Three weeks. That was all the time I was supposed to need to get fit enough to make an audition video for the YouTube Symphony Orchestra. I had barely touched my French horn since I quit playing in 2004 but I wasn't worried. As a university student, I used to quit playing every summer until three weeks before Labor Day at which time I would my get out my horn and begin my fitness routine.
There is a modicum of method to my madness. For players at a professional level, daily maintenance is required to keep the face muscles in tip-top shape. During the school year, I could go one day -- at most -- without playing before I noticed a difference.
Somewhere along the line, I discovered that muscle fitness is exponential, not linear. You don't lose, say, 5% of your facility for each day you don't practice. Instead, the impact decreases as time goes by. The difference between one and two days of not practicing is much bigger than one and two weeks.
Why spend the summer feeling guilty about not practicing enough when I could just get it all done in the three weeks before school started again? I'm sure this line of reasoning horrifies many a music teacher -- mine were appalled. All I can say is that is worked for five summers. Proof, pudding, etc.
This time though, after announcing I was going to audition, I got caught. (With that level of smugness, it was inevitable.) It turns out my system had a weakness: breath control.