Mark B's Comeback Thread

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by Mark B, Sep 23, 2010.

  1. Mark B

    Mark B Pianissimo User

    Aug 20, 2010
    Redlands, CA
    I wanted to post another update because last night I had one of those practice sessions you live for. I believe it comes down to the fact I practiced what I preach, so to speak.

    I've been focused more on picking up speed on my fingering and articulation. That's all well and good, but it's also been at the cost of the sound. My practice routines have become dry and sterile. I fear I've been just going through the motions with the drills and exercises; just getting through them so I can get to the fun stuff.

    What I did last night was to slow myself down a notch or two and focus more on making the drills and exercises musical, with feeling and purpose. It was FUN! Just changing my thinking and my purpose brought new life into the drills. I even added tonguing/slurring combos to some runs that were not prescribed by my teacher because I was having such a gas making music from these mundane drills I've been doing for three months. I was feeling so good and having so much fun, I decided to do something I've never concerned myself with and that's to see what I could really do on the upper end of my range. Lets just say I surprised myself!:thumbsup:

    The good vibes carried forward into the musical portion of my practice. The tunes I worked on sounded pretty darned good, IMHO. I closed out my practice feeling on top of the world! The whole experience was kind of an "AHA!" moment for me and the inspiration was the Wynton Marsalis video posted recently where he's just sitting around warming up.... Beautiful and I forget that even when doing mundane drills, they should be musical, not sterile and dry. No reason to not have fun and put feeling into the work. It's so simple and yet.... It's so easy to lose focus on what we're really doing in the practice room.

    I think I just turned a huge corner.

  2. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

    Oct 26, 2003
    Mark, I think you've had an important epiphany with this. I go through some of the same things you do when it comes to practicing when I'm hitting the drills because I know I have to for chops maintenance, and things do get a bit dry and sterile sometimes doing it that way. On the other hand, I get to "get mine" when I gig on trumpet with the party band on the weekends, and when I'm playing drums with the worship band, so it's not just drills in the practice room all of the time.

    I think that you could take the approach of doing it both ways though - most instructors stress the importance of making music, and playing all things musically, but at the same time, sometimes you need the other to build chops. Ideally, you could make real music 100% of the time, but sometimes cranking through drills, getting a little raggedy and rough around the edges because you are pushing your limits technically is the only way to really push past that point to build chops and technique. It's kind of funny how the goal is to play musically with control and finesse, but in order to get to a point where you can play technically challenging material with control and finesse, you have to push beyond that with drills by relinqueshing a bit of control in the effort to attain the next little bit of technique.

    I've never been a player with tons of chops or technique - I've mostly been that guy who has enough chops and technique to get by, but that I put my heart into the musical aspect of playing, or at least that's what I'd like to tell myself.

    Good post Mark! I'm happy that you turned over the next page in your development as a player on the comeback trail. Mark my words, there will come a time in the not so distant future when you will far surpass anything you did back before you put the horn down.
  3. Mark B

    Mark B Pianissimo User

    Aug 20, 2010
    Redlands, CA
    That makes sense. I remember having fun with it when I first started focusing on picking up speed, now that you mention it. So the lesson here is to mix it up to keep it fresh!

    Thanks again, Patrick, for your encouragement. I think the next logical step is some type of small group involvement. I'm going to get real serious about that once we get through the holidays.

  4. Heuy

    Heuy New Friend

    Jun 11, 2010
    Darwin, Australia
    Great News Mark,

    You are writing some interesting blogs and I am following with interest due to returning to playing after a 30 year break.

    After a period of just concentrating on getting my lip range back and trying to play stuff that I use to play wasn't really getting there. I found a teacher and have a lesson at least once a month if not fortnightly.

    I am now revisting Arbans excercises from Basic (bit of an oxymoron that is there is not really a basic in Arbans because each standard played could be better, thus Arbans is as basic or advanced as what you want to make it..! So may be should say revisting from page 1)

    Still finding the same trials and tribulations as you, find I am up one session can't put the trumpet down and the next nearly throwing it out the window. I am also doing a lot more ear work now then I did in the past, thus really happy with being able to respond to hearing something with playing a tune. albeit no Alderman yet! Certainly not a Louise yet. lol

    keep up the blogs good reads
  5. The Kraken

    The Kraken Piano User

    Mar 28, 2007
    Gold Coast - 805
    Hello Mark

    Nice to see your making progress, I also understand that some exercises can get mundane, I started using Donald S. Reinhardt's 12 articulations for the same boring exercises awhile back and now every exercise is musical. Amazing how some boring line of notes can be transformed into music.

    Wish you the best in your comeback!!:play::play:
  6. Mark B

    Mark B Pianissimo User

    Aug 20, 2010
    Redlands, CA
    I continue to marvel at the vast amount of information there is on trumpets and trumpet playing on the Internet. Really, on any subject, for that matter. It makes me wonder how we ever survived before!

