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.
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.