It’s that time of the year again: the semester’s in full swing; you’ve likely got a piece (or pieces) picked out with your professor for recitals, or if you’re a high school senior, maybe you’re preparing pieces for college auditions. During these times, it’s really important to take proper care of your lips! Let’s talk a little about how best to go about doing that:
This one might seem obvious, but it’s worth emphasizing. A proper warm-up should be the foundation of every brass player’s practice routine - especially if you’re spending over an hour a day with metal pressed to your face. A proper warm-up depends on the instrument, but common themes for all brass players include plenty of long tones (a la Cichowicz), gentle playing, and of course, mouthpiece buzzing. I also tend to start my practice sessions with some free buzzing, but that’s not everybody’s cup of tea. All of the same applies to the end of your practice sessions too!
If there’s one thing that I’ve learned in my personal study of the trumpet, it’s that brute force will get you nowhere. If you’re spending time working on a really hard passage and getting frustrated, it’s not going to help for you to keep repeating it over and over and over again until you’re blue in the face and your chops are giving out on you. Take a few minutes - go on your phone, take a walk - give your lips a break. They’ll be thanking you when you get back to it.
Some love Chopsaver, others prefer more mainstream brands that you could find at any corner store… I’ve personally gone through plenty of tubes of Chopsaver and Burt’s Bees. But for me, the real lifesaver has been Blistex Daily Conditioning Treatment. It’s got Vitamin E, SPF, a little bit of a tingle, and it keeps the chops nice and fresh - and it can be bought on Amazon in bulk for a great price. Whatever your choice is, Lip Balm should be a staple for your lip care routine.
Ice and Vitamin E
Had a rough day, a rough week, or month of playing? Fret not - do this routine before you go to bed. Take a bag of ice (if you’re in the dorms, every dorm should have an ice machine in the laundry room!), wrap it in a towel, and ice your chops for five minutes. Then, take a hot towel and put it on your lips for another five minutes. This might cause your lips to puff up a little - that’s okay. Finally, break open a gel capsule of Vitamin E - you can find these at any convenience store with the other vitamins and dietary supplements - and spread that stuff on your lips. When you wake up in the morning your chops will feel fantastic.
And that’s that! Regardless of experience level, lip care is important to every brass player. Keep these quick and easy tips in mind, and you’ll rock your practice sessions!