"They should have heard me last night! I could play anything, it was so easy. Now, a day later, what happened?" Such is life in music performance. Hear me today, for tomorrow it might be gone, or so it seems. Some days the chops feel great. On others it's like nothing works. Unfortunately there seems to be more of the latter.
Many college trumpet majors on their best days could compete admirably with the best in the business. However, they are not prepared to deal with those "uninspiring times." Consistency is a mark of successful players. How good are you when you don't feel like producing? That is the test. We must earn our pay on bad days as well as good ones. The big trick is learning how to successfully manage those dog days.
How are the most successful teachers preparing their students for this? The answer seems to lie in consistent preparation of basics - executing proper mechanics whether high with inspiration, or dry with none of it. Technique is technique. If it is energy-charged, fine. If not, it still gets the job done and earns the paycheck.
Practice must be organized and consistent even when motivation levels fluctuate. We must learn to produce daily, not only when the stars are aligned for us. The best players shine all the time, obstacles or none, inspired or not. We must be able to fool the audience every night. Getting all the notes all the time is the starting point. If you're inspired, fantastic. If not, it must still sound fantastic.
Preparation for this must happen every time we pick up the trumpet. How can I efficiently produce with the highest accuracy? Nothing should be wasted. Everything counts. I should be able to sound great whether I just got back from hearing the Chicago Symphony, or attending a funeral.
Inspiration or non, is not the question. Anyone can get inspired. The answer is in the level of preparation and the commitment to discipline the daily mechanics. The better equipped we are with these basics of playing, the more successful we will be, and the less it will matter, when inspiration runs dry.