and leadpipe buzzing, arpeggios, scales, attacks, long tones, flexibilities, note bending, finger velocity, tonguing and range. Rests are carefully calculated and factored into the timing; no exercise takes longer than 6 minutes and the full routine clocks in at less than 60 minutes. (See what I did there?)
Mental focus is an important component; more than any other element it determines how much one will accomplish. The relatively short time devoted to each exercise discourages boredom, the enemy of productivity.
The 6/60 Routine is presented in three levels ranging from intermediate to very advanced. Practicing the eight exercises on a regular basis will provide the fundamental underpinning to be able to tackle whatever music you like. And let’s not forget that this is the endgame; it’s well and good to play the instrument well, but it’s what you do with that ability that counts.