Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Practicing the Midas Touch

"Say you played 10,000 notes today, and you are thrilled because 2,000 of them were simply amazing!  Unfortunately that means there were 8,000 mediocre notes that nobody wanted to hear. Congratulations for the good notes, but sadly, it is the 8,000 mediocre notes that tend to be habit-forming.  The majority rules. Try to deliver 10,000 great ones!"   - Arnold Jacobs

Remember King Midas?  Everything he touched instantly turned to pure gold!  Why not have that mindset? Put on an imaginary crown and a royal robe the next time you enter your practice room.  Tomorrow as you open that trumpet case and pick up your gold-plated Midas trumpet with its gleaming gold mouthpiece, think about your treasure trove, boatloads of valuable golden doubloons!

You have no notes to waste.  Make it your practice to make them all count.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Game Time Practice by Michael Jordan and Arnold Jacobs

"During every practice I spend time imagining myself playing in the game so when the actual game comes it's no big deal because I've already done it all."  -  Michael Jordan

"There should be a period of time during each practice session when you perform. Invite some friends in to your practice room and play a passage or a page of something. ... What I'm trying to indicate is that each day should contain some amount of performing. You should engage in the deliberate act of story telling each day you practice. Don't only gather information when you practice, spend time imparting it. This is important."  -  Arnold Jacobs 

Note: These are two of many valuable quotes compiled by Michael Grose, Principal Tuba in the Eugene Symphony and Associate Professor of the Oregon School of Music. #jakeped 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Mahler 5 Alert!

The CCM Philharmonia will perform Mahler 5 on Friday evening October 10.  Auditions for the trumpet section will be held next week.

As we enter these exciting days, here are a few inspiring quotes from the great Arnold Jacobs:

"The big thing about music—or any other art form—is that you can enjoy what you are doing, but others must also enjoy what you are doing. It should be like painting a beautiful picture on canvas for others to appreciate. When you are playing a solo, you are not playing for yourself, but for the people who are listening."

"In your thoughts, be a musician not a mechanic." 

"One should have a great sound in the brain to imitate."

"It doesn't have to feel good, it just has to sound great!"

Guys, remember: drama, power, finesse, and beauty.  And one more: pacing!


Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Second Most Obvious Audition Issue

The second most obvious issue at the auditions: 

There was some cause for pause this week in evaluating the CCM trumpet placement auditions. No worries and no cause for alarm however!  The fix does not involve brutal sessions of chop pounding, hyper ventilation, or great displays of monumental exuberance!  It is a simple matter that can be remedied rather quickly and without pain, and will greatly benefit players and listeners. It was present at the auditions, but since it did not abound, no one did astound.

I'm talking not about accuracy, intonation, volume, or style.  The given in any audition ought to be a steady sense of RHYTHM.  This means no rushing, no dragging, or anything short of incredibly precise rhythm.  The right tempo with a reliable beat is always impressive.  It must be so noticed that it rekindles a pulse in the committee.

Good rhythm is more than mathematical perfection.  It must be instinctive and infectious. After all, rhythm matters.  It is the basic structure of music.  It must be clearly felt.  With unstable rhythm, we have unimpressive music.

The best way to perfect rhythm is to put the horn down, and sing or tap out the notes in perfect time.  We tend to be better rhythm keepers without the instrument.  So, first internalize it, and sing it at all speeds accurately.  Then copy that with the trumpet.  If it's solid within, it'll be solid without.  If it isn't, it isn't.

A great player with average rhythm will only be an average player.  We'll likely miss a note or two, but we have no excuse for playing constantly with bad rhythm.  Do the work.  It will show.

(There was a more noticeable issue at the auditions than rhythmic problems, but we'll leave that for later.  Let's start with the easiest.)

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

One Word Matters

A wonderful break through happened the other day during the lesson of a tenth grade trumpet student!  As a result of just one word, his sound suddenly opened up. The room lit up, and it was easier for him to play! My rants on air, tongue, and coordination were ineffective.  Finally I told him to just BLAT it out!  Voila!

I wonder if the magic word needed for each student could be determined by some questionnaire!  The student answers all the questions and then receives his/her personal word for the week.  No teacher needed!  Sadly, it took me months to figure out that BLAT was what was needed. 

WIND GUSTS was another successful word picture that worked nicely.  But, one word at a time.  No wonder Proverbs speaks of the beauty of a well place word at the precise moment. 

Saturday, March 22, 2014

A Trumpet Lesson with Professor Mahler

Professor: Come on in, you're next!  

Student: Hi, Professor Mahler.

Professor: I hope you're warmed up, because I've got a lot of stuff I am expecting you to play well for me today.

Student: What kind of stuff, Professor Mahler? 

Professor:  Contained in my scores is enough stuff to keep trumpet players at the peak of their game, and audiences coming back for more for a long time to come.  Now, let's take a look at your daily agenda.  Make sure to cover as many of these items as possible every day!

  • soft as possible
  • loud as possible
  • lyric sweetness not expected of trumpet players
  • long fluid chorales in all registers
  • gnarly fanfares, fast and slow, soft and loud
  • sudden rude pokes and jabs
  • the mean and the ugly (the spirit, not the tone)
  • high note diminuendos to nothing
  • the mother of all offstage solos!
  • shocking and unexpected entrances
  • huge leaps in a single bound, soft and loud, fast and slow
  • highest note, lowest note
  • the longest note ever
  • very quiet triplets on a low C sharp
  • offstage screech part
  • transposition always required 
  • complete accuracy always expected

Student: Gee, professor, I'm not sure I am ready to do all of that stuff!  You see, I have many issues and problems that must be solved.  What can you suggest for all of my ailments?  

Professor Mahler:  What I have written is all you will ever need. 

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

The Makings of a Great Student, Part 2

Rather than another long and familiar list of the usual must-haves for success, here are some obvious must-not-haves to consider. These are job-killers that quickly cripple growth.

The enemies of success are not a lack of talent or an uninspiring environment. The real inhibitors of success are laziness, stubbornness, lack of taking initiative, and an unwillingness to address weaknesses.  These habits will quickly render one's talent and love of music of no effect.

Confronting weaknesses is a given for the successful. Great students learn to face their vulnerabilities on a daily basis.  Even token attention to difficult issues is better than none.  Regular and wise chipping away on those nasty problems will make them less nasty the next time. A lot of polishing will produce a nice shine. No buffing, no shine!

Part 2 of The Great Student is simple.  Organize a plan for staying with difficult tasks.  Say no to the couch naps.  Endurance isn't only about embouchure strength.  Mental discipline is the greater challenge, for it yields greater results.  A wise strategy beats an untamed talent.