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John Mohan's Daily Practice Routine Journal


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John Mohan
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PostPosted: Sat May 01, 2010 1:07 pm    Post subject: John Mohan's Daily Practice Routine Journal Reply with quote

Hi there,

As I've returned to practicing the trumpet, and am in a way, a "comeback player", I thought I would post a weekly to biweekly journal of my daily practice routine and what it's doing for me. I'm going to post this in nearly identical journals in both the Claude Gordon and the Comeback Player forums. I'm not sure what the rules are on the TH concerning making identical or almost identical posts in two different areas, but in this case I think it is appropriate, as I am both a Claude Gordon student/player and a so-called "Comeback" player.

To start, a brief history:

I started playing trumpet at age 7 1/2, and started getting serious with my practice at age 11. I was good enough by age 12 to be playing solos of the level of "Grand Russian Fantasia" in the Jr. High School Solo Contests, but like most other kids, my range ended right at around High C. Nothing improved until I happened upon the Claude Gordon method at age 16 and started practicing from "Systematic Approach" and "Daily Trumpet Routines" along with the other books (Clarke, etc.) that "Systematic Approach" assigns material out of. Eventually, I was blessed to get to study privately with Claude Gordon and did so for about 14 years. I made a living for 25 years playing trumpet, first in the studios in LA, and then in Broadway-type shows throughout Europe. Eventually, I decided I wanted to become a physician, so I retired from pro playing and returned to school. For the past 5 years, while I never totally quit playing, it got to the point where 2 or even 3 weeks would slip by without my pulling the horn out of a case. I've never lost the "feel" of it, but all strength, endurance and certain performance parameters such as articulation speed have all gone down to that of an undeveloped person.

I decided at the beginning of the year to make a "comeback" and get back to professional player levels of ability, and perhaps return to playing for at least part of my income (I'm still a full time student).

For the first 3 1/2 months I practiced a routine that began with my own version of how to use the "Systematic Approach" material and progressed quite nicely - until a few weeks ago, when I missed several days of practice, which gave the callous on my lip a chance to dry, and when I tried to peel it off I ripped my lip open (OUCH)! So I took a few more days off, and I'm starting back at for me, what is "square one". Given that, I thought this would be a great opportunity to share how I reacquire my abilities, and though everyone is different, what works for me, would probably work for others as well (with the caveat that the routine might have to start off easier for some who were never at a pro level, or really got completely away from the horn for years and lost the feel as well as the strength).

So, with that, I'll close this off and post a reply with my "Week 1" log of practice.

Best wishes,

John Mohan
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John Mohan
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PostPosted: Sat May 01, 2010 1:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Week 1: Started April 26, 2010

My routine consists of routines from Earl D. Irons' "27 Groups of Exercises for Cornet or Trumpet", Clarke's "Technical Studies for the Cornet" and Claude Gordon's "Systematic Approach to Daily Practice for Trumpet".

Before playing each day, I do the Breathing Exercises assigned to me by Claude Gordon. Actually, I do these approximately three times a day, 20 minutes each time, while I walk my dog. I'm sure one 20 minute session per day would be adequate. A full explanation of these exercises appears in Claude's book "Physical Approach to Elementary Brass Playing".

1) Irons' Groups 5, 5B, 6, 6B, 6C, 7, 8 and 9. The groups with letters at the end are my own modification of the normal, unlettered groups - basically there is an exercise at the end of Group 5 that is different than the previous 7 parts of Group 5. In the book, this last thing is only played with one valve combination. My "Group 5B" is basically this last exercise, but through all 7 valve combinations. My 6B is the same - it's the last little exercise of Group 6, but played through all 7 valve combinations as a separate group. Then, 6C, is the same as 6B, but I start one partial higher. Take a look at the book, read my explanation and you'll figure it out.

