Welcome to Weekly Trumpet Tips:
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Tip #1 – Negative Situations “Can” Be Incentivizing!
I understand that most all of you have signed up for weekly tips for the “trumpet” advice column… which I try to include in every weeks writing. But for me, I’ve found that sometimes (in many cases most times) it’s not the physical act of playing that I need to work on, it’s my mental state of playing.
Trumpet players are some of the most self damning musicians out there… largely because we’ve picked one hell of a difficult instrument to learn! As I tell my students (and certainly not to impugn the challenge of learning the following), if you had chosen guitar, bass, piano, drums, etc. making “sound” is NOT an issue. It doesn’t mean it will be a “good” sound or musical, but you will certainly get something recognizable out long before a beginning trumpet student! Look at what we largely focus on… making sound! Range, endurance, tone quality, flexibility, etc. all deals with making sound! When’s the last time you heard a rhythm player sitting around with other players of like instruments saying, “Man, I just can’t hit that high G today!”?
So one “bad day” can lead us into a tail spin, causing more bad days to follow and a bad attitude being sported right along. This alone can shut down our practice motivation, and stunt our growth. Let’s face it – we play a physically demanding instrument and it needs to be approached as such (Tip #2 is your “trumpet” tip, so be sure to read it!). So when we have a day where things just aren’t working, we can tend to think, “That’s it, I’m washed up!” I’ve even gone so far as to listen to other players having a great day and curse myself for not being able to play like that.
So tip #1 this week follows suit with last week… practice, but look for ways to get out of the rut. Remember a tiny step forward is better than standing still. And if you find yourself in a negative situation, use it as ammunition to move past it! Whether it be playing with negative people who don’t like anything so they take it out on you, or it be a bad practice day all by yourself… keep focussing forward!
Here’s my example: If my chops are crappy, I’ll focus on new improvisational ideas, speed, cleanliness, or something other than range, etc. Maybe I’m not feeling the improv thing… so I’ll take an etude that I’m familiar with, but instead of playing it “as usual,” maybe I’ll up my tempo 5 or 10 clicks. We always have work to be done – there is no destination or finish line, just the journey!
Tip #2 – Working Your Way Out of Fatigue!
I’ve noticed something interesting in my practicing as of late. Maybe I’m just slow, but this really hit home for me in the last few months. When we over do it and wear down our chops, we tend to come back the next day and expect miracles to occur over night. Because we don’t feel tired where it really counts (in my humble opinion it’s in the aperture), we keep pushing. These are TINY little muscles that form that ever so delicate balance between the vibration surface and the air entering our horns and they can’t take a lot of abuse without some sort of catastrophic payback from beating them. But – like I said just a second ago, we can’t “feel” when that gets tired because those muscles don’t send the same indications to our brains as our corners, or any other muscle in your body. When you over work your arms, etc. in the gym, you KNOW it because they feel sore, rubbery, etc. But not the aperture area!
HERE’s where it starts to get interesting! For me, after beating myself senseless for weeks on end and finally allowing enough time to heal the muscles, I find that I have to essentially “rebuild” my range and endurance. Much like an athlete would have to rebuild after a sports injury. Let’s use a running back football player as a good example… now, during a game or a practice he gets hit HARD and pulls a muscle, sprains something, etc. Anything just short of a break. It will take time to heal the wounded parts, and that athlete will NOT be able to run at the same speed as he did just prior to the injury. He’ll have to rebuild. Right? Common sense… okay, so it stands to reason that if we push our aperture to the brink, those muscles will have to be rebuilt as well.
This is where I hit my head against the wall because I just “got a clue!” It’s VERY difficult to equate ourselves to someone who plays a sport, but we do very much the same thing musically because of how hard we have to work physically to play this instrument.
So – the next time you start getting tired – feeling it in the corners, keep in mind that the aperture muscles have been shot for a while, and other muscles have had to kick in to try and keep up with the demands. Allow yourself ample rest so that you don’t “injure” these small muscles and have to rebuild!
“Optimism is a happiness magnet. If you stay positive, good things and good people will be drawn to you.”
Mary Lou Retton
Gymnast and Olympic Gold Medalist
Have a GREAT week!