Great players and bad habits

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by Towo, Jul 6, 2011.

  1. Towo

    Towo New Friend

    Jul 3, 2011
    After watching possibly hundreds of videos and clips of great trumpet players (and other musicians) I've noticed that many of them have small "bad habits" like putting their finger in the pinky ring, tilting their trumpet nearly 90 degrees, crossing their feet, bad posture, or using the flat part of their fingers instead of the tips, etc.

    Many teachers and band directors (including my own) often criticize these things saying that it will only hold a player back but after hearing all these fantastic musicians I was confused about how players with so many "bad habits" could play so well, but then I found what I believe to be the answer.

    Unlike many other trumpet players these musicians are focusing on making music, thing like dynamics, phrasing, articulations, breathing, tone, style, musicality rather focusing on nitpicky, rather insignificant little details like finger placement.

    Maybe we could all learn to focus less on silly little things but instead focus on the most important thing of all: making good music.
  2. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    This is another post that I would prefer to move to the lounge. Too much crap.

    The pinky ring is not bad. Immature players that use it to apply more force is bad. Many of us successfully use it.

    The tilt of the trumpet is based on many things that have to do with body and face geometry. There is no "best" angle. Miles and Nakariakov prove that there is quite a bit of room for leeway! The flat part of the fingers may not "appear" to be optimal - but why do you think that these players play like this? Because it works. There may be a theoretical advantage to playing on the tips in slightly increased speed or valves not sticking. Did you notice any sticky valves or slowness?

    How can someone who is not "accomplished" deem this stuff bad without ever having been there?

    The reasons band directors pick on this stuff is because the kiddies are just plain LAZY. When no real playing qualities have been developed, it is easier to get a higher level of paying attention by pointing this stuff out. It is not silly. It is not nitpicking. Go in and ACE every rehearsal - musically and technically. Your band director will leave you alone.

    For the accomplished player, it is not an either or. They did not attain higher musicality by "not" focussing on the pinky ring. They ran with what they had and developed the superior playing by hard work on all aspects of playing. When you work those hard things fall into place based on your body geometry. Body use is a issue faced by any brass player.

    Instead of looking for excuses, I would suggest that YOU start paying more attention to this stuff when you practice. It doesn't hurt and believe me, you do not have to worry about loss of musicality unless you simply are not practicing enough!

    So to sum up:
    you have no idea what you were seeing. You have no concept of body use and therefore cannot "judge" accomplished players. You try and apply things that your band teacher tries to instill on young immature players to accomplished professionals without realizing how we "perfect" these patterns of motion. You discount the human state that is almost infinitely flexible when properly trained.

    My suggestion - go back and listen if these players are lacking in technique, style, sound. If not, ask yourself how they could get there with all of those "flaws". The answer should be apparent: all the stuff that they have done that you don't see in YouTube - like practice, respect for the teachers that told them to do stuff and focussing on themselves rather than the supposed shortcomings of others.
  3. Towo

    Towo New Friend

    Jul 3, 2011

    I wasn't judging these players at all, if anything I was praising them and showing my admiration for these players, I think you completely misunderstood me, I was addressing that many players closemindedly spend so much time worrying about tiny little things like the finger placement I mentioned in my first post when they really should be focusing on their playing. Also, notice that I always used the term "bad habits" in quotation marks meaning that I don't think these things are even bad. In fact I actually agree with most if not all of what you said.

    I wasn't using these players "bad habits" (once again the quotation marks) as an excuse, as far as the "nitpicky details" I mentioned body use wise I play in a pretty average way and don't actually do any of the things I mentioned. Looking back at my post I can see why you may have been misled to think poorly of my practice habits but I take pride in what I do and practice very meticulously and consistently taking care of every fingering, articulation, phrasing, playing each note with the best tone I can, striving to make beautiful music to the best of my ability.
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2011
    turtlejimmy likes this.
  4. coolerdave

    coolerdave Utimate User

    Nov 7, 2009
    San Pedro
    I can actually say I have thought of those very same questions myself ... when I play legit mudic. .finger tips are almost always on the buttons ... playing Rock or Jazz my hand position changes ... not because I am lazy or careless .. it's just because it does .. it's weird
    watching some of these greats playing flat fingered has at least got to spark a mental
  5. Paul Du Bourg

    Paul Du Bourg Pianissimo User

    Oct 27, 2006
    Hey Towo,

    Lots of heavy stuff here!!

    As long as it sounds like C and not C +1% then life is good.

    As Charles Chaplin suggested......


  6. gbdeamer

    gbdeamer Forte User

    Oct 16, 2008
    The reason your director (and most others) focus on basics and fundamentals is so you learn how to play your instrument properly. Asking any school kid to "focus on making music" when they barely know how to make an instrument work isn't a sound strategy.

    Pay your dues. Play the instrument properly and avoid bad habits and percieved short cuts. Hold your horn properly, memorize your scales, and do all the boring stuff you're asked to.
  7. duanemassey

    duanemassey Piano User

    Jul 14, 2009
    Towo, feel fortunate that you have someone who is at least showing you the "correct" methods for the horn. My introduction to playing cornet was much less technical.

    The music teacher handed me a horn and said "Make your lips buzz like you're pretending you're an airplane". It wasn't until 2 years later that I actually got a trumpet lesson from a real trumpet player.

    The more correct habits you can develop now, the better position you can be in later to consciously or unconsciously make adjustments that suit your individual needs.
  8. Puckish

    Puckish Piano User

    Jan 10, 2011
    "After watching possibly hundreds of videos and clips of great trumpet players . . ."

