Friday, April 26, 2013
Unfortunately discouragement is part of life and the growing process. Don't be surprised when you discover that you didn't leave home without it. It can be used to your advantage however. Think of it this way. How would we ever learn to overcome adversity if we never had to deal with it? Although the road to improvement has its potholes and roadblocks, they must be viewed as necessary keys for our improvement.
Take the audition/jury/board/testing scenario for instance. It can be an absolutely dreadful ordeal, agree? Funny. Auditions may or may not produce a winner, but they always produce a whole bunch of "losers". Who doesn't hate when that happens? Although it is often brutal, it can be the best experience for us as a person and as a player. Who never lost at anything?
We are built to fight, not surrender. A set back is not a defeat. Losing is not failing. I just heard it said concerning an audition loss, "it wasn't a waste of time unless you didn't try your best." Someone will always play better than you, and you will always play better than someone else. Comparison is not the issue. Consistently trying to do your best is all you can do.
A little humbling, whether deserved or not, can be just what is needed to jump start improvement and greater maturity. It's so trite, but true: "don't get bitter, get better." Auditioning takes practice. The next one will be easier.
OK. Calling all of us "losers"! Let's sit down, take stock, evaluate, pray, be grateful, we're not done yet, we haven't lost at anything! We just experienced an emotional lesson on how to deal with emotions. Hey, if you want to look at it this way, with each loss comes opportunity for growth.
Improvement is not without discomfort, and pain is part of progress. No one is exempt from days like this, Mamma said!
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Don't you like words that support what you want to do, words that describe what you are training to do and to be? Make this summer a time of taking mental and verbal inventory. You still have to practice of course, but why limp around in heavy shackles making improvement next to impossible? Inject the positive and reject the negative. "As a man thinks in his heart, so is he."
Here are some of our old unfavorites which we want to obliterate from our thoughts, conversation, and playing:
- Visibly unprepared
Sunday, April 14, 2013
For those connected in any way with Mr. Herseth either personally or through his many recordings, master classes, or concert performances, it can certainly be said that his request was granted. Never was he known to deliver anything but his best effort. It was difficult not to come away impressed, improved, and inspired by both his amazing playing and perhaps his secret weapon, that carefree and musical approach that was so Bud!
In one of my lessons with Mr. Herseth we worked on the Credo of Bach's b Minor Mass. I was struggling on the piccolo trumpet with the high parts, and needed his input. I don't know exactly what he told me, but after a few moments of walking energetically around the room, singing and gesturing dramatically, he said, now try it again, Phil. Whatever he did worked. I proceeded to get up a head of steam and sailed all the way up to the top of the line, feeling like I could hold onto that high G forever! For once I was not blasting and pressing, but floating and singing. I couldn't resist laughing in amazement. He smiled and nodded.
If only that kind of communication could be bottled and reopened whenever needed! I then told him I didn't know exactly how much he charged for a lesson, but it was worth ten times that amount. He declined any payment of course.
Making someone confident, encouraged and happy with himself was a big part of who he was. He was definitely way more than a decent guy who gave his best every time. Time spent with him, or just listening to him, was simply unforgettable. How wonderfully he could bring out the best in you! That was Bud!
Saturday, March 30, 2013
Every time we sing without the instrument the result is good, usually very good. Add the trumpet however, and we suddenly develop issues. The good news is that we are able to sing what the printed page demands pretty well. The bad news is that we hold in our hands the great music inhibitor, the trumpet. Sadly, few are conquerors, and many have been maimed and slain by the 3-valved brainless monster. So who is able to deal successfully with our beloved and hated foe?
Our simple mission is to overcome the inhibitor. We overcome by wisely utilizing our enormous inventory of artistry and passion. We need a steadfast resolve to make the instrument obey the music master within us. Practice is a daily struggle for dominance as the music does battle with the instrument. When we dwarf the musical input, the horn wins every time. When we strengthen the musical intent, the instrument will become our servant.
A successful battle requires an intelligent strategy and a persistent, careful attack on the enemy. The enemy's victory depends on a bewildered and frustrated opponent. Having a weak musical message and sloppy battle skills results in certain defeat for the musician. Again, we must prepare for a daily battle which is quite winnable but requires great musical vision, determination, and wisdom.
Who's enlisted for the fight?
Tuesday, March 26, 2013
Well, I have found that the most effective therapy for uninspired days of practice room boredom is quite easy to take and very effective. I'm recommending massive doses of this medication with no limits on refills! Oh, there are side effects, but I don't think you'll find them to be a problem. In fact, I think you'll find them euphorically addictive. Simply inject generous portions into each ear several times a day, and I doubt you'll be needing a followup appointment.
Label instructions: Apply liberal amounts of your FAVORITE BRASS RECORDINGS. Inject into both ears. Repeat at least 3 times daily.
WARNING: Failure to take this medication consistently may cause boredom, drowsiness, depression, and in some cases suicide. Musical Alzheimer's has been shown to be the result of listening only to oneself for long periods of time.
High quality brass playing is infectious. Don't leave home without it.
Thursday, March 21, 2013
Most of us have three unrealistic expectations when it comes to practice sessions. First, we expect that everything will be fun and painless from the first note to the last. Hence we become depressed when we encounter any resistance. Furthermore, we expect instant improvement. We have little patience for long term technique-building. Rather, we want it all now.
Finally, we fail to realize that high quality music making is a long term growth process, and making the instrument behave is a daily task. We see the goal, but we are not committed to follow the path. Wrestling is not blindly lunging or frantically flailing with intermittent bursts of bluster. We must enter the practice room anticipating and planning for a tough match, winnable yes, but not without a lot of wrestling.
(Hebrews 12:11 is a nice parallel. The writer was probably was not addressing trumpet players, but the principle is the same. "For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.")
Expect to work hard and smart for mastery.
Monday, March 11, 2013
Most mistakes are mental failures. We expect our mighty chops to make up for the insanity of our frantic stabs in the dark. Our mind is simply not on the same page as the music. If only we would allow the brain to process the notes fast enough, we would be able to turn out perfection. Don't you hate making those stupid mistakes? The problem is that the mistakes aren't stupid, it's the player!
That's great news! Maybe there is hope! It might not be so much a chop issue as it is a thinking, or preparation issue. How about SLOW practice, slow enough that mistakes don't ever happen. Let's starve the mistakes. Give your brain a fighting chance. Even the dumbest of us can get through Petroushka if the tempo is slow enough, right?
Let's stop the madness. Put your professors out of business. Stop them from their professing. You've heard their practice rants long enough. You can extract those pesky mistakes from your playing if you really want to, or you can continue to step on the daisies, forever wondering why you are plagued with those stupid wrong notes. You can begin to play smart, or you can continue to play dumb.