Trumpet Practice Routine

Following a daily trumpet practice routine with my son was a definite highlight of my summer. I enjoyed introducing him to some introductory jazz concepts, and it has been really fun observing his progress. Before moving on to a new fall routine, here are some reflections, to document what we practiced over the summer months.

Working Towards a Gig

Logan, put his trumpet practice routine to work by performing at Cafemantic with his dad accompanying on piano.

My son Logan playing trumpet at Cafemantic on 9/11/2019, with me accompanying on piano.

In June, I was offered a September gig, for which I told Logan I’d hire him if he learned 15 tunes. He worked really hard, learned the songs, and that gig has now come and gone. It was a special evening for both of us. He did a great job and earned a whopping $50, which isn’t bad money for a middle-schooler.

We were joined by Doug Maher, who switched back-and-forth between guitar and tenor sax (as I did between keyboard and trumpet). Doug is not only a great player, but a top-notch educator. It was fun hearing him giving Logan little tips and words of encouragement throughout the evening.

Here’s the list of songs I taught to Logan, all of which he played on our gig together:

  1. Sonnymoon for Two
  2. Impressions
  3. Song For My Father
  4. Summertime
  5. Doxy
  6. Satin Doll
  7. Watermelon Man
  8. Blue Bossa
  9. St. Thomas
  10. There Will Never Be Another You
  11. I Can’t Get Started
  12. Rhythm-a-ning
  13. Portrait of Jennie
  14. Solar
  15. Softly, As In A Morning Sunrise

Learning Tunes

Sonny Moon for Two, Song For My Father, Summertime, Watermelon Man and Doxy are all songs on which the blues scale can be played exclusively. Besides these, Logan learned to take rudimentary solos on Impressions, Satin Doll and Blue Bossa. For some of the more difficult tunes, like Portrait of JennieI Can’t Get Started and There Will Never Be Another You, he just played the head. However, he did a great job interpreting those melodies. We did a lot of listening together and I pointed out the difference between how players like Blue Mitchell played a head, versus how it is notated in a fake book. Speaking of listening, I burned CDs of these songs, which I played on our car’s stereo system whenever we were out and about. I had him learning these pieces even when he didn’t realize it!

As a result, not once did I have to cue Logan where to reenter with the melody after solos, on the gig. I was really proud of him for being able to feel and know a song’s form. All that listening in the car really paid off.

Trumpeters’ Insights

Barry Ries, who played trumpet with Horace Silver and who teaches with me at Jazz in July, told me that he got his start by playing heads on gigs with his dad’s band in Cleveland. That’s where I got the idea to hire Logan. Furthermore, Barry shared some insights given to him by the late, great trumpeter Doc Cheatham. Doc told Barry that in the old days (remember Doc was born in 1905!), jazz musicians didn’t use the word improvisation; instead, they referred to soloing as embellishing the melody. I think this is an important reminder for all jazz educators. We often want to start addressing how to approach a song’s harmonic progression, before really examining and learning a melody. As I taught Logan this summer, I emphasized learning a song’s melody really well. Eventually I encouraged him to back phrase, anticipate, and to subtlety embellish by ear.

Of course, learning songs was just one aspect of our practicing. Below I’ll outline the various aspects of the daily trumpet routine we used for July and August:

Summer Trumpet Practice Routine


  1. Warm-up: first 3 tracks from Augie Haas’ book
  2. Major Scales: 2 per day, followed by 4 triads. (6-day rotation)
  3. Sight Reading: Getchell Book 1
  4. Clarke book studies:
    • 1 or 2 from each of the following:
      • 1: #1 – 20
      • 2: # 30 – 44
      • 3: #50 – 59


  1. “Brain training”: 2-beat dominant pattern: 1235
  2. Learning Solos: Miles Davis: Doxy
  3. Tunes for Sept. 11, 2019 gig: new, review, memorization
  4. Improv with Aebersold play-a-longs (2-3 songs per day, approx.)
  5. ii-V lick: add one transposition per day.

Fall is a time for establishing new routines and trumpet practicing will be no exception. However, I’ll look back on this time with fond memories.

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