    Progress continues to come and somewhat in waves. Sometimes, I think I sound great and I've finally got it, then, I have a rough night. I guess as long as the practices where I think I sound great continue to outnumber the off nights, we can measure that as progress, eh? The last few nights, I really felt like I was singing through the horn and to my ears, it was magic! That's more or less what I've been looking (listening) for and I think I finally hit on it. Now to do it like that consistently and we'll be on the way!

    I've been learning K-tonguing and that's taken some time. I've been spending a lot of "messing around" time after practice, while just watching TV, or something, practicing the k-tongue technique. It's been slow, but I have made progress and now, I have it to where I can make it sound really good for awhile, but I tire quickly. Again, I just need to continue to work and make it consistent. My teacher has me working an exercise out of Arban's with various tonguing and slurring combinations. He has me k tonguing it, then double tonguing. I wasn't sure if he wanted me double tonguing each note, or alternating from note to note, so I've been practicing it both ways. I actually did it so well last night that I scared myself. A couple measures later, I was right back to stumbling, but MAN! Those moments when you have it going on really make it worth the work.

    Of recent news, I finally have a semi-permanent practice place I can call my own. I had been practicing in the master bedroom, but that wasn't all that comfortable, to me and I couldn't leave my stuff set up. I migrated mostly to the garage where I have a TV and surround sound system. The TV for entertainment during rests and the surround sound system for playing my play-along tracks. That was OK, but still not ideal. I couldn't leave my stuff set up and it gets cold out there after the sun goes down. We have a spare bedroom that was mostly used for storage that I had avoided using because it's near the front of the house and I thought it might be too loud for other family members. I'm told, however, that it's only slightly louder than the garage and highly tolerable. I had to do a lot of cleaning and rearranging of stuff that had been stacked in there. I am currently using a powered speaker system (like for a PC) that I plug my ipod into for my play-along tracks. I also added some lights and sealed up some drafty windows. I got it nice and cozy in there and then the women in my house started taking notice of my efforts. In fact, they took a fancy to it.:thumbdown: They started talking about decorating ideas and paint schemes and all this crap.:shock: My youngest daughter even got so bold as to spread her homework all across the desk, then abandoned it to do something else. I took this to be like a dog peeing on the tree; marking its territory. This old dog barked and the desk was promptly cleared!

    I'm sure practicing in this room is a little quiter around the neighborhood than it was in the garage. My daughter came home one night while I was practicing and I asked if she could hear it on the street. She said she could, but it wasn't real loud, or anything. She then threw me down a compliment, saying it sounded really good. She didn't even follow the compliment with a request for cash, so maybe it really did sound good! My other daughter told me one of our neighbors from across the street asked her who was playing the "trombone" at our house. My daughter told her it was me playing the trumpet. I guess the neighbor was very complimentary of my playing and said she liked it as long as I didn't play at 1:00 AM! So, that's two of the four neighbors I was semi-concerned about that have given me the :thumbsup: on my playing. With the other two, I'm taking no news as good news. I do draw the line after 8:00 PM and I never practice on the weekends until 10:00 AM, or so. I think that's pretty reasonable.

    My teacher cancelled out on my lesson for the first time this week due to a family emergency. I think it was actually a blessing in disguise, as some of the skills I've been working on have really progressed. I actually made some of my own modifications to the prescribed drills as things I thought needed work, like the above mentioned double tonguing. I believe my teacher will be pleasantly surprised. Geez, I hope he doesn't start cancelling out on me regularly, now.:dontknow:

    Things continue to progress nicely. I remain enthused, almost to a point of sickness and I am humbled by the trumpet playing community around me. I know I've only scratched the surface and I have a long way to go. I will get there eventually and I hope to be as helpful as you all have been for me!

  7. Mark B

    Mark B Pianissimo User

    Aug 20, 2010
    Redlands, CA
    I have now had 20 lessons with my teacher and 22 weeks of playing and practicing the trumpet. Progress has slowed, but is there. My teacher has me double and triple tonguing, which I don't recall doing before.

    My teacher continues to be very encouraging. When I was going through K-tonguing, he said mine was the best he'd heard from a student in a long time. He has also told me numerous times he wishes his other students would put in the practice time as I do. As the progress slows, it helps to have somebody acknowledge your work. He also continues to warn me that I've only scratched the surface. He told me fairly recently that he thinks I'm more than ready for the community band, which starts up the first weekend in May. Given that I have three months before that, I should be really ready.

