Just you thought it was safe to go back to the Practice Room….

A focused and concise trip to the gym for your face (and mind).

Two important things about the title of this blog:
1 — I did NOT conceive this exercise – Vincent DiMartino did.
2– It is my belief, that the concept of the exercise is what makes it extraordinary, not the actual literal interpretation of what Mr. DiMartino wrote (i.e. the exact notes).  To that end, I’m presenting his exercise in an adapted form that I have found most effective for my students and myself.

With a wink and nod, the title of “Greatest Exercise” may at first seem like hyperbole.  However, I truly believe that the underlying principles of this exercise are THE most effective means of strengthening and building the kind of musical coordination and flexibility that are crucial to playing music well on a brass instrument.  What earns the “Greatest” mantle, however, is how effectively and efficiently this exercise targets and works out the chops without breaking them down.  In other words, it feels expensive, as if you’re going to pay for it later.  But the actual effect is the opposite, you are investing in your chops in a way that will pay out after only a few minutes of rest immediately following the study.  In all my years of study and practice, I have not encountered a more effective exercise, not even close.

SB and Vince at Fraze

In teaching, I find this exercise helpful for players to begin to feel the action of corners during a sustained phrase, and make no mistake, this is one sustained phrase.  When played at quarter note = 66, it takes over 5 minutes to complete.  I do this everyday and can heartily attest to the benefits I perceive in my own playing.

You be the judge

The beauty of the internet is that everyone with a website or the inclination to type into the comments field on a page can be an expert.  It may be helpful to note that Mr. DiMartino, in addition to being one of the best trumpet players of the past 50 years or so, has produced a stable of students, many of whom are themselves top professionals in all genres.  So as with all things, always consider the source.

I’m unaware of any specific title for this exercise, so I just call it Constant Set Slurs.  It combines aspects of a Carmine Caruso calisthenic with flexibility in a non-destructive way.  In other words, although while you are playing it, it feels as though you might be burning your chops (you will feel “the burn”), a short rest 3-5 minutes after completing this will leave your chops feeling strong and centered.  It’s like a trip to the gym combined with a day at the spa.  And, much like going to the gym, most players, even when aware of the benefits of this activity, still will not have the discipline to do it every day.

This exercise is an example of truly creative thought – forming an analogy or association between two things that no one else has put together previously.  And, in my opinion, this concept is what makes the exercise so effective – it’s totally out-of-the box and it’s one fantastic illustration of why Vince DiMartino is one of the greatest trumpet players on the planet, he doesn’t think like everyone else and is therefore not hampered by convention.  Developing an understanding of why and how this departure from literal-minded or linear thinking works, can be a liberating step in defining a way to play and practice that is unique and efficient for you.

Click on the link below for a pdf version of “The Greatest Exercise Ever Conceived” – follow the directions.

** Note for practice – to begin with a “High Set” – play a lip slur from 3rd space C to 4th space E above – leave your embouchure in that approximate position, and begin the exercise with that set.  Advanced players may wish to set up with a slur from 4th space E to G above the staff.

Download Constant Set Slurs Here

Developing the Musical Upper Register

Developing musical range on a brass instrument is more than just playing higher notes. Range, like most other aspects of playing, is a technique. It must be thoughtfully cultivated and developed. For me, it’s about having the ability to practice and perform musical lines in the upper register in a non-destructive way. To do this, we need to become acclimated to hanging out in the upper part of the instrument and to do so in a way that improves our ability to navigate musical shapes and lines.

The technique of slotting or clicking partials can be one of the most effective methods for improving the upper register, and when done correctly, can be executed without an excess of strain or fatigue-induced mouthpiece pressure. To that end, we must divorce range from power and practice getting from one note to the next with the maximum amount of ease and grace and the minimum amount of movement and heartache.

I was first introduced to this concept by the great Dominic Spera, but I really didn’t understand it until years later when studying with Vincent DiMartino.
I wrote this etude based on my favorite Max Kopprasch etude, but written over the chord progression to Django Rheinhardt’s “Montagne Sainte Genevieve” played here with an Aebersold track from his “Django” album.

I’m working on soft and varied articulation in F# minor, long phrases, endurance (4pages worth), but mainly trying to make my “lead” setup sound warm and resonant in the mid and lower registers and secco staccato at the end.  I had difficulty getting rid of the stale air by the end of page 3 and had to shorten a couple of phrases.

