Weekly Trumpet Tips 1/7/13

The Shadow

The Shadow

Welcome to Weekly Trumpet Tips:

Please always feel free to respond / comment on any of the tips listed in these weekly posts. Your input may help clarify details for someone else!

Check out About Face HERE!!! Check out Secrets to Efficient Brass Playing HERE!!!

ReCheck out the Chops Rehab and Jazz Improv courses. These are designed to be 4 weeks worth of lessons to help the student gain insights and skills in each specific area.

Keith is available for clinics and as a guest artist!! Please go to our “Clinics” page for details!

Keith’s new CD is available on iTunes! Click on the photo below!


(Physical CD’s Available HERE)

Tip #1 – Happy New Year / Happier Playing!

Happy New Year All!  I wanted to start this tip out with this, because for most of us it’s the end of a full calendar year, and a brand new beginning to another.  It gives us a chance to reflect on the last 12 months and set goals (or new years resolutions) for the upcoming year ahead.

The problem we all have with setting new years resolutions is that we typically don’t “stick” to what we initially said we’d do.  Either the desire fades, or we don’t see immediate improvement and over time our fervor for what we initially had a fire in our gut for fades into a smoldering fantasy.  Weight loss is a biggie here!  But I see it a lot with playing as well… just like weight loss, it takes consistent conscious effort.  Joining and gym and actually GOING more than once a month, eating healthier and smaller portions, etc.  That’s all part of it.  And, over time, you start to see the results slowly come into focus.

So your first tip is simple… set some practice goals but split them into 2 categories, long term and short term.  For instance – a long term goal could be to sight read better and faster… it takes time and patience to develop that skill.  But a short term goal could be that you’re going to memorize 2 or 3 major scales every 2 weeks.  That doesn’t require anything beyond repetition and committing them to first mental memory, and second muscle memory.  By setting 2 types of goals, you’ll have a more measurable gauge with your practicing… both examples, by the way, go hand in hand.  The more major scales you have committed to muscle memory and internalized, the faster and easier it is to read harder key signatures.  It all comes full circle!

Tip #2 – Tangible Improvement Evidence 

I had an interesting conversation with my buddy who plays trombone for Kelly Clarkson (and who played on my latest CD).  He also plays guitar, and over the last few months has been practicing more on guitar than trombone.  Not having too much experience with other instruments outside the trumpet world, I was asking him if he feels like he has the same issues with seeing marked improvement when it comes to practicing guitar.  Interestingly enough, he said “NO!”  He actually feels that he sees faster progress on guitar than he does on his brass playing.  And of course, as the conversation continued we both came up with some tangible theories on why the vast difference between the two.  He feels that because guitar doesn’t require lips, air, hand and tongue coordination – that it is actually easier to gain ground… requiring just hands / fingers.  Of course – that’s just our long drive discussion… but I found it interesting enough to share this with you.

With this fresh in my mind, I had busy work to complete with my wife’s car.  The 6 month wax job was due, and I’ve always kind of enjoyed that.  About mid way through my 7 hours of work detailing away, I realized that I enjoy it because my reward was pretty instantaneous.  Labor intensive, but nonetheless tangible.  It went from dingy and dirty to shining like a new penny and smoother than silk… again, relating it to the guitar conversation this whole long term commitment and quest for improvement can become wearing when it comes to what we deal with as brass players.

So your second tip (relating directly to tip #1) is this.  Record yourself playing something that you’re working on… an etude, scales, a jazz improvisational piece, etc.  Save the recording and be sure to mark down the date.  Now give yourself a predetermined amount of time and practice this piece.  Could be a couple of weeks to a couple of months – you determine.  Then re-record yourself playing the same piece… now compare the 2 recordings.  Much like seeing the car shine up, you should see tangible improvement.  If not, then you will at least know what holes you have in your practicing – giving you a chance to fine tune your practice skills.  I think we all have to “learn” how to practice so that it becomes efficient and useful.

“Always dream and shoot higher than you know you can do. Don’t bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself.”

William Faulkner
1897-1962, Writer

Have a GREAT week!