    While looking for something else altogether, I came across an old book of Gospel solos I used to play out of when I was in Jr. High and into my freshman year of high school. That was a good find! It was almost like a little time capsule because the pianist had written notes in the books and even put the dates we played the songs. The price of the book was also hand written inside the front cover. It seems I paid a whopping $3.00 for the book. The pages are yellowed and the notes are pretty small for my old eyes, but I managed to play most of the songs pretty well, if I do say so myself.

    I'm kind of starting to look around for some small groups to get involved with. I haven't tried too hard yet, but I have spoken to a few people. I think that's the next logical step before May rolls around.

    I've had some issues with my old Superstar. I had it chem cleaned recently because I was having some sluggish valve issues. In being honest with myself, I've had valve issues with it even in high school. Chem cleaning didn't really help. Since then, I've had some spots on the leadpipe show up where I have some red rot apparently setting in. I have since decided to semi-retire the Superstar and start looking for a better horn. In the meantime, I've been playing my Reynolds Medalist and though it's a little different horn to blow, enjoying it just the same. At least I don't have the urge to throw it against the wall!:evil: I also have the recently acquired Victor cornet to play, which makes it nice.

    While I am on the lookout for a better horn to play, SWMBO has made it clear she's not sympathetic to my cause. Apparently, the collection of student level horns has worked against me in this regard. The N+1 virus has taken it's toll. It's really not fair, though, since I don't really have any money in the collection, it's the case count that matters, apparently.:dontknow:

    My lessons have changed from Tuesdays to Mondays so I could get a later time slot. This was due to a change in my works situation. I get there plenty early and have the opportunity to hear another student before me. He's been with my teacher for a full year after having switched from saxophone. I wasn't terribly impressed the first time I heard him, but subsequent weeks have shown that he's doing pretty well, for only having played the trumpet a year.

    Anyway, this concludes another update on my comeback trail.

    Last edited: Jan 30, 2011
  8. Bruin

    Bruin Pianissimo User

    Mar 21, 2008
    Mark, I am so impressed by your motivation, dedication, and hard work. It has been a pleasure reading about your progress, your new insights, and your experimentation. I've not been able to stick to such a regimen - yet - so your posts are a real inspiration to me. And, thanks to the other posters for sharing their wisdom, suggestions, and stories with the rest of us, too. All very helpful.

    Bruin (back to the books!) :play:
  9. Mark B

    Mark B Pianissimo User

    Aug 20, 2010
    Redlands, CA
    Thanks, Bruin! I agree that the online community here has been a big help. I am constantly amazed by the dedication of the members here and their willingness to help. A good example was the "How long do you practice?" thread. I was blown away that people manage to cram three hours of practice into their day. Sometimes, it seems a real struggle to get in the hour+ that I do get. I even feel guilty, sometimes. Having a family, I don't want them to think that practice comes before them, because it really doesn't. I just don't feel right until I've got the practice under my belt and as I've said, I don't like to practice after what I consider to be reasonable hours.

    My regimen is pretty much dictated by my teacher. Being notoriously cheap, I want to get the best bang for my buck out of lessons. If I don't practice, I don't progress and have to do the same drills until I have them sufficiently good enough to satisfy my teacher and move on. Sometimes, I get frustrated that I'm not moving faster, but I realize that too much too soon would be disastrous, potentially. So, I poke along and do the repetitious drills as outlined and prescribed by my teacher so that I might progress according to his timetable.

    It occurs to me that he could be milking the lessons, but I don't think that's the case. Sometimes I feel quite challenged and other times, not so much. I think it balances out in the end. I feel like I'm getting there and I have the option to do more work, if I'm so inclined.

  10. BrotherBACH

    BrotherBACH Piano User

    Oct 5, 2010
    Mark B.

    "She who must be obeyed" …that is hilarious. I have told you in several posts that your thread is a surrogate for what I would write. I many ways word-for-word, even SWMBO.

    I am now taking lessons with a serious trumpet player. The following story may help.

    I have settled into a prescribed routine as you have. I have a warm-up that has me going from middle C down to pedal F. Then I perform something called low-G extensions; you slur from middle G down to low G then slur as high as you can with one embouchure (Don E. Johnson). Next, I move to Schmidt's long tone exercise (brutal). I then have harmonic slurs and two slur exercises out of Schlossberg. I then warm down with a short pedal exercise, trying to get that elusive pedal C. It all takes about an hour. My evening practice session focuses on Clarke's studies 1 and 2. I then "try" to end with an articulation exercise, but my lips have become puffy when I do. I have to limit my second practice session to between 30 and 40 minutes.

    I have been doing this exact same thing for about 4 weeks. During one of my lessons, I was explaining how hard slurs were after a killer long tone exercise. At the end of the lesson, I asked if there was anything new to work on. He said: "No, there is nothing new. There is no magic exercise, it just hard work from here on."

    I guess the long haul of the comeback trail is upon us.

    Last edited: Jan 30, 2011

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