2) Clarke Technical Study #1 and Etude # 1, all single tongued (which for me, is K-Tongue Modified). If you haven't learned about K-Tongue Modified, do so, and start doing all your tonguing this way. The sooner you do so, the sooner you'll progress to amazing levels. Read about K-Tongue Modifed here:

http://mattgraves.netfirms.com/k_tongue_modified.htm

I am doing each of the Clarke exercises with one repeat, and the Etude with no repeat. Volume level is medium (not overblowing, but not holding back either). I get stronger on the higher notes and back off on the lower notes. I take the exercise as high as I can comfortably play them, which for me, means that I take them to where the highest note is around a D to an F above High C (varies each day).

At this point, I make sure to rest at least 45 minutes before doing the next routine.

3) Systematic Approach Lesson 2 Part 1: I take this down to Bb below Double Pedal C (I see no point in going lower). I amke sure to really, really, really blow until even after I am empty to really work the Air Power muscles. Volume level is medium with an attempted crescendo as I run out of air. I don't overblow, but I don't hold back.

Rest 5 minutes

4) Systematic Approach Lesson 2 Part 2: I play these at a tempo of quarter note = 120, and I hold the top notes for about 7 to 9 beats. Stronger on the top notes, easier on the lower notes. I'm always getting to a full power, strong F# above High C. My G above High C has been strong and full power about 50% of the time, and a bit weaker the other 50%. I've gotten to an admittedly weak Double C most days, but sometimes have ended around A above High C.

5) Systematic Approach Part 3 of Lesson 3 to relax lips after the high note routine. This is just a slow arpeggio going from middle C down to Pedal C. I do this three times, resting between each, then I do it one final, fourth time down to Double Pedal C.

That's it. This routine encompasses about 50 to 55 minutes of playing per day.

Current abilities:

When I'm fresh, I can currently play to a (weak) double C, and own the notes up to G above High C (can slur, single tongue, double tongue and triple tongue up to an F# above High C anytime, and when fresh, to the G above High C).

My single tonguing max speed is 16ths at 120 beats per minute (bpm).

Tone is clear, flexibility is fine, and endurance is such that I can play about halfway through Act 1 of "Cats" before starting to "feel it" (I'm sure I could perform all of Act 1 just fine, but coming back after intermission and doing all of Act 2 would be brutal at this point).

Will report back in a week or so.

Best wishes,

John Mohan

[edited to add the paragraph about the Breathing Exercises]


Last edited by John Mohan on Fri Jun 25, 2010 12:34 pm; edited 2 times in total
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JoeCool
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PostPosted: Sat May 01, 2010 2:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Awesome, John. I can't decide whether I will live vicariously or follow you one week behind each lesson...
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TupeloCOTA
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PostPosted: Sat May 01, 2010 2:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I saw John Mohan in the title of a forum topic and thought that we'd started another tongue debate! Glad to see we're talking about practice again.

Thanks John for all of your help to me on my routine adn best wishes to your "comeback". Wish I were worried about a squeaky double c, but its coming in due time.
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gbdeamer
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PostPosted: Sat May 01, 2010 4:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Looking forward to your updates.

I HAVE to ask about this:

"I missed several days of practice, which gave the callous on my lip a chance to dry"

Do you always have a callous on your lip? Do you have to play around it, or is it part of your embouchure?
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HERMOKIWI
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PostPosted: Sat May 01, 2010 6:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I saw that, too. Callous??? Wow. I've never experienced anything like that. Is this common? Where does the callous form? Just curious.
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John Mohan
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PostPosted: Sat May 01, 2010 6:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

To answer the callous questions, I’ll try to not be too callous with my reply (groan):

I don't see how one can practice a heavy routine every day and not develop some protective material where the inner edge of where the rim is in contact with the lips. Have you ever seen Herseth's lips up close? Bergeron's? Maynard's? Maurice Andre's?

Most players I know get a semi-permanent mark on their upper lip from playing. In my experience, and I've seen this with other players, when I take a few days off, the semicircular area around my upper lip turns white and dries off (becomes like dead skin, which it is) and peels away.

Of note (almost a pun), I'm not talking about some thick, horrible protrubence on my lip - it just that the area where the mouthpiece inner rim edge is in contact builds up a little bit of a protective covering that is most likely the same thing that happens on the palms of one's hands when one rakes their yard every day.

