For a long time, I have been using one of Carmine Caruso’s teaching techniques with all of my brass students. This exercise works for woodwind players too. The results are noticeable in about a week and include: increased endurance, precise note starts and increased range in brass players. So I thought I would share what I have learned through teaching brass students in elementary, middle, high school and adults. It works for all levels of players
Here is the title of his book:
“Musical Calisthenics For Brass” by Carmine Caruso
There are many versions of the Six Notes. An internet search will help you find some of his students posting their memories of lessons with Caruso. Here is the version that I use with my students:
What I do
I focus on the student setting their embouchure correctly, breathing through their nose-for this exercise, and patting their foot to internalize the beat. Caruso focused on the beat and starting the note on time. And most importantly, not allowing them to release the embouchure set until the entire exercise is complete. The mouthpiece stays in contact with their embouchure and they keep the set. This is difficult for younger students or those with focus issues but we keep working on it a little in every lesson.
The tempo I start with is MM = 75 for the quarter note. As the student gets better at maintaining the set and starting the note on time, I slow the tempo down by 5 beats per week. My high brass students can drop the tempo pretty low. My low brass students reach a point where they can’t hold the note that long. But holding the notes out long is not the focus of the exercise. As Caruso said, it is a form of calisthenics. Not a musical exercise. I focus on playing in time, keeping the set, and using very little mouthpiece pressure.
You can use this in a middle school or high school band warm up. In any beginning brass class.You certainly can use it in private teaching. I have talked with woodwind teachers and I think you can use it teaching woodwind players as well.
Even if my students don’t practice this at home, I do it with them anyway in each lesson. It does not take very much time and the results are worth any time spent. I have noticed all my students that do the exercise develop range, endurance and the ability to start notes cleanly and confidently. Those that do it on their own in their home practice demonstrate better results.
Simply do an internet search for Carmine Caruso and the Six Notes. You will find lots of teacher’s comments. But you will also find comments from people who studied with Caruso. Those are the ones to read.
Good luck with your playing and teaching. Share how you use this exercise in your playing or in your teaching. Leave a comment and at least like my blog or website.