While living in the Cleveland-area during my Master’s studies, I had the great fortune of studying with two masters of orchestral trumpet; the great Bernard Adelstein at the end of his career with the Cleveland Orchestra and the dynamic Michael Sachs at the beginning of his.  Talk about a source of first-hand knowledge and experience; “Bernie” played professionally in orchestras for over 40 years.  His last 28 were as principal of the Cleveland Orchestra.  Michael Sachs took over the position in 1988 and has held the position ever since.  Studying with Mike at the beginning of his tenure with all his energy and exuberance, was the perfect balance after working with the “worldly” Adelstein.

One of the main points I took away from Mike Sachs’ lessons was his unbelievable focus on preparation.  The article below is from Windplayer publication and gives you a glimpse into the way Mike approached his job of playing the trumpet.  Mike has since published a book (Daily Fundamentals for the Trumpet) that should be in every serious trumpet players library.

The Thorough Warm-up

Michael Sachs

I recommend beginning each practice session with a warm-up.  However, it is important not to become too dependent on it.  It will vary from player to player, but should run from 15 to 45 minutes.  Regardless of the time spent, the overall purpose is a daily emphasis on the essentials of playing and maintaining consistency on the instrument.

In developing consistency, there are a number of basic concepts to keep in mind.  You should work slowly and methodically, dealing primarily in the lower range of the instrument.  It is important to remain relaxed, concentrating on air and sound production.  A comfortable, dynamic level of mezzo-piano to mezzo-fortissimo should be maintained at first, but should be gradually expanded.  It is important to keep the embouchure firm but relaxed.  Breathing needn’t be over-analyzed.  Just try to keep it as natural as possible.

Begin the warm-up by buzzing both the lips and then the mouthpiece.  Try to get a good start to each note by forming a centered sound and pitch.  I recommend the scale exercises developed by James Stamp in which the student buzzes both lips and mouthpiece while sitting at the piano.  After buzzing, I move on to produce long tones, which I consider to be the foundation of my playing.  Both the Arban and the Schlossberg books have exercises in their opening pages for long tone development.  Long tones are very important to sound quality.

I’ve included the following exercise in my warm-up as a means of achieving this degree of control:

Descend chromatically on the trumpet from middle G to low G.  With the metronome set at 60, play the G for the duration of a half note, then the F# below it for the same duration.  Then ascend up to the G for the full value of a whole note.  Repeat this process, descending a half step each time.  As one descends towards the lower range of the instrument, it is important to keep the notes supported so that they don’t bottom out.  If this consistency isn’t maintained, the note will go flat and end up spreading.  The notes should move smoothly from one to the next.

The next step in the warm-up involves intervals.  Again, concentrate on the lower range – the fundamentals.  Start the interval warm-up with half steps and then widen out to larger intervals.  Begin in the middle of the staff, and then descend towards the bottom.  As the intervals widen, think of blowing through the notes and connecting them so there isn’t a slide or gap between them.  For example, when playing the interval of second line G to low C, it is important to blow through the G and connect into the C.  Many of the students make the mistake of blowing down into the C.  As they begin to think about changing the note, the G goes flat and falls into the C.  Both the notes sound bad.

It is helpful to consciously think of each note before going down to the next one.  This keeps the notes in their place and assures full musical attention.  One should also be conscious of the relative intonation between notes.  It is often helpful to sit at the piano while practicing.  Hearing the pitch beforehand mentally prepares you to play it.

The next step in the warm-up is tonguing.  Where long tones and intervals are oriented towards slurring, tonguing places more of an emphasis on articulation.  Begin in the middle of the register on F.  Play four quarter notes followed by a whole note.  Then do the same at various points through the register.  I aim for a good articulation, making sure that there’s enough air at the beginning of each note.  Articulation isn’t just the tongue, it’s the air you muster to support your note.  After this, go through different types of articulation, from staccato to legato, and a full range of dynamic variation from pianissimo to forte.

The next involves lip slurs, using even wider intervals than before.  Go through all the valve combinations, adding different partials.  For example, go through the valve combination of a sixth and then octave.  Then add the next partial above that.  Start slowly, make sure everything is locked in, and then go through it again at higher speed.

This is followed by finger exercises that consist of the major as well as the minor scales.  Playing them at different tempos, I make sure to push down the valves evenly.  All the musical elements previously discussed are emphasized.  I’m locking in all the essential playing concepts as I warm up.  With this in mind, cap off the warm-up by playing the second Clarke study.  First, play it in major, slurring the notes.  Then repeat it in the parallel minor, tonguing for articulation.  Wrap up playing the third and fourth studies with an emphasis on speed.  However, vary the musicality of it.  Play with the various articulations, dynamics, and all the elements we’ve discussed.

This warm-up not only prepares me mentally and physically for playing but just as important, it focuses my playing on any other areas that need emphasis.

(Excerpted from Trumpet Masterclasses, Windplayer Publications, 1994)