Welcome to Weekly Trumpet Tips:
(1) Surprisingly Tiring!
(2) Deep Listening Vs. Surface Listening
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Tip #1 – Surprisingly Tiring!
Think back in your playing history… ever walked away from a rehearsal or a performance far more tired than you could have imagined you ever would have been? Chops are sore, struggling to play longer lines and you just feel absolutely hammered…
This type of fatigue doesn’t always happen because of a need for (or a lack of) conditioning by you. It’s not a flaw in your chops or something you need to fret about. Rather – it very well could be that you were fighting 2 variables that unconscious players seem to be oblivious to – Intonation and over blowing / over playing!
When you’re constantly fighting to find pitch center, we have to do a lot of subconscious adjustments that make us play out of balance with the usual way we approach playing (if you’ve spent a lot of time with a tuner). This alone is very taxing… but when you couple that with a few (or a full section) of players that tend to blindly over play, now you’re being led down a path to early fatigue for sure! And it’s not always just your fellow trumpet players that can cause this… drummers, guitarists, vocalists who want their microphone excessively loud, etc. That can all wear on an acoustic instrumentalist.
I have walked away from numerous gigs frustrated and confused as to why I was so wiped out… especially when the music isn’t excessively demanding or hard. But when you step back and look at these 2 aspects, they can certainly cause you a lot of heart ache and grief!
Your best defense here is to try and kindly say something about intonation… with today’s smart phones and tuner apps, just offer up a tuner. With over playing… if saying something kindly doesn’t work, back off and stay in your center. “TRUST” that your sound is getting out and don’t sacrifice the chops because a few banana heads have no control.
Tip #2 – Deep Listening Vs. Surface Listening
This tip may seem like “common” knowledge, and just by reading my chosen title you could even be thinking “Ugh – what does that have to do with trumpet playing?” Believe me – it has EVERYTHING to do with trumpet playing, music, being a better musician, better student of the trumpet and even improve life in general.
I think we are all both “deep listeners” and “surface listeners” to some degree. If you are extremely interested in something, most of us do “deep” listening to some degree or another… if not… then the polite thing is to surface listen, at least until you can make your way away from the topic.
There are many forms of “listening” that we do as musicians… listening to the right sounds around you can clue you in on where the beat is, what chords are being played and what section is about to come up (should you stop counting rests). IT can also mislead you… try listening to the bass in a latin band – 1 is hardly ever being played, so finding the new measure for someone who’s never played this style of music or is new to it can be very tricky!
But we must also listen to instruction by our chosen teachers… I’ve owned a Clarke Technical Studies book since the mid 1980’s, and only in the last 8 to 10 years have I seen massive growth and improvement from using this book. That’s because when I first got it, I didn’t listen to my then instructor… so practicing it was a pain in the rear. But when I got to be an adult and started taking lessons with the likes of Arturo Sandoval, I had 2 choices… stay where I was by only passively listening or get serious, make improvements and do some DEEP listening to his instruction! That one book holds more keys to the kingdom than most of us realize! It’s not the end all / be all, but it is a lot! Arban’s and Schlossberg are 2 other golden nuggets that most of us own, but never really put the work into!
Trying to pass on the information that I’ve been given and finally put into play (no pun intended… well, okay – ya there was) but hearing a student say “I know” gives me the full understanding that they are only surface listening to instruction. And that becomes more and more apparent as the weeks and months go by with only minimal improvements to their playing the studies and beyond.
I think that as musicians, listening… truly DEEP listening becomes a vital part of our skill set that we MUST work on and develop – just like any other skill set – improvisation, multiple tonguing, etc. IF in lessons, your teacher is leaving holes – ask questions! Don’t assume anything… it’s your time, your money and your playing at stake. Listen carefully and always, constantly, consistently and without fail USE A METRONOME!
“The two most important days in your life are the day you
were born and the day you find out why.”
– Mark Twain
Have a GREAT week!