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Tip #1 – Setting Habits – Good, Bad, Ugly… Breaking Barriers!
“You only “HAVE TO” do something until you “WANT TO” do it… then you “HAVE TO” no longer.
I read this quote late last week and it really resonated with me, so I decided to turn it into my first weekly tip for you! Talking about the “what” to practice to build better range, endurance, better technique or learning a new skill set such as improvisation or jazz playing in general is a waste until you commit to making the time to put into practice that which you’ve discovered.
Here’s a personal example… I attempted to get off the ground with improvisation several times after learning what it was back in high school. Before then – I hadn’t a clue. My first attempt was horrid! And that made me believe what others were telling me – it’s hard, it’s only for those who are naturally gifted, etc. So I quit trying. Future attempts would last equally as long with failing results. But once I committed myself to finally learning this skill, I knew I would have to break through those old barriers of fear. They were the ones that were causing me to look at the “HAVE TO” and turn it into “HATE TO” which led me to quitting.
The first few lessons / months were painful… I forced myself to work on the stuff I was being given and it was starting to capitalize on my practice time… but I kept after it each day anyway. Then one day I realized something… I didn’t “HAVE TO” anymore… I actually WANTED TO work on this material because even though my progress was painfully slow and I had suffered some massive blows to the ego, I was seeing small steps of improvement. Looking back now, I question why I waited so long to start, maintain, and grow this process. Range and endurance improved because I was focussed on a different skill set that required me to play more in one sitting and it taught me more about how my muscles respond, grow, etc.
So if you’re in the place of struggling with a skill and are looking for a short cut to rapid improvement, this is my best advice to you! Turn HAVE TO into WANT TO and you’ll rapidly improve by DOING rather than avoiding and searching.
Tip #2 – Warm Up Sessions –
I wanted to address warming up today as I see this same mistake that I used to make a lot. Years ago, I would do a couple scales, maybe some feeble attempt at flexibilities, and then would think that I’m off to the races and ready to go. I was plagued with a string of bad days and an occasional good day that kept me reaching, hoping and praying for another one soon from the trumpet Gods!
When I hit the road with MF, I was still in that cycle but noticed that MF would do little bits of playing throughout the day. Most of it was nothing too noticeable at all. A simple melody (maybe an improvisational run?), a few scales and some flexibility stuff. But certainly nothing high, loud, etc. Often it would be 2 minutes of playing and what seemed like hours of silence.
Now at this phase of my life, I was still pretty unaware and wasn’t really seeing the big picture. But one gig day, I (quite by accident) played just a little bit on and off with lots of rest thrown in before the gig. No intention was behind this at all… and by the time I started playing, my chops felt AMAZING! Not really realizing what I was doing, I didn’t see the warm up connection to a strong performance. Therefore, it was months before this cycle happened again, which caused me to fall back into the good day / bad day syndrome.
When I finally realized what was the catalyst to pretty steady chops, I started employing this warm up into my daily routine. And unless I’m really fatigued, I usually have a pretty good idea of how things will go by the time I hit the stage.
Here’s what my warm up looks like:
1st Session = Initial “interface” (pun intended): Clarke 1… EXTREMELY soft for 3 to 4 minutes.
REST – 20 minutes or so
2nd Session: Run all scales / arpeggios
REST 20 – 30 minutes
3rd Session: Run licks in all 12 keys – change articulation run slow to fast
REST an hour or so
4th Session: Schlossberg Flexibilities – adding tongue shakes at the end of each phrase
REST an hour or 2
5th Session: This is where I’m getting ready for the gig… I’ll start going up into the upper register. Double C is my test area… usually takes 2 to 3 attempts before things start locking in.
Travel to the gig
Here’s an example…
All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to
– Johnny Carson 1925-2005 Television Host, Comedian, Writer, Actor
Have a GREAT week!