Can a Person Effectively Teach Themselves?

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by trickg, May 29, 2015.

  1. Franklin D

    Franklin D Forte User

    May 23, 2009
    The Netherlands
    It's a very interesting thread in a psychological way. I really can't find out what exactly trickg is trying to prove or at least what he is trying to get recognized. But it seems to be quite important for him.
  2. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

    Oct 26, 2003
    It's pretty a pretty basic concept - essentially challenging the old paradigm that teachers are absolutely necessary in order to achieve a functional, giggable level of proficiency. Many, many people think that getting a teacher is a must, and that failure is inevitable without one. My line of thought is that a motivated and self-disciplined person, utilizing tools available mostly for free online, along with some other tools that technology has afforded us, such as the ability to easily and effectively record ourselves, both with audio and video, can get to that giggable level without a private instructor.

    The discussion then surrounds various arguments for or against each idea.

    It's really not a difficult concept.

    This doesn't even take into account the idea that not all teachers are created equally, and I've heard some horror stories about people who had awful experiences with bad instructors, who then needed to find another instructor to undo the damage created by the first.
  3. trumpetsplus

    trumpetsplus Fortissimo User

    Jun 11, 2006
    South Salem, NY
    Can a person effectively teach themselves? Absolutely not. It is an oxymoron, not physically possible.

    Can a person effectively learn by themselves? Absolutely yes.

    To be able to teach, one must have more knowledge than the student. This is not currently possible within the same body and mind.

    Learning is always done by the student, it can never be achieved by a teacher.

    I regard the role of a teacher as inspirer, exemplar, and provider of information. This is all possible to be done by the student. There are countless stories of trumpet players who achieved greatness without the benefit of a teacher. Is this the most effective way to learn? In most cases probably not, because we do not necessarily notice the physical problems as they occur.

    I am not necessarily an advocate of weekly lessons. My students can tell you of the numerous times they got themselves in trouble with their playing and could not solve it. One minute into their next lesson I had diagnosed and showed them the solution. All trumpet playing can be broken down into three components - Breathe, Lips together, Blow. Whenever all these are addressed correctly, the problems disappear.
  4. tobylou8

    tobylou8 Utimate User

    Dec 22, 2008
    My teacher, who played professionally since 14, had no teacher except Maynard on vinyl disks. He did play in the band at school, but he had no private teacher. 60+ years later, he still gets paid to play. So in my mind, the short answer to the original question is simply, YES.
  5. gchun

    gchun Piano User

    Dec 10, 2003
    This could be renamed: "should I master (or produce) my own audio cd?"

    From a strictly technical standpoint, it is possible and many do it everyday. We have the hardware, software and we know what we want our final cd to sound like. While that may sound like a plus, it is often times a huge negative.

    The use of a highly skilled and experienced mastering engineer is highly recommended for

    -their skill
    -their years of experience
    -access to more high end equipment

    And probably one of the most important reasons: their objectivity and "fresh ears" when taking on a mastering project.

    Often times, the musician self-producing a project himself is "too close" or has spent so much time with a project, they can no longer view their project objectively. The mastering engineer hears the project and makes decisions strictly to create the best presentation of the music, be it compression, eq, track order, fadeouts, etc.

    How this applies to private instruction:

    A GOOD private instructor will try to be objective. The good instructor can catch issues well before they become ingrained bad habits, which can take much more time to correct. Often times, the student can be too emotionally attached and cannot be objective to the problems and flaws in their own playing.

    The good instructor will know what path to take to correct problem. From their years of experience, they know which methods will work and which won't, taking into account that each student may require different solutions.

    Without that experience, how would a self taught player know which method(s) would work for them? Just for example, on TM and TH, there are numerous discussions of pedal tones vs no pedal tones, mouthpiece buzzing vs leadpipe playing, etc. The good teacher will be able to decide which method would work best, and hopefully achieve the desired results without wasting time.

    That being said, there are many out there that shouldn't be teaching. It's worth the effort to carefully vet out your choice of instructors. Just as we learn so much playing music with good players, the same happens with good instructors. I don't think instruction should exist in a vacuum.

    This is the same reason that medical professionals shouldn't treat themselves.
  6. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

    Oct 26, 2003
    Just gotta love the guy who wants to go all nerdy and pick apart wording when the actual intent was already firmly established.