Here, have a picture (you might have to click on it to open it at full size in another window):



This is about 5 hours since I played. As you can see, there's no major scars or callouses - but there is that white semicircular line that is exactly where the mouthpiece inner edge goes (you have to look pretty close, as it doesn't show up well in the photo).

This problem of that area drying out and cracking if I take a day or days off, was one problem I encountered years ago when I tried to do the "Double High C in 37 Weeks" book as an experiment. With the heavy playing one day, and no playing the next day routine, I had a lot of trouble with my lip wanting to dry and split open (the other problem was since I was playing for a living, I couldn't take days off as the book calls for).

Best wishes,

John
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John Mohan
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PostPosted: Sat May 01, 2010 7:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

JoeCool wrote:
Awesome, John. I can't decide whether I will live vicariously or follow you one week behind each lesson...


You'll get better results if you follow along. Of course, it'll be more fun for you if you live vicariously through my life...
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BPL
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PostPosted: Sun May 02, 2010 1:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for doing this, John... inspiring. Two questions..
1. Are you doing/going-to-be-doing the breathing exercises?
2. Have you considered documenting this on You Tube?
Brett
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John Mohan
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PostPosted: Sun May 02, 2010 2:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

BPL wrote:
Thanks for doing this, John... inspiring. Two questions..
1. Are you doing/going-to-be-doing the breathing exercises?
2. Have you considered documenting this on You Tube?
Brett


Ah yes, I forgot to mention the Breathing Exercises. Yes, I do them. In fact, I've never stopped doing them. Every time I walk my dog Safeway (3 times a day, 20 to 30 minutes per walk) I do the breathing exercises. I think that is the main reason I've been able to take weeks off the horn at a time, and never lose it completely. Here's a nice picture of Safeway strolling along the beach at Lake Michigan, which is far more pleasant to look at then the one of my mouth:



I have been doing the Breathing Exercises at 6 steps for years, as when walking with Safeway, we tend to go a little too fast for me to do more steps without getting out of breath.

I will post a complete description of how to do the breathing exercises in a separate entry to this thread.

As for YouTube, I've thought about it, and I might post something there. But I don't want to go overboard, because I am planning on producing a professional video with the working title, "A Video Companion to Claude Gordon's 'Systematic Approach to Daily Practice' by John Mohan". (Kind of long, but I can't think of how I'd trim it down). My fear is, if I give it all away on YouTube, no one will ante up for the video (I'm nice, but I'm not a not-for-profit entity).

Best wishes,

John
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BPL
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PostPosted: Sun May 02, 2010 3:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have a question about the breathing.. I don't want to clog up this journal with questions. Should I post to another topic, or ask it here?
Brett
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PostPosted: Mon May 03, 2010 5:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great John, I'll be looking forward to your posts and your videao when you produce it.
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Matt Graves
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PostPosted: Mon May 03, 2010 6:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

John, best wishes in your endeavor. Making time to practice as we get older with family and all the other added challenges is indeed difficult.

Don't give up, take each day as the only day you have and stick to your plan, man!

I am looking forward to reading more about your plan and your progress.
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John Mohan
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PostPosted: Mon May 03, 2010 11:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

BPL wrote:
I have a question about the breathing.. I don't want to clog up this journal with questions. Should I post to another topic, or ask it here?
Brett


Hi Brett,

You are welcome to post your question about breathing here, if you are seeking an answer from me specifically. If you want anyone who feels qualified to answer you, then you should start a separate thread.

Best wishes,

John
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John Mohan
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PostPosted: Mon May 03, 2010 11:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm going to copy and paste a paper I did regarding how to do the Breathing Exercises here. I suggest you copy it into a Word Document and keep it for reference. You're welcome to copy it for yourself, but please don't distribute it, as I am planning on including it when I get around to writing up a method book.

Best wishes,

John


Breathing Exercises

By John Mohan


Preliminary Instructions:

Take a full, relaxed breath. Do not worry about where the air is going (i.e. “using the diaphragm”, “pushing the stomach out”, etc.). Air can only go to one place: your lungs! Just take a full comfortable breath. Don’t raise your shoulders, as you can’t get air into them. With a full breath, you should have a nice upright posture, with your chest up, like a soldier standing comfortably at attention – full and upright, but relaxed. Your arms should be hanging at your sides. Swing them back a little bit, as this will help you to get the feel of having your chest upright.

