on stretching

I've been recently thinking about my state as "a trombonist who was once a very good player" and my continuing quest to get back to the state of being a good, solid player. It's a hard road, but one thing I've been considering is: what was it that I used to do when I was a very good player that I don't do now?

One thing I've realized that I've stopped doing is stretching. Why stretch? Playing a musical instrument is a physical exercise. For the trombonist, we're moving our arms, wrists, shoulders. We're holding up something heavy using only half of one hand. We're breathing, stretching our lungs and midsections. Stretching not only prepares the body for playing, but also gets the blood flowing and readies the mind to focus.

I've decided to start stretching again as much as I can before I play, whether it be concerts, rehearsals, or individual practice. My sequence is simple:
1.) Raise both arms above your head and inhale as deeply as you can, then lower your arms and let the breath out slowly. Do this five times. This stretches your breathing muscles so you can take deeper, faster breaths.

2.) Put your hands on your hips and turn your torso to the left until you feel the stretch, then to the right. Don't move the legs while doing this. This stretches your middle back and, for me, my shoulder area a little bit.

3.) Extend the right arm and then rotate at the shoulder, making a big circle with your hand. Go clockwise first five times, then counterclockwise five times. Repeat with the left arm. This is for the shoulders and upper arms to get you ready for holding the horn.

4.) Extend both arms straight in front of you, palms facing flat away from you. Using your left hand, bend your right hand back toward your body slightly to stretch the wrist and palm. Repeat using your right hand to stretch your left hand. This readies the wrist and elbows.

5.) Lean your head on your right shoulder, then roll your head forward and around until it's leaning on your left shoulder. Roll it back and around until it's back on the right shoulder. This stretches the neck, helping with breathing.
Sometimes I do some other stretches if I have time, but these are the major five. Start with these and build up a stretching routine that works for you -- to be physically ready to play the moment you pick up the horn, not ten or fifteen minutes into your playing.

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