Monday, November 12, 2007


There is some very fine playing happening with CCM trumpet students lately. Solos, orchestral work, and small ensembles can be heard, as well as the daily grind of etudes, scales, and arpeggios. With recital season starting up after the holidays, there will be plenty of must-hear performances. Breaks are never really breaks when huge requirements lurk on the other side of vacation, so no one will be straying too far from the horn.

As pieces are starting to take shape, I was reminded of the simple requirements we have as performers. You can count on one hand the elements that need to be there for a successful performance. Of course there is good pitch, sound quality, musical phrasing, dynamic interest, steady tempos, and the right sense of style. But if you could only practice one thing, what would it be? I say start with producing a bunch of clean, polished, nice-sounding notes. In fact, forget the bunch, and start with just a few great-sounding notes.

Now attach a junk-note filter to your bell so that nothing bad can get out. Actually, that filter should be clipped onto your mouthpiece so that nothing bad gets in! No, in reality it begins before that, in your brain. That's where those great notes must start. Great music begins well before it is heard. Then you have something to play.

The next step is to slow the music way down, and listen. No bumps or stuffy notes are allowed. Insist on preparing each note for recording. Get it smooth, in tune and listenable and it will sell. A bunch of junk won't.

Audition committees are looking for a few good players. If you can get used to producing quality with small assignments, you'll have a good chance at the same success with larger ones. It begins by polishing one note at a time.

No comments: