Thursday, March 08, 2007

Finding the Path of Least Resistance

One of the amazing things to me about great players is the apparent ease of their playing! They just look good. Today I asked a friend to tell me how a certain great player was doing. I like the answer I got: "He plays so relaxed and easily!" That assessment sounds so not profound. Yet isn't that how it should be? That short report gave me a free lesson.

There's the lesson: Start by making it look easy! Great conductors make "The Rite of Spring" look easy. Great high trumpet players make the Brandenburg sound effortless. The air just seems to flow quickly through the instrument and the music flies out. Our recording engineer was exuberant over the "singing like a bird" that my colleague did on the high B flats in "Star Wars." It just flew out there over the whole orchestra, and no guts were busted!

I wonder if most of us have been infected in varying degrees with the deadly "constricteditis disease"! Our air barely gets moving and it must begin a tight squeeze through the narrowist of pinchy, bending passages. When some of it finally dribbles out the bell, we are left exhausted, sore, faint, and faint-hearted! Our fingers are not quite in sync with our tongue so that the air must bump against the valves which further obstructs the flow. Sound familiar?

Playing trumpet shouldn't be rocket science or brain surgery. Surely the secret is finding the path of least resistance for the air. I guess you could say that the most successful players sound great with the least amount of effort. They turn all of their air into impressive results. Nothing is wasted. Their air is sent on a mission. The mission is great-sounding music, and it finds its path through the horn with the least amount of resistance.