In the many school where I conduct sectionals, some students tell me that their embouchure isn't strong enough or that they don't have enough endurance. I ask them if they are playing every day and the answer is almost always: "well..."
It's sound like a no brainer but you need to play almost every day to build a strong embouchure and develop endurance. Ideally, you should be playing your instrument at least 6 days per week by yourself or in rehearsal. You can't expect much if you only pick up your horn for band practice three times per week. If you already know your band or orchestra pieces well, practice some solo pieces or etudes. If you are satisfied with only playing in the band and don't wish to invest more time and effort in your playing, it's your choice. That's fine but since brass playing requires some strength and endurance at some point, you might want to put a little extra effort sometimes if you're having trouble keeping up with the group. At least a few days before a performance.
Imagine the melodies you are playing are opera arias. How would a tenor or a soprano sing them? Sing your music in your head like a great singer would sing on stage with great power, energy, confidence and musicality . Then try to copy this with your instrument with the same character. Don't be afraid to make a big show! You can try anything you want when you're alone in your practice room. It'll probably make you miss a few notes in the beginning but it'll greatly improve your musicality and tone and once you get used to it, you'll miss fewer notes. If you practice this way, you'll be able to perform this way and you'll have lots of fun playing!
Playing music isn't just about playing your own part. It's also about listening. When you play in a group, don't focus on your own part. Listen to the entire ensemble and you will hear yourself in it. If everyone does it, the group will automatically sound better. When I conduct small groups, I tell the students to do that. It's amazing how the intonation and ensemble immediately improve.
Don't be just a good player, be a good listener!
The Caruso technique is a series of exercises designed by Carmine Caruso to strengthen your embouchure, give you more endurance and help your whole register. It also helps focussing your tone. I never had lessons with Caruso myself but I had the chance to study with one of his students for a couple of years so I learn it from someone who got it from the master himself. Good enough!
A few golden rules about this technique:
1) Do it only once a day. You might hurt yourself if you over do it.
2)Do it 3-4 times per week. You can do it more often once you're strong enough but never more than 5-6 times per week.
3)Don't force the notes out. Be patient. With time, you'll become stronger. You should see some effect on your chops in 3 to 4 weeks.
4) Don't follow it blindly. Adjust the frequency and number of exercises you do to your own needs. Experiment with it and see what works best for you.
You can find the basic Caruso on this website:
"The Basic Caruso"
Here is another site dedicated to Carmine Caruso.
Carmine Caruso Tribute
Before I start practicing, I often do a little breathing exercise to relax and put myself in a good mindset to play.
I first try to listen or feel my heart beat. Then I breath in through my nose for 4 beats, hold my breath for 2, breath out for 4 and keep may lungs empty for 2. I breath like this for a few minutes until I feel calm and relax.
Do this exercise regularly before playing or at any time during the day. It will calm you and help you focus on the moment. It will put you in a good state of mind and increase your concentration to maximize the efficiency of your practicing time.
I am associate principal horn of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra and the author of the progressive methods. I'm happy to share my experience as a horn player and teacher with you.