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Tip #1 – Let Your Horn Do Your Talking!
One of the things that my Uncle and my Grandpa instilled in me as a young kid, was that listening always yielded far greater results than running ones mouth. And while the “gift of gab” can be beneficial in business to a certain degree, there are vital skills involved in knowing when to be vocal, and when to just be instrumental (trumpet voice).
Trumpet players, guitar players, and vocalists always seem to be the ones competing the hardest with our own kind. Trumpet players always try to play higher, louder, faster, etc. than the next guy. It seems like that trait is handed down in week 2 of learning our instrument. Guitarists and vocalists, always looking crossways at their own kind – who plays faster, who sings more soulfully, etc.
But at the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter who’s “better” than the next guy. It comes down to what did your message through your horn convey to your audience? Who are you playing to? If you’re playing to your own ego, then you may want to re-evaluate things. But if you’re playing to your audience, trying to evoke emotion from them, and practicing at home to get that message across, then your journey is headed in the right direction. There is no need for words when your horn does that kind of talking!
So to the young students that may be reading this first tip, don’t fall prey to the hype that trumpet players tend to get sucked into. In the end, it can tarnish a reputation, cause strife among your peers, and ultimately mark you as “the guy not to call.” The music business is still “business.” And if people don’t enjoy playing with you, they certainly won’t enjoy working with you either!
Tip #2 – Much Needed Break!
Last week I took a road trip back to the Midwest to attend my wife’s nieces wedding, and perform for the ceremony in Chicago. Then drove on to Mason City, Iowa where I still have family to visit… I was unable to connect to the wireless internet, therefore tips failed to go out last week (just in case you were wondering).
At the point that I left for this trip, I was over practicing as usual, and had a string of gigs that were daily for nearly 5 days straight. And by the 3rd performance, my playing was tired and I was making silly mistakes improvising. Big ones!
So by the time I headed out on my journey, I was ready and willing to take a break. In fact, I was SO fatigued mentally that I couldn’t even listen to music for a large portion of my trip that first day.
Side Note: This tip may already be sounding like “common sense” to some, but when you’re knee deep in the trenches of practicing to improve and trying to gig as much as possible, stopping or taking a break for a few days is outside the realm of possibility. If you’ve ever been there, you’ll understand… if not – keep reading!
My second day out was the 4th of July, and I had arrived at my first destination. I decided that I should try to put in a little “shed” time, so I broke away from family, and headed out to the dreaded “Donna Lee shed of doom.” After a days break, I was still seeing the same issues. Sloppy fingers, missing changes, and making a big mess. So… after an hour or so I called it quits.
By the 5th (day of the wedding) my chops were feeling better, and I felt good about the service.
It wasn’t until Monday the 7th that I actually spent time shedding again… after all, I was visiting family I hadn’t seen in years and just wanted to do some maintenance. Not only were my chops much better, but my fingers and their speed had picked back up. So going through the rest of my trip (arriving home Wednesday the 9th) I just did maintenance stuff for the chops. I pretty much ignored the improv stuff – feeling good and guilty about it by now because I had spent SO many years running from it. But a funny thing happened… I decided to run a few tunes once I was unpacked, and noticed that I wasn’t struggling nearly as hard as I was the week prior. I was “hearing” the changes more clearly and my fingers felt more flexible… chops – feel like iron!
LONG story short… not practicing yields no results… over practicing yields frustration and confusion. Take a break from a topic for a few days… whether it be improvisation, double tonguing, sight reading, or what ever you’re working diligently on! You may find that you’ll gain on improvement just by letting things like your brain rest!
“Many of us are afraid to follow our passions, to pursue what we want most because it means taking risks and even facing failure. But to pursue your passion with all your heart and soul is success in itself. The greatest failure is to have never really tried.”
Have a GREAT week!