    So here's a question - if you don't have a teacher, but you learn anyway because you've made a point to gain additional knowledge you didn't have before, where did the lessons come from? Regarding the assertion that a teacher must have more knowledge than the student, a mentor of mine once remarked that in his observations of me and my approach toward phrasing and musicality, that he also benefited and learned from the interaction. This guy was certainly more knowledgeable in the sense that he had the college degrees, and degrees from the AGO, but that I intuitively did things in a manner that he hadn't considered or been taught.

    Something else to consider, sometimes the best lessons learned come not from succeeding, but from failing. A teacher might be able to save a person some time by keeping them from doing or trying things that aren't going to be effective, but for the player who learns everything by trial and error, they have a much better understanding about what does or does not work for them, which in turn helps to streamline their continued efforts, maybe even better than if they had never experimented around in the first place.

    Again, not everyone has the capability to learn by themselves unassisted. Some people are always going to need someone telling them what to do and how to do it.

    I once had the privilege of having a private conversation with the great Roy Burns - legendary drummer for Woody Herman and Benny Goodman. Part of that conversation came around to the fact that I've never taken many lessons as a drummer, but was considering getting some lessons. Roy said to me, "if you do decide to get lessons, don't find someone who's going to show you what to play. Find someone who is going to teach you how to practice." His contention was that once basic technique was down, then it was up to the player to know how to practice to work toward improvement.
  7. bumblebee

    bumblebee Fortissimo User

    Jan 21, 2010
    Great Southern Land
    Your question reminds me of something I read, maybe the title of a book? (Kopp?)

    Even a stone can be a teacher.

    If we experiment and improve, was that improvement taught and if so by whom? By ourselves, or by the experiment? Or was there actual teaching in this case? I may ponder this as I drive to the office.

  8. Sethoflagos

    Sethoflagos Utimate User

    Aug 7, 2013
    Lagos, Nigeria
    I take the view that a good teacher is one who opens your mind to new possibilities without prejudice; while a good learner is one who explores those possibilities without prejudice in order to discover what works best for themselves.

    Control freaks have me running a mile in the opposite direction. What works for them is no more than what works for them.

    And slavish copiers never match that which they try to copy. Square peg - round hole.
  9. bumblebee

    bumblebee Fortissimo User

    Jan 21, 2010
    Great Southern Land
  10. Franklin D

    Franklin D Forte User

    May 23, 2009
    The Netherlands
    trickg, you are a hopeless romantic, you still believe in the natural beauty and purity of the unpolished soul. something like the noble savage.
    Reality is quite different. Back to the trumpet, maybe it's possible that a few of us with extraordinarily genius are able to achieve something relevant on the trumpet without a teacher.
    Only a very few will succeed and even then... Bix was self taught and crashed into a wall when he tried more than the fundament of his playing allowed him.
    Bix took lessons from Joe Gustat, the outcome? Gustat said: "from a symphony man's viewpoint you play all wrong. Totally and completely". But he didn't want to change anything: "Trying to change someone like you would be putting a wild animal in a cage- and to what end?"
    But this was the one and only Bix and we will never know whether his feeling of inferiority about his trumpet playing has driven him to his very early death in alcohol and despair.
    Second, even if it's possible to learn proper trumpet playing without a teacher why should you do that when it's obvious that the possibility of going wrong somewhere is big and you will anyhow need much more time.
    Third, your question has a lot to do with level. I think I can learn almost every instrument to a level that I can play a commercial gig in a partyband ( in fact I did with slide trombone, piano, guitar, bass guitar) but after that comes the insight of real mastership of an instrument and for that it's better to be rational and very determined and give up romantic ideas of scoring by friends and family.
    In fact the trumpet is one of the most difficult instruments to master together with the oboe, the french horn and maybe the chromatic mouth harp.
    For proper blowing the trumpet you need a lot of skills, some of them you even don't know if you try to blow the first notes out of the wrapped brass tubes of an idiot constructed instrument with the most absurdly sequence of valve movements thinkable.
    Fourth, everybody who has not direct contact with some powers connected to heaven, like Mozart, or Louis, Bix and Miles, needs an experience like Eddie Condon had when hearing Bix for the first time (on piano!):
    For the first time I realized that music isn't all the same, that some people play so differently from others that it becomes an entitely new set of sounds
    Such an experience makes us, average human beings, more humble.

Share This Page