Wednesday, February 23, 2022



The conductor looked annoyed and kept tugging at his ear as he glared at the trumpets. Finally, he stopped the rehearsal and said: "One of the trumpets is sharp!" My colleagues knew who it was, but wisely refused to look at me. Gulp. I received a painful but effective lesson that day!  

So, how do we fix our faulty, bone-jarring lack of correct intonation?

First, acknowledge that the problem may actually by our own, not the other guy's. 

Next, determine to examine each note with the honest help of a tuner. 

Then, correct the pitch without losing the rich core of the sound.

Play musically but play in tune. Playing musically but out of tune is not playing musically. Unfortunately, this is a lesson that must be relearned daily. 

Wednesday, February 09, 2022

The Problem with the Trumpet!

The problem with the trumpet! It is unmusical, it has no sound, rhythm or brains. It's dumb! It just lies there lifelessly in its case, smugly defying its owner to conquer it. It seems to enjoy frustrating and stifling inspiration. What's worse, it never practices!

The good news is that it can be brought to life and made obedient! Consider Frankenstein's monster, springing up after a few powerful jolts of electricity. Pinocchio similarly became a real boy when controlled by his inspired and caring master. Frosty also began to bounce around jovially once all the kids expected that he would. Simple examples but think about it: a few powerful jolts from a caring owner who believed his lifeless puppet could come to life!

So, what's the magic potion? It is an enormous musical stockpile, continuously infusing greatness into a lifeless instrument. A huge reservoir overflowing the banks of the dry land. A musical fortress that can be strengthened to withstand all challenges. 

The instrument will always be lifeless, but the player has the joy of providing all that's needed to bring it to life!


Saturday, February 05, 2022


I once asked a veteran oboe player in the Cleveland Orchestra how often he felt good about his playing. I expected a response like, "every time, man!" I was stunned to hear him say, "I feel great only about 10% of the time." 

It sure didn't sound that way! His playing was always musical and flawless. I wish I had asked him how he did it, but I suppose the answer is obvious. It's why he had that job. 

So, what's the takeaway? 
  • Be encouraged that you can learn to sound great even if your heart isn't always in it. 
  • Fool your listeners. Act the part.
  • Always bring your performance face.
  • Don't depend on feeling great.
  • Turn boring into "bravo!"
  • We all have our 10%. Learn to be convincing on the 90%.