How not to succeed

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by John Mohan, Jul 21, 2005.

  1. John Mohan

    John Mohan Pianissimo User

    Aug 11, 2004
    So much has been written about the common sense methods that actually work in regard to brass playing development, yet I see so many doing the opposite. So, in light of the fact that as it looks to me, many don't want to succeed, I thought I would help them a bit. This is going to be fun!

    Here's what is sure to mess up your playing and your chances of making it as a professional trumpet player:

    1) Never stick with any given method for more than a month or two. The less time, the better! There are very few methods that actually work, and since every one of the potentially successful methods require years and years of dedicated practice, by never trying one method for more than a month or two, you're sure to guarantee your ultimate failure (even if you happen upon a method that could help you succeed).

    2) When choosing a method, stay away from methods that are endorsed by actual professional players that play for a living. The best methods are the ones promoted by "Internet Gurus" (assuming failure is your ultimate goal). If players ranging from Frank Kaderabek to Maynard Ferguson endorse a given method (such as the case with the Claude Gordon method), STAY AWAY FROM IT! Look for methods endorsed by people you have never heard of outside of an internet forum.

    3) Stay away from methods that have been around for years. Always try (but only for a few weeks) the latest, most radical methods. Look for ones that involve doing strange things like sticking your tongue between your teeth when you play, sticking out your belly when you play, and practicing on objects such as pencils instead of your actual trumpet (after all, the less time you spend on the trumpet, the less chance you’ll have of accidently improving your ability on the trumpet).

    4) Stay away from normal size mouthpieces. Go for radically small ones (or radically big ones). But what ever you do, NEVER stay on any given size mouthpiece for more than a month or two. In fact, it’s best to constantly try different mouthpieces – the more, the better. After all, even when playing one of the worst mouthpieces on the market, if you stay on it long enough, your body might find a way anyway – can’t take a chance of that happening!

    5) Spend lots of time analysing your embouchure. Use a mirror if possible. After all, the more time you spend looking at your embouchure and worrying if it's "right", the less time you'll accidently spend doing anything that might develop it. In other words, since embouchures are developed, not discovered, we want to spent as much time discovering (nothing) and as little time developing as possible.

    6) Lastly, constantly try to hit high notes over and over again that are beyond your playing range. This does all kinds of things: Not only will you hurt yourself and create painful, swollen lips, but by constantly missing those high notes you can't play yet, you'll perfect the habit, knack, and art of missing those notes.

    Well, I hope this has been helpful to the failure-oriented players out there. I can tell you that I found that each and every one of the above ideas worked GREAT and prevented me from developing any reasonable level of ability on the trumpet. It wasn’t until I strayed from the above ideas that I ended up developing the ability to play trumpet well enough to make a very nice living at it for the past 25 years. Opps!


    John Mohan

    P.S. I'm back with an edit (I just thought of and added "5" and "6").
  2. trumpet blower88

    trumpet blower88 Mezzo Piano User

    Jun 15, 2005
    Flagstaff, AZ
    Wow... Thank you...

    I know this thread is ment as a joke, but I've suddenly realized that I've been doing 3 out of 4 of these things, I never realized it till just now...

    1) I never stick to a method... For example, I jump all around the Arbans book, but never really "master" anything.

    2) Haha, I do that one! I just don't follow though with number 1...

    3) I was always taught to breath with "the bottem of my lungs" and that "sticking your belly out" was actualy a good thing to do, that it builds up pressure to keep a stedy airflow... is this wrong? should I not do this? And I find myself practicing on my pencil all the time... kind of sad actualy.

    4) This is my biggest issue. I use differant mouthpieces for differant playing. For example Concert Band = 1C, Marching Band = 3B, Symphony Orchrestra = 7C... Should I just stick to the 1C all the time?

    But seriously, thank you for that post... it really put it all in perspective for me. I need to work on that...
  3. John Mohan

    John Mohan Pianissimo User

    Aug 11, 2004
    Oh great. Now I have to be serious for a moment.

    Regarding breathing, air can only go to one place - your lungs. Just take a full comfortable breath. Don't raise your shoulders (you can't get any air in them). Your stomach will naturally go out a bit, but don't try to make this happen. Just let it happen. Be sure to keep your chest up in a position of good posture (but relaxed - don't tense up your shoulder muscles). As you blow the air out, don't let your chest collapse downward. As you run out of air, your stomach will go in a bit. If you keep your chest (properly) up, as you run out of air, you'll notice all the blowing muscles working to squeeze the air out of your lungs. By this I mean the muscles of the chest (rib cage), back and abdomen. Breathing is natural, so don't make a big deal of it.

