Thirty Minute Practice Routine

By Scott Freeby, Eisenhower and Anthony Middle Schools, Manhattan, Kansas

Edited by Rona Sass

Adapted From ITG Journal Jr., with permission.

All music teachers encourage their students to practice regularly in order to improve on their instruments. Often, though, younger students have no idea what to do in a practice session. The following outline will help younger students practice in a directed and efficient manner.

1. Warm Up:

  • Mouthpiece Buzzing: Create siren effects; strive for consistent pitch. Buzz a song. Can’t think of one? Try the Daily Buzz!
  • Long Tones (VC warm-ups)
  • Articulation workouts:
    1. On one note of your choice, perform whole notes, quarters, eighths, triplet eighths, and sixteenth note patterns that total 4 beats per measure.
    2. Practice slurring patterns that create seamless, beautiful sounds. Play lip slurs down first then up, using all seven valve combinations (Open, 1, 2, 1&2, 2&3, 1&3, 1,2,&3)

2. Workout (should include the following):

  • Scales: Practice Major, Minor, and Chromatic Scales to the limits of your range. Then add blues and pentatonic scales. Change the rhythms or tempos you use to play these exercises, in order to make them more fun! [here are some scales]
  • Repertoire: Practice your school band music, with extra attention to difficult sections.
  • Etude Books: The are books that give you “songs” that help you work on specific performance problems. They are available through music stores. Examples of Etude Books are the Arban’s Complete Conservatory Method and Clarke’s Technical Studies.
  • Solos: Practice a solo piece that will show off your individual talents as a performer.
  • Listen and Perform with a CD: Listen to a piece you like and try to play along with the recording, once you’ve worked out the melodic and rhythmic phrases.

3. Sight Reading:

  • Try looking at your music in a different way. You can try to change the key of the piece, you can work on playing it backwards, or you can even turn the music upside down. The idea is to make your brain work!
  • Playing duets: read them as-is, from top to bottom. Then, switch parts and read again. (Note: It is very helpful and fun sometimes to practice with a friend. You can read duets together, switching parts on the repeats. This kind of practice also helps solidify rhythm issues, as the most important, and sometimes most difficult, aspect of ensemble playing is simply staying together. You don’t even have to play the same instrument as your friend. Just make sure you are in the same key. Hint: Other band instruments in the same key as trumpets are clarinets and tenor saxophones. Or make sure you are playing out of your appropriate band book like Eb Alto sax and Bb Trumpet and play your band music together.)

4. Cool Down

  • Long tones, again.
  • Improvisational, lyrical playing. Try to make up a simple melody, paying attention to a good tone. Do not try to play fast at this point in the practice session.
  • Pedal Tones
    1. With both lips creating your normal embouchure, play sounds that are below the lowest “real” note on the trumpet.
    2. With one lip (usually the upper), try to play sounds even lower than the two-lip exercise.

5. How it All Fits Together in Thirty Minutes

5 minutes

Warm Up

15 minutes


4 minutes

Break. Relax, don’t play, but don’t eat cookies
or anything else that will cause tooth crud.

4 minutes

Sight Reading

2 minutes

Cool Down

Use this as a guide, and you should be able to make excellent progress on your trumpet with a 30 minute practice session each day. Happy Practicing!