To check that you are staying relaxed, while full of air count out loud to 5: “1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5.” If you are relaxed, the words will come out without any hints of strain in your voice. This is very important, as one of the most important things we must do as brass players is to learn to be able to create tremendous amounts of air-power and muscular tension in the parts of the body directly involved with the physical production of sound, while at the same time be completely relaxed in all parts of our body that aren’t directly involved in the physical production of sound. If a champion weight lifter strains uninvolved parts of his body as he thrusts a heavy weight over his head, it doesn’t matter. But, if a trumpet player strains and raises for instance, the back (instead of the front) of his tongue to the roof of his mouth, in that feeling we perceive as a “choking off of the air” as he/she strains for a high note, nothing is going to come out of the bell.

Hopefully, you haven’t been holding your breath while reading the last 4 sentences! Back to breathing:

Take that full comfortable breath (again), count to 5 out loud while full of air, and then blow the air out in a relaxed manner, but DO NOT LET YOUR CHEST DROP. As you blow the air out, your abdomen will come in. As you start to run out of air, you will feel the muscles of your back and abdomen tighten. Resist the urge to let your chest drop. It might feel funny at first, but there are several benefits to be gained by maintaining a good upright posture when breathing (and playing). First off, note that if you let your chest drop as you run out of air, you won’t feel any tension in your lower back muscles as you blow all the air out. That is because by letting your chest drop and not having a correct upright posture, those back muscles are no longer as involved in the creation of air-power as you blow. You are no longer using all the muscles that are available to be used. Secondly, letting your chest drop can promote the creation of upper body tension, which can migrate up to your throat area, causing you to “choke off” the note or supply of air. This common feeling is actually caused by raising the back of your tongue towards the back part of the roof of your mouth, or the top of your throat. Keeping your chest up at all times helps to eliminate this problem.




1) Preliminary Exercise:

Practice the following for 2 weeks daily:

Take in a full breath and blow it out, as described in the preceding section. Do this 10 times in a row (but stop if you feel dizzy or light headed). Do this exercise 5 to 10 times a day. 10 breathes in and out, 5 to 10 times a day. After two weeks of this, move on to the Walking Breathing Exercises.


2) Walking Breathing Exercises:

This exercise is done while walking. Take in air as you walk, filling up in 5 walking steps. Hold full of air (but relaxed) for 5 more steps. Blow the air out in the next 5 steps, keeping your chest up. Continue for the next 5 steps to try to blow air out, even though you are already empty. Make sure that uninvolved parts of your body remain relaxed throughout the cycle. Once in a while, as you do the exercises, do various things to check that you are staying relaxed - Count to 5 out loud when in the “holding-full-of-air” portion of the cycle, flop your arms around once in a while, etc. to make sure that you are not tensing up.

Walk as far as you can comfortably. If you start to feel out of breath, than just breath normally for a while as you walk. When beginning these exercises, most people will walk one quarter to half a mile (about 5 to 10 minutes of walking). As time goes on, build this up to about a mile (20 minutes or so). I usually try to do 30 minutes a day.

After 2 – 3 weeks of the above exercises, change to 6 step cycles. Breathe in for 6 steps, hold full for 6 steps, blow out (while keeping chest up) for 6 steps, and try to continue to blow while empty for 6 steps.

After 2 – 3 more weeks, up it to 7 steps, than 8, 9, and finally, 10 steps in the cycles.


Explanation of the benefits:

“Too much analysis causes paralysis”, but for the curious, here is a brief explanation of some of the benefits of the above exercises:

1) They will teach you to breathe correctly with correct posture.

2) They will teach you to stay relaxed while breathing and blowing.

3) They will build up muscular strength, giving you more air power.

4) They will teach your body to use oxygen more efficiently.