    Great idea, TOWO. And it sounds like, in addition to noticing their individual playing idiosyncracies you managed to also make note of their "musicality" and recognized their mastery of their instrument. Couple that periodic analysis of the styles, techniques and performances of successful others with hours and hours of practice of the fundamentals (always with an ear to the musicality of what you're doing) and you're well on your way to being a successful musician and trumpet player.

    Regarding Rowuk's "tone": it might help you to put his observations in perspective if you recognized he's been on here a long while and has had to endure a great deal of rationalization, by novices, for their own laziness and disinclination to accept sound advice from their "betters". If it were anyone but Rowuk I might suggest you shrug off his seeming "affront" and move on as you have been . . . but that guy knows his "stuff" and ignoring any advice from him would be a serious mistake. Step back, read his post a second (and third) time and incorporate his suggestions into your daily routine and mindset.

    Now, get back to the "wood shed".
  9. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    Let me put it this way: The question is not what you see, it's what you don't see. When players have a very limited scope, it is tough to put this stuff into perspective. Playing in a band full of "weaker players", there are different requirements than for an accomplished soloist on stage.

    Let's take your 90° trumpet position. For a soloist, the reflection of sound off the floor could make hearing a bit easier in a noisy club, thus the bell is pointed down. In that comparatively "weak" band, pointing the bell down means that the sound is buried where the sun doesn't shine on the person in front of you. Getting that bell up means more of the sound gets to the audience instead of the netherlands of the row in front of you.

    The pinky argument is one of the biggest lies/myths out there. Pinky does not mean pressure. Pinky means an additional possibility to stabilize the horn - good for some, not necessary for others. Weak chops use every advantage to avoid practice - pressure helps for a while, and the pinky is the anchor point. So it isn't the pinky ring, it is the weak player that is the problem.

    Fingertips? I explained it once, but some additional stuff: weak players do not always maintain their instruments as they should be. Playing with your fingertips means that the valve is pushed relatively straight down, preventing it from sticking - even with too little oil. A pro has their horns worn in to the hand shape. The thousands of hours of practice means that the valves fit like an old shoe - no need to compensate for bad maintenance.

    There is a breathing technique called the wedge that is popular among lead players. It looks like bad posture, but is actually leveraging the abs when playing.

    Crossing the feet would be something that I would only expect in an informal playing setting from a pro. If the rest of the body is optimally relaxed, it probably makes little difference though. For a weak player, the rest of the body is far from optimum, crossed legs just makes things worse.

    For less mature players, you need technique before you have something that you can artistically shape. The closer you are to the "norm" (posture, body use, playing technique, equipment) the easier it is for a teacher to determine what should be next.

    A couple of years ago, a student came to a lesson and had a different mouthpiece. I didn't say anything and the lesson was CRAP. The mouthpiece was a Schilke 14A4A and the student had no tone, articulation or endurance. They never asked my opinion - just went out and bought it based on what they "learned" in a trumpet forum. At the end of the lesson, I explained that we all are responsible for everything that WE do. What we say, how we play, decisions that we make. I explained that there is always a consequence for every action that we take. I explained that we can be held accountable for what we do. Then I explained that that was our last lesson together.

    During our first lesson I told him and his parents that I was to be involved in EVERYTHING pertaining to the trumpet. If he was to get a new horn, mouthpiece, mutes, whatever, I expected to be asked first and be in the decision process. If gigs were offered, I needed to know so that we could build what is necessary into the lessons. Nothing worse than bad preparation. My consulting is free - just like here at TM.

    If this kid had come to me and asked, I would have given him a 14A4A out of my collection to try. We would have built some concepts into the lessons. The issue would have been over in 10 minutes as he had none of the prerequisites.

    He went home unhappy and his father called me that night. I explained that I do not provide baby sitting services and that I take the student/teacher relationship very seriously. We always talk about THINK, RESEARCH, MOVE. Think and research were left out and it is not my job to bail him out or tell him to get rid of the mouthpiece. The dad asked me what we could do. I said take the new mouthpiece, put it in a tupperware box full of water and freeze it. Send him with the old mouthpiece prepared(!) to the next lesson. I said that I would not mention the mouthpiece and if he decided that that was the direction he would rather go, then he had at least the thaw time to think about the consequences.

    By the way, for the record, I do not "endure" anything here. I either respond (generally a sign that I see hope) or I ignore (why waste time on things that A) don't interest me , B) things that I know nothing about or C) the in my opinion hopeless or ridiculous).
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2011
  10. jtpowell

    jtpowell Pianissimo User

    Mar 15, 2011
    I'm paraphrasing Claude Gordon I think here but he said something to this affect to one of his students when asked how come they couldn't play like person x was. "When you get as good as them then you can play however you like. Until that time...."

    Think about when you learned how to drive. Both hands on the wheel, 10 and 2. full 3 second stops, etc., etc. Now after you have been driving for 25 years you can lean back, have the radio on, and roll around with one hand on the wheel. You can even adjust your mirrors while driving! You don't do that while you're in drivers ed or probably not while newly licensed. You do those things after you've been on the road for a while. I wouldn't automatically assumed because someone drives that way that is the way they were taught.

    I'm a new horn player here and I appreciate being taught such fundamentals. For me that makes the path between operating the horn and making music a lot easier. There will be plenty of time for my own character, style, and personal habits. Notice I said personal not bad.

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