Thursday, April 23, 2015

Got Anger?

Got an audition coming up?  Tired of fretting and wondering what the committee will think of you?  You know what?  Who cares! Try injecting large doses of anger, and then just play hard!

The stage is no place for fear or self doubt. Squash the fear monster with the anger monster. Unleash the mad demon on the fear demon. Fierce determination is way more impressive than careful, cautious coziness. 

Fits of rage will not replace diligent preparation however.  So, after all of your grunt work has been done as thoroughly as possible, add a good case of attitude.  Always include dazzling displays of artistry, and the job is yours!  Your winning formula: Artistry + Anger = Job!!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Getting Out of Jail

Does your practice room feel like a prison cell?  Is your espressivo about as exciting as Buster Keaton's deadpan stare?  Need a get-out-of-jail-free card?

Here are a few suggestions that might help you break out of that solitary confinement:

1. Practice with eavesdroppers in mind.
2. Don't stop listening to those who inspire you.
3. Practice singing each passage perfectly with full dramatic impact.
4. Make all fundamentals musical.
5. Turn boring drills into beautiful phrases.
6. Focus less on how you feel, and more on how you want the audience to feel.
7. Play ballads on flugelhorn.
8. Play soft AND beautifully.
9. Don't waste notes. (Even warmups must be worth hearing!)
10. Anticipate the satisfaction of mastering difficult passages. A jailbreak isn't easy and requires careful planning!
11. Daily mindset: you'll get paid for only great-sounding notes!
12. Feed big music with big air.
13. Practice competing with the great soloists.
14. Replace "drudgery" with "performance".
15. Look at your whole life.  What percentage of it was fun?  What percentage wasn't?  Fix it.
16. What's happening in your cell, fizzling duds, or sparkling firecrackers?

Saturday, December 06, 2014

To think, or not to think?

Too much thinking about your playing can be just as bad as too little. Both can end poorly. A performance can be crippled by over-thinking as well as by recklessness. Somewhere there is a safe middle ground between brains and no brains, between too much caution and none at all.

Think about this: The question is not about thinking but about sounding. A total focus on the beauty of the product will eliminate thousands of useless notes and extraneous noodling that nobody wants to hear.  

A great performance is about great music-making. That priority should drive every practice session.  Think not about how you are feeling, but what the audience will want to hear.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Discount on Trumpet Books


Piccolo Trumpet Studies - 106 short etudes from easy to moderate difficulty, each with the purpose of gradually building control on the piccolo trumpet.  

100 Trumpet Etudes - moderately difficult etudes, written to not be boring, great for sight-reading. 

Trumpet 1, Studies in the Style of the Pops Orchestra Repertoire - 138 generic pops orchestra studies. Each is from moderate to challenging with an emphasis on style.

All books are $20. Sale price from now till 12/31/14: $18. each. Shipping is free in USA. 

To order via PayPal, enter

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Two Antidotes for Nervous Nellies

What's a good antidote or two for stage fright? Try getting angry or try getting sleepy. It's hard to be nervous when you're all irritated, or when you're so tired that nothing matters anymore. Being able to summon these moods just might help knock the edge off your next case of the jitters.

Instead of freaking, think of words like nonchalant, blase, laid-back, indifferent, apathetic, casual.  When our instincts are on such high alert that they are ready to short-circuit, we need a good dose of "it's not that big a deal, man, relax!"

Rather than stressing about every note of every phrase, simply decide to bluster your way through with an attitude. Of course you will have practiced meticulously, so you can now afford to charge ahead proudly and fearlessly.

Barney Fife became famous for these facades whenever he found himself in a frightful predicament. Audiences saw his cocky confidence and self-assured smugness in spite of crippling fear. Often he responded to stress with a ho hum, sarcastic smile. He masked his nerves with swagger, yet with a humility that endeared him to audiences. Use nerves to your advantage.


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Leaving Your Mark

When your final performances have ended, and your last notes have all been played, how will you be remembered?  Will you have made the High-note Hall of Fame?  Will you own the coveted Loudest-Player-on-the-Planet award? Will it be said of you: "What a monster player, but what a jerk!  Seemed like such a nice person, till you got to know him."

Heroes are esteemed, but often at what cost? Is musical excellence achieved at the expense of personal reputation? Are great note-making skills an excuse for bad manners?  Is your amazing high C more important than your character? Time and others will tell.

Proverbs says that a good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, (or great notes).  Your notes evaporate quickly, but your reputation lasts. Value people as much as your notes.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

The Makings of a Great Player

What makes a great student?  What turns tons of input into profitable output? Is success attributed to genes, willpower, personality, a controlling mother, or a bunch of lucky breaks?  What is key in making a great player?

In the book of Proverbs, the wise person is not the one who hears instruction but the one who diligently puts it into practice. Doers become wise, not hearers only.  The best student is not always the most talented, but the most ready to listen and to implement instructions. 

This should be great news! Aptitude, work ethic, and encouragement all play a large part in success, but key is our willingness to absorb, and our passion to apply.