Sunday, September 03, 2017
Your personal trainer is your own mouthpiece. Play perfectly in tune and with your best tone. Be the best buzzer ever! Buzz with no fuzz. Be very picky. Win the audition with superior buzzing. If it's great on the mouthpiece, it'll be fabulous on the horn.
Monday, May 15, 2017
Great performances follow great rehearsals. Great rehearsals require great practicing. And great practicing is characterized by clear thinking. Needed: daily generous doses of sanity.
Helpful adjectives for your practice sessions: calm, patient, organized, purposeful, controlled. Not: frantic, hurried, haphazard, out-of-control.
Inspired energetic playing must first be disciplined. Inspiration without discipline is as useless as discipline without inspiration. You must develop both, but discipline comes first. At the end of your day, you want to be satisfied that you worked efficiently, not frustrated that nothing happened. The improvement you want won't happen with fruitless frantic flailing.
Sloppy practice never produced a polished performance, but it does give your nerve demons permission to wreak havoc on your performance! Preparing to do your best is better than hoping for the best, which is insanity.
Wednesday, March 29, 2017
Years ago an orchestra colleague was commenting on Maurice Andre's amazing clarity. I'll never forget his six-word summary: "He has contact with every note!"
What does every note require? A clean start, centered pitch, and a good sound. Great players take excellent care of their notes.
There's a quick fix for sloppy articulation, poor accuracy, and faulty intonation. Simply slow down and get a grip on each note. A more relaxed pace gives the brain and the ears a chance to focus on vital details. Only after you can hear an individual note, can you begin the polishing process. Think slow-motion cleansing.
Imagine that every pure note you play rewards you with a crisp ten dollar bill. How much money would you accumulate by the end of the day, if any? Or, if you could cut and paste any of your random notes, would they sound good enough to splice into the Pictures Promenade?
Consider your driving. You shouldn't speed frantically through neighborhoods, blowing past stop signs, riding on sidewalks, and recklessly doing wheelies on private property! No, you carefully obey all traffic signs keeping control of the car at all times. Play as well as you drive. Handle all notes with care. Quality-control matters.
Tuesday, October 25, 2016
Our job is to build vast reserves of musical expression in the imagination flowing through the instrument and reaching the audience unimpeded. That's the goal. So the trumpet becomes not the obstacle, but the receptacle and the conduit for your great musical message.
As Mr. Jacobs stressed, think music not muscle, message not mechanics. Your secret weapon and power source is the trumpet in your brain. Nurture it, depend on it, and let it teach the trumpet in your hand. It will discipline your work to be drama-efficient. Always sing before your play. Without that strong first trumpet, the second one doesn't have a chance!
Wednesday, September 28, 2016
Your mind can try to make you play in perfect time, but your inner rhythmic instincts can do a much better job. To put it crudely, music from the mind reaches the mind, while music from the gut reaches the gut.
Think of the metronome as no more than a strict school master. It is not a drama coach. It's the angry drill sergeant, but not the sensitive maestro. It's better to train and rely upon your God-given inner rhythm, than to depend solely upon your ability to place every note in its proper position.
Are metronomes superior to musicians? Nope. A stoic metronome is not capable of phrasing, nuance, or expression, only millions of lifeless clicks. Its only function is obnoxious clicking. Certainly a living person should be superior to a machine! We have breath, energy, and purpose. A metronome has none of that. It has no brain, musicality, expression or soul! Don't live only by the boring pulse of a machine.
Great time-keeping is the foundation upon which energy, phrasing, and expression are built. Always be building artistry on top of great rhythm. Don't neglect your inner rhythm, and don't be boring. You are much better than a metronome!
Friday, September 02, 2016
1. My first notes of the day will be pure quality.
2. I will play slow enough to be accurate and clean.
3. I'm going to play perfectly for 5 seconds. Then 10, 15.
4. I'll be paid for only good notes.
5. I'll play my solo very slowly, resting every 4 measures.
6. It will never be said that my playing is boring.
7. Every phrase will be stunningly musical.
8. I'm going to be able to impress my friends with how softly I can play without loss of tone.
9. I'm going to amaze my friends with how loudly I can dominate without loss of tone.
10. My future employer is listening just outside my practice room door! . . . . "You're hired!"
Freedom in playing comes when junk has been dealt with. No one wants a flawed product. Goal: eliminate wasted notes and wasted time. Put the practice room on stage. Eliminate junk playing.
Monday, August 29, 2016
Step one: THINK SLOW. Give yourself enough time to find the center (the sweet spot) of each note. Don't proceed until all of your notes are usable. (During one of my lessons with Mel Broiles, he accused me of "spraying the air with thousands of notes of highly questionable value!" He used a slightly different wording, but I got the point.)
Step two: THINK MONEY. Imagine that every top quality note you produce instantly deposits dollars into your checking account. Likewise consider that any stuffy, unfocused notes will painfully charge your account big bucks! It's your choice: severe fines or rich rewards.
Step three: THINK CONDUCTOR. You live for the conductor's favor, not his displeasure. When you play, you want to see his uplifted hand and expression of approval, not an annoyed grimace as he frantically shushes your strained efforts.
Step four: THINK AUDIENCE. They're why we do what we do! It's not about us. We simply deliver beautiful phrases to a music-hungry audience one good note at a time. That's the goal even in the practice room. Always insist on high quality and drama. Think APPLAUSE, STANDING OVATIONS, BOWS! Quality is guaranteed!