    Regarding using different mouthpieces, players that have to play a variety of styles do sometimes choose to use different size cups. But usually, they stick with one rim size and only vary the depth or shape of the cup and perhaps the backbore. I really don't think this is necessary for most High School or College players, but if you feel you must, then it would be best to choose perhaps two mouthpieces that have identical or nearly identical rims. For you, given that you already have familiarity with the Bach 3B, I'd recommend using it for Concert Band and Orchestra, and getting a 3C for Marching (if playing 1st parts) and Jazz Band. The 3C is the shallowest of the Bach C Cup mouthpieces relative to its cup diameter and it gives a bright tone and a relatively easy upper register. The rims of the 3C and the 3B are just about as or more identical to each other than with any other Bach mouthpiece rim size (in other cases, such as when comparing a 7C to a 7D, the rims are completely different).

    This is the setup used by Charlie Davis in Los Angeles, and it sure works for him! Many other players including Arturo Sandoval play great on a Bach 3C size mouthpiece.

    But whatever you do, please, please, please heed my advice in my original post in this topic. There's already too much competition for work out there!

    Cheers and good night,


    P.S. And you're welcome for the post.
  4. Derek Reaban

    Derek Reaban Mezzo Piano User

    Jun 16, 2005
    Tempe, Arizona
    trumpet blower88,

    You Wrote:

    This is something from Kenny Werner’s Book "Effortless Mastery - Liberating the Master Musician Within" (Paraphrased):
    That’s a very important concept! Keep it in mind the next time to find yourself wanting to stray from something that finally starting to penetrate and become more familiar to you. That familiarization is what you are looking for.

    Consider this (also from the Werner book)...There is a huge difference between something being "difficult" versus something being "unfamiliar". If you consider a certain phrase to be difficult, it will always be difficult (even if you can eventually play it well). If you consider all music to be easy, then a particularly challenging phrase is simply unfamiliar. That powerful idea is very freeing!

    He mentions an example that sums up this idea: There is a jazz standard with a difficult bridge that is in E Major. "Why should [it be difficult]? Is one less talented in E Major? Less creative? Is E major a harder key? Or is it just less familiar?"

    I love this quote from Don Jacoby, "if you practice something 100 times you kinda get the sound in your ear --- if you practice it 200 times, you get a little familiar with it --- and, if you do it 300 times, you get kinda friendly with it. If you were my student, I wouldn’t settle for anything less than being married to it!!!"

    The masters are simply extremely familiar with what they play!
  5. camelbrass

    camelbrass Mezzo Forte User

    Nov 5, 2003
    Dubai, UAE
    Very good points John and Derek,

    I've actually printed them out.

    John you're right on the mark. I wish there could be a law in trumpet playing that says 'find it and stick to it' method, horn and mouthpiece. Sure we change as we evolve as players but not drastically and after a certain point, I suspect, hardly at you said how many great players play a 3C or something like it. There is always exceptions..but generally those players are either specialists or 'exceptional' and don't get their advice off the internet.

    John, the one you left out was if you can't play Double C by the time you leave high school take up knitting (coz you're a girl).

    Derek, absolutely correct unfamiliarity is not the same as difficult. I'm always amazed at getting a new piece of music which looks very all over the page...more often than not when you start to break it down it's stuff you've encountered before, 'that's just an ascending whole tone scale' or a dominant arppegio. Key signatures similarly...I was given a piece to sight read recently in B major behind a singer and had a young trumpeter next to me lean over and say it was a bitch of a key..'not really you only have to watch for the B and E' and he'd never thought of it that way. By the way it would take a lifetime just to master Arbans and wasn't it Doc that said that you don't practice things till you get them right you practice them until you can't get them wrong?


  6. butxifxnot

    butxifxnot Pianissimo User

    Jul 10, 2004
    :D This is too good for me to pass up without responding to it.
    But I have to be serious for a moment, here. How do you know if a method is right for you or not? Some methods don't work for everybody, so do you stick with one for years until you see whether or not it's good for you?
    Gotcha. :cool:
    :D I actually heard a guy talking about using a pencil to increase embouchure strength. I think it's a better idea to crack a walnut with your lips, don't you think?? ( ;-) :roll: )
    can you say 14C?
    or the ridiculous-looking ones that make you think a mouthpiece will revolutionize high notes or your all-too horrible sound.
    Oo! Change every day? Warm up on one size and play on another! It really helps!
    :D Not only that, the audience will appreciate it as well.
    :-) Worthwhile listening to a quarter century's experience, IMHO.

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