Dealing with Tension

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by Sethoflagos, Oct 6, 2014.

  1. Solar Bell

    Solar Bell Moderator Staff Member

    May 11, 2005
    Metro Detroit
  2. Cornyandy

    Cornyandy Fortissimo User

    Jan 9, 2010
    East Yorkshire
  3. Sethoflagos

    Sethoflagos Utimate User

    Aug 7, 2013
    Lagos, Nigeria
    I'm surprised that we can fill 20 odd pages in next to no time on bright vs dark nonsense, and yet have no sensible advice to offer on dealing short-term with pre-performance jitters. As Rowuk says, there are far deeper issues involved, but it would be a start that would be useful to some of our younger members at least.

    Based on what I remember from my school days, I'm tempted to think that tense, nervy types just don't make good trumpeters.

    Am I wrong?
  4. Cornyandy

    Cornyandy Fortissimo User

    Jan 9, 2010
    East Yorkshire
    I don't necessarily think you are wrong but I do think Rowuk called it and there is little else to add. Once we go beyond what he is saying we are into the realms of this works for me and what works for me is really really good preparation. Pre-performance jitters are part of any performance and are not always a bad thing. During performance tightening is a different matter.

    As a side note there have been discussions on "The Mouthpiece" (a sort of UK brass band TM) about pre contest nerves and some of the things that are going on in that world worry me from people being sick before the test piece to the more worrying I've got some Beta Blockers left I'll let you have some before the areas. Self medicating with beta blockers just to play in a contest erm no thanks

    For me as long as I am well prepared and feeling well I have few problems. The key has to be to expect to play it well so that fear of what if I go wrong is eliminated
  5. Sethoflagos

    Sethoflagos Utimate User

    Aug 7, 2013
    Lagos, Nigeria
    Well he took it so far with two really good posts that seemed to advise us moreorless to regress back to early childhood. Having just spent the last year pretty well relearning from scratch, I can relate to this. The learning isn't the hardest part - it's the unlearning that's difficult.

    But then what?

    If we're on our couple of minutes rest during practice routine, how are we breathing? Do we breathe the same way between numbers during a concert? Or do we stare at the ceiling and count how many bulbs have blown in the stage lighting?

    Second to last note of RAF March Past (as I'm sure you know) is a big high C. My 'preparation' for the piece was simply to think to myself how good I was going to feel when I that note soared out over the auditorium, and let that feeling seep down my spine and out to my fingers and toes. Every note then became simply a step in building toward the big finish and (hopefully) was lifted by the excitement and anticipation of what was to come. Now, this wasn't some intellectual strategy or ploy to overcome nerves - it was simply a reflection of how absorbed I was in the positive experience of performance. The endorphine hit I would get from that C was my drug fix for the piece, and being totally incapable of concentrating on more than one thing at a time anxiety never entered the equation.

    And this is why I have no answer to how to cope with performance anxiety. I never had to deal with it.

    Other aspects of tension, yes I get some of those. An odd little twitch below my left eye when I go above the stave. Maybe if I just ignore it, it'll go away.
  6. Comeback

    Comeback Forte User

    Jun 22, 2011
    Fort Wayne, IN
    I wonder if over-analysis can end up contributing to performance anxiety. What follows may merely be a restatement of what rowuk wrote. I will use sports analogies, since I spent a good bit of my life coaching my sons and their friends in football and baseball, and then invested myself for a period of years in traditional (bare-bow) archery.

    It seems to me that once we are prepared, that is simply it. We should perform instinctively, and relax, focus, and play. I liken it to throwing a baseball, passing a football, or shooting an arrow by the instinctive method. In our performance mode, the more we self-analyze the more likely we are to miss our mark, which in the trumpet playing context is a satisfying performance.

    Of course, what I have written above could all be hokum, too!

  7. Sethoflagos

    Sethoflagos Utimate User

    Aug 7, 2013
    Lagos, Nigeria
    I think, you're absolutely right in this from the standpoint of technical execution, Jim. What I would add is that there has to be some nervous tension in there too, to lift the music from a sort of production line operation to a real, living performance. For me that came from channeling some of my emotional response to the music into the execution. Maybe it's a bit like the open/stuffy issue:- that there is good and bad tension just as there is good and bad resistance.
  8. Honkie

    Honkie Pianissimo User

    Feb 22, 2013
    I keep a picture in my mind of what it feels like to play really tense -- sort of a caricature of my worst tendencies. Then when I play, I constantly monitor and compare what I'm doing with the caricature. Not in a harsh-taskmaster kind of way, more in a playful making-fun-of-myself kind of way. Worrying too much about tension causes tension.
  9. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    Search and destroy. If we learn that a bag of potatochips gives us hydration issues, then we don't do that the night before a lesson or performance. If the tannic acid in tea makes our lips tough, we don't do that on concert day. If we warm up too long, we are loose but perhaps have not enough endurance. Tightness comes from somewhere. Making the right decisions is often based on too little info. I hope this thread helps get behind more.
  10. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

    Oct 26, 2003
    I had an interesting situation at a gig this weekend that I came out of with a lot of stuff going on with my playing, and I am now in the process of fixing some things in the practice room. I figured I'd post because it's not just younger, less experienced players who deal with this stuff - it can hit almost anyone if the conditions aren't the best.

    The gig we did on Saturday evening was quasi-outdoor. It was at a yacht club's back deck by the water - it was covered, (with heat lamps in the ceiling) but open to the outside, so when the temperature started to drop, it got pretty chilly where we were. As the night went on, I just couldn't seem to get a handle on my intonation. No matter what direction I moved my tuning slide, I felt like I was off.

    We finally got a break and I mentioned to the sax player, who happens to play in a premier DC military big band, that I'm having a real issue with my intonation. He says to me that with as cold as it is, he's got his mouthpiece pushed all the way in as far as it will go, but he can't get up to the pitch of the backing tracks. :-? :shock:

    That would have been handy information to have had earlier dontcha think? The net result is that no matter what I did, I was fighting intonation with someone. If I was blending and in tune with him, which is important, then I'm out of tune with the backing tracks. If I'm in tune with the backing tracks, then I'm out of tune with him. The effect this had on my chops and playing was a few things:

    1. I was constantly lipping the pitch somewhere trying match an elusive, moving target
    2. My chops fatigued quickly as a result of the lipping
    3. As my chops fatigued, I started to use more pressure - not good, but I needed to get through the gig and at that point, it was about the only thing that seemed to be working
    4. LOTS of tension in my playing

    The kicker to this is that just 2 weeks ago, I was knocking the walls down with one of my best gigs in recent memory. Last Saturday wasn't awful, but it certainly wasn't my best.

    I gave myself Sunday to recover from what ended up being a real pound-face night on Saturday, and I spent a good amount of time in the practice room last night just getting my chops to buzz right again, which went back to the breathing Rowuk was talking about earlier. When I started off, I was working on playing a low C and couldn't get it to sound at all without using an excessive amount of pressure for a low C. If I pulled the pressure off, it broke down into a horrific double-buzz, but I just kept after it, making sure to keep my basics and fundamentals with breathing and posture right until the double-buzz focused and produced a single, clear tone again. The good news is that by the end of the session my chops were pretty focused, and I'd gotten rid of the pressure. I'll pick back up on that tonight and see if I can build upon it.

    Hopefully I'll have "chop doc'ed" myself back to a better place and I'll have a better experience this coming Saturday.

Share This Page