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There are many great books on flexibility (or “lip flexibility” as it is commonly called) available to today’s brass players. The commonly used books include Irons 27 Groups, Smith Lip Flexibilities and Colin Advanced Lip Flexibilities. Flexibility studies do go all the way back to Arban and St, Jacome, but became a staple of brass pedagogy in the early 20th Century through teachers and authors like Del Staigers, Herbert L. Clarke, Earl D. Irons and Walter M. Smith.
There are different categories of flexibility exercises. There is “Long Flexibility” like those found in Colin’s Vol. I of Advanced Lip Flexibilities. With Long Flexibility you stay on one fingering and play a long line that takes you through a large range. Then, there is “Short Flexibility” similar to what is found in Irons and Smith where you play a repeated pattern on one fingering. Most flexibility falls into the Short Flexibility category. With this book, I would like to add “Moving Flexibility” to the list. With Moving Flexibility you play a short pattern that takes you up and down through all the fingerings, covering a large range on your instrument. The idea of Moving Flexibility was first introduced in Arban p. 45 #16 and later in Charles Colin, 100 Original Warm-Ups.
Why Practice Flexibility?
Chances are, you’re not going to stand in front of an audience and perform flexibility studies. Flexibility studies are a means to an end, not the end. Most trumpet players practice some form of flexibility every day as it improves overall technique and gets you ready to play music. In our lessons, Claude Gordon would tell me how a particular exercise or routine he was writing would “get me feelin’ good.” So, that is my goal with these studies, to get you “feelin’ good”.
There are many beliefs among players as to what makes a brass instrument “work”. Some believe it’s the lip, some believe it’s the tongue, some believe it’s the air, or some (like me) believe it’s a balance or coordination of all three. I don’t think that your chosen methodology will matter when practicing these exercises. If you practice them religiously and correctly, you’re playing will certainly improve.