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!
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.
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(Physical CD’s NOW Available! HERE)
Tip #1 – Tough Lessons = Big Learning!
Fear of falling flat on our faces, making mistakes, being made fun of, looked down upon, or being chewed out usually keeps us locked up in our safe little spaces called our “comfort zone!”
Since starting weekly tips in 2009, I’ve made it my policy to share my triumphs, defeats, fears, and weaknesses openly so that tips would have the meat and potatoes to help readers grow in their own journey! This past Wednesday night was no exception! I’ve been focussed on working on and improving my improvisation… something I’ve avoided since I knew what the word meant!
There’s a new jam session in Austin – every Wednesday night. I got called up and was asked to play “Straight No Chaser” and “Solar.” Now these are two standards I’ve been working on… just not at the tempo they got kicked off at! Sparing you (and my pride) the gory details, I walked out of the jam afterwards really feeling blue… and not in a good way!
I had a hell of a time trying to sleep Wednesday night, and was really mad at myself. I was also ready to NEVER go back… because fear of being persecuted or made fun of was keeping me feeling sorry for myself. After talking with several of my friends that I consider great improvisationalists, I learned that this happens to EVERYONE at one point or another. It’s also the BEST way to learn what needs to be worked on! What it showed me was that I had to work tempos over 220 beats per minute.
So for this week – your first tip is to not let the fear of “failure” stop you from growing! Whether that means finally attending a jam session, joining a community group, or just practicing your weakest skills, take that plunge!
Tip #2 – Mind Chatter Stops / Stifles Creativity!
By now you’ve probably heard the saying “Don’t practice to get something right, practice to never get it wrong!” Well, that’s exactly what we all need to be doing. But it does more than just ensure that you’ll never get it wrong… it also means that while you’re playing, you will be relaxed enough mentally to allow yourself to switch to “right brain” function – the creative side vs. the chatter side – left brain that will be more focussed on the logical stuff.
That doesn’t have to mean improvisation! It also refers to reading as well. When we’re not comfortable with a piece of music, we will focus largely on 2 things – right notes, right rhythms. Typically leaving dynamics, articulations, and style lagging behind. Sadly, it’s the latter mentioned that makes music move with emotion! I tell my young kids, it’s like baking cookies with no sugar or flavoring.
So when you practice music that will be performed, record yourself… then listen back several times to see if you actually “feel” what is being played. When I was working on the CD, after each day of recording, I would ask for a copy of the songs that we had worked on. After I got through the ego phase of listening to myself, I would shift into a critical listening phase. Sometimes listening to things for several days in a row just to see if I could “live” with the performance. If after several listening sessions, I still felt good about what I had done, then I considered it a keeper. If I started picking it apart, or not liking something, we’d go back and take another swing at it.
So practice, practice, practice… but don’t forget the sugar!
“Turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream.”
Have a GREAT week!