5) They will promote physical fitness and a positive state of mind and body.
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Skip
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PostPosted: Mon May 03, 2010 11:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

My understanding of the breathing excercises:

As you walk, breathe in through your nose over 5, 6, 7, 8, (etc.) steps so that your lungs are comfortably full, then at the same pace, hold it for the same number of steps, then let it out through your mouth over the same number of steps, then stay empty for the same number of steps. Repeat the same over & over as you walk. In, hold, exhale, hold, etc. Start with a block & build up the distance & time.
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John Mohan
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PostPosted: Mon May 03, 2010 12:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm not sure what the purpose of your post was, Skip. Maybe you wanted to add the "breathing through the nose" idea, or you have a bone to pick with my instruction to keep trying to blow when empty.

When Claude taught players how he wanted the Breathing Exercises done, he did suggest breathing in through the nose, but he was not at all adamant about it. I tend to breath in through my nose as I do the exercises, but not if my head is stuffy (which tends to be often, as my nose is fairly much defective).

I advocate continuing to try to blow out when empty for two reasons:

1) More strength building is achieved.

2) When attempting to literally "hold empty" and not blow, my experience has been that an isometric kind of tension can develop, where both the expiratory muscles and the inspiratory muscles tense at the same time. We do NOT want that to become a habit (this type of tension is very detrimental to both endurance and range development).

By continuing to try to blow out when empty (and usually, a little air will continue to come out as the lungs are squeezed in this manner), we do not develop an isometric tension, but rather learn the habit of blowing and using the blowing muscles exclusively.

That's my opinion, based on my experience.

Best wishes,

John
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Skip
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PostPosted: Mon May 03, 2010 1:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

John,

Sorry if you percieved that I stepped on your toes. Some posters had asked about the walking-breathing excecises & I hadn't seen you address it, so I did, nothing more. I have all of CG's books, and just posted as I remember & do them (this AM as a matter of fact). Please correct anything that was wrong. Peace.
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BPL
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PostPosted: Mon May 03, 2010 2:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

My question has to do with Point 4.. the body's use of 02.

Given your medical background, I'm keen to hear your take on this. But first a quick rhetorical comment - I was up to 10 jogging, but had been doing it inconsistently throughout the day, and only "jogging on the spot"... you might say I was "phoning it in". I decided to redouble my efforts, and took to the pavement 8 days ago. I dropped it back to 8 jogging because I was finding the 02 deprivation frustrating and discouraging, and started doing all 5 sets in one session in the morning BEFORE starting the routine. (After 3 days, I noticed a DRAMATIC improvement in just about everything! The neighbours noticed it too.) Anyhow, I was getting to 5 cycles, then would have to stop, catch my breath while walking on the spot, then continue to 8, then stop again, then continue to 10. After 5 days, I was getting to 6 or 7, then continuing to 10. YESTERDAY I was able to go all the way to 10, without having to stop. I was amazed by how fast my use of 02 improved.

So here's my question:

Part 1.
It occurs to me that if we make an aerobic demand on our body while under slight 02 deprivation (as in the holding out phase of the cycle), then we might actually be accelerating the process of "getting fit". In other words, could this be a really good way for anyone to improve their V02 max? (for those unfamiliar with that term.. V02max = the maximum volume of 02 that the cells can take up from the blood, per minute, per kg of body weight.)

Part 2.
Are there any medical risks with this, ie; slight 02 deprivation while under aerobic demand?

Part 3.
In between sets, is it OK, in your opinion, to do some hyperventilation? Some big deep breathes.

Thanks

Brett
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John Mohan
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PostPosted: Mon May 03, 2010 5:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Skip wrote:
John,

Sorry if you percieved that I stepped on your toes. Some posters had asked about the walking-breathing excecises & I hadn't seen you address it, so I did, nothing more. I have all of CG's books, and just posted as I remember & do them (this AM as a matter of fact). Please correct anything that was wrong. Peace.


I was confused because you posted your short description of the walking exercises after I had posted my full description of them. But now in looking again, I see your post was made just a few minutes after mine. You probably weren't even aware I had made the post I made. In essence, our posts "crossed in cyberspace".

Best wishes,

John
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