Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Look Outside!

Look outside. This is a great time to NOT play the trumpet! How about a nice long break? Don't even think about the trumpet, and don't be looking at it! There it sits in its case staring up at you shooting guilt and condemnation. Don't buy it. Shut the case, shove it under the bed, and go away. You will certainly return again someday, so consider this a healthy and deserved fast for your chops and your mind.

If you stay away from the horn long enough you'll be pleasantly surprised that your negatives tend to evaporate. However, when you return, do it slowly and patiently, and don't be looking to rediscover your weak areas. Enjoy the freshness of your clean restart. Play tunes you like rather than those studies you never seem to master. Buzz frequently. Play for fun. Touch all notes and then put it away. Several short sessions will be more productive than a long slug fest. If you get mad and frustrated, your vacation was in vain.

Remind yourself that you are not enslaved to the horn. You won't forget everything by taking a vacation. It will all still be there. Both you and your chops need to be rejuvenated. Don't be afraid to give yourself a break.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Getting Extra Input

Here's a suggestion for the summer. If no trumpet guru is available or within driving distance, don't put improvement on hold until the fall. Look for some help outside the box. The best advice can come from those who do not play the trumpet. Hard to believe, but true. Singers, woodwind players, string people, guitarists included, and percussion folks share the stage, so you might want to know what they listen for. A yea vote from each of them would be a nice goal. It would also go a long way to improve relations between instrument groups that often tend to feud with each other.

Arnold Jacobs' studio always had a steady stream of non-tuba players visiting in order to receive his expert counsel. Great music-making transcends any one instrument. How tragic to graduate from a school many of whose faculty are never consulted simply because theirs is a different department. It might cost you something to arrange a hearing, but it could be worth it. Money is no object. Take the initiative.

You may opt for a cheaper route. Invite your non-trumpet friends to sit and listen to your audition, solo, etudes, whatever. You want to play for critical ears that won't accept your being sharp on C and G. They don't buy it. Nor are they sympathetic to your chronic fatigue. They expect you to play what's on the page, no excuses. Be hungry for their honest critique, not flattery.

It's American Trumpet Idol! The jury has their checklist: stage presence, intonation, expression and sense of drama, dynamics, phrasing, confidence, etc. In short, should they invite you to return for another round? Does your performance get high marks? Does it communicate? Will the jury stand and applaud, or do you only receive a few courtesy claps. Your mission is to be a crowd pleaser.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

A Larger Window

How big is your window of usable playing? You might be quite capable of some first-class work, but chances are that few listeners will be around by the time you get warmed up and ready. You've got a great product, but an embarrassingly small window for showing it! It's a matter of increasing your efficiency so that any listeners will get an awesome impression of your playing no matter when they hear you.

Some have huge picture windows, but no one wants to look in. It's all mediocre. There's nothing worth listening to. You want to be able to confidently swing open the windows, inviting all to pull up a seat and enjoy. Whatever they'll hear, it's all good. No junk. Everything's in order.

Look! There's your professor hiding in your bushes! He's stopped by unannounced to spy on your practice habits. No problem. Nothing to hide. You respond, "Hey, what do you want to hear? I'm good." He is very pleased to agree.

Imagine that several audition committees from top orchestras are secretly visiting Cincinnati this week looking to invite someone from CCM to play a week in their trumpet section. You learn that your audition already took place via surveillance microphones! Whatever you played yesterday was your audition! Your window of usability had better be huge! It's show time!

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Don't be Driven

It's better to drive than to be driven. There is no need to stress and obsess. No one wants to listen to a flurry of frantic frenzy including you. Your practice sessions should always be purpose-driven and not emotion-driven. Relax, be confident and be in control. Slow down so you can be more productive. You don't have a lot of notes to waste, so try to use all of them wisely.

Stop often so you can stay alert. If you get weary, pull over. Rest, refuel and then continue. Better to stop at rest areas than to do nonstop wheelies and spin yourself into a ditch.

Enjoy driving as much as you can. At the end of the day, what percentage of all of your notes will have been controlled and enjoyable? Your goal is to be fresh and usable tomorrow. Your performance will be a pretty good picture of how well you managed your practice. Remember:

  • Be in control.
  • Don't fret.
  • Stay fresh.
  • Enjoy the drive.