The etude in the original key as well as up 1/2 step into g minor is on my website for free.  If you want the track, buy the mp3 for 99¢ on Amazon or iTunes at the link below.

Played on a Powell Custom Gallery Trumpet
Patrick 91s Top with a Pickett C4 Commercial Backbore cut for Bob Reeves Sleeves: #5 Sleeve

Download (Belck) Kopprasch_Django_Etude

Purchase Jamey Aebersold’s Track on “Montagne St. Genevieve” Here

Happy New Year Everyone and Greetings from Lip Slur World Headquarters in Cincinnati, Ohio.  It’s time to WAKE UP and begin the new year with a fresh start, so here is something to wake your face up in between the coffee and bloody Marys.

Download the first page of The Reveille Trill Billies below:
Reveille Trill Billies PDF (19)


Check out Dr. Scott Belck’s latest book

“Progressive Lip Flexibilities for Brass”




Progressive Lip Flexibilities for Brass

The latest offering from Lip Slur World Headquarters. This is not your grandfather’s sarcastic lip slur book! Book is $29.95 Shipping and Handling is $5 in the U.S.


For International Orders




Purchase Progressive Lip Flexibilities for Brass with International First Class Shipping

If you would like to have Progressive Lip Flexibilities for Brass shipped to an international address, you must also purchase the additional shipping. Shipping is $13.00 U.S. per copy purchased. Total is $42.99.


Played a very funky gig Saturday….

and during the sound check, the bass player was laying down the groove to Parliament’s “Do That Stuff.”  As the saying goes, when you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail and when you’re a purveyor of sarcastic lip slurs, everything sounds like a flexibility study.

Here’s a link to the original groove.  It drops about 30 seconds into the track and is in the key of E, of course.

“Do That Stuff” – check out the groove here:

Download the first page of Parliament Flexadelic:
Parliament_Flexadelic_PFunk (19)


Looking for someone to help take you playing to the next level?  Can’t help you there.

Do you want to make playing in the upper register simple and easy?  Not so much there either. Takes work and thought. Plus, you have to be able to do it “in traffic”, that is, in an actual live musical setting, on demand, in time, with human people.  Not just on the internet into your phone.

Looking for something new to practice? There we go.

Download the first page of “Tastee Slots” below:

Tastee Slots p1 (19)


Each year at this time, teachers and students alike begin to post and share ambitious and exhaustive summer practice regimens. Although they are meant to inspire, these “best laid plans” tend to take on the character of those old drawings of flying machines that were doomed to plummet straight down from the edge of the boardwalk into the surf.  Yes, summer is a great time to finally get the practice hours in that seemed so hard to come by during the academic year, but often, players can find it even more difficult to get jump-started without the structure of a busy schedule.  Combine this with an imposing and unrealistic musical check-off list, and let the avoidance mechanisms kick in.

One such practice summer schedule I recently witnessed online, was the musical equivalent of “This summer, I’m going to lose 2,150 lbs. and 42 dress sizes, play “Giant Steps” in all 13 keys,  compose my first two symphonies left-handed while spending the days serving the community by lighting fires for the poor.”  If that was my to-do list for the day, I’d stay in bed.  The fantasy summer practice schedule, like its cousin, the New Year’s Resolution, quickly makes its way to the guilty scrap-heap of failed enterprises without so much as a running start.  What to do?


As an accomplished practice-avoider, procrastinator, and otherwise distracted human, I’ve developed a summertime practice coping mechanism that seems to work for me. Here are the basics:

•  Set the bar as low as possible.  By defining success in modest terms, you may have a shot of at least accomplishing one thing today.  Yes, this is the opposite of the “New-Year’s-Resolution-Ironman-Ninja-Warrior-Conquer-the-World” approach, but at least it has the  potential side-effect of getting you started with minimal dread and guilt and offers the promise of a realistic and fulfillable goal.  It may be difficult to lose that 2,150 lbs. if you can’t put the fork down just once.

•  Play something, don’t practice something.  I like to start by playing along with a catchy tune from one of the great Ella Fitzgerald Songbooks (see below).  Just put on a track and play along, try to pick out the melody in real-time, don’t worry about missed pitches.  Stop to figure out the pitches if necessary, but just try to learn the melody.  This can be MUCH easier than “transcribing” an improvised solo, after all, it’s just picking out a tune.

When you play in this way, YOU are accompanied by the world’s greatest singers on tunes written by history’s great songwriters, arranged by legendary arrangers.   This has the added benefit of making you sound better by association.

