The Practice Habit

Remember when you first had the notion to start playing your trumpet?  At either the first suggestion from a parent or relative, or watching someone like Maynard Ferguson that inspired you to want to play?  Remember how exhilarating it felt to open your case and look down at your new instrument… I would open my case and feel complete awe and excitement from just looking at the trumpet waiting for me to pick it up.

Now think of the first time you started to get frustrated… when you realized that this journey wasn’t just down the street and around the corner, but rather a 10,000 mile excursion.  This can also be known as the “end of the honeymoon” with your trumpet.  And even more frustrating, is the term naturally gifted!  Because once a player feels like they don’t have that “natural ability,” it’s almost like a “get out of jail” card for the excuse wagon waiting outside to pick them up and carry them away from your vision.

Dr. David Krueger wrote an article (you can find it HERE) that explains the “honeymoon phase” and how once the fire starts to ease a bit, we fall back into a natural (learned) pattern – the habits.  He calls this honeymoon phase the “mindfulness.”  Basically, it’s the awareness of what’s happening while it’s happening.  But once we’ve settled in and convinced ourselves that we can’t, or that it’s going to be “too much work,” our habitual side kicks in and settles us back into a routine of avoidance, lack of focus, or a reasoning session with ourselves that “this just isn’t for us.”

Where does trumpet playing fit in to all of this?  Quite simply put – the practicing sessions.  I’ve been teaching private lessons for over a decade now, and have seen these patterns with students of all ages.  Kids from the age of 8 to adults at the age of 85… watching a young student open their case for the first time as an aspiring trumpet player with excitement and enthusiasm about their quest.  Then seeing the weeks go by with diminishing exhuberance and hearing that familiar reasoning to not practice – “I didn’t have time this week.”  If a student slows down (controls the impatient mind) and sets a habit of focussed practice, advancement is a certainty.  But THAT’S the hard part – slowing down and focussing!  Our minds take back control and habits kick back in…

As Dr. Krueger points out at the end of his article, “our brains and its unconscious programs are NOT fixed or unchangeable.  You can re-write mind software and re-wire brain hardware to create a new life and new practice habits.”

By remaining “mindful” each and every practice session and devoting even small amounts of time daily to your practice, you can systematically re-set your habits so that practicing and progress are one in the same.  Each of our courses talks about the importance of consistency rather than “cramming.”

Keith Fiala