Set your timer, and just do this for about 10 minutes.  If you are like most folks, after ten minutes, you will probably want to keep going just a little longer which is totally cool. Or, you may be ready to move on to other material, either way, you’ve already spent 10 minutes sounding pretty good playing great music without having to knock yourself out.

Here’s today’s assignment — Play along and learn the tune to:

“Yesterdays” by Jerome Kern. Performed by Ella Fitzgerald. Arranged and Conducted by Nelson Riddle.

At 91 years old, Doc Severinsen displays a control, power and musical energy that are simply beyond comprehension for most players.  Here is some video I took from the I.T.G. Cancer Blows rehearsal in San Antonio last year.  There is a lot to unpack, but I believe there is a career to be had in understanding what is really going on in those corners.  Listen, watch, and learn.  Doc figured it out for you.

Doc’s Candid CornersDoc's Corners (BurnsPic)

Photo courtesy of Kevin Burns Photography – Thanks Kevin!

Results are in for the “Name that Slur, Win a Free Book” contest- Congratulations to the winners. Final results:

Grand Champion(s):

Tim Fogarty “I Plead the (Descending) 5th” 11 like
(+2 pts from the house because my wife laughed out loud at your title) ~ Tim wins naming rights, however he has already received a free copy of PLF, so that goes to:

Ryan Beach:“Why do these keep popping up on my Facebook” 10 likes – wins the FREE BOOK
(+2 pts from the house because my wife laughed out loud at your title)

2nd Place 
Matthew Anklan “Lip Slur?! I Hardly Know Her!” 9 likes

3rd Place (5-way Tie)

Nate Lesiak “Tongue-Tied and Finger-F(ill-in-the-blank)ed” 7 likes
(+2 pts from the house because my wife laughed out loud at your title)

JG Miller: “Slurry McSlurryface” 7 likes
(+2 pts from the house because my wife laughed out loud at your title)

Brad Goode “Make It Stop.” 7 likes

Jeff Folkens “Game of Groans” 7 likes

Liesl Whitaker “Hold my Beer” 7 likes

Tim Steepe – “You Can’t Be Slurious!” 7 likes

Honorable Mention:

Michael Shults “Terrence” only 1 like (but a critics pick)

Bryan Davis “Thank you Slur, May I Have Another…” 6

Marylee Vennemeyer “I Can’t feel my face when I’m with you…and I like it?” (critics pick)

Rules Violation(s) update and House Edits of Note from the Judges’ Panel

Victor Cummings “Mr. Belck, I don’t feel so good”

Judge Joey Tartel: “Victor- it’s Dr. Belck. Are you trying to get yourself disqualified?”

Victor Cummings “”Shit….” …..”Fixed”

“Dr. Belck, I Don’t Feel So Good”

Adrian Griffin “pull my finger”

Scott Belck “Disqualified!!! See “Progressive Lip Flexibilities for Brass” 2019. Already published as “Pull My Fingering Chart” on page #73. Judges Joey Tartel and William Stowman – this title shows a complete lack of knowledge of the oeuvre, need a ruling for the appropriate penalty!! We need another ruling.

Judge Joey Tartel “Shocking! Although I appreciate Adrian’s enthusiasm for the contest (with multiple entries), this kind of careless oversight is unacceptable!”

Judge William Stowman: “Adrian Griffin DISQUALIFIED. Sorry man, great idea. . .but you’ve got to know the lexicon.”

Matt Dixon “Su-per-ca-li-fra-gile-stiff-lip-expiali-slur-ocious” 7 +2
Judge William Stowman “Matt Dixon nice work. . . But the royalties to Disney would break LSWHQ. . . Scott already owes money for infringing on tunes from Oklahoma. . . See what I did there?”

Max Levowitz “Suicide Slur”
Scott Belck: “Max – you need to work with your raw materials and editing process. Something like “Assisted Sluricide”, which, I’m keeping for myself.”

Max Levowitz “Scott Belck I’m disappointed in myself, and the fact that I’ve let you all down. I shall tuck my tail between my legs and go back to the drawing board.”

Thanks to all who participated and two our esteemed judges panel. If you didn’t win your free copy of “Progressive Lip Flexibilities for Brass” it’s not too late to order your copy at the link in the comment section below. Slurpplies are limited and operators are standing by.


I Plead the (Descending) 5th

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